Germany celebrated 20 years of unity on Saturday. Unification Day is Oct. 3, an official holiday. Sadly, it fell on a Saturday this year, which meant no day off work. Can you imagine the uproar in the U.S. if July 4 were Sunday and the government said, “Schade, no vacation for you!” But our new German hosts, Heinz and Heilweg, found the idea of a superfluous day off absurd. There is one holiday, Oct. 3, there is no exception. This is clear and orderly.
Not realizing this obvious truth, A and I showed up Friday at the Brandenburg Gate to attend the party that was to have commenced at noon. We arrived at 4, expecting the beer to be flowing and bands oompah-ing. But the Germans had made their orderly way back to work at 1!
We had another chance to revel with the Berliners on Saturday, the actual, official holiday. We headed into town with Heilweg and tracked down the bizarre spectacle Berlin had chosen to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall.*
For the entire time we’ve been here, Berlin has been abuzz about the Giants who were coming to act out a symbolic reunification. An art group from France designed these Giants, puppets of a man and a girl based on the Terra Cotta soldiers in Xian, China, and has trotted them all over the world. Hope that your city may be next!
These giants, and Uncle and Niece, have been separated by Evil Forces. They spent two days making their way towards each other from opposite sides of the Brandenburg Gate, an iconic spot along the wall. The Uncle arose from the depths of the Spree River on Saturday morning and wore his diving outfit all day. The Niece rubbed her adorable, enormous eyes in the Tiergarten. She put on her raincoat and rain shoes (adorable!) and began her long walk.
Both of their itineraries were all over the internet, in all the papers, complete with color coded maps and exact (of course) times. We witnessed the actual reunification at 17:00. The little giant arrived on her side of the gate first. While she waited, her attendants took off her rain shoes and her socks, and then a spurt of liquid flowed from between her legs. The crowd murmured, then suddenly, in a unified realization, we understood that yes, she was peeing after her long day. The crowd went wild! This was fantastic! Giant puppets are unquestionably awesome, but a giant peeing puppet can’t be beat. You have to see it to believe it.
When her uncle arrived, she walked barefoot through the gate on a red carpet. Reunited, they embraced.
After the peeing, I confess I got a little distracted. Everything else was a bit anticlimactic. I had time to notice the German street fair through which we had wended our way. We have these in the U.S., a different one every summer weekend in NYC, the Westcott Cultural Festival in Syracuse, but the Berlin version has its own flavor. Wursts abounded, beer did flow plentifully. One stand served many flavors of sangria from giant glass bowls. We stopped in front of the pickle stall where the shopkeep served up hundreds of giant pickles out of blue vats, each containing a different flavor of pickle.
The giants toured Berlin together on Sunday. We did not revisit them, but I heard the highlight was the launching by cannon of letters confiscated by the Stasi. The letters came from the people, so appropriately, they were returned to the people.
*Alert readers may know that the wall fell in November of 1989, and the reunification paperwork went through October 3, 1990, so this 20-year celebration is actually the 19th anniversary. For once the Germans are overlooking the discrepancy in favor of a big party!