Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I am amazed

We have been in Berlin for almost 12 hours. I've dredged up enough German to talk to the taxi driver, a couple waiters
and a grocery clerk, but when the woman who welcomed us to our apartment, encouraged by my accent,  started to chat, I tied myself in linguistic knots almost immediately.  If I take it slow I do ok. Perhaps tomorrow will be better. 

I was last here 40 years ago. We have spent the day in the eastern part of Berlin, in what was once the DDR.

This afternoon we walked to Alexanderplatz. Tonight we walked down to the Brandenburg Gate. Forty years ago the Alexanderplatz was gray and empty. Today it hummed with life. Drummers and singers, bikers, lovers and shoppers wove their way through the open spaces. Back then the Brandenburg Gate was black and broken. The eastern side was a no-man's land. The west side was sad and barricaded. Tonight it is lit and lively.
 Youths ride bikes through the gate, and cafes line the sidewalks of Unter den Linden. Huge cranes tower and turn everywhere as they continue to rebuild this city.
Freedom flows down every street and into every door. The world is here where once the streets were crumbling and empty. 

For twelve hours I have struggled to make sense of this transformation. Forty years ago I could not imagine such a change in my lifetime. Yet, here it is. I am a witness. I think back to that statue of Ronald Regan in Budapest and remember his challenge to Gorbachev. He stood before the gray Brandenburg Gate in 1987 and said, "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate.  Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."  Tonight I walked through that same tall gate. It is lit and white and beautiful. I can still hardly believe it. That is why there is a statue of Ronald Regan outside the Hungarian Parliament. 

Tomorrow we will take a bus around the city and ride a boat on the Spree. We will visit a couple museums I hope. But really I will just walk or ride from place to place and be amazed. 

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