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25th anniversary party-time in Berlin after sombre Wall commemoration

25th anniversary party-time in Berlin after sombre Wall commemoration

25th anniversary of Wall’s collapse marked by strangely differing moods

Numerous balloon lanterns glow along the former path of the Berlin Wall at the Wall Memorial Bernauer Strasse in Berlin. Photo: EPA

A day that began in mournful contemplation ended in a raucous street party for hundreds of thousands as Germany marked the 25th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

The split nature of the commemorations – downbeat trumpets on Sunday morning, gyrating pop stars at night – reflected the silver anniversary’s strange duality.

A quarter of a century after it came down, the wall still evokes some of modern Europe’s darkest hours and hardest-fought triumphs. And in this nation of 80 million its demise is at once an occasion for sober reflection about its many victims and cause for rejoicing over the cold war’s abrupt end.

Under chilly grey skies, dissidents and dignitaries gathered on Sunday morning in a residential section of central Berlin next to an extant portion of the wall that has been refurbished as a memorial.

With a former East German watchtower looming behind her, Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel received a flower from one of dozens of goodwill child volunteers and joined them and others in placing the blossoms in spaces in the wall.

On Sunday evening, entertainers of all stripes took the stage outside the Brandenburg Gate, the ornate landmark that separated East and West Berlin and where numerous leaders, including Ronald Reagan, gave famous cold war speeches.

The evening contained some political content – after nodding to Mikhail Gorbachev on a dais, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit drew cheers of “Gorby” from the crowd – but for the most part music and revelry reigned.

Peter Gabriel performed his cover of Heroes, the song David Bowie famously sang, in German, during a cold war concert in West Berlin, and conductor Daniel Barenboim led the Berlin State Opera orchestra in a spirited performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Various German pop stars, youth choirs and performance dancers took the stage in acts that reflected the era of the wall.

Perhaps the night’s strangest turn came when the cold war-era pop star Udo Lindenberg took the stage. The freewheeling singer had a key role during the wall era – he had played a show in East Berlin, rallying the city’s youth.

Beyond the Horizon, a current hit musical about love divided by the Berlin Wall, is inspired by his life and career.

After performing numbers from the show, Lindenberg proceeded to camp it up, using a microphone cord as a lasso and kissing female performers. He also high-fived a man in a Berlin bear costume and danced suggestively with a scantily clad woman who descended by crane from a neon hoop in the sky.

Then Lindenberg ascended a giant bird cage of sorts and drifted away over the crowd.

Berliners might have needed a release after the daytime events.

At the flower-placing memorial on the city’s once-divided Bernauer Street, now in the fashionable Mitte district, dissidents described the “tears of blood” that ran through the city because of the cold war era-divide.

Merkel and Wowereit stood just feet from the death strip, the shoot-to-kill buffer zone where an estimated 138 people were slain trying to escape East Germany.

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