Despite living in Germany for two years in the 1980s I never actually visited Berlin, which is a big regret. And I haven't been there since. I hope to rectfiy that soon, for Berlin symbolises so much that is good and bad about recent European history.
Those of us of a certain vintage will remember watching the live pictures of the wall coming down twenty years ago today - when thousands of East Berliners demonstrated that the human spirit will always triumph over the forces of darkness. It was a hugely emotional evening. To see people flooding through Checkpoint Charlie to see what life was like in the West was unforgettable. I had just got Sky TV and watched the whole thing live on German TV. I remember thinking that the reunification of Germany would now be inevitable as it was clear the Russians would not intervene to save the East German regime.
I just saw this comment from David Cameron, which I think sums things up very well...
Two decades on, the fall of the Berlin Wall carries some powerful lessons which made a deep impression on me at the time, and which are every bit as valid today as they were then. The universal yearning for freedom in the face of oppression. The fact that political leadership really can make a difference - in leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, who stood up to Communist tyranny during the Cold War, to Mikhail Gorbachev who ushered in glasnost and perestroika, to Chancellor Kohl, who led his country so skilfully to unification.Well said.
The most important lesson of 1989, however, was the power of the human spirit, whatever the odds. Ultimately, it was the decisions of thousands of brave individuals who refused to put up with oppression which brought an end to Communist dictatorship in Central and Eastern Europe. It is to their courage and their determination that we pay tribute today - not least as we remember all those who still struggle for their freedom and their rights in so many parts of the world.