“Ich bin ein Berliner” [I am a citizen of Berlin] was said by John F. Kennedy in 1963 as a moral boost to the West Berliners and as an affront to the Soviets who had just constructed the Berlin wall. Separating East from West.
From his speech:
“Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’…All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!'”
Then after September 11th, 2001 the French newspaper “Le Monde” echoed that sentiment. Their headline on September 12th read “Nous sommes tous Américains” [We are all Americans].
I’ve made my way from Essen to Berlin to find an amazing city. With a population of roughly 4 Million people and who knows how many tourists it never feels crowded here. I’d read reports of rudeness like you’d find in New York, and have seen none. Absolutely everyone I’ve dealt with here has been helpful and, at the very least, pleasant. From the DMV-like attendants at the Die Bahn information stations to the little old lady that picked up the jacket I dropped while walking through a park in Potsdam. I believe she was telling me I would be very cold soon if I didn’t have that jacket, or something else. It went on for a little while. I just waited for the pause and said “danke schon” smiling back.
After arriving at my hotel and venturing out on a walk the next day I realized I was staying in East Berlin. I had no idea. I just followed the instructions to get to my hostel and didn’t give it a second thought. Other than a line in every bit of pavement that used to be home to the wall and some other memorials there is no sign that this city was divided for 28 years.
There is bustling commerce everywhere, U-bahn and S-bahn to everywhere, tourists, everywhere…
I noted those two quotes at the beginning of this post for a reason. While I found no Berlin wall, I found another wall.
I lost my passport at the Love Parade a few days back. Don’t freak out, I’ve got a backup. I know this about myself, I lose things. So I do my best to have a backup plan or an idea of what would be involved in replacing them. There are many reasons for having a second passport: having a real passport in your pocket when a Hostel asks to hold one during your stay, visiting Israel and being able to then visit Syria, or, you know, dropping it somewhere amidst a mass of people.
I waited to deal with it until I got to Berlin because I knew we had a full embassy here. So I went to visit my embassy and found giant concrete barricades blocking all the streets approaching it. I walked up to the guard booth and when I attempted to open the door the guard made a signal as if he wanted me to show him a pass. Eventually another guard came to the door and asked what I wanted. “American Citizen, lost passport” I said. To which he responded by handing me a small white piece of paper with an address and an underground stop on it. It was the address for the US Consulate somewhere else in Berlin. I thanked him and walked away. I walked past the walls blocking anything bigger than a pedestrian or a bicycle from approaching and made my way to the train station.
I’m pointing out the barricades because I’ve passed a number of other embassies during my walks. They don’t have them and I really don’t like that my country needs them.
To summarize… I found the consulate about 12:30 and they were closed (8:30am-12pm) so I had to come back this morning. This time I knew the way and was happy to have another cold-fried-egg-with-ham-on-baguette thingy at the stop for the consulate. I entered, filled out paperwork, took pictures, paid money, and will have my passport in about 10 days. I just have to be back here in Berlin to pick it up at some point. Not a problem, it’s centrally located. Now I’m working on what to do with the time in between.