• Germany's news in English

Merkel opted for sauna and beer as Wall fell

AFP/The Local · 6 Nov 2009, 10:49

Published: 06 Nov 2009 10:49 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Reminiscing to foreign reporters in Berlin this week, Merkel told how she stuck to her weekly routine as a 35-year-old research scientist even as history was made around her.

"I thought something was going to happen, and had heard the announcement on television that the borders would open," Merkel told reporters, according to reports in foreign dailies including Le Figaro, The Guardian and the New York Times. "But it was Thursday, and Thursday was my sauna day so that's where I went."

After her steam bath, Merkel went for a beer with a friend and only afterwards, when they left the bar, did they find themselves swept up in the huge crowds thronging Bornholmerstrasse and pouring into the West.

There she met celebrating West Berliners and shared beers with them, before heading home, telling herself "the Wall will still be open in the morning."

The next day, Merkel and her sister made a pilgrimage to the huge KaDeWe department store in the West, a temple of the western consumer society that had everything that was lacking in the East's command economy.

Merkel, a pastor's daughter, said she did not consider herself an "activist" against the communist regime, and had stayed out of politics until the Wall fell even if "since childhood I had had a critical view of the system."

In 1990, after the two Germany reunited, Merkel joined the centre-right Christian Democrats and won a parliamentary seat in the East, starting a journey that would eventually see her elected as the first female chancellor.

She conceded, however, that not everyone had adapted so well.

"In the GDR we had known the pressure of Nazism, then communism. You can't make that disappear with one blow. For many people it was impossible to learn something else in just one night," she said.

She recalled the strangeness of tasting Parmesan cheese from Italy for the first time and the fascination many in the East felt for tropical fruits, but also the arrogance of many westerners.

"I was shocked when (West German politician) Otto Schilly mocked us, saying we were coming to the West to find bananas. You can still see that arrogance in the West today," she said, adding her roots has sometimes held her back.

Story continues below…

"When I suffered a setback, I often thought it was because I had come from the East, but I never wanted to let myself use that as an excuse."

Many German voters have come to appreciate Merkel's modest and unshowy style, some of which can be traced back to the discretion she learned growing up in a dictatorship, surrounded by prying eyes.

"We would get gift parcels from the West," she recalled. "But in the GDR there were only five models of gloves. If you had a different pair, people knew where they came from. You'd be noticed, and that was bad."

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Germans think they're fit, but they're really couch potatoes
Photo: DPA.

There's been an increase in the number of Germans who define themselves as "fit", but their lifestyle choices don't quite match this self-perception.

Intensive farming 'endangers a third of German species'
Photo: DPA

There are 32,000 species of animal, plant and mushroom life native to Germany. Due to intensive farming methods, one in every three of these is endangered, a new report shows.

German hospital uses therapy to 'treat' paedophiles
A poster from the campaigne "Don't offend", which offers therapy to paedophiles. The sign reads "Do you love kids more than you'd prefer? There's help." Photo: DB Scholz & Friends / DPA.

A unique German initiative is offering therapy to paedophiles to control their urges, with the aim of getting them help before they offend.

Minister: 'no tolerance' for clowns after chainsaw attack
Photo: DPA

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has called for a zero-tolerance approach to 'killer clowns' after a series of attacks culminating in two teenagers being chased by a clown wielding a chainsaw.

Baby who was auctioned on eBay taken away from father
Photo: DPA.

A German court ruled on Thursday that a man who put his one-month-old baby up for sale on the online auction platform eBay should only be allowed contact with the child under supervision.

Portugal's ruling party calls German minister 'pyromaniac'
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Photo: DPA.

The head of Portugal's ruling Socialists called German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble a "pyromaniac" on Thursday after he criticized Lisbon for reversing course on austerity.

These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd