So any of you who keep your ears and eyes on the news, or who are just basically capable in both fields of history and maths, should have realised that last Sunday was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
.. which, when we first arrived at the scene of the ‘big party on the 17. Juni’, was pretty lacking.
The live music had begun, but the people had apparently not yet heard of the goings on.
In fairness, this was only at about 4 pm, and the Big Starter- Peter Gabriel singing Bowie’s ‘Heros’, wasn’t on until 6.
So we wandered out into the street, to check out the Lichtgrenze (‘Light border’)- a line of thousands (8000!) of lit, helium balloons, stretching along 15 km of ex-wall territory, set up to once again divide the city of Berlin.
A pretty cool symbol… and my love of luftballoons is well documented (by the way, apparetnly ‘buying helium balloons for birthdays’ is just not a thing in Germany. Sometimes, I really wonder about this culture!).
But of course, they became much more impressive later in the evening, when the sun when down and the little suckers could glow.
We wandered around a bit- wading through hundreds of other tourists and locals, looking for something to do to bide the time, and were drawn into a really well edited documentary of the rise and fall of the wall, playing to the public just outside Potsdamer Platz.
Ah look- a beautiful divide between east and west (CAPITALISM!):
Being Germany, and also ‘nearly winter’, there was some sort of ‘Christmas Market’-like setup.
.. and of course, the Potsdamer Fuji Dome was looking spectacular as ever.
Andy, who had been doing some sort of internet research, had the idea to head up a guard tower.
Apparently the tower was occupied at all times by two guards, one looking West and one looking East. They worked in 12 hour shifts, and weren’t allowed to move (even to pee!) unless receiving prior permission- and presumably some sort of replacement. And it must have been FREEZING in winter.
Lights lights LIGHTS!
We made our way back to the Brandenburger Tower to check out the fantastic vocal efforts of Herr Gabriel, in a process that turned out to be more complicated than we could imagine. In order to ‘secure’ the concert area, the had set up a rather complicated system of fences, thereby presumably arousing nice ‘reminiscy’ feelings for those who actually remember the wall and its oppressive division.
Peter sang and it was… underwhelming.
His version of Heroes seemed to last for only about 30 seconds (one verse and the chorus?), and was markedly more operatic than I ever remember Bowie attempting it.
And then the long night of talking began.
We spent some time getting closer to the action, before realising that there was some sort of defect in the speaker system, which made it impossible to hear anything. So we retreated several hundred metres to get behind a screen+speaker combination, and continued to watch from there.
There were multiple music acts.. some pretty good, others rather terrible.. which in turn were broken up by lots of talking.
I think to be honest, I found the whole thing a little low rent- only if compared to Sylvester (New Years Eve),, which happens every year and somehow manages to be much more high-energy than this once in a generation occurrence.
But I think part of that is because this was more of a somber event, and there had to be a balance between festivities, and remembering.
Or maybe they were just going for that communist ‘understated feel’?
We did manage to see Merkel on the screen, but sadly she wasn’t even doing the Merkel hands, so that was a bit sad.
Our favourite time was when they brought out Gorbachev (although is it a little informal that the official emcee introduced him as ‘our Gorby’).
The audience started chanting ‘Gorby Gorby Gorby’, and Andy nearly wet his communist pants in excitement.
But then the emcee interrupted, Gorby shuffled around a bit on the stage (they didn’t seem to know what to do with him), and they shipped him back to the home. Personally I think the emcee was jealous because everytime he tried to get a cheer, the audience was less than responsive.
Even when he made some comment about hoping for no more walls, and moving towards a time of tolerance and love- and then paused for effect and cheers- there were only two or three measly vocalisations of excitement from the audience. Eventually, a few more people caught on (‘oh yeah, I guess we should cheer for pro-tolerance so they don’t think we’re racists’), but the late and lackluster replies just made the whole thing more embarrassing.
The night picked up a bit more when they brought out a few of the more high-energy acts.. including a rapper quartet… but I was still mostly just hanging out for the balloons.
Words (here- toleranz), moving across the tor. Awkward dancing happening in the foreground.
We awaited eagerly for the highlight of the evening- the releasing of the balloons. The emcee kept us on tenterhooks, continuously mentioning the balloons, but then continuing to tell his long stories for more minutes.
Finally, it began!
It was nice.
But I have some notes.
First, the balloons should have been lit!
When they detached, they didn’t take the led-lights with them, which- unless there were floodlights from the tower shining directly on them- made it a little hard to see where they were going.
Secondly, the band began to play Ode to Joy, which was really spectacular. But they began at an awkward time several minutes after the first balloons flew (they released in a line along the 15 km). I’m not entirely sure why they didn’t synchronise the whole thing.
And speaking of synchronisation- what about some real fireworks (they had about 1 minute of fire works, 15 minutes after the balloons flew). I mean, if we can work out how to synchronize 1/2 and hour of fireworks to Kylie’s greatest hits every year in Australia for Aussie Day, surely they can manage it once every 25 years in Germany (perhaps to the greatest hits of the Hof?).
Do any of you guys also have Pink Floyd screaming ‘Tear down the wall’ whenever they think of Mauerfall?