Discover East Germany through people and their stories...

How do you discover a new place? I do it through it's people and their stories :)

So when I was in Saxony, Germany I interviewed people almost every single day to understand their story, and through them the story of the land, which was once a part of East Germany. Of course there is no East Germany anymore, yet these conversations told me that there are still remains of that country which is now officially lost in history text books. There is no physical line, but there is still something which exists, and not really in a negative way.

dresden skylline cityscape photograph photo pic saxony germany
Overlooking Dresden, Saxony

People talk about East and West even today, and somehow it reminds me of our own neighbours who were carved out of one country at the time of Independence. We still have West Bengal, a reminder that there was once united Bengal which was torn apart by partition in 1947. East Bengal is now Bangladesh (after it's independence from Pakistan in 1971), and the part of Bengal in India is still called West Bengal (it might soon change though).

So, coming back to Germany, here are six stories of six inspiring individuals who were either born in East Germany, or made it their home later. These stories not only showcase the lives of people there, and also the story of their home.

Read on :)

It was early morning when Thilo and his friend decided to make a run for the Czech border to escape the repressive East Germany. He was lucky though the odds were against him as only 10% of people who tried to run away survived the firing from across the borders. He told no one, not even his parents, but a close friend who later became a part of the dreaded secret services.

Moving from Czech republic to Austria, he finally made it to West Germany. He initially loved it, but realised soon after that it was just the same, just packaged differently. It was at this time that he also decided to pursue a career as a musician.

Now he is back in East Germany where plays the guitar while his Australian wife sings. Every year they travel to Goa, India to perform to perform at bars and restaurants as they prefer not to be tied up to a destination for work.

When Christine Horchheimer was young she remembers coming to East Germany and has horrible memories from the border posts, when they were always yelled at, made to wait for hours and checked, sometimes even with dogs.

Interestingly once the Berlin wall fell, her husband decided to shift to the East and help in rebuilding the country. She also agreed to stay in a large house in a small village due to husband. She has continued with that life even after her husband passed away a few years back.

Now she leads walking tours in Leipzig and around. She started this to keep herself just and also to learn more about her new city. Now work keeps her really busy and she has no time even on weekends.

Mathias Kuhnert is originally from the town of Meissen. He was always interested in he art and had good talent, and later he was trained at the factory in the skills. He father works in the steel industry while his mother is a nurse, so they were a little surprised when they found this talent in him.

His day starts at 8am and he works continuously over the next eight hours as it's important to use as much sunshine as possible. Currently he is working in the demonstration area and specialises in the first step - making first models from the the mould.

Mathias also works with the fire department of this city as a volunteer, and he especially likes to teach children on how to save themselves from fire. He is engaged and getting married next year.

Mareile Flatt Baier originally comes from West Germany and moved to Dresden in the East as both her husband and her were fascinated by the art and music of the city.

Every weekend she volunteers at the iconic church, 'The Church of our Lady', in the city to help visitors understand its history and help with any questions. These visits are also very important to her as she feels closer to God.

Mareile works full-time as a tax consultant in the city with a firm while her husband works with the city council. They both remain deeply passionate about the city and its heritage.

Wolfgang grew up in a small town close to Hanover in West Germany and often visited the East. He has many unpleasant memories, especially on the borders. The places in the east were distinctly gray because of the use of two stroke care and brown coal, and this made breathing very difficult for him.

Then worked in studied in many places, including England and USA. He came back to Germany in 1991 and almost accidentally came into tourism. Since 2001 has been working in Saxony Tourism Board. Moving to Dresden was also in way reconnecting with the past as his father had been a witness to the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden in 1945.

Wolfgang is a married man and he also has a ten years old daughter from his previous marriage. He is extremely passionate about art and architecture, and is very open about sharing his views whenever he feels we are losing the city's heritage by building new and modern buildings in the place of old baroque architecture that Dresden is famous for. He also has a huge collection of music at home, something he is very proud of.

A few years back Seema was on a solo trip to Germany, met a German man she fell in love with and decided to shift here. However, it was a big move as she was already married in India and had two grown up sons. But she needed to do it for hers of as she knew her life with her first husband was over for years already.

Her father was in the sugar industry so they moved places through her growing up years - she lived in Kolkata, Chennai, Allahabad, Agra and more. Due to this she never made close friends, but could adapt to any situations.

Though Seema is a trained psychologist, in Germany she works as a tour guide. Though she was initially apprehensive about her new job, it has been extremely satisfying. She got an opportunity to explore another career path and she loves it now.


Disclaimer: I was in Germany on invitation of the German Tourist Office and Saxony Tourism Board. Needless to mention, all views expressed are unbiased and based on my own personal experiences.


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