‘Before the party ended – or began’


Photo by Edward Valachovic

From The Design Observer:

But then, twenty years ago, it “fell,” as if it were an old man or an autumn leaf. The two cities melded together again and the chunks of the Wall still standing, like smudges the eraser missed, are there for tourists to photograph and locals to hurry past. I cross its former path many times a week, often several times a day, without thinking about it. My neighborhood was one of those odd protrusions that gave the Wall its lumpy, upside-down-Christmas Tree shape. It used to encase this section of Kreuzberg, in what was once West Berlin, on three sides — West and East being ideological terms in Cold War Berlin more than geographical ones: if you were to head southeast, northeast, north, or northwest from my apartment, you would be on your way to “the East,” or at least to the barrier that marked where the East once began. This made for a certain coziness, or so those who lived here then like to tell it: punks, squatters, draft dodgers and mainly Turkish immigrants left to fend for themselves in a parallel, anti-bourgeois universe unthinkable in most parts of West (or East, for that matter) Germany. Before the party ended — or began, depending on your point of view — in November 1989, they used to picnic on Schlesische Strasse, today a noisy thoroughfare, then an asphalt playground blocked by the Wall at its eastern end and the river Spree to the north. My walk officially begins where the Landwehrkanal (which translates as defensive canal; a defensiveness, however, that predates the Wall) crosses under Schlesische Strasse and empties into the Spree.

“On the Trail of the Berlin Wall”, Millay Hyatt, The Design Observer