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We arrived in Berlin Pankow, a former East Berlin borough. The Wall used to run just a few feet away from our place.

While real estate prices are rising in Berlin, one can still find amazing lofts for less than $100 a night, especially in the former East.

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Astrid had her own place and loved it immediately. Somehow, she didn’t like sleeping there and stayed in the big bed for four nights. Go figure.

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On the first trip to the supermarket, I finally found my beloved chocolate kisses, chocolate-covered marshmallow treats. They used to call them “Negro’s kiss” or “Moor’s head” but they changed the name for good reason a few decades back.

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Culturally, there’s still a split between East and West Germany. Some bands tap into the Zeitgeist and call themselves “Ossis” (East Germans) with a cliche banana in their hand. East Germans didn’t have access to citrus fruits during the communist regime and West Germans always made fun of their love for bananas after the wall came down.


Germany’s premier satire magazine created this iconic cover shortly after the reunification: My first banana.

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Sunday morning we took the train to Berlin Alexanderplatz, site of the tallest building in Germany. The top is supposed to resemble the first Soviet satellite, Sputnik. An East German engineering achievement.

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One of the first stops of our bike tour was Bebelsplatz, the site where books burned in 1933. Heinrich Heine said many decades before the sad event: “Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.”

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A plaque commemorating the day of shame.

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On the ground, there’s an opening where one can look down into an empty library. What could be if we don’t watch out.

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Checkpoint Charlie has turned into a sad tourist trap. The soldiers are not real, you need to pay them to take pictures and it feels just very icky being there.

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Pictures in front of the former Wall are obligatory.

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The longest segment of intact Wall stands close to the Topography of Terror museum, on the former grounds of the Gestapo, including torture and prison chambers. The Wall is protected by a fence. Oh, the irony.

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Peeking through the concrete.

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The Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe was a fascinating experience.

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Upon entering, the installation feels like a modern yet welcoming park.

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But, upon entering the narrow alleys and plunging between higher and higher slabs, you are starting to be cut off from the world and claustrophobia sets in.

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The metaphor is striking: The Jews of Europe lived carefree life until they wandered into frightening canyons of shadows from which the escape routes were narrow and distant.

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After a short lunch break, we headed through the Tiergarten, rode along the Victory Column, golden as ever. Bruno Ganz from “Wings of Desire” was nowhere to be found.

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WWII has been over for 70 years but bullet holes can still be found at many historic buildings.

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I saw Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” here 25 years ago. Time flies. Love the addition of the dome, such a beautiful metaphor of changes in German politics and attitude.

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The first time I saw the gate was 3 years before the wall came down, on stands overlooking the wall. East Germans were in the distance, enjoying their Sunday. It felt like looking at zoo animals from our side.

November 9, 1989 remains one of the most amazing days I ever experienced. And the first day I ever felt proud to be German.

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Before we headed home, making sure Marx and Engels are still doing okay.