1989, or: the Trabi in the supermarket car park… #memories #Berlin

My Christmas read this time was Val McDermid’s 1989, a great book and a year I remember very well. In 1989 we were living in the same town in N.E. Switzerland, a little further from Lake Constance than we are now, but you could still see it between the houses. Blue lake, and Germany on the other side, and in those days, we were TINKS. Two incomes and no kids meant freedom to travel, to live the life and enjoy being young in central Europe.

The book deals with – among other things – the turbulent political situation of that time. I was waiting to see if my own 1989 memory would be part of it, and it was, right at the end.

It was the evening of November the 9th, 1989, and we were at home in our sprawling old house. I think it was around nine when a friend called, his voice squeaky with excitement.

‘Have you seen what’s happening in Germany?’

We switched on the TV, and there it was. Berlin. Scenes of confusion by the Wall, interspersed with footage of a press conference an hour or so earlier where it was declared that travel across the border to the west was now – immediately – permitted.

We watched, our jaws dropping, as crowds gathered by the Wall, hundreds of people anxious to cross, milling around, pressing forward, chipping away at the Wall. And then they opened the gates, and those hundreds of people streamed into West Berlin. The party began. It was a huge OMG moment. I went to make tea, and stood at the kitchen window looking at the lights in Germany twinkling away on the other side of the lake. We were watching history being made right next door.

A few days later, I went shopping. In 1989, the supermarket car park was right on the lake bank. That’s it on the right, with Germany in the background, though the supermarket isn’t there now. That day in 1989, a crowd of people had gathered around a car, and I went to see what was happening.

It was a Trabi, one of the little Trabant cars people in East Germany used to drive around in. I’d never seen one in real life, and neither had anyone else in the crowd. Two young men appeared with a bagful of supermarket sandwiches. They had partied all night on the 9th, then went home for a few hours’ sleep before jumping in their Trabi and driving south through Germany and across the lake to Switzerland. Because they could. They were drunk with elation and hope for the future, living the dream. Lunch in Switzerland. I wonder where they are now.

If you’re interested in those times, click HERE for a short video (in English) with scenes from that night in 1989.
Coming up on my tbr list is Val McDermid’s 1979. My memories of that time are less vivid, but maybe she’ll write 1999 too. That was the year the lake flooded…

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