Friday, 25 January 2013

Berlin, December 1981

I just found these pictures in a box. They're from a school trip to Berlin just before Christmas in 1981, when I was fifteen. My memories of the trip, which was not very long, are much more convivial than these pictures suggest; the moment I remember most vividly was meeting some girls in a cafe in East Berlin and asking them if they wanted to 'escape to the West'. The answer was an emphatic 'no', not because they were frightened (I don't think) but because they had no need to flee.

We spent one day in East Berlin, which was empty and dull, apart from the cafe with the girls, where you could spend your East German currency (you had to buy some on entry) on Irish coffee. Otherwise we were in the West, which I remember being snowy and more decadent that anywhere I'd been previously. No one seemed to care what you did or how old you were, which suited us just fine.

I wonder who got that bit of the Wall...
I went back to Berlin in 1991 and have some pictures somewhere. I stayed in a flat off Alexanderplatz, and talked to a woman about life after reunification, when the certainties of East Germany (zero unemployment, state-run careers) were replaced with the dog-eat-dog world of the free market. As a classical musician, she was brilliantly trained in everything except the art of competing for work and, understandably, she wasn't very happy...

Graves of those who died trying to cross the Berlin Wall. 'Unbekannt' means unknown.

The Iron Curtain, viewed from a train between Hamburg and Berlin

When did the Second World War end, exactly?


  1. These are great. Having just been to Berlin for the first time at Christmas, they are very resonant. I love the last image very much too.

  2. Thanks Jane. I will try and dig out some pictures from my 1992 visit...