Monday, November 9, 2009

The Ghan ... and the Berlin Wall

Hmm. An odd juxtaposition, but no logical connection.

Had lunch with Queensland cousins in Adelaide at the weekend - I made the 460 kilometre round trip to join them for the meal and an afternoon's company - and on Sunday they were off northwards to Darwin on the famous Ghan railway which crosses our continent down the middle (not side to side; that's the other one, the Indian-Pacific). Their car was loaded on board and in due course, after some holiday visiting in the Northern Territory, the cousins will drive via Mount Isa and inland Queensland to their home on the coast near Brisbane. Not bad. Hey, they are in my age bracket, with a collection between them of by-pass operations and hip replacements. So it goes.

Anyway, now it is Monday and we are at the twentieth anniversary of the Fall of the Wall - the Berlin Wall, that is. I've maybe told this piece of Will-his-story before. I was there. Nearly there.

End of 1960 I was in East and West Berlin (again; I'd been there also in the northern summer of that year). When the Wall was erected shortly thereafter I suppressed guilt feelings. Oops. Did I do something? If so, I think I made up for it 28 years later.

I was again in Germany (Baden-Wuertemberg) in late 1989 and the institution where I was staying gave over some of its available accommodation to refugees from the east sector. They were mostly coming out through Hungary. Then on 10th November came the moment. The trickle became a flood, and a bloodbath was avoided as border guards, with no direct orders to shoot, stood back and "people power" took over. Few ever reckoned that events would move so swiftly. Not just Germany. Poland six months earlier through a re-born union movement; the dissolution of the Soviet Union; the return of independence to the Baltic nations, to Ukraine, to Georgia and several other countries of the Caucasus, and central Asian states.

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