30 years ago today, the Berlin Wall fell! It has therefore not been around for much longer than it actually divided the city – and the world.
I, Ralf, was working on that Thursday evening at a car rental company at Tegel Airport. Gradually, information leaked out that the Wall had been opened. After work, at around 11 p.m., I drove home to Gesundbrunnen, just one kilometre from where the first border crossing was opened. With my then wife and her visiting parents, who, as Brits, had not grasped what was happening at the time, we headed for Bornholmer Brücke. Huge crowds of people poured onto the bridge from the West to offer a rapturous welcome to the arriving East Berliners.
After a while, in the middle of that cold night, we headed further east. My father-in-law even presented a baffled East German border official with his British passport and asked for a stamp (which he unfortunately did not get). But we were allowed to pass. Against the endless stream of Trabis, Wartburgs and Ladas, we walked along Bornholmer Straße, past a few shops with hardly anything on display in the shop windows, and many disbelieving people at open windows who could not believe the goings-on. Only after reaching Schönhauser Allee did we start to wonder if we could get home without any problems. So, we set off on our journey home – by this time, it was probably about 3 a.m. – and managed to get back to West Berlin without any issues.
I still wonder today if other people experienced something similar, heading in the “wrong direction” that night. Or were we the only ones, the first? A very turbulent, exciting, thrilling time in which the whole world looked to Berlin followed, with many people visiting the city. But that is another story.