I suspect that I’m in a minority of AFOE’s writers and readers in that I actually saw the Berlin Wall in place pre-1989. We were on a school trip to Germany in 1987 and had actually been given permission to travel to West Berlin, so we naturally went to see the Wall. Strangely, though, it’s not the Wall that sticks in my memory from that trip – like most people my chief mental image of it is it being toppled in 1989 – but the journey between Hanover and Berlin, travelling by coach across East Germany on a long autobahn that had been effectively sealed off from the rest of the country, large embankments to either side of the road making it impossible for us to see any of the GDR – and, indeed, for anyone in the GDR to see any of us. I still have my old passport from that trip, complete with a GDR stamp within it.
Fifteen years after that, I saw some of the Wall again – in Rapid City, South Dakota, all of places, where two sections of it are on permanent display downtown. The one thing I do remember of seeing in West Berlin – the layers of graffiti covering the Western side of the Wall – aren’t really shown by the sections Rapid City acquired but then that’s merely a reminder of just how long it was.