Originally uploaded by wnyc
Just a block behind our hotel, near Checkpoint Charlie, stood the Berlin Wall. The stretch above is located in a fascinating outdoor museum called the Topography of Terror. This was the site of buildings which were once the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS during the Nazi era. The Berlin Wall ran along the south side of that area from 1961 to 1989. The wall itself -- which is remarkably thin, and not particularly tall -- was never removed from the site, and it now is the second-longest segment still in place.
It's hard to underestimate the significance of the Wall on musicians who grew up in Berlin during the Cold War. Alec Empire, a techno DJ we met with today, recalled growing up in the West during the 70s and 80s and walking by the Wall every day on his way to school. The sight of patrol guards with guns later inspired many of his darker, more politically-charged songs (a certain dark intensity is often characteristic of today's music from Berlin). In contrast, Kay Meseberg, a journalist, DJ and TV producer who grew up in East Berlin, remembers with some amusement how his grandmother would smuggle cassette tapes of Western pop music across the border for him (apparently, innocent-looking grandmothers were frequently called upon for such tasks). And in the late 80s, when Michael Jackson and Pink Floyd staged large outdoor concerts near the Reichstag in West Berlin, Kay was one of the many East Berliners who gathered near the Wall to listen in until the police chased them away. -- Brian Wise