Last Saturday, October 3rd, was Unity Day (or Reunification Day or Tag der Deutschen Einheit—my German is still pretty poor despite six hours of classes a week), a day which celebrates the reunification of East and West Germany, an especially important day in Berlin, which saw the border through the middle of its own streets.
This year was the 25th anniversary, and lucky for us it was a sunny day, almost warm—it was already chilly in Berlin when we got here, though most days you can wear a skirt and sweater pretty comfortably—and wonderful for a lot of walking, which is what I did.
After a somewhat lazy morning, I met with a friend to go to Tempelhofer Feld. It is a massive field that used to be Tempelhof airport, famous because of the Berlin Airlift, home of Operation Little Vittles. Because of this, Tempelhofer is entirely flat, with little besides other people to interrupt your view across the entire field. This scope makes everything look like a Bruegel painting (The Procession to Calvary, specifically, but without all biblical imagery and crucifixion, you know). People are just tiny specks moving in the distance, so small you can barely make them out, but you can tell what they are doing because they are doing what everyone else is doing—grilling, long boarding and wind skating, drawing on the pavement with chalk, rollerblading, lying in the sun. Hundreds of people in every direction—which I believe is roughly a mile. And although it certainly seemed like we could see everything, we certainly couldn’t, as a couple minutes into our walk we found a community garden with makeshift seats made from old doors and other found wood. The field is so large and swallows things so easily, I’m scared I’ll never find the garden again. It is also worth noting that in September, Berlin decided to use one of the airport’s old hangars to house refugees seeking asylum in Germany.
That night, we went to Brandenburger Tor, where a section of Tiergarten had been sectioned off for a festival celebrating Unity Day. When we first got to the festival, the police weren’t letting anyone in, it was too crowded, they said. But we tried several entrances and finally found an open one. The festival looked incredibly similar to a fair in the US—lots of neon lights, booths selling street food and candy, a ferris wheel and large screens displaying the bands playing on the main stage. Honestly the familiarity was pretty nice—although Germany is similar to the States in a lot of ways, there are some things that I really miss about home, silly things like overhearing stranger’s conversations, drinking oversized sodas and the availability of books in English. And while Unity Day had absolutely none of those things, I found comfort in the in the weird looking candy I bought that was essentially a rope of red sugar. I couldn’t finish it, but not for lack of trying.
We started to leave around ten, suffered the usual squeeze of walking against a crowd, and were heading for home, when a new band took stage. Everyone around us was ecstatic, gathered around the screens, and when the band came on, everyone knew all of the words. And so as we walked out of Tiergarten, we were serenaded by hundreds of Germans, singing words my friends couldn’t translate, lit up by a neon ferris wheel.