In the spring of 1977, I was a wide-eyed 16 year old who was in Berlin with a group of language students from Minnesota. Those who know my love of wandering and exploring can well imagine what this must have been like for me. I wandered about the city as much as I could although I was somewhat limited by... soldiers.
In 1977, the city was divided into four sectors. The American, British and French Sectors made up West Berlin while the Soviet Sector made up East Berlin. As an American, I could move freely through the American, British and French Sectors. However, the Berlin Wall which was heavily patrolled and armed divided the Soviet Sectors from the other three. Things had loosened up a bit in regards to tourism however and we were granted permission to enter East Berlin for one day. Our bus driver, a West German, on the other hand, was not.
There was a tenseness in this city like I have never experienced before. The city had not forgotten the Berlin Blockade and the presence of international troops and the wall served as a reminder as well. West Berlin was like an island only instead of being surrounded by water, it was surrounded by it's enemies. It was an uneasy peace which could change into war at any moment.
The two halves of Berlin were very distinctive. West Berlin had been rebuilt, the economy was thriving and it seemed like any other large city I'd been in. East Berlin was different. Even as a 16 year old, I was struck immediately by the oppressive tension in the air and the rubble from bombings which still lay in heaps around the city.
While in Berlin, an interesting landmark was pointed out to me. The Fernsehturm which simply means television tower, was constructed in East Berlin between 1965-1969 by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). It is the fourth largest free standing structure in Europe and was built to be a symbol of Berlin and demonstrate superiority over the west.
An interesting phenomenon was discovered after completion however. A phenomenon which delighted many West Germans due to the official atheistic position of the East German government. When sunlight hits it, a cross appears on the metal sphere during the day. A large bright shining cross. Various things were done to attempt to remove or at least diminish this phenomenon. They all failed and it became known as "The Pope's Revenge".
Former U.S. President Ronald Regan mentions this phenomenon in his "Tear Down This Wall" speech on June 12, 1987.
Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexanderplatz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower's one major flaw: treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today when the sun strikes that sphere, that sphere that towers over all Berlin, the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed.
For me, the memory of the Fernsehturm serves as a reminder that God is not limited by borders, boundaries or any other restrictions. God is not controlled by the events which take place in this world. He is beyond that and... we are in His hands.
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. Psalm 91:5-6
Thank you for going ahead and writing about this very interesting piece of history. I fear the vast majority of people under the age of 40 have much of any understanding of what happened in Berlin from the end of WW2 until the wall was torn down in 1989. Even those who remember the images of the wall being torn down know much about what that wall signified and how totally unique Berlin was.
I cannot imagine the impact being there when the city was still divided must have had on you. The things you saw and the people you met surely left an image in your heart and mind to this day.
The cross on the tower is, as you say, an incredible testimony to the power of God over evil. Praise God for His sovereignty and for the power of the cross.
Thanks for sharing this,