I am beginning to wonder whether my actual or anticipated presence in a given place is the cue for a dramatic change in the course of history. In August 1969 I was in the Shankill Road, Belfast, with Sally and our new-born daughter Siân, visiting my parents-in-law. Two days after our arrival there were riots in the streets and we were dodging bullets and waiting anxiously for the first British troops to come in. In July 1985 I was a guest lecturer at the University of Natal, and I was invited by a former student to visit his teacher training college in a black township in KwaZulu. The day after I left, a state of emergency was declared in South Africa. On 10 November 1989 I arrived in Berlin, the day after The Wall was opened.
The text that you are about to read was intended to be a report on the International CALL Conference that took place at the University of Rostock in November 1989, but I could not restrain myself from transforming an objective report on an academic conference into a highly subjective account of the extraordinary events that I witnessed in Berlin and Rostock during the period 10-18 November 1989, and I make no apologies for writing it this way. I hope it makes interesting reading.
In January/February 1999 I visited Berlin again, nearly 10 years after the event, making contact with our "minder", Achim Hartmann, who looked after us during that mad, mad week in 1989. Together we visited some of the bars and restaurants we recalled from our first meeting, retracing the steps we took in 1989, only this time without the incumbrance of The Wall. Sadly, Achim passed away just a few months after our reunion. This Web page is dedicated to his memory.
29 February 2012
DAY 1: FRIDAY, 10 NOVEMBER
I had planned my visit to Berlin and Rostock, 10-18 November, many months in advance. The aim of my visit was threefold: (i) to meet three of my students from Ealing College who were spending part of their year abroad at the Freie Universitšt in West Berlin and to check that they had settled in; (ii) to give a guest lecture on Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) at the Humboldt Universitšt, East Berlin; (iii) to attend a CALL conference organised by Wilhelm-Pieck-Universitšt, Rostock, GDR. My wife Sally was to accompany me. We had planned to spend a quiet two days sightseeing in West Berlin before crossing the border into East Berlin on 12 November and then travelling onward to Rostock on 14 November. We had no idea that this visit would turn out to be the most exciting event that we had ever experienced in our lives.
As I drove home from College in the early evening of 9 November I had heard the news on my car radio that The Wall had been opened. I could scarcely believe my ears. Sally and I were about to become eye-witnesses to a turning point in history. When I arrived home Sally was watching the TV news, which was broadcasting images of thousands of East Berliners flowing into West Berlin. We were beside ourselves with excitement.
ZDF - Die Mauer ist offen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmNR-AtnGQs
We got up early in the morning of 10 November in order to finish packing and to allow ourselves plenty of time to get to Heathrow airport. At 7 am the phone rang. It was my colleague from Ealing College, Ingrid Williams, a Berliner by birth. She could hardly speak, her voice cracked and she was clearly shedding tears of joy. "Oh, Graham," she said, "have you seen the news? And you are both going to Berlin!" "Yes," I replied, "we have seen the news. We have spent half the night and most of the early morning glued to the TV". Ingrid gave us a few last-minute tips about visiting Berlin, wished us "gute Reise" and hung up, leaving us to make our final preparations for our momentous journey.
The flight from London Heathrow to Berlin Tegel was delayed by about half an hour, due to the last-minute scramble for seats by BBC, ITV, Japanese TV and American TV camera crews and journalists. I wondered whether the small, ancient Boeing 737 would actually get off the ground with its additional payload of TV equipment. It was a good time for personality spotting. Tim Sebastian and one or two other familiar faces from TV were on board. We arrived safely at Berlin Tegel airport.
We had been advised by Ingrid to take the City Bus from Berlin Tegel to the centre. Under normal circumstances this would have been a good idea, as the bus stopped just a short walk from our hotel, Am Zoo, Ku'damm. But the bus quickly filled to the brim with GDR visitors taking advantage of the West Berlin transport authority's offer of free travel. It was almost impossible to get off the bus with our four cases, one of which contained a weighty portable computer and display device, which I had brought along for my lecture at the Humboldt University and the computer workshops at the Rostock conference.
Ku'damm was packed to the hilt, making the 80-yard walk to the hotel a sheer nightmare. Beating a path through an English football crowd on their way to a cup final would have been an easier task. We arrived at our hotel at about 5 pm, vowing in future to use taxis to transport our luggage, however short the distance.
Hotel Am Zoo was delightful, but
quite expensive at £88 per night for a double room. As we strolled out
again into Ku'damm to find a restaurant where we could get an evening meal,
it was clear that this would not be easy, as every restaurant was filling with
GDR citizens enjoying their first meal in the West.
We retreated into a quiet pub in a side street near the Gedächtniskirche, having decided to have a drink and then eat later. This was not a good idea, as Ku'damm got even more crowded while we supped our beer, and on leaving the pub we were confronted by a wall of people at the Gedächtniskirche, all of whom were intent on giving Chancellor Kohl a bad time as he tried to conduct a CDU party rally. We tried to listen to Kohl but didn't hear a word because of loud cat-calls and whistles of disapproval from citizens from both sides of The Wall. So we entered the fray again in search for a restaurant. The flow of people was bad enough, but the goods that they were carrying made the situation even worse. Our bodies were beginning to turn black and blue from the knocks they were receiving from 24-packs of Coca Cola, ghetto blasters, hi-fi equipment, TV sets and fridges. We eventually found a steakhouse where the queue of GDR citizens had been reduced to about half a dozen - no wonder, it was grossly overpriced.
By now we had realised that crossing the border into East Berlin, which we had planned to do at midday on Sunday, 12th November, was not going to be easy. Because of the crowds, it would have been impossible for us to stick to our original plan of taking ourselves and four cases on the S-Bahn from Zoo to Friedrichstraße, where our Humboldt University "minder", Achim Hartmann, was to identify us by the red poppies we would be wearing - real Len Deighton stuff. This might have worked if there hadn't been a quarter of a million extra people moving between East and West Berlin that weekend.
We therefore decided to change the plan and ring Achim Hartmann to notify him. The alternative plan we considered was to take a taxi to Checkpoint Charlie, walk over the border, meet Achim Hartmann over the other side and take another taxi to our accommodation in Pankow, East Berlin. So we took the U-Bahn to Hallesches Tor and walked from there to Checkpoint Charlie to assess the situation. This was easier said than done, as the train was about twice as full as the London Tube in the rush-hour. It was possible to lift two feet off the floor and not fall over.
At Checkpoint Charlie we witnessed the biggest welcome party in the world. Joyous crowds were greeting GDR cars arriving in the West by banging their roofs, sticking flowers in their bumpers and offering bottles of champagne to their occupants. The border guards and the military police just looked on quietly and helplessly, only occasionally issuing a polite warning to the crowds to curb their exuberance. The flow of GDR citizens returning on foot to East Berlin was steady but not excessive, and it looked like our new plan for crossing the border would work. All we had to do was notify Achim Hartmann.
We went for a drink in a pub in a side street near Checkpoint Charlie, where a group of inebriated locals appeared to be completely oblivious to the world-shattering events taking place in their city. A strange hermaphrodite creature was draped over the jukebox, four people were engaged in a family row and two others were arguing about the rules of a card game. We drank our beer and took the Sardine Special back to Ku'damm, where we spent an hour or two watching the champagne bottles popping and GDR citizens getting merrily drunk and stuffing themselves full of McDonald's hamburgers and Coca Cola. Ku'damm had been closed to traffic and was even more crowded. It now looked like a large rugby scrum.
On returning to our hotel I tried about a dozen times to ring Achim Hartmann in East Berlin, but all 406 lines between East and West Berlin were permanently engaged. I did, however, make contact by telephone with one of my students who had rung reception while we were out and left a message for me to ring her back. We made an appointment to meet my three students in the lobby of our hotel at 7 pm the following evening. We continued to enjoy the celebrations until the early hours of the morning. Most of the local bars would remain open all night and many were offering free drinks to East Berliners. We went to bed totally shattered.
Update 10 November 2009: I have just looked through my memorabilia of the amazing events that we witnessed. I found copies of Der Spiegel, Stern and Berliner Morgenpost. The whole of the back page of the Berliner Morgenpost was a map of West Berlin to help visiting East Berliners find their way around.
DAY 2: SATURDAY, 11TH NOVEMBER
We got up early, having had around four hours sleep. Breakfast TV from both sides of the now crumbling Wall was full of reports about the worsening transport situation in Berlin and the anticipated flood of GDR citizens into the West over the weekend. Both the Tagesschau and Aktuelle Kamera carried the same stories and the same statistics - an unusual event in itself.
I tried once again to telephone Achim Hartmann, but it was impossible. The telephone operator explained that the lines were still overloaded and that nothing could be done. Even the special reserved lines were permanently engaged. We went out to do some sightseeing.
Our plans for sightseeing
were dashed. Movement up and down the Ku'damm had been reduced to a snail's
pace. The street was closed to traffic and every square foot was covered with
a foot. We could not get away from the Ku'damm by public transport, as the underground
stations were now being closed periodically due to dangerous overcrowding on
the platforms and overloading of the trains. And all the buses were packed.
We decided to go shopping, but first I had to cash a Eurocheque. This was easier
said than done, as a queue of GDR citizens waiting for their 100 DM (about £35)
Welcome Money stretched outside every bank. The length of the average queue
on Ku'damm was half a kilometre and the average waiting time was three hours.
The bank inside the huge KaDeWe department store was not quite so busy, but it still took nearly an hour to get served. Here there was a special queue for GDR citizens collecting their Welcome Money, but the normal queue was also slow because there were so many GDR citizens converting their life savings into West Marks - at the punitive rate of one West Mark to ten East. It took the counter clerk nearly 20 minutes to count an eight-inch pile of 30,000 East Marks handed over to her by the young woman in front of me. I prayed that she wouldn't get mugged.
The GDR children in KaDeWe thought they were in Disney World. They stood wide-eyed in the Christmas decorations department, and in the toy department they played with the electric train sets and scrambled over the Lego castles - with the shop assistants' approval. The cosmetics, electrical goods and clothing departments were rapidly running out of goods.
Back on the Ku'damm a crowd
gathered round an organ grinder and his assistant from East Berlin. The crowd
joined in as he played and sang the old Berlin folk songs, while tears of joy
streamed down his assistant's face.
The flow of GDR citizens into West Berlin continued. Surely it had reached saturation point, we thought, but it went on relentlessly. We were witnesses at a turning-point in history, but all we wanted to do was get away from the crowds. Some shops were closing their doors periodically to ease the crush. At every corner the champagne bottles continued to pop, every kiosk was being besieged by GDR citizens seeking West German magazines, hamburgers, frankfurters and Coca Cola. The litter from Burger King, McDonald's and the free soup kitchens around the Gedächtniskirche was piling up. An overpriced coffee house was the only place where it was possible to find peace and quiet.
In the afternoon it was the turn of the loonies to hold their demonstrations. The Maoists, the International Socialists (ISOs) and the Gays for Socialism (Tunten für den Sozialismus) gathered on the Ku'damm to make their protests and warn the East Germans of the dangers of embracing capitalism. Their handouts helped worsen the litter situation. An argument ensued between a West German businessman and an ISO. The businessman had reprimanded a passer-by for throwing away a handout as the country was short of toilet paper. This was the cue for ISO to launch into his well-rehearsed patter about the East Germans being exploited by McDonald's. The businessman said he might have a point, but argued that this particular weekend was inappropriate for a protest by people who looked as if they were suitable cases for a psychiatric clinic, and if the East Germans wanted to try their first McDonald's hamburger they should have the freedom to do so. An East German woman standing next to me told me she thought the businessman was right and that she was frightened by the ISOs. And frightened she may well have been by this motley crowd of banner-waving hairies in their leather and chains doing a snake dance up and down Ku'damm, but I wonder what she made of the Gays for Socialism in their mini-skirts, red tights and false eyelashes - and they were the men! The businessman and the ISO continued their battle of words, which petered out when a young East German woman came up and hugged the businessman, planting a big kiss on his cheek.
We returned to our hotel and a spent another half hour trying to get through to Achim Hartmann in East Berlin. I finally put the phone down, having abandoned all hope of making contact and having resigned myself to getting to our planned meeting point in Friedrichstraße somehow or other. Five minutes after I put the phone down Achim Hartmann rang our room saying that he was downstairs in the hotel lobby! He had come over to the West for his first visit in 28 years. Luckily, he had had the good sense to realise that Sally and I were going to find things difficult without his help. Our "minder" had arrived, and so had my students. They were all in in the lobby.
It was a relief that everything had finally turned out right. Achim Hartmann was an immediate hit with the students. We all went out together for a drink in Café Möhring and I invited them to a meal in an excellent Italian restaurant in a quieter part of town.
The students had had the usual problems running the gauntlet of German university bureaucracy and getting their residence permits. Finding accommodation was difficult in Berlin, but they had all found somewhere suitable. All three students had a chance to speak German with Achim Hartmann, who promised to keep in touch and invite them to East Berlin. They all loved Berlin.
Some time after midnight the party broke up. Sally, Achim and I headed for our hotel to finalise the arrangements for crossing into East Berlin. Achim thought we were right in deciding to use Checkpoint Charlie to cross into East Berlin, and decided he would meet us in our hotel at about 3 pm on Sunday 12th November. The new opportunities he had for crossing The Wall were obviously an attraction.
DAY 3: SUNDAY 12TH NOVEMBER
The worsening transport situation in the immediate vicinity of our hotel meant that sightseeing in the morning had to be restricted to areas within walking distance. The Gedächtniskirche was surrounded by a sea of people hoping to get a glimpse of Bürgermeister Momper and Bundespräsident von Weizsäcker, who were attending a service at the Gedächtniskirche. I caught a glimpse of the Bürgermeister's bald head and I think my camera captured the Bundespräsident leaving the Gedächtniskirche by the back door.
We left Ku'damm and walked to the Siegessäule, which was surrounded by GDR citizens. The flow of East Germans towards us, making their way on foot from newly opened gaps in The Wall, was endless. We went back to our hotel through the Zoo gardens, which were virtually empty.
Achim Hartmann eventually appeared at our hotel at 4 pm. He had been delayed in the flow of people. We decided to have a drink and a meal in West Berlin and then to cross over the border as planned. For some reason, the pubs and restaurants no longer seemed quite so full. Perhaps the GDR visitors were running low on funds. At any rate I was running low on funds, as the previous evening's meal had cleaned me out and I could not get into a bank because of the endless queues. I had changed a traveller's cheque in the Hotel Am Zoo, but only a small one because of the hotel's poor rate of exchange. This was going to cause problems.
We had our meal in a steakhouse, where we spotted one of the ISOs from the previous day's demonstration, obviously committed to boycotting McDonald's and supporting Argentina instead. We collected our luggage from our hotel and then took a taxi to Checkpoint Charlie. At one point we thought it might be possible in the changed situation for the taxi driver to take us across the border, but he explained that West Berliners were still not allowed into East Berlin. For the time being the flow was one-way. We dragged our luggage through Checkpoint Charlie, amused by the commentary of a French TV journalist referring to us as returning GDR citizens. The border guards stamped our passports without a smile and waved us through. The customs officer was equally indifferent. We were in East Berlin.
East Berlin was empty, and there was not a taxi in sight. Taxis in East Berlin are like gold-dust under normal circumstances, but the shortage was worse this weekend as scores of them had travelled over to West Berlin to pick up hundreds of West Marks in fares. A waitress in a nearby Chinese restaurant offered to phone for a taxi but indicated there would be a long wait. She suggested that we came in and had a drink at the bar. We accepted her offer. About an hour and a half later the taxi arrived and took us to the hostel in Pankow, where the Humboldt University had made accommodation available for us for two nights. It was now well after midnight. Achim Hartmann helped settle us in and indicated he would pick us up at eleven the following morning and conduct us to the Humboldt University.
DAY 4: MONDAY, 13TH NOVEMBER
This was the first day when things went more or less as planned. We travelled by public transport from the Pankow hostel to the Humboldt University, met Helga Wüsteneck, Head of the Sektion Fremdsprachen, and I spent the remainder of the afternoon checking my computer equipment, in preparation for my lecture the following day, and in discussions with Michael Schulz and Achim Hartmann about the hardware and software that was available for language students at the Humboldt University. After my visit to the Humboldt University, Sally, Achim and I headed for the "Alex" bar in Alexanderplatz. Most of the people we talked to had already visited West Berlin over the weekend or were intending to go over as soon as possible. We ended the day with an excellent meal in the Gerichtslaube restaurant in the Nikolaiviertel, a charming part of East Berlin.
DAY 5: TUESDAY, 14TH NOVEMBER
The day started as planned. We left the Pankow hostel with our luggage. Somehow or other Achim Hartmann had found one of the increasingly rare East Berlin taxis to transport us and our luggage to the Humboldt University. I gave my presentation (in German) on authoring software to an audience of about 30 academic staff. The session lasted about two hours, followed by a further half-hour presentation of the Expodisc Spanish interactive videodisc package to a smaller group. The time was now 12.30, theoretically leaving us with several free hours before our train departed from Berlin-Lichtenberg station to Rostock. But it was clear that getting to the station would not be that simple. First, a taxi had to be found, and our experience so far had indicated that a generous margin of time was required to arrange this. We were discussing the problem over a coffee and a snack in a café in Unter den Linden, and a British army officer overheard us. He suggested that we approach the bell-boy at the Hotel Metropol. We followed his advice, tipped (or rather bribed) the bell-boy in West Marks, and after a long wait the taxi arrived, getting us to the station with minutes to spare.
The journey from Berlin-Lichtenberg to Rostock took just over three hours. We travelled first class - about the equivalent in standard of British Rail second class and amazingly cheap. On arrival in Rostock we realised that we had another small problem. Our minder knew that he was booked in at the Strand Hotel, Warnemünde, another twenty minutes' train journey away, and assumed we would be in the same hotel. We had received no confirmation of where we would be staying. (The letter of confirmation arrived a few days after we returned to the UK.) We therefore unwisely assumed we would be in the same hotel as our minder and took the train with him to Warnemünde.
Warnemünde station is the most desolate place on earth. There were no taxis, one telephone kiosk, it was freezing cold and a howling gale was blowing. We decided to phone the Strand Hotel, but the name was not in the telephone book, nor were the names of any of the other conference hotels, and directory enquiries was permanently engaged.
As usual, our minder had a solution. He pulled up his coat collar and made his way to the Strand Hotel on foot, where he found a conference organiser with a car, who was able to take us to our hotel - the Hotel Warnow in Rostock. We arrived at the hotel, which was also able to accommodate Achim Hartmann, and just got into the restaurant before they stopped serving hot meals. Once again, everything had turned out right. John and Muriel Higgins, two other British delegates, arrived a little later, but too late for a hot meal.
DAY 6: WEDNESDAY, 15TH NOVEMBER
This was the second day on which things went more or less according to plan. Two more British delegates, Brian and Olivia Farrington, appeared just after breakfast, having taken the ferry from Denmark and arrived at 4 o'clock in the morning. A bus ferried all the delegates staying in the Hotel Warnow to the Kurhaus in Warnemünde, where the Conference was to take place. All the key people had arrived safely. The Conference was formally opened and we sat back and listened to the opening papers by Edith Buchholz and John Higgins.
The formal proceedings finished at about 4 pm. The late afternoon and evening sessions were an opportunity for participants to demonstrate their own favourite software packages in a series of workshops. I was besieged by hordes of East Europeans earnestly requesting a demonstration of the Question Mark package on my portable Toshiba.
The day finished with a reception and meal in the Kurhaus, and we were entertained by a male-voice choir singing local and international sea shanties.
DAY 7: THURSDAY, 16TH NOVEMBER
This was the third and last day when things went according to plan. I co-chaired an early morning session at the Conference, in which two papers were presented in German and one in a mixture of English and Russian. The latter was a software presentation by Elchan Azimov of the Pushkin Institute, Moscow, who demonstrated some excellent programs for beginners' Russian.
After the first session I did not get a chance to hear any more papers for the rest of the morning. My experience with IBM-compatible computers was in constant demand, beginning with a Russian delegate's urgent request for her demonstration disk to be reconfigured so that it would run on the Tulip computer she had been allocated for her session. My portable Toshiba came to the rescue, but it took an hour's work.
By now I had completely run out of East Marks. My minder had been subsidising me and I had been given a small per diem by the University of Rostock. It was time to find a bank. But all the East German banks I had seen were as crowded as the West German banks. Achim Hartmann decided to accompany me to the Warnemünde branch of the GDR Staatsbank, just in case there were problems. There were. As we turned the corner we caught sight of the 50-yard queue of East German citizens waiting to change their East Marks into their annual allowance of 15 West Marks.
Achim Hartmann decided that we couldn't afford to wait the two hours that it would take to reach the front of the queue. Suddenly he turned to the waiting crowd, addressing them as "Dear GDR citizens..." ("Liebe DDR-Bürger..."), and proceeded to hold a short speech about a delegate from overseas needing to change money quickly so that he could get back to an important international conference. I squirmed with embarrassment but was flattered by the generous response of the patient crowd, who beckoned to me to come to the front of the queue. I changed my travellers cheques into West Marks, causing a slight hiccup in the Staatsbank's computer, which was not used to dealing with more than 15 West Marks at a time.
I returned to the Conference, intending to listen to some more papers, but I was again besieged by East Europeans, virtually all of whom seemed to be on the point of setting up their own businesses or cooperatives and were anxious for me to evaluate their software. My wallet was now bulging with business cards.
After the day's proceedings there was a reception at the Sektion Fremdsprachen at the Wilhelm-Pieck-University, Rostock, where drinks and food were available. This was followed by a less formal session in the Russian Department, where more drinks and food were available. Several people left early in order to take part in a mass demonstration in the streets of Rostock, but those who remained kept going until well after midnight, singing protest songs such as "We shall overcome" and dancing to disco music provided on a ghetto blaster.
DAY 8: FRIDAY, 17TH NOVEMBER
This was the last day of the conference. In the final plenary session I gave a paper on The Buckinghamshire College and Ealing College of HE Expodisc Spanish interactive videodisc project, followed by a presentation of a videofilm containing extracts from the videodisc. The session was well attended and the paper was well received.
In the afternoon and evening we had planned to go on a coach trip round Mecklenburg, taking in Güstrow, Schwerin and Wismar. Unfortunately, we were delayed a little over lunch and missed the bus. East German bus drivers always leave on time. The solution was to find a taxi to catch the bus up. This was easier said than done, however. There were no taxis - something we were getting quite used to by now. We waited about an hour, and had more or less abandoned the idea of catching the bus up, when the taxi appeared. Apparently, the driver had been on a long detour. He had been told to pick someone up at the Kurhaus - but which Kurhaus and in which town? His second guess was right.
After about an hour's journey we caught the bus up in Güstrow. The taxi driver did a dramatic sweeping turn across the front of the bus as it emerged slowly from a parking area, and we were greeted by applause and cheers from the bus occupants. We still had the best part of the trip ahead. This included a visit to the castle in Schwerin and an evening meal in a windmill in Mecklenburg.
Back at the Hotel Warnow in Rostock, the remaining participants discussed their departure plans over drinks in the bar. The news broadcasts were full of reports about the predicted traffic chaos over the weekend. Every seat on every train to Berlin had been fully booked about three days ahead, there were 20-mile traffic jams at every border crossing point, and anyone who had any ideas of travelling to Berlin or West Germany was advised to think again. It appeared we had little chance of getting to West Berlin in time for our late afternoon flight. Our minder thought he had a solution - we should take a taxi direct to Tegel Airport. This sounded like a crazy idea. The distance from Rostock to Berlin is about 150 miles, but the taxi fare was likely to be only in the region of 350 East Marks - an amazingly low figure (around £22 at the current rate of exchange).
Achim Hartmann called the head waitress over to our table in order to settle our bill. As he handed her the money he added a generous tip, saying how much he had enjoyed his stay in the Hotel Warnow, how much the foreign guests had appreciated the service, how friendly the staff were and, by the way, he had a small problem: he needed a taxi to get two foreign guests and himself back to Berlin in the morning.
DAY 9: SATURDAY, 18TH NOVEMBER
We met Achim Hartmann at breakfast at about 9 o'clock. At 9.20 am the receptionist came into the restaurant to notify us that our taxi would pick us up at 10 o'clock. Our minder had done it again!
It was an unusual experience taking a taxi for a journey roughly equal to the distance from London to Cardiff. The taxi driver was a bit anxious about the predicted traffic jams but, as we approached the border crossing into West Berlin at Stolpe, there was hardly a car in sight. And what used to be one of the most strongly fortified and defended borders in the world now looked almost deserted. The watchtowers were empty, the German Shepherd dogs had disappeared from their runs, and the barbed wire now looked somewhat redundant. The border officer dutifully stamped our passports and checked the taxi driver's vehicle licence documents. It took all of five minutes to cross that border, which I first crossed in the other direction and at a different point twenty-six years ago, having been held up for nearly two hours while the border guards pushed mirrors under our vehicles, questioned us about any foreign literature we might be carrying and spent ages checking our names against lists of persona non grata. How could things have changed so quickly after 28 years? This is what it the border looked like:
Deutsche Welle - "Eingemauert!" Die innerdeutsche Grenze: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlbAUFvh04k
We arrived at Tegel Airport with over two hours to spare before the departure of our flight to London. The taxi driver was rather amused by his new experience and went off to look for a map of West Berlin. We had lunch with Achim Hartmann in the airport restaurant and said our goodbyes. The plane was packed. A number of East Germans were on their way to the West for good - which was clear from the tears of farewell at the barrier - but most would probably return.
The conference in Rostock had been a resounding success. It was excellently organised and a wonderful opportunity for CALL experts from East and West to get together and exchange ideas. The changing situation in Eastern Europe, especially in the GDR, undoubtedly contributed to the convivial and relaxed atmosphere. There was a strong British contingent, but an equally strong representation from West Germany. Some of the papers presented by the British contributors were beginning to sound a bit familiar and rather dated. There were murmurings that the West Germans may now have overtaken us in terms of CALL expertise. We shall see.
It is clear that CALL is quickly catching on in Eastern Europe, and a number of international conferences and symposia are planned for 1990. The host organisations are keen to have speakers from abroad, and I received invitations to visit the GDR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union. Eastern Europe is beginning to make its mark in CALL, even though the hardware is still in short supply. It is certainly a part of the world that is worth watching, as there is no shortage of talent - just hard currency.
What a week!
The conference proceedings were published: Buchholz E. (ed.) (1989) Fremdsprachenlernen mit Mikrocomputer und anderer Informationstechnik, Rostock: Wilhelm-Pieck University.
1 December 1989
Graham Davies 1989. This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.