Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Berlin now, not then

In 1981 I spent a year in the Norwegian army some 500 miles north of the polar circle. It was in the middle of the cold war. Ronald Regan had just become president in the US. The Russians and Eastern Europeans were the bad guys. Alarms would sound in the middle of the night and we'd have to wade out into the snow and the dark to fight some (hopefully) imaginary enemy kids our own age from a "land called communism".

I've seen that enemy this week, 27 years later. They looked and acted pretty friendly. I found them quite welcoming.

Yesterday I went for a bike ride with my friends Martin Varsavsky and Barak Kassar. We cycled around Berlin, under the Brandenburg gate and past the Reichstag. I spoke with a woman at dinner last night, in a hip cool restaurant that is in the former East Berlin. She was born in East Berlin. The wall came down when she was three. She didn't remember the wall.

The web2.o euro-hipsters where there this week. It was full of energy. Martin described Berlin as feeling like the East Village in NYC 20 years ago. Parts feel like Williamsburg today. Trendy stores. Buildings old and new. Young.

We the people have an amazing ability to change. Change our perspectives. Adapt. Adopt. Allow change to be a constant force. There is an energy of optimism here. I like this place. Sure glad I never had to fire a gun as a kid, towards a kid from around here back in 1981.

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