As I’ve already mentioned in a previous post, I was quite shocked by the history of Berlin. I know that sounds silly. I mean I actually remember watching the TV when I was little and seeing the Berlin Wall being knocked down in 1989 and a few years ago I shared a house with a German lady who had grown up on the east side of the city, so she often talked about the hardships she had endured. But it was only when I visited the city that it really hit home. I was shocked that as recently as the 1970s people were still being shot for trying to cross from one side of the city to the other. It was heartbreaking to read stories about the lengths that people had gone to for their freedom: driving cars through the wall, dropping babies out of windows to the other side and simply just making a run for it and hoping for the best.
Most of the Berlin Wall has now been torn down, but the odd chunk remains as a reminder of the past. It’s strange that simple bricks and mortar came to represent so much fear, pain and intimidation. On one of these remaining pieces there was an exhibition called Wall on Wall, which documented the many walls which have existed, and continue to exist, around the world: from Belfast to Baghdad and the USA to Israel.
I found the exhibition very moving and it really got me thinking about how many boundaries there still are all over the world. Of course, there are the physical ones which people build out of greed for land or to keep people who are different out. But there are also the mental ones, which I am sure we are all guilty of putting up at one time or other; the preconceptions we have about different people, the assumptions we make. As an English person we’re often seen as being reserved and I guess we are sometimes seen as having a natural barrier around us.
But one of the things that I love most about travelling is that it breaks down those barriers. It makes you a more open person. It gives you greater understanding and acceptance and the more I travel, the more I learn that deep down we are all the same. No matter where we live, or what we do, and there is no point putting up barriers – either physical or otherwise.