Friday, February 7, 2014

Flashback Friday: Visiting the Berlin Wall

As part of geography in our homeschool we've been learning about Europe.  It's the only place in the world that I've actually visited other the US, Canada, and Mexico, so it's been fun to share some of my memories with them of what it is like there.

My family didn't have lots of money, but I did have a dad who loved to travel and made it a priority to make sure we kids got a chance to see a little more of the world.   It was 1987 and the oldest five of us kids, plus two friends joined my mom and dad for a trip of a lifetime to Europe.  To save money we intended to camp most of the time we were there and had a big utilitarian van rented to drive everywhere.

Unfortunately 1987 turned out to be one of the coldest, rainiest summers in European history (to this day you can actually still read articles about how unusually cold and wet it was) and camping proved to be more miserable than we could bear sometimes.  We did still camp a lot of the time, but we ended up in hotels far more often than my parents budgeted for and even still spent a good portion of the trip damp and shivering.    We visited 13 countries (France, England, Austria, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, East Germany, West Germany, Hungary, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia) and despite the bad weather had a mostly fantastic time.  

One of my most vivid memories of the trip was our time spent in Berlin.   We spent time in both East and West Berlin and we were all struck by the  appalling and stark differences between the two sides.  Although previously the vibrant capital city of Germany, a couple of decades of separation had lent two very different feelings to the two sides.  Gray and depressing is the best way I can think to describe East Berlin (and the other Eastern European cities that we visited) and I don't know how you could ever get used to the machine guns everywhere you turned.   The buildings, the streets, and even the people lacked the color, vitality, and drive that we found abundantly through most of Europe and we all left there with a strong appreciation for what it meant to be an American.
Me with four of my seven siblings standing on the West side of the Berlin Wall.
Don't judge my crazy hair--remember that not only had we been camping in the wet and the cold,
but clearly my hair was suffering for lack of a curling iron with proper European voltage!

 A bit more than two years after that trip was when I heard the news that the Berlin Wall was being ripped down.  I remember being awestruck and excited as my family sat glued to the television coverage of the wall being torn down.   I still get emotional when I think of what that moment meant for the families who had been separated for so many years!


"The wall was an edifice of fear. On Nov. 9 , 1989, it became a place of joy. For 28 years, East Germans could not even approach it. On Nov. 9, 1989, people danced on it - and the world looked different afterward"
German President Horst Koehler.


Steve-Rosanna said...

Awesome memories. Thanks for sharing.

Mirien said...

Hey, you! Thanks for commenting on my blog, it made my day. I didn't expect anyone to even see it since I haven't posted in ages! So I hopped over here to see how your family is doing. I admire your faithfulness in recording your daily life--you are a good example for me. I wish we were neighbors! My parents are serving a mission in the DC temple and we are hoping to visit them this fall. I haven't been to DC since before Alyssa was born, and she's 20!

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