Berlin, Brandenburg and Hildebrand(t)s

(Blogger’s mobile site is working again, so this won’t after all be my last!)

So, you can see I really have been in Berlin.

I've walked through it before, though not with Raven of course, but it's still the oddest feeling for this old Cold Warrior to be able to cycle through the Brandenburg Gate and know that the Wall, GDR, the Soviet Union and Communism are all history.

And to see the GDR's very unlovely old Palace of the Republic, seat of the former GDR Parliament and from where I covered the last East German unification elections in March 1990, finally being pulled down is also good.

It was a grim, in many ways evil system. But the friendships that were forged and maintained then last a lifetime. The solidarity, as we used to say, of those who have to queue for everything. Die Solidarität der Schlangestehenden.

Along with Thomas and Anne now in West Berlin, it's been so rewarding to reconnect with other cathedral choir friends in the East. Thank you all for the warmest welcomes.

Herbert (formerly choir master) and his brother Jõrg Hildebrandt are pictured above at Joerg's family headquarters on a lakeside east of Berlin.

Trragically, both brothers lost their wives after the fall of communism. Inge and Herbert had also just built themselves a lovely new wooden home outside Berlin, and Jörg's formidable partner Regine had created a hugely successful career as one of the new united Germany's most popular and outspoken Social Democrat politicians.

Shared memories of personal journeys shaped by the GDR, and last night was spent very enjoyably in Chorin, in Brandenburg north-east of of the now united capital, with another set of Hildebrands, only without the T at the end, Trulla and Kurt.

Trulla was also a choir friend, and her daughter Susanna, as I've mentioned before, our absolutely most successful au pair ever, back in Barnet in 1991-92.

Like the T-Hildedbrandts, and indeed like Jutta and myself, Trulla and family were on the receiving end of intense Stasi secret police interest during the GDR days, in their case to the extent even of being on lists for preventative arrest and detention in a state of emergency being planned for the autumn of 1989.

The Turn, Die Wende as the Germans call the collapse of communism, of course got there first, and the Hildenbrands have found in their files in great and unpleasant detail what the Stasi was planning for them.

The friendships were strong, but politically, we mustn't forget what a profoundly nasty system it was.

And a final thought about what this journey has been about for me, as I ride westward today, sun-blasted and now more than 3000 miles away from my Easter start, through the beautiful, rolling, wooded and pastured Brandenburg landscape.

I'll write more later, but Sue hit the nail on the head when we spoke on Skype at the weekend.

It's a kind of soul retrieval, reclaiming and claiming parts of Self and Identity left behind at critical, exhilarating, euphoric and sometimes traumatic points across Europe over the last 30 years.

France, Bavaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Berlin… All major way-stations, looking back, on a journey of the soul, and all now, perhaps at last, being integrated into a coherent, even sense-making narrative which can be carried forward into the last third of this pilgrim's life.

So, onwards and homewards!

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

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