|Vol. 39: Neon Signs in Berlinfs Kurfurstendamm|
I visited Berlin a year and a half after the reunification of Germany on October 3, 1990, by which time there was no longer any sign of the towers that had symbolized the division of the country in the vicinity of the Brandenburg Gate.
However, looking all around from the lookout point on the TV tower a short distance away, the difference between the eastern and the western halves of the city was all too obvious. On the East German side one could see nothing but gray apartment blocks and groups of buildings, presumably factories, stretching far away into the distance. In contrast, the West German side offered a view over the expansive Tiergarten Park of a prosperous urban landscape with splendid modern buildings. A sun-tanned middle-aged couple, instantly recognizable as hailing from the provinces, sipped their coffees in a rotating restaurant as they gazed out on the rare spectacle before them. Young people from the east stepping for the first time into the Kurfurstendamm, Berlinfs pleasure district, must have felt they were setting foot in an oasis. The large neon signs of the music shop close to the entrance to this street symbolized the lure of consumerism and served as a magnet for the cityfs young.
Today, when almost a decade has passed since reunification, the economic and cultural disparities between east and west show little sign of shrinking and seem, if anything, to be increasing. With their dreams of freedom and prosperity, what has actually confronted the people of East Germany is the harsh reality of capitalism.