A story of Berlin in the '80's
A real life account of before and after the 'fall of the berlin wall' and what it was like living in west berlin - by COGO Travel's Sharon
From very early on I have always been interested in Germany. Having grasped the basics of the language at school, a school trip would certainly have given me the incentive to expand my knowledge of the language and explore more of the history in particular berlin, a city I now know is steeped in history and culture offering so much to see and experience.
As fate would have it, in 1984 I had the opportunity to relocate to Berlin and the basic knowledge of the language I had certainly gave me the confidence to do so. At this time, the daunting Berlin Wall from the Cold War was still intact cutting West Berlin off from most of East Germany and of-course East Berlin.
Living in West Berlin opened my eyes to how different life could be. The wall led to vastly diverse ways of life - whilst living in West Berlin it felt like you were in your own bubble, a cosmopolitan city with access to an array of shops, cafés, restaurants, entertainment facilities and the opportunity to travel freely. Meanwhile in East Germany life was dramatically different. There were no shops with products on display – all groceries were kept under the counters and rationed painstakingly to queues of so-called customers. There were no cafés or entertainment facilities, no investment in infrastructure; just cobbled streets and old buildings. Hardly any cars were on the roads and if there were any, you knew it would be a Trabant for this was the only car available in East Germany. The average time it took to have a driving test was 10 years and then you had to wait another 10 years to buy your car. The West didn’t have any such rules and restrictions everything was far more relaxed and accessible.”
My current role at COGO Travel enables me to support teachers to arrange trips to Berlin, it gives me great satisfaction to be able to share my knowledge with others. I have worked with the team here to ensure that the Cross Curricular Tour and our History Tours offer an overview of key sights that depict the history of East and West Berlin including the obligatory trip to ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ and the DDR Museum.
Whilst living in West Berlin, I experienced first-hand the daunting checkpoints, the checking of documents to ensure you were able to leave. Many used Checkpoint Charlie as a potential escape route from East Berlin, unfortunately many failed; if spotted you would shot dead instantly. So when in November 1989 I witnessed the ‘Fall of the Berlin Wall’ it was such a momentous occasion, and the celebrations continued for two weeks. At last the East and West were reunited as one, without restrictions on where people could go in Germany.
However, this momentous event also brought conflict by highlighting the massive divide in the lifestyles of East and West Berliners. The East needed much investment to bring it up to the standards of West Berlin. Not only this but, the East Berliners also found their qualifications weren’t recognised in the West which brought about mass unemployment and it took roughly 10 years before East Berlin caught up.
I was very fortunate to spend time in Germany and I still love the city and all that it has to offer. I enjoy going back, there is such much to see and learn and the history of this city is fascinating. It’s a must for anyone passionate about culture, history and German, and in my opinion, embarking on one of our educational tours is a fabulous option for students to learn so much more first hand which I certainly wish I’d had when I was at school.
I’d be more than happy to answer any questions about Berlin whether it's sharing my experiences or helping to arrange a trip, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01273 020 520. “
If you are interested in any of the tours, contact our travel experts on 01273 020 520 or email: email@example.com