25 November 2009

Putting Berlin back together again ...

Between November 1989 and October 1990 Berlin shifted gear from being a divided city on the front line of the East-West divide to becoming again a city in which people could move freely between the eastern and western sectors. Jane is blogging about about how even in November 1989, Berliners no longer knew what they meant when they said "here" - West Berlin? East Berlin? or the one Berlin? A latent disorientation that persists even 20 years later. But politics and culture is one thing, but what of the real work of restitching the city together - the water pipes, telephone lines, underground trains.

On BBC radio, Rosie Goldsmith has tried to do more than scratch the surface of the upheaval Berlin faced. She has gone underground, searching out the men and women involved in reunifying the city below street level, examining how the tubes, telephone, water and electricity systems of east and west were reconnected after the fall of the Wall.

When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, the world saw images of ecstatic Berliners celebrating a new freedom of movement across their city. But after the jubilation had died down, council chiefs were faced with a task without precedent in any city in the world. Public transport in the two halves of the city was in chaos and the main arteries of Berlin became clogged with polluting Trabants; using the telephone was an infuriating experience; utility companies faced similar problems trying to bring together two systems which had developed completely separately.

The programme is available as a stream here until 30 November.


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