Friday, August 22, 2008

Points of History (Berlin, III)

The Brandenburg Gate was a sign of national pride and strength. The main central gate was reserved only for the coaches of the Kaiser. After WWII when the city of Berlin was divided into four different sections (American, British, French, and Soviet), the gate served as the border between the West and East. The Russians, Europeans, and Americans agreed that the gate must be repaired and reopened after suffering massive damage during the bombing of Berlin. New statues were ordered repairs were done by both sides. However, before the gate could be unveiled, the Soviets began work on the Berlin Wall. Since the Gate officially belonged on the Soviet side but much too close to the allied side, it ended up in No Man’s Land, the area between the Berlin Wall and another, smaller wall that kept the Eastern Berliners (not jelly doughnuts as one famous U.S. President said) from trying to get to the Wall.

There was a cool Russian guy who sold visa stamps and post cards. I got a visa stamp from the American, British, French, and Soviet sides, as well West Germany and East Germany. Behind him were these two guys with the British and American flag. I asked, in French, where the French flag was, and they said they only spoke English and German. I thought this was strange since most Europeans speak at least three different languages and probably four or five. But oh well. I asked in English. They looked at me with a stupefied expression and pointed toward the French embassy as if they were shocked that I had spoken English. I asked them, since Western Berlin was originally split between the three countries, why they didn’t have a compatriot to represent the French. They answered, in halting English, that three people was too many. I finally figured out they weren’t actually American or British. In fact I don’t think they were even German. I’m pretty sure they were Turkish. Oh well. Makes for a cool photo, eh?

But I did find the French at Checkpoint Charlie, the main (only?) border passing between Eastern and Western Berlin. I was again pretty sure he wasn’t really French, but I didn't get a chance to ask him. Oh, and that American had some sort of foreign accent.

I’m pretty sure Checkpoint Charlie was the only checkpoint because, even though it was located in the American section, the signs were written in English, Russian, French, and German. Why French? It would have made more sense for them to use the French crossing if there had been one.

I love this picture of the four flags. Strange to me that neither German flag is included.

So that was my trip to Berlin, a city of rich but tragic history. And I see nothing but equal amounts of pain and tragedy for the city in the future. Though the city and the country have only be reunified for less than 20 years, Germany faces again losing its identify on two fronts: The EU and the massive amounts of immigration who bring, and are slowly replacing Christianity/Secularism/Atheism with, Islam. If Germany is still existing as a free independent democracy in 25 years it will be a miracle. Or it will be because they have, once again, had a bloody civil war.

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