The following excerpt is taken from my journal while backpacking in Europe in the summer of 1990. Please keep in mind that I was an excitable 22 year old writer back then full of bright-eyed enthusiasm – and exclamation marks. :)
Thursday, July 19th, 1990
Right now I’m on a Versailles, France train bound for Berlin – we just left the Palace of Versailles. It was an immaculate wonder to behold – gardens that go beyond words. Our mission to Berlin requires a pit stop in Amsterdam. Wex, Rip (my travel buddies) and I bought sleeping bags and plan to camp out at the Berlin Wall for 2 days so we can a) score tickets or b) get a great spot if we can’t get tickets.
From what I kept hearing, this is going to be the largest concert ever produced – even bigger than Woodstock. And this is a historical day – the final piece of the Berlin Wall will come crashing down after the show. Expected attendance: 500,000!!!
I’ve set myself on autodrive to get to this show since I found out about it 2 weeks ago – while laying on a raft in the Aegean Sea in Ios, Greece. How did I find out? A topless 21 year-old asked me if I was going to see Roger Waters perform the Wall at the Berlin Wall. WHAT??? The sheer enormity of that question dropped me clean off my raft – I was completely dumbstruck at what she just asked me. Ever since that moment, I’ve never been more determined to see one event in my life. This isn’t only a concert – this is a day that will go down in history – the Fall of the Wall.
This is by far the pinnacle event of my European summer – and it just so happens that it’s the finale of the trip – nothing could possibly describe my thoughts at this point.
On one hand, I’ve just been through the greatest 7 weeks of my life and on the other hand, I’m going to be at the greatest musical event in history – and to see Roger Waters perform The WALL in it’s entirety!!!
When Rip, Wex & I arrived in Amsterdam, we got hooked up in a private home with absolutely the coolest chick. Her name is Camille and she is a 28 year old from NY that has been living in Holland for 7 years. She picked us up at the train station and we went out at 1am till about 4am and an all night party session till the sun came up! I’m telling you – Amsterdam is the coolest city – so laid back an full of hilarious “shady” characters!
The next day we had a gigantic breakfast that Camille fixed us and we partied all day in every coffeehouse we wandered into. Especially cool places: Easy Times Cafe – they played all reggae, tons of Black Uhuru. Staying with Camille was such a pleasure – she had an apartment right on the canal on the west side so we were able to see the sunset. Also, after 7 weeks on the road, I was yearning for the comforts and simple pleasures of home.
Later that evening it was time to catch our train for Berlin. The train station in Amsterdam was a mob scene! There was a 6 hour wait for information – so basically we are winging this part of the trip by just hopping on trains without a reservation. I’m on a guided mission from the big music man in the sky to get to Berlin for this show – nonstop baby, nonstop!
When we arrived in Berlin – we found some cool guys in the Central Berlin square who are staying with their Grandma so they asked us if we needed a place to sleep – what luck!!! Not even the most expensive hotels had rooms!! People were sleeping in the streets everywhere – just like Pamplona, Spain for the Running of the Bulls at the beginning of the trip. So many people flooded Berlin for the event, there was no hotel available to sleep – especially for wayward backpackers.
Friday July 20th, 1990
Well my quest is 1 step from realization! We HAVE TICKETS!!! We woke up at 7am and raced to the ticket office and we got front entrance seats!!! I’m telling you, I’m on autodrive, baby – I am sooo pumped!
[later that night] Right now, me and the boys are camped out in a soft grassy campground across from the stage in the Potzdamer Platz (the area where the show will be held). We are able to hear the soundcheck – “Comfortably Numb” – OMG – the stage is ENORMOUS! Just before camping out, we hammered off pieces of the Berlin Wall – both East & West Berlin sides. East Berlin is desolate and gray, while the West is lively and full of bright lights. Berlin is definitely a happening city after dark.
Sunday, July 22nd, 1990 (post show)
THE WALL was more than anything I imagined!!! It was a production of such colossal size and magnitude that it was like watching a higher intelligence from another planet perform a spectacle no man has ever seen. It was definitely the most grandiose event ever stage in the history of mankind – and I felt so honored and so beyond lucky to be there.
[Editor’s note: as you can see, I was fumbling terribly for words to describe this – so go ahead – and laugh it’s hilarious – read that 2nd sentence again – classic!]
After awaking at 8am from our sleeping bags, I felt like I was living off the land – I hadn’t showered in days, I’ve been sleeping on the ground and I lost my deodorant! It was Woodstock in Berlin! Anyway it all added to the greatest feeling of “being there” for that incredible event! All of the money from the ticket sales went to the Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief – those who need aid and supplies from hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, etc. Roger Water’s performance of The Wall was a cry for the tearing down of communication barriers around the world. Plus the WALL itself is an undeniable Masterpiece! I’ve never been so affected by one man’s music – and I think all 350,000 people at this show feel the same way. You could see the passion and excitement in people’s eyes during the show – the energy was so great! The word was that there were about 350,000 people at the show. Staggering!
All points in the my life course pointed to Berlin and July 21st for me. It was destiny that I attended this show. Everything fell into place – all the way from start of my quest – back in Ios, Greece. Plus it was a weekend in Berlin I could never forget. I was so driven to see this show, my travel buds called me Obi Wan Kanobi – I used the force to guide my two jedi knights to the Berlin Wall to see the show together.
I had the experience of a lifetime, the show was unbelievable – beyond words – but its time for me to go home now. The Wall was the ultimate climax to a trip that has been a climax almost every day.
Roger Waters performance of The Wall in Berlin in 1990 was held on vacant terrain between Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate (a location which was part of the former “no-man’s land” of the Berlin Wall), this concert was even bigger than the Pink Floyd era ones, as Waters built a 550-foot long and 82-foot high wall, which was broken down in the same show. The show had a sell-out crowd of over 250,000 people, and right before the performance started the gates were opened which enabled another 100,000 people to watch. For more info about this incredible event, see the Wikipedia entry here.
I decided to add an additional photograph to complete my journal entry on Berlin. This was taken by master HDR photography, Klaus Herrmann. I thought it was a fitting final photograph to close the chapter on the Berlin Wall and the divide between East and West Germany.
From Klaus, this is the story of this photo:
The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most famous and symbolic places in Berlin and probably in all of Europe. The Berlin wall was right in front of the gate, leaving it as a sign of imprisonment on the eastern side. He took this shot from Pariser Platz on the east side (former German Democratic Republic). When the Berlin wall was built, this place became the “death zone” where nobody could go. After the reunification in 1990, it became the center of the city again, this time being perceived as a symbol for peace and reunification.
HDR photograph by Klaus Herrmann