Ramble On

Friday, May 18, 2012

I Can Remember Standing by the Wall

Some of the readers here know that I was stationed in Berlin for five years when I was in the Air Force.  That was during the Cold War, and the Berlin Wall was an ever present and visible reminder of the conflicts in the world at that time.

Of course we have new and very real conflicts now, but from time to time I run into a reminder of the old days, as I did last night when Mary and I went to a party at the Newseum downtown.  There is a substantial exhibit on the Berlin Wall there,and today's post will share some photos - this may even run into a multi-parter on the topic.

The first photo here is a shot of the Wall section you see when you first arrive at the exhibit.  If you can imagine seeing this in real time, when it divided the city, you would have seen it stretch on off into the distance in front of you, and behind you as well, since the structure was more than 80 miles long.  From Wikipedia (link below), the slabs here are 12 feet tall and nearly four feet wide.  In the old days, they were topped by a round concrete conduit to make climbing over it that much more difficult.

The Newseum also obtained one of the old East German guard towers that stood at regular intervals along the Wall.   My recollection is that they were placed every kilometer or so along the border, and I clearly remember the one that was on a straight line about a kilometer away from the entry gate where I went to work every day.  I've got a few other memories associated with these towers; I may share them if I can find some old photos to put up here.

This tower is pretty complete; they've obtained the doorway, which you can see in the background of the Wall section photo, and you can go inside and have a look up.  You can't go up to the top and have a look at where the guards were stationed, however.

Now, the final photo here is of Mary and me in front of one of the old signs that were placed strategically around Berlin at border crossing points.  This became a sort of motif for my friends and I were there, we had it inscribed on all kinds of mementos, including our going away plaques, and other awards.

It was a great bit of nostalgia to see these artifacts.  I have to admit they gave me a chill - in the old days being this close to the Wall carried a sense of danger, because it was such a sinister construction.

And then, I always fall back on the memory of my friends who served with me there, and our mission.  In the end, that's what carries the day for me.


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