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The Berlin Wall: my part in its downfall

Istanbul is possibly the most historic living city in the world.  But other cities have extraordinary histories, too.

25 years ago, the Berlin Wall came down.  I was living in London at the time, and was as surprised as anyone.  I thought: “should I travel to Berlin?  This looks like history.”  But I made a mistake, and decided I was too busy at work.  I’ve been regretting that decision ever since.

Later on, however, I was lucky enough to live and work in Berlin for seven years, from 1999 to 2006.  During that time I came to know and love this terrific city, with all its confusion, vibrancy and troubling, sometimes dark, history – it’s one of my favourite places on earth.

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Getting to know Berlin included walking the entire 166km length of the “anti-fascist protection wall” with some friends, in ten instalments.  I wrote a newspaper article about walking the wall, for the Financial Times, in 2003.   It’s a lyrical piece, focusing on “my three favourite spots where you can best appreciate the wall that isn’t there“.  It includes the following:

Tourist: Where’s the wall?

Guide: Here. (more…)

Where the wall came down

By Robert Pimm

Financial Times, August 8, 2003

I’m out on a launch in the Havel, the ribbon of lakes that bounds Berlin to the west, with Erika and Juergen. Juergen’s a retired fireman, he’s been messing about in boats for years.

“In the old days there was an imaginary line down the middle of the water,” Juergen says. “If you sailed across it the East German police would arrest you and impound your boat.”

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Berlin Wall running through Potsdamer Platz, 1980 – Photo Robert Pimm

All around us, pleasure craft bob in a bowl of blue and green. (more…)

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