Wednesday, August 21st 2002

I got a train to Berlin. The six hour journey went by in a flash, and I barely had time to notice the countryside. What I did see as we crossed into Germany was the Oder River looking scarily swollen and fast flowing. I had heard that there was severe flooding in countries to the south of me.

I liked Berlin straight away. It had the same atmosphere of a place heavy with recent history that Moscow had had. I grew up hearing about the Berlin Wall all the time on the news, and remembered watching the fall on TV when I was 11 years old. The first place I went to in Berlin was the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining stretch of the wall. After the fall, various international artists painted murals all along the stretch. What seemed most amazing was how thin the wall was. I always imagined it would be several feet thick, but a couple of inches of concrete was all that had physically separated East and West Germany.

Some of the works of art on the wall were very famous, like the picture of a Trabant bursting through, and of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev kissing. They had all recently been restored, but already there was a lot of inane graffiti on a lot of them. There seem to be a lot of Argentinians, in particular, who wish to record the fact that they have been somewhere.

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