Monday, November 9, 2009

Do You Have A Story? - International Education and the Fall of the Berlin Wall 20 Years Ago Today

I wonder what it would have been like to be studying abroad in Berlin/Germany 20 years ago today? I also wonder what it would have been like to be hosting/advising a student(s) from Berlin/Germany when the Wall came down? Did you travel during your studies abroad/travels to Berlin in the immediate years following the fall of the Wall? Were you able to get a piece of the Wall?

Do you have a story to tell about this? If so, please tell your story via a comment below.

As today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall I’ve been thinking much about my that historic day as I watched the events unfold on TV from my dorm room. When the Berlin Wall came down I was a sophomore in college and I was in the midst of planning for study abroad and my backpacking travels and I knew that Berlin was a necessary stop on my itinerary. I studied abroad in Valladolid, Spain from January to May of 1991 and then began my backpacking sojourn through Europe that summer. Money was tight for me then and I was supplementing my travels with cash advances on the credit card so my time in Berlin was limited to one day. I arrived in Berlin at 5:00am after three days in Amsterdam and I awoke in a very hazy state and to an overcast day which seemed to be a fitting atmosphere to experience the city. I believe I made the most of my time in the city and spent the majority of my day walking around the Brandenburg Gate,
Museum Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie with an ultimate goal of finding a place where I could chip off a piece of what remained of the Berlin Wall. I had no map and spoke no German but somehow found a place where the Wall remained and I could chip off a piece of history (pictured here). After chipping off a rather large piece of the Wall I found my way to Zoo Station and began my journey on to Paris (first stop in Paris was here). Berlin will be a day I will never forget!

You can read an interesting piece on with stories and photos of how readers acquired bits of the Berlin Wall

Now I wonder…when will we see the fall of the DMZ?


  1. Berlin means a lot to me--I studied there in 1969-70, and there were still tanks on the streets. The wall was up, since 1961, and unlike my friends who were Berliners, I could cross periodically. You put your passport in a slot, sat in a nausea green waiting room with dim florescent lights, and waited for your passport to be returned. But I went back and forth, trying to understand the world I was living in.
    20 years later, in 1989, I flew over a couple of weeks after the wall opened, along with my then 8 year old son, and chopped off our pieces of the wall with college friends from 20 years earlier. We had to stop to get a chisel--the wall has so much asbestos in it that it is rock hard.

    And, when I came back to DC, I took the wall fragments to be mounted at the local framing shot, along with a picture we had of the event. I tried to explain what I wanted, but the clerk stopped me, hollering to his colleague--"Joe, it's more the rocks from that wall. How do we mount them again?"

  2. @Bob ~ Thanks for your comment. I loved reading it and what a great experience for your then 8 year old son!