Germans savor freedom after Wall's fall

November 12, 2009 5:25:20 PM PST
This week, Germans are marking an event that changed their lives two decades ago. The fall of the Berlin Wall not only reunified their country but led to the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. Germans now enjoy freedom in their day-to-day lives. Eyewitness News reporter Christine Dobbyn traveled to Berlin for a closer look at what life there is like in 2009.

Today millions of people visit Berlin to experience its history and culture. The most popular stops are the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and parts of the Berlin Wall.

The East Side Gallery is the longest remaining stretch of the wall and is almost one mile long. Painters from around the world have used the wall as their canvas and tourists from everywhere come to see it.

"We've been very impressed with East Berlin as it seems very up-and-coming. We're looking at the art scene. It's very vigorous," said one tourist.

So is the nightlife. There is a festive mood at this Potsdamer Platz carnival. We found a Sugar Land native and her German boyfriend right in the heart of it.

"The kids who grew up here, their parents were involved with the wall, they went through things that many of us don't know how to deal with," said Alley McCracken of Sugar Land.

The food and the fun are literally on top of what was once no man's land.

"When you imagine this whole place here, everything here was all sand, so it's really interesting to everybody to see that now," said German resident Nikolai Astagneau.

So what happened to the 96 miles of the wall? Most of it was pulverized. We found a part on the western edge of a Berlin cemetery. While some portions remain in Germany, others have made their way abroad to the United States.

One of the sections stands outside the Baker Institute on the campus of Rice University in Houston. It's one of about 50 pieces on display in the United States.

Today in Berlin, while Germans have tried to move beyond the past, they haven't forgotten it.

"It is very important to remember all of this time because without the past, we have no future," Alexandra Hildebrandt said.

Hildebrandt is the widow of the founder of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. Almost one million visitors come every year to learn the history of the wall and the story of how so many risked their lives trying to escape oppression. Today they don't have to.

"The ninth of November 1989, Germany came together, Europe came together, the world came together," said Hildebrandt.

You can see more behind the scene videos and pictures with our crew by clicking on the videos in the video player above and on the related links.

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