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 Nellu Mazilu, Berlin, DEU, Germany, Reichstagsgebäude Plenarbereich, Reichstagsgebäude, Reichstag, Reichstag dome, mirrors

Inside the Reichstag’s new glass dome. Photo by Nellu.

One of the consistent themes of our travel is a realization of how little I knew about the rest of the world—what went on just before I was born and even during my lifetime. Sure, I had a general awareness about events but when it came to the gripping details, it’s scary how clueless I am. And I read a lot when I was a kid.

Berlin was one of the places that highlighted my relative ignorance.

If you’re like me, your grade school and high school history classes skimmed over modern history in the final weeks of the academic year, when your sights were already set on how you were going to get a better tan this year thank your little brother. East Germany, West Germany, East German swimmers, “Mr. Gorbechev, tear down this wall,” buy your piece of the Berlin Wall. Sure, I got it. I knew Berlin was a central character in the Cold War.

But I never really grasped the urgent necessity of the Berlin Air Lift or the implications of a divided Germany. Here’s a map of the occupied country circa 1945 that lays it out pretty clearly:

Germany

Yep. The little multi-colored spot in the middle of the USSR territory is Berlin, divided. Pic courtesy of Wikipedia.

That tiny multicolored spot right in the middle of the USSR territory, aka East Germany, is Berlin, divided into all of its little pieces. I don’t know whether to blame our education system, our American-centric culture, or my rambling mind but a hugely critical part of this story never registered for me. I can’t remember ever thinking about where Berlin was or how West Berlin was cut off from the rest of West Germany and what that meant for the people living there.

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