Estimated reading time: 9 minutes, 21 seconds
I lived in #Berlin close to the end of the Cold War which last roughly from 1947 to 1991. I hailed from a small city in West Virginia, so Berlin was magnitudes different from my hometown of Huntington. Prior to Berlin we lived in Göppingen, which is in the state of Badden-Wurttemberg, one of #Germany's sixteen states. Göppingen was more similar to my hometown than Berlin was... at least for me. Berlin was a big city which seemed light years ahead of WV in technology and urban layout than the city in which I was born. A lot of this was due in part to Berlin being rebuilt after the war. Berlin was progressive back then and from what I can tell continues to be to this day. You can see where I spent a lot of time during my childhood in the map below, needless to say I was very excited to explore #Sundgauer Straße and travel the roads as I did as a child using the street view of Google maps. Yes, we did roam around pretty freely in the streets of Berlin and felt safe doing so. I have dreams to this day of catching the S-bahn over to the KadeWe (which still exist, see link) and eating curry wurst before getting onto a sparkling clean train. Yes, Berlin was a very clean city, I'm sure it still is to this day. It was a fascinating time to grow up in Berlin during the 80's. I was lucky enough to experience a culture and an urban life that would never have been possible if it were not for my parents being in the military.
Because of the richness of the German culture and me being directly in the center of it, there was never a lack of something to do. Never did I say "I'm bored". How could a kid possibly suffer from boredom in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, even at my young age. Even during the cold war. Of course it was unbeknownst to me where I was living, I was just enjoying the way of life that the military and German culture afforded me.
Berlin during Christmas was especially magical, and everyone thinks I'm crazy (who hasn't experienced it that is) for wanting to visit Germany during one of the coldest months of the year... but it really is a magical place. I know people who have visited that didn't think of it as fondly as I do, but I'm certainly coming from it differently than someone who only gets a taste... I actually lived there for several years.. so naturally I would have a fondness that people just visiting would not.
It was a sad day when my family exited from military service to come stateside and settle in my hometown of Huntington, WV. I did not want to go back home. I wanted to stay in Berlin. As crazy as it sounds, the city in which I was born was now foreign to me. I did not know what to expect, I didn't want to know. I will never forget the day we left and after we were airborne my mom saying, "We will probably never be back here again". Those words cut me like a knife. They gutted me like I can not explain. I cried and cried as we flew over the city I called home for so long. The city that opened my mind. The city whose people I loved. The city who taught me so much. The city who nurtured my very soul. Living in Berlin had an impact on me that only those who experienced it could possibly understand or relate to.
I think it was spending so much time in Berlin that draws me to the urban life. I love to see progress, innovation and change, something that certainly is not lacking in bigger cities. Especially in Berlin, after overcoming massive devastation only to recover in a relatively short amount of time. Big cities often adopt the attitude it's better to make a mistake and move forward than to never have tried in the first place... something I have always aspired to personally. The German government and their sapience for the temporary military residents was very impressive even to me, being a child. I developed a deep respect and appreciation for different religions, backgrounds and ethnicities at a very young age. It was not uncommon to share a classroom with Muslims, Turks, Jews and many more from backgrounds and ethnicities different than my own. I cherish the lessons I learned from others different than myself, to this very day. I believe I possess a deeper understanding by living in occupied Berlin. In the city I was born in I would have rarely encountered this. I always have felt that a lot of the disrespect that minorities face is due in part to exposure. If you are not "exposed" or socializing with people different than yourself it is much easier to hate or dislike them... anyway, before I go off on a sociological tangent, I want to note that if everything else goes wrong in my life, I will always feel eternally grateful for the gift of living in such an awesome city rich with culture, history and diversity.
In closing I would like to note some of my favorite places, foods and experiences in Berlin:
Sundgauer Straße (the street I lived on) Funny thing was, I always wanted to live in Düppel because the buildings seemed more modern and it was closer to the Wall. I noticed that the trees that were planted shortly after we moved to Berlin are still there, albeit much bigger, but smaller than I would have thought. The statue that my brothers and I played on also remains. I find this fascinating. I also think since I was a happy child and lived in high rises, I prefer to live high above the ground to this day.
T.A.R -(Thomas A. Roberts) I always wondered what happened to the school I attended. It was a huge school, but it was built to house grades higher than elementary... I remember, because I saw 7th grade signs on the stairwells.... there was no 7th grade in the building when I attended.
Alexia Harrington - always wondered what happened to her, she gave me her address and said that I would probably never write her and regretfully I never did. that was the last thing she said to me... always wondered what happened to her. She spoke perfect German and English, I was always impressed how she could switch flawlessly between the two languages, even without an accent.. at least not that I noticed.
Curry Wurst (yum yum, I've yet to reproduce this to my satisfaction)
German Brochen (crusty outside, soft fluffy inside, mmmmm) My mom still calls good bread Brochen to this day.
Pommes Frites (with mayo of course!)
Imbissstand on the U Bahn station closest to the PX on Truman Plaza.
Doner Kebabs (with shaven lamb fresh off the spit of course!) to this day can't find anything that tastes as good... the closest would be a gyro that i've had in different places)
Berlin Wall - I don't miss it being there of course, but it was a neat AND scary place as a child.
Berlin Cathedral on the Kurfurstendamm or Ku'damm for short... I always wanted to go inside.. but never did. They may not have allowed visitors in during that time, not sure.
Spandau Prison (I remember this from school, Rudolph Hess, a famous Nazi was imprisoned there but did not get to see him... )
Wannsee - Thought it was so cool to stroll in the whale looking boat down the Wannsee, sooo cool. Wonder if they still have the whale boat?
The Snack Shop at Truman Plaza - they had the best eclairs... also loved eating pommes frites with the little forks..... By the way, I heard they have torn Truman Plaza down.... how sad. I remember catching the bus there after school (I stayed after school a lot to take an optional computer class) and went to a friends house who lived in Düppel . I remember thinking how nicer the Düppel apartment buildings were than the ones I lived in.... I believe they were newer, thus more modern than mine....
Update: Looks like Truman Plaza is being replaced (or has been) with housing.... It has been torn down awhile I believe. I always loved modern architecture, this suits me perfectly... I'd want to be on the top floor of course. 🙂 You can visit the developer's page at Bildau.de.
Mercedes Benz School Buses The ones I rode on were a military green (for lack of a better description) with a huge Mercedes emblem on the front. The buses (and Mercedes) always had a unique smell that I find comforting to this day. It was in Berlin that my fascination with Mercedes started.
Bending (Articulated) Buses I loved, along with every other kid, sitting in the middle of this huge bus while it went around curbs. It was always a treat to ride in it.
We always went on interesting field trips as a student in Berlin.
Plus many more, I could go on for awhile.... but when I go back, I will surely be visiting these once again and partaking in the awesome foods I enjoyed as a child! Not to mention walk around my old neighborhood!
Update Here is a link to a Truman Plaza video.... Remember the Volksfest they had across from the bus stop at Truman in the 80's? What memories! The clicking in the video reminds me of the noise the meter would make in the German cabs...
I found a link to the Sundgauer Straße housing area, there is a good birds eye view of the towers, though I did not live in them. My building was across the street, you can't really see it in the picture.
Below is the street I lived on..... would love to hear from other people who lived or currently live on Sundgauer Straße ... I have such fond memories. The building in which I lived is marked below...... I lived on the 5th floor.... walk up.... I remember my mother being pregnant with my sister and having to routinely walk up 5 flights of stairs.
below is the street view... I have a birds eye view below also.
As most of you know, flying to Berlin from the States can be pricey. I found a viable alternative that I did a review on.... You can read it below:
Some of my other posts.
My Podcasts - Yeah I do a little bit of everything!
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: