Last Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was there. Well, not exactly. The wall began to come down in November, 1989, and my husband and I were in Berlin five months later, in May of 1990. The city was jammed, due to a VIP meeting to discuss the reuniting of East and West Germany, and there were no hotel rooms available.
People put their names on a list for rooms in private homes, and, while we waited to learn if a room might be available for us, we decided to take a tour of the city. We asked for a taxi driver who spoke English and were rewarded with the services of a young man who drove us everywhere we wanted to go on both sides.
He told his own story of the night the wall began to crumble. His girlfriend was an opera singer, and, every night after his night’s work and her performance, they’d join friends at a café. On that night, a friend rushed in, shouting, “The wall is open. East Germans are rushing through and the guards aren’t stopping them.” Our driver and his friends hurried to the wall to see for themselves, leading to the pictures we’ve all seen of hundreds climbing on the wall, and others taking hammers to knock it down. The taxi driver’s girlfriend and her opera friends celebrated by singing a song about freedom from an opera they’d performed.
The driver took us through East Berlin where we saw the great difference between the cities, such as bullet holes in building walls and rubble in the streets, left over from World War II, now more than forty years in the past. We ended our tour near the Brandenburg Gate where dozens of people lined the street, sitting at tables where they sold pieces of the wall. We bought one.
Of course, we had no idea we’d see all that when we made our travel plans for a trip to Germany a year or more before. We wanted to see the Passion Play in Oberammergau, and, since it’s only given once every ten years and people come from all over the world to see it, early reservations are necessary. That, too, was a memorable experience.
As you may know, when the plague, called the Black Death, struck Europe, thousands of people died. Oberammergau, like other small villages, walled themselves in and refused to let strangers enter. However, one young man managed it and brought the plague with him. After several people died, the village elders held a prayer meeting, vowing that, if they were spared, they would hold a Passion Play every ten years throughout eternity. That was in 1633 and they were and they have. All the villagers take part and many open their homes to travelers. It’s held every day from May through October, and a roof over the audience keeps out rain.
That’s not the only passion play anymore. Almost every country holds one, and many cities in the U.S. do too. Eureka Springs, Arkansas, holds a famous one every year. We came close to seeing that one in 1965 while returning from Texas to Chicago after our niece’s wedding.
Thanks for your interest in my little history story. Next week I hope to have more writing and publishing news. Meanwhile, if you’ve seen a Passion Play or the Berlin Wall, add a comment.