Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

We Never Saw it Coming

Tomorrow, November 9th, is a very special anniversary for me. The night of November 9, 1989, I was in a car with three other women, escaping from our cold-warrior duties. We were on our way to the border towns of West Germany for some shopping in the crystal factories. We really needed the get-away.


We had a drive of several hours, and on the way, we noticed the strangest thing – an unusually heavy numbers of cars coming FROM the border, and most of these cars were POS – old, slow, rusty, spewing black smoke, made of fiberglass – but full of people. The West Germans only drive new, shiny cars – where were these cars coming from?

We turned on the radio, and learned that the Czechoslovakian border had opened. When we got to our little gasthaus, we sat in the common room and watched, spellbound, as young people danced on the Berlin Wall. It was the most amazing, stunning sight you could imagine.

There were signs this was coming. No one seriously believed it really would happen, and happen so fast and so dramatically. The American government was pouring millions of dollars into Germany to renovate housing and offices and services, assuming the status quo would endure for the forseeable future, and American forces would be there a long long time. A mere fifteen years later, American presence had decreased dramatically, entire bases have closed, those renovated offices and houses turned back over to the Germans. Whoda thunk?

The reunification of Germany has been painful, continues painful. The integration of the former Soviet states into the European community moves at a snail’s pace, but it moves. It’s a new Europe, one currency, goods traded freely, young people from all countries free to move and work in other European countries. It’s an amazing new world.

The frustrations of getting the political system to work are mitigated by the occasional tipping point when the world changes in a heartbeat, and the people dance on the Wall.

Thanks to Wikipedia for sharing appropriate photos!

November 8, 2006 Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Germany, News, Political Issues | 3 Comments