Skip to main content


I could not have even dreamed that I would visit a wall-less Berlin in a reunited Germany in my lifetime. Conventional wisdom told us that short of a Nuclear Holocaust the Wall was there to stay - just like the Greyness, the Stasi and Honecker of GDR. How ironical that the International Tourism Bourse more famously known as ITB, the world's largest showcase on travel and tourism, was organized in West Berlin every year in the month of March while just a stone's throw away Berliners in the east could not even cross over the Wall to the west, far less travel to exotic destinations around the world!

I remember crossing over to the east of the city in my earlier visits to West Berlin. A Nepalese gentleman married to a Polish lady and living on the other side of the wall played host. He was working for Siemens and enjoying the best of both worlds! For all its dullness East Berlin was inexpensive and earning the mighty Deutsch Mark while spending it in the east was an assured way to riches. I visited him along with my nephew by getting a day pass at Checkpoint Charlie to not only marvel at the historical center of the old city but to also juxtapose its underachievement with the affluence of its western part.

Berlin Alexanderplatz was the city's heart then misleadingly carrying the name of the Russian Czar Alexander I in tribute to an opulent era long gone by but was actually built more in the dour image of the Soviet cities such as Moscow. At the end of WWII the whole city was turned into rubble as the Soviet Red Army took over the city from die-hard Nazis in house-to-house fighting. Imperial capital of Germany was eventually re-built by the victorious Soviets in an euphoria of Socialist Triumphalism. The 365 m. high TV Tower was built as one of the largest and most prestigious structure in Europe with a revolving restaurant on its crown. The World Time Structure (Weltzeituhr) kept time of almost all capitals of the world in anticipation perhaps of the eventuality of the world going Communist, one time zone after another. The Fountain of International Friendship reminded citizens that the Soviet Union was GDR's best friend among the socialist fraternity. Brandenburg Gate was where the wall happened, bisecting Berlin with a scalpel-like incision. The "Gate of Peace" commissioned by Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm II in 1791 was ironically the dividing line between the East and West Berliners warring over mindless ideology. Unter den Linden, the avenue lined by Linden trees, was the showcase of Socialist renaissance one again as it was in Hitler's Nazi Germany.

It was a pleasant surprise to me that during my recent visit to Berlin for another installment of the famous ITB tourism fair, I was staying in a hotel not far from Alexanderplatz. The square was redeveloped after Berlin commissioned a competition among its architects to beautify it. Capitalism's competing commercialism has lifted the city out of its former greyness. Right at the square itself there is a huge shopping mall named Galeria and next to it a C&A Department Store. One does not notice policemen any more, the GDR's teeming militia are no doubt more gainfully employed in capitalism's rough and tumble enterprises. For a visitor witnessing these changes after a gap of a decade I can say that Berlin Alexanderplatz has come a long way in reclaiming its prideful place in the cityscape.       


  1. Having seen only the post-wall Berlin, this piece was very interesting to me.

    I also enjoy living vicariously in Berlin through John le Carre's and Sidney Sheldon's novels.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


If only the Tudor King Henry VIII of England were as lucky as Jung Bahadur Rana, he would have had male heirs aplenty and he would not have had to behead a few of his queens in the hope of his next one presenting him with an heir. All the Maharanis would live together at Hampton Court Palace in seeming harmony at least until the death of the Maharajah. If England had the tradition of Sati, who among Henry's wives would have had the macabre honour of being buried alive with him? Would her be Catherine of Aragon his first queen? Or Anne Boleyn? Or the fair Jane Seymour, his favorite queen who gave him his only male heir, had she not died in her postnatal illness?

Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana had many wives because he did not have the Catholic Church to worry about. He had at least a dozen sons and innumerable daughters from at least 13 recorded wives. He married some for love, others for political alliances with various noble houses, including a sister of Fateh Jung Shah, one of th…


Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana left England for France with a rich treasure trove of memories and an ambition his experiences in Britain had fueled for his own poor and backward nation. He was heartbroken too as he had to leave behind his paramour Laura Bell. Far from the complexities of ruling a highly destabilized country coming so soon after the tumultuous Kot and Bhandarkhal episodes, Jung had truly relaxed in England and had grown fond of the young Irish lass. He wanted to stay longer but the situation back home was unfavourable. Jung was seething with anger that his brother Bom Bahadur who he left behind as officiating prime minister had not been able to take a firm grip on the affairs of state. Even in faraway England he got reports that his enemies were again trying to rear their ugly heads, he would have to smite them with the power of his ingenuity once more. He knew he could not trust his ambitious third brother Badri Narsingh and the one after that Ranoddip was an indeci…


As a kid I used to gape in wonderment at the magnificent crown my father possessed not knowing that the jewels were only for show. The dark green emerald drops were made of glass, the sparkling diamonds were probably zirconium and the pearls were not of the best sort. Every Rana general had his personal crown in those days and my father was no exception. I did not recognize the difference between this personal crown of father's and the other more valuable crown of the Nepalese Commander-in-Chief of the Army that my father was seen wearing in many a portrait displayed about the house. Little did I know that my father was the last person to put on his head the army chief's crown from the Rana era, real glittering diamonds, snow white pearls and thumb-sized emerald drops and all. The feather in the crown was the magnificent plumes of the Bird of Paradise that gave it such a majestic look.

Nepal had only three crowns that were genuinely the real stuff bedecked with expensive pear…