Today 25 years ago the Berlin Wall was torn down, one of the most consequential events of the 20th Century, catalyst for the end of the Cold War and freedom for millions stuck behind the Iron Curtain yanked down on them by the USSR. I was a student just starting to get interested in the wider world. I grew jealous of a couple of friends who were able to be there…in Berlin…dancing on the wall with the Germans…a seminal moment, which I watched on TV like everyone else.
I got there as soon as I could, once finals were over. With a guy from my hostel who had a hammer, we warily approached a broad section of the Wall not really knowing what to expect. As we started to bang and chip away at the outer layer, a small old man came through a hole in the concrete; we both stepped back, and the three of us just stared at each other hardly moving. We were a little afraid, to be honest. I mean, we weren’t that savvy but we did know the history of this spot. After what seemed like a tense eternity, he finally managed to smile wanly. He approached us, but didn’t speak. Instead he reached up and pated my shoulder. Then he turned and scrambled right back through the hole in the Wall. Continue reading