Friday Fun: Gates, Walls and Freedom

I’ve always been fascinated by doorways and gates, especially if someone is trying to close them in front of me. I cannot resist peering in and imagining what lies beyond.

In this period of celebration of 25 years since the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the dismantling of Communist regimes in most of the East Bloc countries, events which marked me profoundly and changed the course of my life, I do wonder if the landscape we espied beyond those walls quite lived up to our euphoric expectations. Or if it ever could.

But I do know that I am forever grateful that we could open those gates and discover for ourselves.


The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)


Explanation separates us from astonishment, which is the only gateway to the incomprehensible.
(Eugene Ionesco)

David Freedman sculpture gate.
David Freedman sculpture gate.

The world is full of people who have never, since childhood, met an open doorway with an open mind. (E. B. White)

From English Spirit.
From English Spirit.

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion. (Albert Camus)

Architecture Art Design.
Architecture Art Design.

Look on every exit as being the entrance to somewhere else. (Tom Stoppard)

Leith Hall Gardens, from their website.
Leith Hall Gardens, from their website.

We are afraid of the enormity of the possible. (Emil Cioran)

This is dedicated to East Berliner journalist Thomas Otto, whom I met in late October 1989, and who had the first open and honest political discussion with me. ‘All you need is more choice…’

Photo from 1989, used by Prof. Sonja Kuftinec.
Photo from 1989, used by Prof. Sonja Kuftinec, Institute of Advanced Study, Univ. of Minnesota


17 thoughts on “Friday Fun: Gates, Walls and Freedom”

  1. I’m old enough to remember feeling a little ashamed of the easy triumphalism of the West back in the aftermath of ’89. I only know from reading books like Stasiland how tough things must have been for you all but I also know that the West was very far from getting everything right in the way we’re so good at portraying, and certainly isn’t now. I’m so glad that things turned out well for you Marina. And I love that first photograph.

    1. I’m a little ashamed of just how naively we embraced everything ‘Western’ as implicitly better! Almost within months you couldn’t find any ‘native’ chocolates anymore, because everyone wanted to buy only the Western ones.

  2. At the risk of sounding really OLD , I can hardly believe that all this happened 25 years ago! It seems like only yesterday in some ways ……but in another it’s another age. My kids look blankly at us when we talk about the Cold War . A few years ago we went to a wedding in Czech Republic and our sons thought we were mad when we were saying that at their age we couldn’t have gone there!!!

    1. Had to laugh at that! When I mentioned to my son that it was 25 years, he said: ‘Really? I thought it was much more historical than that.’ Because we visited Berlin and he couldn’t believe how it had all been dismantled so effectively.

    2. I’m the same – it really doesn’t feel so long ago! I’m also reminded by an earlier comment that I desperately want to get Stasiland. This is a great post Marina Sofia, so thought provoking…

  3. What a thoughtful and powerful post, Marina Sofia! And I love your point that perhaps what’s beyond the gate doesn’t live up to one’s dreams, but it’s important to be able to find out. That resonates on a lot of levels. Oh, and I love the ‘photos of gates that you’ve shared.

  4. A deep question, which may have no easy answer: at the same time the beast was unleashed, which has not stopped bombing, killing and exploiting since, on an ever increasing scale… True enough it was already doing it, in our name and that of “freedom”!

  5. Great post, Marina; your opening comments are very thought-provoking. I visited Berlin not long after the fall of the Wall, and it was a strange and very sobering experience at times…

    I love that first gate; it looks quite gothic, especially with the black and white pic.

  6. Wow, this brings back some memories. I was a student studying in Strasbourg when the wall fell, so I was able to get into East Berlin very soon thereafter and even had a piece of the wall! I still remember the images of the fall tumbling down!

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