Tag Archive | Berlin Wall

Countdown: Best Places to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall (besides Berlin)

This Sunday, November 9th, hundreds of thousands of people will gather in Berlin to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall with numerous events commemorating a quarter century of democracy in Eastern Europe, and ongoing hope for a world without walls. But if you can’t make it to Berlin to party like it’s 1989, there are plenty of opportunities stateside to mark the occasion with lectures, screenings, German beer tastings, and perhaps the chance to break out a sledgehammer and tear down a wall of your own. Here’s a roundup of the best events outside of Berlin commemorating the Peaceful Revolution.

7. University Art Museum at California State University, Long Beach, CA
The University Art Museum will play host to the the exhibition Barbara Klemm: Light and Dark, Photographs from Germany, an “exhibition of 124 iconic documentary photographs that capture forty years of cultural, social, and political history in Germany.” Tours of the exhibition will occur from 1-3pm this Sunday the 9th. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

History: 3/5
Culture: 4/5
Merrymaking: 1/5
Ability to tear down an actual wall: 0/5

6. Newseum – Washington, D.C.

newseum
Photo: The Newseum http://www.newseum.org/event/fall-of-the-wall-day/

This iconic museum in Washington, D.C. is celebrating with a full line-up of events on November 8th. The schedule includes two documentary screenings and programs with Author Mary Elise Sarotte and former ABC reporter Barrie Dunsmore. Additionally, the Newseum will offer tours of its Berlin Wall Gallery which features eight sections of the original wall.

History: 5/5
Culture: 3/5
Merrymaking: 1/5
Ability to tear down an actual wall: 0/5

5. Sauf Bier Haus, Washington, D.C.page2_pic11
Sauf Haus is a brand new biergarten in Washington, D.C., located downtown. They will be one of the only German bars on this side of the pond to throw a celebration in honor of the fall of the Berlin Wall, marking the occasion with a lesson on German beer and tasting this Sunday. Three different tastings are being offered throughout the day, each including three different beers, plus a sample of choice. Reserve tickets here for only $12.

Photo: Sauf Bier Haus http://saufhausdc.com/about-us/

History: 2/5
Culture: 3/5
Merrymaking: 5/5
Ability to tear down an actual wall: 0/5

4. Duke University, Durham, NC
A number of colleges and universities have erected their own version of the Berlin Wall on campus to commemorate the 25th anniversary of its fall. Duke’s version of the reenactment features a six-foot high version of the Berlin Wall constructed out of cardboard boxes, a choice that looses some points for historical accuracy, but is bound to lead to some very satisfying demolition on the 9th. The wall was constructed on November 2nd, and since then, community members have contributed messages and spray paint, including an excellent rendition of the My God, Help Me to Survive this Deadly Love mural, a favorite of the East Side Gallery. The German Department urges students to “come in your most appalling 80s garb to hear a little bit about Berlin’s Cold War past and to destroy the wall” this Sunday at 3pm.

History: 2/5
Culture: 2/5
Merrymaking: 3/5
Ability to tear down an actual wall: 4/5

3. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VAsymposium
UVA has partnered with the German Embassy to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall with a series of events. A weeklong symposium includes an enviable array of lectures, screenings, and discussions leading up to this Sunday the 9th. The symposium will be capped off by a Moment of Remembrance on campus.

History: 5/5
Culture: 5/5
Merrymaking: 2/5
Ability to tear down an actual wall: 0/5

Image: University of Virginia  http://www.virginia.edu/arts/berlinwall/sunday.php#ceremony

2. University of Arizona, Tuscon, AZfall_of_the_wal_final_-_small
Another partner school with the German Embassy in Washington, ASU is hosting a range of activities, including the tearing down of a wall of boxes on Hayden Lawn. One of ASU’s roundtables with faculty will “engage the historical context of Nov. 9 against the backdrop of other highly charged events associated with the Nov. 9 date, such as the 1938 Nazi pogrom [kristallnacht].” This discussion of the historical context is a program that seems to be unique to ASU but represents an important layer to consider in the commemoration of this date. German history is complicated enough that it’s rather fitting that one of the nations’ darkest hours of tyranny and its most triumphant embrace of liberty should have occurred on the same day. Kudos to ASU for discussing both.

History: 5/5
Culture: 4/5
Merrymaking: 2/5
Ability to Tear Down an Actual Wall: 3/5

Image: University of Arizona https://asunews.asu.edu/20140930-berlin-wall-fall-anniversary

1. Davidson College, Davidson, NCdavidson
Davidson College has put together a complete package of events to celebrate this year’s anniversary in partnership with the German Embassy. This week, events have included: “an “Eyewitness to History” panel, a Berlin Wall trivia contest, a staged reading of a banned play, visits by local and international dignitaries and a Nov. 5 keynote address by an elder statesman of Germany’s reunification, who also was Davidson’s first German exchange student after World War II.” Davidson has also constructed its own Berlin Wall (made of particle board – decent aesthetics, satisfying destruction) which will be torn down this Sunday at 6pm, accompanied by “triumphant music and rousing speeches and Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit [unity and justice and freedom] for all…and Bratwurst….and Döner vegetarisch.” Hard to beat that!

History: 5/5
Culture: 4/5
Merrymaking: 3/5
Ability to tear down an actual wall: 5/5

Photo: Davidson College  http://sites.davidson.edu/german/101-102/mauer-fotos-vom-29-10-2014/

The high quality and well-rounded series of events pushed Davidson over the top; congratulations to the College on earning the distinction of Best Place to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall (besides Berlin)!

Berlin Wall #2

Image

I was oddly delighted to find this little cafe less than 50 feet from the Buffer Zone in Nicosia. A lot of the buildings near the BZ were dilapidated and graffiti-covered, their owners having fallen prey to economic hardship when the UN made their location less than desirable. But here was one small establishment making the best of it by styling themselves after one of the most infamous icons of the 20th century. I had to smile.

The parallels between Nicosia and Berlin are so obvious that it is a legitimate marketing tactic to draw a comparison between the UN Buffer Zone and the Iron Curtain. Trading a little historical accuracy in exchange for name recognition, oddball kitsch, and a hip-sounding analogy seems like a decent deal to me.

There is also a prominently placed sign near the Lidra Street crossing, just above the police hut. It bears the name of the city in Greek, followed by “The Last Divided Capital” in English, French and German. The languages suggest that the sign is intended for tourists, but it’s not a marketing ploy; it reads like an epitaph. What, then, is the purpose of the sign? To remind visitors of the severeness of the Cyprus problem? To place Nicosia in the historical record? To align the city with other ‘reunified’ capitals as a message of hope? It made me feel better to note that this sign was affixed to plywood, propped between two buildings; it looked temporary.

Solutions

These walls were all intended as solutions.

“Israeli Security Fence”

Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories

“United Nations Buffer Zone”

Nicosia/Lefkosa, Cyprus

“Peace Wall”

Cupar Way, Belfast, Northern Ireland

“Anti-Fascist Protection Wall”

Berlin, Germany

The Writing’s on the Wall

The most famous of the Peace Walls, a menacing structure on Cupar Way, is a frequent stopping point for tourists who are encouraged to ‘add a message of peace’ to it’s already graffiti-strewn face. The Berlin Wall was also a well-known drawing board, and after all, who doesn’t want to be part of history? After spending an hour taking in as much as possible and analyzing the scribblings, I can safely put them in three distinct categories:

1. “I was here.” Nothing fancy, just names, dates, a record of a visit.

2. Religious stuff. Bible quotes, a lot of John 3:16, some Corinthians. I skimmed as they tended to be quite long, but they struck me as appropriate for the context.

3. Actual messages of peace. By far, the most popular was some variation of “make love not war/walls” but a significant number fell into a sub-category I will term “condescending messages of peace.” Below is the worst one, I actually felt enraged when I saw it.

This graffiti strikes me as insensitive, ignorant, intrusive, and a hundred other things but suffice to say this sort of message really bothers me. People just waltz in, take a look, put their thoughts in ink, and leave, returning to houses that will never be threatened by petrol bombs or be in danger of having a 60-foot wall block their sun.

And in general, I’m uncomfortable with the extent to which the Peace Walls and the Troubles have become a tourist attraction. All day along Cupar Way, open-topped buses whiz past, the guides shouting about how they are now crossing the frontline of the conflict. The doors fly open and people spill out and up to the wall, break out their permanent markers and add to the mass of words on the wall. Belfast’s open-topped buses would have been an inconceivable addition to the landscape 15 years ago, but today they blend into daily life oh-so-naturally. The same people will likely not speak to those who actually live in the area, spend time in the neighborhoods, or walk anywhere near the interfaces. They will not take the time to achieve a fuller understanding of Belfast’s past and present with the Peace Walls.

At the risk of sounding holier-than-thou, I fully acknowledge that my own time here has been incomplete, intrusive, and unusually focused on seeing the worst places in this otherwise beautiful city. I cannot claim separation from this system.

And of course, it’s all right for tourism. Belfast is booming with the Titanic commemorations, a sparkling and busy city center, and becoming a reasonable tourist destination like other European cities its size, for the first time in 40 years. And the people who go on these open-bus tours and the like are certainly learning something about the conflict and its current manifestation. Surely that’s better than sweeping it under the rug entirely?

To make another comparison to Berlin, the biggest question tourists ask of the city today is: ‘where is the Wall?’ I’ve met some Berliners who bemoan the passionate and irreversible destruction of the Wall, thinking of the tourism and educational opportunities that slipped through their fingers. But this is of course wildly inappropriate because the conflict here is not entirely over, and these walls remain a massive problem for the city. Even if the Berlin Wall had been left intact, or more pieces of it, can you imagine the inequalities this would have created in the modern urban landscape? The East would have remained the East solely because of the presence of the Wall and all the mental walls it reinforced.

But I believe the point stands and the question remains: how do we encourage people to visit Belfast, learn about the Peace Walls and the Troubles without people’s lives and neighborhoods becoming an unholy spectacle? How do we achieve a style of tourism that is both respectful and educational? Maybe we could start by putting some of the 7 pounds for a bus tour toward bringing down the Peace Walls they drive by.