U2 kick off festivities to mark fall of Berlin Wall

 

THE BOYS from U2 will be a hard act to follow in Berlin after last night’s launch of five days of celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

After their gig, Bono thanked Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit for giving them “quite a set” – the Brandenburg Gate – for their concert.

Mayor Wowereit was on cloud nine yesterday after the band played his favourite song, Sunday Bloody Sunday. “It was a personal wish of mine that they would be able to make it so it’s great to see that some wishes come true,” he said. “It’s a great starting shot for the anniversary celebrations.” Tomorrow morning Michael Reagan, son of the late President Ronald Reagan, will visit the Checkpoint Charlie Museum to open its new exhibition: “Ronald Reagan: Ambassador for Freedom.” The 40th president of the United States is remembered fondly in Berlin for his 1987 speech culminating in an appeal to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”.

More than 30 heads of state and government including Taoiseach Brian Cowen are expected in Berlin for Monday’s official ceremonies. Key figures from 1989 have been asked to topple the first of 1,000 large Berlin Wall-like domino stones covering 1.5km of the original 155km path of the Cold War divide.

Poland’s former Solidarity union leader Lech Walesa is expected to topple the first stone.

Official events begin on Monday with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse, where the facade of the buildings was once the sectoral border with the west. As East German border guards sealed windows with bricks in August 1961, dozens of desperate residents jumped from top storey windows, sometimes to their deaths.

At 3pm, Chancellor Angela Merkel will walk with Mr Gorbachev, Mr Walesa and East German civil rights campaigners from 1989 across the Bornholmer Bridge. It was here, on the night of November 9th, that the first gap opened in the Berlin Wall.

In the evening, the party will start at the Brandenburg Gate, where conductor Daniel Barenboim will conduct a concert with the Staatskapelle orchestra from the State Opera. They will be followed by Jon Bon Jovi and Berlin DJ Paul van Dyk.

Visitors wishing to avoid the crowds can take a stroll down the 1.3km-long East Side Gallery near Ostbahnhof train station.

Restoration work was completed yesterday on the friezes – including the infamous Honecker-Brezhnev “Brotherly Kiss” – that cover the longest retained stretch of the wall.

Across town, in the former no-man’s land behind the Hamburger Bahnhof modern art gallery, Berlin artists have created a temporary “West Side Gallery”, open to anyone to leave a message.

“The official ceremonies are expensive and completely unauthentic,” said one artist working on the site, who identified himself as “47c”.

“We are trying to do something artistically original and authentic and the city isn’t interested in supporting us at all.” Images from the ever-changing facade are uploaded to the web automatically from an on-site camera to www.writethewall.