Once I took a course in high school or university where we did an exercise in word associations. Teacher says a word, students discuss what associations come to mind on hearing the word.
Today´s word is Walls. Ahh, there´s Walls ice cream, ´the dream of ice creams´ if a TV ad that ran in Nigeria in the early 90s is to be believed (Wall’s Ice Cream – refreshing and creamy/ Wall’s Ice Cream such fun to eat/ Wall’s Ice Cream is good for you/ Wall’s Ice Cream the dream of ice creams). There are walls we put up when enough is enough. Then there´s the association I am forming between ´walls´and the city of Berlin.
A large part of Berlin´s identity is inextricably tied to the Berlin Wall, whose dismantling in 1989 was perhaps the most tangible sign of the fall of the ´Iron Curtain´. Visitors to Berlin are immersed in an intensive crash course on communism and what it meant to the Berliners who only had access to Trabant cars not BMWs, and for whom wiretapped homes were a sad normalcy.
You can buy a piece of the Berlin Wall in any self-respecting souvenir shop in Berlin, from 2,50euros for a small piece. The shops I saw, like Berlin Story, were along Unter Den Linden, leading up to Brandenburger Tor.
Around the city, walls are put to interesting use. Perhaps I only notice it because I am now forming the associations in my mind as I write this article, but where other cities have an abundance of free-standing sculptures adorning public places, for example, in Berlin, much of the self-expression and public art is on walls. Mosaics, relief sculptures, good-ole´grafitti.
Germany´s most-visited museum is the Pergamon Museum on Museumsinel in Mitte, a neighbourhood in Berlin. The highlights are, you guessed it, walls — excavated from Babylon, Iraq (Ishtar Gate, built circa 575BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II) and from Miletus in Turkey (The Market Gate of Miletus, likely built about 120 – 130 AD).
Walls, erected and dismantled, abound in the Berlin physical space, but that is where the association between walls and Berlin ends. I found it to be an open and friendly city, whose inhabitants let their personal walls down to let other ideas, and people, in.