My beers in the GDR, Part One: A working lunch in East Berlin, August 1989
The photo above is the Berlin Wall at Brandenburg Gate, viewed from West Berlin in 1989. Here’s the same wall seen from the East Berlin side. In 1989 I spent the first three weeks of August buffing and polishing V. I. Lenin’s shoes. The footwear belonged to a gargantuan statue prominently located at the entrance to the Volkspark Friedrichshain in East Berlin, capital of the German Democratic Republic, henceforth to be referred to here as East Germany or the GDR. Lenin’s statue was removed after unification in spite of neighborhood opposition (photo by Brian Rose). My presence during the GDR’s final socialist summer owed to a stubborn determination to be different from the rest of the backpacking tourists, and to spend as much time as possible in the East Bloc during my months-long European sojourn. I’d become fascinated with the countries behind the Iron Curtain, and as a contrarian, political affiliation was no consideration. Ideological free agency definitely has its privileges. As you might expect, the notoriously hardline GDR was little interested in budget travelers, backpackers, hippies, punk rockers and other forms of decadent Western life, even if the politburo desired the “hard” western currency we carried in our money belts. Prepayment for expensive hotel...Read more