Archive | June 2012

Nova Scotia’s Cold War

I recently remembered a geographical oddity I’ve been meaning to write about. Last summer, I led bike trips around Nova Scotia’s southern coast. On the eastern side, north of Liverpool, we passed through two tiny villages named East Berlin and West Berlin.

My group was coming from the east and if I recall correctly, there is a hill between East Berlin and West Berlin, and I encouraged my young charges by telling them we were escaping the East German communist regime on a particularly scenic road to freedom. I’m not sure if any of them found this truly motivating, but I was fascinated by the villages’ namesakes and eager to learn more about their history.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found any information on the villages (aside from how to get a vacation rental there), so I can only speculate. A few observations and questions:

1. There are lots and lots of towns in Nova Scotia named after more famous European cousins (i.e. Liverpool). It’s entirely conceivable that German immigrants settled on the coast and named their new home after their former capital.

2. Surely, these unfortunate names must have been bestowed before the German division and the Cold War. How did East Berlin and West Berlin residents feel in the light of these developments? Did East Berlin real estate prices plummet?

3. Here’s the kicker: West Berlin used to be named Blueberry, according to a sign at the entrance to the village. When did they change it and why? Does it reflect a desire to connect with their neighbors, or to distinguish themselves from the East Berliners? Maybe the mayor was allergic to blueberries? Perhaps there was a berry blight?

4. A little investigation on Google Maps reveals a West Berlin in New Jersey, and East Berlins in Pennsylvania and Connecticut; the latter lies east of a larger Berlin. But as far as I know, this partnership in Nova Scotia is one-of-a-kind.

Have you been to East Berlin and West Berlin, Nova Scotia? Can you explain the history behind these village names? Accident of history, or too good to be a coincidence?

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