The actual holiday was October 3rd, but it took me a long time to compile the post on the Eastern Europe trip, so I’m a little behind.
Tag der Deutschen Einheit, or German Unification Day, is the German national holiday. Despite being currently surrounded by it and inundated with it every day, I still really suck at German history, so if you want the background story check Wikipedia. But basically, after WWII (I think), Germany was divided into socialist East Germany, or the German Democratic Republic, and capitalist West Germany, or Bundesrepublik Deutschland (I don’t know how to translate this). Berlin was in East Germany but it was actually split – a small part of it was a capitalistic “oasis” landlocked by socialism on all sides. In order to isolate this section and prevent anyone from going in or out, the Berlin Wall was built in 1961.
A couple of decades later the GDR was falling on hard times, economically and such, and the people were becoming increasingly unhappy. My understanding is that there was some sort of miscommunication and the wall “accidentally” opened up on November 9, 1989, and people started flooding from East German to the West. Soon after, people started literally tearing down the wall. Fragments of the wall are considered souvenirs and lots of people have one saved in their sock drawer. Tourists like paying money for little fragments of steel and concrete. Squatters and artists took over abandoned buildings in East Germany (one very close to our school, which had been a gallery and a home for artists for several years now, was shut down and the artists were evicted just a week or two after our arrival in Berlin back in September). And some artists painted the wall, a large section of which known as the East Side Gallery has been preserved and is a big tourist attraction.
Germany was officially reunited on October 3, 1990.
We had no class on that day, which was nice but also a little stressful to have a day off during the very first week of school, with the add/drop date fast approaching.
I spent the day with my German boyfriend, Mischo. (Don’t worry, mom and dad). Entry to the Deutsches Historisches Museum was free for the holiday, so we checked that out. I’d already explored the ground floor on a school field trip, so we just walked through the second story.
There was also a big party at the Brandenburg Gate. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, other than “a lot of people standing in really close proximity” according to Mischo. It turns out there was live music, a Ferris wheel, and lots of little stands/booths selling junk food and souvenirs – beer, gingerbread hearts, pastries, currywurst, etc. We rode the Ferris wheel and walked around a lot. It was so much fun! But the party ended at 10pm, extremely early by Berlin’s standards. They probably didn’t want everyone showing up tired to work the next day.
Obligatory mass photo dump…