Some personal thoughts and memories on the German reunification

History at the Eastside Gallery, Berlin
History at the Eastside Gallery, Berlin

I grew up in a Germany that was split. I remember sitting in front of the TV with my grandparents. Some sporting event was going on. The East German Team won over the West German team. My grandparents were disappointed. Even as a naïve 9-year old I understood that this “DDR” was different from the other countries.

Living close to the river Elbe I was used to the sight of watchtowers and barbed wire on the other side, boats patrolling right in the middle of the Elbe, East Germans and West Germans eying each other suspiciously. As children, we found it exciting to watch. We were good, the others were bad, it was a game to us. We did not understand yet that people were killed at this border.

Later, when I had learned about German history in school, had started reading newspapers and developed a kind of political awareness I understood that the border was wrong, but I didn’t care so terrible much. Life was good; I was growing up and found it exciting to take the train oder transfer road to Berlin, always wondering whether we would be stopped by the ‘Vopos’, the DDR-police. There were a lot of stories going around how they were demonstrating their power and accusing people of spying.

Once, when we were on a day trip to East-Berlin, we went into a restaurant which was crowded. We asked some people at a bigger table if they would mind if we sat down. They didn’t. A few minutes later a waiter appeared and asked them to join a table at the other side of the restaurant. We ate alone. The food was lousy. We understood what had happened.

A few years later a revolution took place. East German people became heroes. They protested peacefully. They forced their Government to let them travel freely. And finally the wall fell. Not long after, Germany was reunited. We watched all this on TV, talking about it but it first became real when the long lines of tiny Trabbis came into Hamburg, the shops being as full as never before. I admit, after a while, I felt a bit annoyed when I more than once found that the nappies and bananas were sold out in our local “Aldi-store”.

We took day trips into East Germany, feeling shocked when we saw the run down houses. Everything seemed dark and gray, no advertisement, no big shop windows, huge fields, terrible roads. I imagined that this must have been what Germany looked like in the early 50ies.

Not long after, I was teaching German at that time, we got new colleagues from East Germany. They had strange habits. Having schnapps with their coffee in the middle of the day. And being much stricter than us West-German teachers. They accepted lower wages than us and we were worried that the old staff would soon be replaced by cheaper staff from the East.

The institution I was working at was offering German courses for refugees and immigrants from Russia and Poland and, in 1991 integration classes for people from East Germany. In these classes we taught how the West German system worked, how to apply for jobs and offered assistance searching for work. I was working as a social worker in these courses and I remember many sad cases. Marriages that had broken up, fathers that had gone to the West leaving the wives and kids behind, people being lost in the West German bureaucracy, and, many, many East Germans that had been talked by West Germans salesmen to buy insurances they didn’t need or expensive knickknacks they couldn’t afford.

I met men and women that were disoriented and disillusioned, who had not learned yet that freedom has its challenges and requires an enormous amount of looking after yourself, something they had not learned in their state. Having to search for after school day-care of your own in a state that had a profound lack of such places, being confronted with an unemployment rate that didn’t exist where they came from, competing over flats with many other people, having offers to buy just about anything on credit, but having no job security were conditions that were until then unknown to them.

Most East Germans that came to the West integrated quietly, but at our institution we were confronted with the ones that had difficulties to adjust. Many had worked in jobs that didn’t exist in West Germany, and coming to the West, realizing there was no place for them hurt and disillusioned many. It was sad to watch.

I stopped working in that institution when my second son was born. He was born on the 3rd of October, 24 years ago. He and his brother have grown up in a united Germany. For them Leipzig and Chemnitz are German cities just like Hamburg and Köln. They never thought in categories like East (bad) and West (good).

The first years were not easy, turning two different systems into one. I believe that it must have been harder for East Germans as they had to make much bigger adjustments. We West Germans sometimes overlooked that we could learn from them, too. But that is a different story. Today, I simply feel happy and glad; that Germany is one. While being focused on my own life and worries, historical events took place.

Today, we can travel to Poland and Czechia, to Latvia and Estonia and many, many other places that were once cut off through the “iron curtain”. Our world has changed enormously during the last 25 years and it will continue changing. But those of us, who have lived through those changes,  now know that there are chances in new and unknown situations and that, if everyone participates it is possible to turn the world into a better place.

I was nominated for a blog award by ‘vickyandherdogs’ ( and thus being saved from thinking up something interesting for my blog this afternoon.

Thank you Vicky.

The nice thing about blog awards is that you have to answer questions about yourself, or, as with this award,  share some facts about yourself. Like most people I have some narcisstic traits, and love talking about myself.

So, here are 7 facts about myself:

  1. I would never get an award for being a good housewife. To start off with, I hate doing laundry. I feel it is the most tedious job possible, and I don’t like ironing either. I am glad we have some rooms in the cellar where I can hide all the unwashed towels and sheets and the piles of T.Shirts and stuff waiting to be ironed. There are some other things I loathe doing around the house, but I will not get into it, after all I want to make a nice impression on you.
  2. I don’t much like clothes shopping, even though I do like dressing well. I shop when I have to, but it wouldn’t occur to me to browse through department shops and boutiques just for fun. The sizes never seem right, and the mirrors in these changing cabins are merciless.
  3. I am a bugger for cosmetics. Creams and lotions and all things smelling good appeal to me. When I am late for work it is usually because I spent too much time in the bathroom, but then at least I am relaxed and feeling good. There is nothing wrong with looking after oneself, is there?
  4.  I find it impossible to resist good food. I love eating and enjoy trying new foods, either in ethnic restaurants or by trying out recipes. At the same time I like traditional food, especially cooked by my mother, and I like old cookbooks. It’s amazing how our daily food is influenced by fashions and trends.
  5. I have  a terribly spoiled terrier-mix thatis annoying the neighbors by barking at anyone passing by. The mailman and her have had rather unpleasant encounters and he refuses to enter the ground when she is outside. However, I love her and consider her my very best friend.
  6. Since my last birthday I am closer to sixty than to fifty, and I don’t mind at all. It is nice to have grown-up children. Also, I found, it is not that you stop having fun and enjoying life when you get older, it is just that you start liking and enjoying different things than at twenty or thirtyfive.
  7. I enjoy reading thrillers. I just finished the triology by Erik Axl Sund, and can recommend it for anyone who is able to take  storys with some very evil twists. Strangely enough these kind of novels seem to appeal to a lot of my colleagues, all of them being either psychologists, social workers or therapists. When talking about books during lunch break not so long ago, we found that most of us have been reading  thrillers with a lot of gruesome murders and other dreadful things occuring in them. I wonder whether it could be related to the kind of job we do? Warding of aggressive impulses, perhaps?

So, writing this definitely helped forgetting about the wet, cold, grey weather that is not inviting at all.

Thank you for reading this. And here are the rules for this award

A) Show the award on your blog.
B) Thank the person who nominated you.
C) Share seven facts about yourself.
D) Nominate 15 blogs
E) Link your nominee’s blogs & let them know.

Even though I follow many blogs, I find it difficult to nominate 15 writers, who have neither received this blog before and accept awards and are writing about many different ,  so there are only six links on my list.

Here are the nominees:


If water is life, is life like water?

Water is life. What, if my life was water? What would I be? A small pond, deep, dark, covered with pretty water lilies? A big lake in the mountains, deep blue, cool and majestic? A fjord, part of the sea and still a special being of my own? Or would I be one of the many smaller lakes, people enjoy bathing in in the summer?

Actually, I hope I would be a river, as a river moves on, changing its form and size as it is meandering its way through changing landscapes.

Every river starts somewhere as a small well, often only a trickle of water, turning slowly into a small streamlet.  Some of these rivulets soon join others and together they form a bigger river. Some continue growing until they are big mighty rivers, serving men as way of transportation. A few of them are famous. Some are so mighty that they form a landscape of their own by growing side arms. Other streamlets remain narrow, some of them terribly delightful, with plenty of turbulences and waterfalls, flowers blooming at their sides.

Often rivers have to take in a lot of snow water or rain and can threaten the safety of others for a while. Later, these same rivers  bring fertility to the land they flow through. A river can be both good and bad at the same time.

Some rivers and streams have sad fates, being turned into canals or straightened. They are not allowed to be their natural selves. Even though it is not their choice, they adjust to the wishes of others and are forced into a corset, leading a life not determined by themselves but by rules, restrictions and force. They have hardly any current until they are allowed to flow freely again.

Flowing fast, having currents some rivers have a lot of temperament and energy, while others are more placid, calm or even a bit lazy. Some of it depends on the area they are born into, a river born in the mountains will behave differently than one developing in the flats of North Germany, but still, every stream, no matter how big, is also shaping the land it flows through.  A river both gives and takes.

When the cold comes, most rivers form ice only at their edges, giving them a picturesque and beautiful look, a certain sharpness and danger.  However, on the rare occasions when it gets extremely cold, the whole surface can be covered by ice. Then there seems to be standstill and the river seems lifeless. It is good to know that ice is always just on the surface. Beneath the ice the current is still running. Many human lives know such phases, too. Times of sadness, hopelessness, when life seems to be standing still and when they feel  emotionally dead.

Periods of heat can dry rivers out. The water is low then, the river is becoming smaller, losing its energy. Who doesn’t know such phases in life, being burnt up by daily duties, giving what energy you have to those who need or demand it, until you seem to be almost empty.

The times of ice and the times of steam will pass. Eventually it will get warmer and the ice will melt.  A river having lost most of its water to the heat will get its energy back once the evaporated water comes down as rain. What remains is water  and a river flowing on, changing its course now and then, making bends, finding its way through different landscapes, sometimes being a calm little river, sometimes a big stream, sometimes full of currents, at other time flowing quietly,  but in the end all rivers and streams will end up in the sea, becoming one with a water bigger than themselves.

 This was written for the weekly writing challenge: <a href=””>Ice, Water, Steam</a>