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NORTHERN GERMANY


Story by Brian Anderson Photos by Megan Smith


ver a hundred years ago, Mark Twain said he thought Berlin was “the newest” city he had ever seen. Imagine if he could


take a long, hard look today. Since that time, Berlin has held host to a revolution, become the headquarters for the T ird Reich and Nazi Party, been destroyed by Allied forces, separated by a wall during the Cold War and fi nally reunited in 1990. Today, Germany’s capital is a world cen-


ter for art, culture and politics. Relics like the scattered remains of the Berlin Wall and the famous Brandenburg Gate stand side by side with modern state-of-the-art projects like the upscale Potsdamer Platz and the Fernsehtrum TV tower that hov- ers 1,200 feet over the city. Even modern monuments like the recently constructed Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Eu- rope combine a modern aesthetic with a haunting reminder of the past. Still, without question the biggest


change to Berlin in recent years has been the reunifi cation of the city following the collapse of the Berlin Wall that divided the city between East and West for nearly 30 years and stood as a reminder to the tensions of the Cold War. As drastic and frantic as the alterations


in Berlin may seem to the world, for the people who call the city home, it’s been a slow, gradual change. Street artist Lady Gaby Bila moved to Berlin shortly before the fall of the wall in 1989, seeing fi rst- hand the history of the city’s culture. “People didn’t notice the change,”


Bila said. “T ey just went with what was going on.” She said the wall coming down was a


symbol for artists of all backgrounds, a change that could be felt, heard and seen throughout the city. “T ere was suddenly all this space to


move into,” Bila said. “T e city was sud- denly being rebuilt, and there was all this noise, and musicians incorporated this noise, this industrial sound into


Street-corner posters at Friedrich- Str. Berlin in the Mitte district.


their music.” Street art, still so prominent in the city,


was also inspired by the fall of the wall. “Everywhere in the streets, there was


just garbage and metal and people used that to make art,” Bila said. “It just sud- denly felt like you could do whatever you wanted to do.” Bila said that sense of exploration still the city as artists continue to


inhabits


evolve and move through a cycle. “Artists are always creating new scenes,”


Bila said. “When the wall came down, they came to the East. Now, it’s commercial- ized, so they move to new spaces. T ere’s always new space in Berlin.” Even those who can’t remember the fall


of the wall as a historic moment in their lives aren’t immune to noticing the con- tinual change of old Berlin. Berlin native


Gerrit Qualitz was fi ve in 1990, and admits his only memory of the wall was walking around the area with his family, although he can’t remember if this was before or aſt er it was torn down. He does, however, recall the shiſt in the city. “I remember it creating a new center in


the city,” Qualitz said. “In the 1990s all the people went to the empty fl ats in the East. Life sort of shiſt ed from the East to the West.” For Qualitz, there are no doubts the


changes have been great for the city he has always called home, but the past is never far from reach. “It’s still very present in everyday life,”


Qualitz said. “It’s on people’s minds. Even today when people come here they want to know if you’re from the East or the West. It’s still important for people to know.”


ALPINE LIVING 2011 | 9


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