Thousands of illuminated balloons sailed into the Berlin night sky on Sunday along the former route of the Wall. Artists had tethered nearly 7,000 balloons along a 15-kilometre (nine-mile) stretch of the despised concrete barrier’s former 155-kilometre path, making it visible once again, and thus marking the climax of a huge open-air party at the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of German unity, which drew an estimated one million guests to the city. As the balloons were released and floated to the heavens, the Berlin State Orchestra, under the baton of Daniel Barenboim, played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.
Earlier, British singer Peter Gabriel sang a stripped-down version of David Bowie’s Wall anthem “Heroes”, sharing the stage with rock bands from east and west Germany and former dissidents. Fireworks followed the release of the balloons.
Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, said at a memorial for those killed trying to escape the repressive regime that the Wall was a “symbol of state abuse cast in concrete” that “broke” many people. “We can change things for the better – that is the message of the fall of the Berlin Wall,” she said as quoted by “The Local” German daily in English.
“Too good to be true? A daydream that will burst like a bubble? No, the fall of the Wall has shown us that dreams can come true.” This is true for Germany and “for the people in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and in many, many other regions of the world where liberty and human rights are threatened or being trampled,” she said.
Among foreign dignitaries who attended this year’s celebrations were the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, 83, Polish freedom icon Lech Walesa, 71, Hungarian ex-premier Miklos Nemeth, 66, and German President Joachim Gauck, 74. Pope Francis also sent a message from Vatican on this occasion, saying “we need bridges not walls.”