Potsdamer Platz 1984

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Potsdamer Platz 1930's t is a cold day, and I am standing in a desolate muddy field. 'The busiest City Square in Europe' they used to say about this place. They said that a lot, it was how you typified it. 'Potsdamer Platz, the Busiest Square in Europe'. It probably wasn't, but who cares? They had the first ever traffic lights here, yes, really they did! The first ever traffic roundabout too! The first ever combined police traffic control box, and municipal clock....oh..that's what that was. I see. There was also the first ever modern block of offices, all glass and concrete, and the biggest department store in the world...well, maybe not the world..., but you know, BIG! And then there were the hotels, the bars, the dancehalls, the cafés...you get the picture. But if Potsdamer Platz was living under false pretences, it certainly had its come-uppance. You see Potsdamer Platz is in Berlin, and just one street away was a certain large building where a certain dictator with a small moustache stomped around for a few years, and who settled the fate of quite a few million other fellow Europeans, and also that of the square next door, whose roaring traffic he could probably hear at night.

Potsdamer Platz 1980's

   So now it is 1984, and here I am , in the twilight, with my shoes all covered with the sandy mud, still hoping to snap a picture with my super new camera, that will say it all. I never will, of course, but it will be fun trying. The main attraction here now, is several hundred slabs of concrete forming a barrier right across the middle. If I can summon up in my mind's eye the fallen buildings that once were here, I can see the wall take a little curve around that famous dancehall, cut off the site of that old hotel from all access, go across the 'busiest street in Europe', and run along the front of the first ever glass and concrete office-block, and then away north to blight the life of another famous Platz just up the road.
   Why am I, and the Berlin Wall here? Well, apart from having bad neighbours, Potsdamer Platz had the bad luck to lie across a municipal boundary, which turned out to be the line along which the city was divided between east and west, once we, 'the good guys', got rid of you-know-who, and occupied the city and divided it up between ourselves. Neither side meant the division to be permanent, there was just the little question of who controlled the other side to be settled. . . I myself am what the Berliners contemptuously call a 'Wall Tourist'. Fascinated by this physical expression of the political fault-line that fractures our world, we 'Wall Tourists' come to gaze on it in wonder. And take pictures. That sounds so banal, I know, but it is more than just that. I'll have to think about it a bit longer to be able to explain.
   As I stand watching the scene, a white Mercedes saloon car creeps along the mud track that runs by the wall. It's nearly dark now, but the car is white and pristine clean, and it glows in the half light. I raise my camera and snap a shot. The passengers in the car gaze at me suspicously. I guess that they are newly arrived diplomats, being given 'the tour'. Are they any less 'Wall Tourists' than me? 'Wall Professionals', maybe. There won't be an ambassador with them, as there are no embassies in West Berlin. It isn't a capital city, after all, and it is not even officially part of West Germany, though of course it is, in all but name. Here there are consulates. Berlin, the fallen capital, has to make do with consulates. Ah, yes, the fellow with the little moustache stills haunts, and will do so, until the wall is gone. But that is never going to happen, is it?

Potsdamer Platz, Berlin. 1984

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