*Berlin, Germany – If it were not for sections of the dismantled Berlin Wall displayed around the city as tourist attractions, and that bus stop called ‘Checkpoint Charlie,’ named after the now defunct border between what was east and west Berlin until 1991, and all the people who spoke German (while foreign tourists struggled to understand street signs and simple directions), Berlin could easily be mistaken for any other big city in the United States.
Yet present-day Berlin is hosting its 69th annual international film festival, called Berlinale, going on now through the 17th of February. Festival organizers literally are rolling out the red carpet for film industry notables and those in attendance to make their marks.
For a country that has a reputation – at least from the American perspective – for being something other than warm and fuzzy Berlin goes out of its way to welcome visitors.
It starts with the endless display of United Buddy Bears throughout the city. These life-sized painted fiberglass polar bears were created to convey a message of peace, international understanding and tolerance which is the polar opposite of what Germany historically has represented.
Remnants of the Berlin Wall, the building that formerly served as the Gestapo headquarters and old concentration camps are kept erect strictly as tourist attractions and reminders of how far Germany has progressed.
Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist based in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. Email her at [email protected] to send comments, questions or for speaking inquiries.