Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Fall of the Wall

     We traveled to Berlin (opposite side of Germany) for our game this weekend. We had practice until 10pm on Friday night and then met in the gym parking lot at 5:30 am on Saturday to leave (and we used to complain about quick turnarounds in the NESCAC). Our Coach is paranoid about being late, so we left extra early for the 5 hour drive. We were so early that we stopped at a truck stop for 2 hours to kill time so that we wouldn't be sitting around the gym for 3 hours before the game. The ride was long, but OK because I drank 'hella' water...

and the jokes my teammates told weren't quite as corny as my pre-game snack.

Coach decided to only bring eight players on the trip, which was great for leg-room on the bus, but not quite as cool when four players fouled out and we had to finish the game with four guys (this is literally unheard of except in 4th grade basketball). The game itself was worse than the 5 am wake-up. We shot 2-19 from three and missed 17 freethrows and were still somehow in it at the end. The loss dropped us down to 5-2, but the other team tied for first lost as well, so we are still at the top. At practice yesterday Coach informed us that after the next home game we will have to help clean the gym up after the game. He said it is completely unrelated to our dismal preformance, but I highly doubt it.
      The captain of the team, Nic, grew up in Berlin and the plan was to stay at his dad's house through the weekend. After the game we drove around the city sightseeing  and stopped at the Brandenburg Gate.

          The chariot up top is driven by Victoria, the goddess of victory. This is the only remaining gate through which Berlin used to be entered, and is one of the most important monuments in Germany and apparently all of Europe. After the last war, we rebuilt the American Embassy right next to the gate (you can see the corner of it in the left hand side of this picture) which created a lot of controversy because the Germans didn't like the idea of having the American Embassy right next to their most important historical structure. However, I don't think the Germans had a whole lot of say in this decision.
       It has been very strange talking about German history with my teammates because so much of it was shaped by the U.S. At first I was hesitant to talk about WWII, but the guys bring it up all the time and it certainly couldn't be avoided when touring Berlin. There doesn't seem to be any open resentment towards the U.S., in fact I get a sense that a lot of the younger generation is embarrassed about the what happened and thankful for help the U.S. provided. Even if this is an exaggeration, it is clear that they love Kennedy for the support he gave Western Germany and his "I am a Berliner Speech" during the cold war: they have streets, schools and parks named after him throughout Berlin.

After WWII, the allies split Germany into four sections, with the U.S., Britain, France and the Soviet Unin all getting a piece. When Germany was split into East and West, the Soviet section was considered East and the rest was the West.

As you can see,  Berlin is actually on the East Side of East-West Germany division, but it was itself partitioned in two because neither side was willing to give it up.

Where the wall used to be in Berlin. I am on the Communist East side and Marcus is in the Democratic West
   We had a great night out in Berlin and the next day did some more touring of the city, starting with the East Wall Gallery which is one of the few parts of the wall that remains standing. The wall itself is much less intimidating than I imagined, but I guess the addition of guard towers, a warning track, search lights, and the threat of being shot would add to the intensity. On the wall now are painted various murals from artists around the world.

This is a famous mural of the Trabant which was the only car made available in East Germany.
There was a 15 year wait-list for this modern day equivalent of a Ford Pinto!

This was my favorite mural. The caption translates to, "This isn't the only wall the needs to be torn down."

This handcuffed thumb represents the oppression of the East Germans and how they were forced to always give the "thumbs up" despite horrible conditions.

Israeli flag super-imposed over the British Flag

     We concluded our touring at 'Checkpoint Charlie', the only way to get from the Western side of Berlin to the Eastern side. This was the scene of many standoffs between the Soviets and where many East Berliners tried their luck in getting over to the West side.

     Despite the loss and the long drive, the trip was well worth it. The Wall, and the murals on it, may be my favorite thing I have seen so far. We go back to Berlin in a few weeks so hopefully I will get to see some more.  In the meantime I am have plans to visit the zoo and a concentration camp. I'm sure my experiences will be dramatically different at these places, but I am excited for both.

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