Today was tour bus day. The forecast of rain came true and there was a bit of a bite in the air. The 81 of us climbed onto two buses and were treated to a fantastic tour of the city through raindrop lined windows.
The ride around Berlin include passing many of the embassies and stops at Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate and a place where a fairly substantial chunk of the Berlin Wall still stands. The students seemed most excited about Checkpoint Charlie, which is mostly a tourist trap. There’s a picture of an American Army private named Harper on one side and a Soviet conscript on the other over the former Checkpoint. Apparently Jeff Harper was the final American soldier to serve at the checkpoint. Wikipedia has a pretty good entry on the site here.
The Berlin Wall stop also excited the students. many of them climbed on the rebar and pose for pictures. It’s humbling to believe that within a span of a few feet, one country was separated from another country, neither too friendly. It’s something I grew up with as a child and teenager, so it meant a lot to be able to visualize the scene. Actually being able to feel the Berlin Wall made it a stark reality.
The remainder of the bus tour focus on Berlin’s historical value and how it still, as a capital, is divided between there and Bonn, some 600 kilometers away. According to our tour guide, about 70 percent of the government is now in Berlin but a substantial portion of government workers will are in Bonn. That would be like moving the staffs of the Pentagon, White House and Capitol Hill to North Carolina.
The latter portion of the day focused on the students at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Conversation focused on NATO membership, frozen conflicts and other related issues and lasted almost four hours.
Wednesday will take us to the American embassy and a meeting with the U.S. Defense attaché. We posted a new photo gallery of today’s events on our Facebook page as well as a video log from our deputy director for international liaison, Janet Garvey. Please have a look and comment.