Walking through Berlin you often stumble across reminders of the long division of the city. There are of course the famous examples, such as the stretches of Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery or on Bernauer Straße, the Checkpoint Charlie museum or the line of cobblestones that cross city streets along the path of the wall to remind you how this incredible, brutal structure split Berlin in two. There are other symbols as well that are perhaps less obvious. The tram that runs past my house is one of only a couple of stretches of working tram-track that run through the western districts of the city. Before the division the whole of Berlin was served by the tram network, but in the west they were replaced by buses. Now, in parts of the city, they are returning but in general you can apply the rule; if you can see a tram, you are in the old east. Then there are the differences in architecture, the newspaper reading habits in different neighbourhoods, and even voting patterns… Berlin is coming together, but it could take more years than the wall actually stood before all the traces of the division have been removed from the city.
One little quirk that I explored last weekend is the remains of the Embassy district just north of Bornholmer Straße, on the border between Pankow and Prenzlauer Berg. East Berlin was also the capital city of the German Democratic Republic, and as such many nations had representation in the city. Some embassies, especially those located on or around Unter den Linden in Berlin-Mitte, were already in the east, and those countries often opened a consulate in West Berlin. But others had their traditional embassy buildings in the Tiergarten or elsewhere in the west, and so there was a need for representation on the eastern side of the wall. The collection of boxy, pre-fab-looking buildings were part of an “Embassy Quarter” in the east, and although many nations have since left, and the buildings have been turned over to new uses, a few still remain, and it is somewhat strange to stumble across the German embassy of Eritrea in the midst of this sleepy, residential district. See if you can guess which is which from the flags…answers at the bottom.
(OK… so the flags aren’t always that clear. I was on a run and a bit breathless at this moment. Anyway, here are the answers: 1. Bosnia and Hercegovina, 2. Cape Verde Islands, 3. Ghana, 4. Moldova, 5. Cuba. The Eritrean Embassy had locked their flag away, so there is no pic)
Words & Pictures: Paul Scraton