Ten years after the watchtowers were pulled down, Berlin gets the Mickey Mouse Wall

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The Independent Online
BERLINERS AWOKE to a portentous grey sky yesterday, and at around noon leaden speeches began raining down with the monotony of autumn drizzle, but darkness brought out the light-hearted who had been taking cover from this very German feast.

Before the fireworks cast their glow over the Reichstag, there was only one place to go to escape the suffocating solemnity of the occasion. At Bernauer Strasse, the Wall gloried in its fresh plaster, three church bells rang out joyously on the "death strip" as brick and concrete structures that were demolished years ago were brought back to life.

One such building is the Chapel of Atonement, once stranded in no-man's land as an obstacle to the border guards' line of fire until they blasted it with dynamite, and now reborn. The other new man-made landmark is the Wall itself, or rather, four of them. The vandals of 10 years ago had destroyed most of this piece of history, so Berlin has rebuilt a stretch with loving care.

It is supposed to be authentic - inner and outer walls either side of a raked up field - but residents claim it's not as high as the original and bemoan the absence of watchtowers. Some have dubbed it the "Mickey Mouse Wall".

A few paces away, the real Wall begins, the myriad hammer blows still traceable but the graffiti now fading. It tapers out a hundred yards farther beyond, at the point where Manfred Eckhard's shack begins. Mr Eckhard runs the Swing Inn Music Cafe, specialising in "original American hot- dogs".

The innkeeper had always lived in the shadow of the Wall, which used to run down the bottom of his garden. That was on the west side. Now his shack begins one metre from the line across the pavement delineating the former demarcation between two world orders. He is now in the east, just about.

Business is not as good as it used to be, but Mr Eckhard has no regrets about the historic events of 10 years ago. "I am very happy the Wall is down, but that doesn't mean that I haveto celebrate it," he says. The official commemorations, he feels, "cost too much money".

The Wall along Bernauer Strasse used to bisect a cemetery. At its flower shop on the east side, Luise Henke is more guarded about her judgement than the "Wessi" innkeeper. For easterners like her, the benefits of German reunification seem to be in equal proportion to disadvantages. "No", she pauses, "altogether, things are better." So she does not mind the celebrations, but the pensioner is not tempted by any of the numerous multi-cultural acts in town. "I'll be watching it on television," she says.

But the younger generation did come. As night fell and the torrent of speeches abated, columns of people converged from east and west to the square in front of Brandenburg Gate for the musical celebration of the decade. Candles in hand, thousands linked arms. Divisions, past and present, were suddenly forgotten.

Ghosts haunt the feast, page 12; Timothy Garton Ash, Review, page 5