Walls play a significant part in our lives…
Pink Floyd’s famous wall needed another brick.
The last election to become the President of the United States of America hinged on a wall that doesn’t even exist.
China has a great wall that can be seen from space (apparently).
And Berlin is defined by a wall that was knocked down exactly 31 years ago and is where I write this post.
Nikki and I are in the German capital because France is closed.
Sometime last year at a charity ball for childhood leukaemia, I bought a two night stay in Paris which since then, has twice been cancelled due to Covid and so a two day jaunt to Berlin is very welcome as a belated wedding anniversary and Nikki’s birthday celebration.
It is my first visit to the German capitol which is mercifully almost Covid free. After seeing my two sons, Tom and Harry, top of my list is to see the famous Berlin wall, or the remnants of it anyway. Given the significance of Berlin in cold war history, on arriving I realise just how scant my knowledge is of the city and its famous wall.
So many questions…
How long? How high? Why? When?
And more questions besides and all directed at me by Mrs H who must have me confused with someone else. Someone a little more cultured. This is flattering and naturally I fudge and bluff as best I can. Anything not to ruin her delusions about the man she chose or more likely, settled for.
Like my historical knowledge, the wall is very thin. Much thinner than I imagined and not as high either. Too high to scale of course but not the foreboding walls that wrap around our prisons.
And double skinned too. Two walls I mean and with a gap of five metres between each of them, a space coldly known as the ‘death strip’.
Miles and miles of the wall that split East and West Berlin has been dismantled, but huge tracts remain and is now preserved as a monument to the power of politics, ideology and how it can divide and imprison. And wall space as significant as this is now an extraordinary backdrop for artists from around the world and their poignant murals.
The wall symbolises a failure of human nature. It’s cold concrete has witnessed so much cruelty and unnecessary pain. Families torn apart and so many lives lost trying to scale it. And its dismantling is a victory then. A symbol of hope for the will of the people and the defeat of communism.
Anyone visiting Berlin will do their best to register this significance but it isn’t an easy thing to do. Not for me, anyway.
It’s a great place to visit. It’s a vibey city. The place feels chic and cool. Graffiti adorns much of the buildings and although not to my taste, it somehow works. It feels a lot like Budapest but without its architecture and beauty. 80% of Berlin was destroyed during WW2 and it seems that they rebuilt it quickly.
Tom has been making a film here called Uncharted – which the world can see next July, hopefully in theatres and without masks.
Tom and Harry have loved Berlin, as have Nikki and I during our flying visit.
We head straight to set and watch the last day of filming in Berlin, then head for a stunning dinner at a restaurant called Grace. For our final day, a game of golf is mooted and per chance I have brought my clubs with me.
Harry has a 7.30 a.m tee time reserved. Nikki is welcome to join us but the prospect of the best shopping in Germany is more tempting. Hunting for attractive yet comfortable shoes or my golf ball? Unsurprisingly, Nikki goes with shopping. Everyone agrees that this is an excellent decision.
On the 9th hole, I am having the best round of my year (so far). I have a putt for 22 points when disaster strikes. Not just that I miss the four footer but a phone call from Nikki.
It’s just after 9am, so she is probably finishing breakfast and about to hit the shops.
“The shops are closed today.” She explains.
“What? But it’s Saturday. How come?”
“It’s a bloody Bank holiday.”
“Are you serious? On a Saturday?”
My more astute readers might have guessed already. The 3rd October 1989 - 31 years ago to this day that time was called on the Berlin Wall. Every year since a national holiday. A day to reflect and to celebrate.
But not by Mrs H or me as my round quickly disintegrates.
And so the pain and cruelty of the Berlin Wall continues then but it can’t dent our affection for this great city and it's polite and warm people.
I lost the golf btw – but deliberately so.
Anything to keep the star happy.