It is simply amazing the lengths that some people will go to to escape. To escape persecution, fascism, war — the list of reasons, sadly, seems to have no end. It is difficult to comprehend what one human will do to another. Author Greg Mitchell focuses on a very specific period of history that is well known for escape attempts: the Berlin Wall in his latest book, The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill.
Recently, every time I watch German television online or read a digital newspaper, I keep seeing specials about the past 25 years popping up. In one week from today, on November 9, 2014, it will be 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. In October of 2015 it will be 25 years since the official reunification of Germany. For millions of people, everyday life has changed in ways that many of us could never understand and probably never will.
Likewise, it has made me reflect on my own trip to Berlin in 2009. While there, I stayed in former East Berlin along Friedrichstrasse. I didn’t stay there because of the East German connection. Instead, I simply stayed there because today it’s central Berlin. The area is around the corner from the Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten and many of the city’s museums on Museuminsel. During my visit, the East Side Gallery, the longest section of the Berlin Wall, was in the process of being restored. Wherever possible, the original artists were repainting their pieces. We walked along the open air gallery, at times separated from the wall by fencing protecting the restorations in progress.
Now look at the German capital. It’s truly amazing how quickly things can change.
Every day, people line up on the steps of the Reichstag, the German parliament building, in order to visit the famous glass dome on top of the building. From the dome, you get a breathtaking 360-degree view of Berlin: over the tree covered Tiergarten and towards the famous Victory Column. But, especially during peak tourist season, the wait to access the dome can be lengthy. There are countless photos of the line spilling down the Reichstag steps and onto the sidewalks surrounding the building. What if you could skip the line? Well you can. Sort of.
When I visited Berlin in 2009, I had a list of places I wanted to see and visit. One of those places was Tacheles, an art commune created decades ago by squatters in an old department store. As Berlin was reunited and rebuilt, it did so around Tacheles. But after years of fighting with the city and developers trying to take back the building and its prime real estate, in September of 2012 Tacheles finally closed. And boy it a shame.
I figured why not post some more travel photography. Why not? This is a selection of less common (in some cases) photos from a trip to the German capital and to nearby Potsdam in the fall of 2009. I love the final two photos so much that I had them blown up, printed and they’re currently hanging framed on my living room wall.