Tree House at the Berlin Wall

Today commemorates the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  You’ll find plenty of posts celebrating this in different ways:  here’s one.

I thought instead I would share a tale I heard when we were in Berlin two years ago.  It’s an optimistic, positive story for unoptimistic times.

September 17th, 2017

The tale of a tree house

I love this story.  I hope you do too.

Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, one night in 1961, Berlin became a divided city. At first there was merely barbed wire fencing, then a wall. It was all done in such a hurry that mistakes were made. One tiny part of Kreuzberg that belonged to the Eastern sector got isolated in the West. The Americans – for it was in their zone – could do nothing about this unremarkable patch. It became an unloved and unlovely rubbish dump.

Then along came Osman Kalin, an immigrant Turk. He wanted a vegetable patch. He cleared the land and started to plant seeds.  As his patch became productive, he gave vegetables to schools, to the local church, to anyone in need. He cobbled together a rather ramshackle tree house.  He became something of a local hero.

Initially, the East didn’t mind. But when East Berliners successfully started to tunnel under his patch and escape he came under suspicion. The authorities came to interrogate him, and he welcomed them in his usual hospitable way. They gave up and left him alone.

In 1989, the Wall fell. A newly united Berlin City Council began to see Osman’s ramshackle domain as an embarrassment. They gave him notice to quit. The local and wider community was horrified. 25,000 people signed a petition demanding he be allowed to go on growing his vegetables.

He stayed. He’s 95 now, and doesn’t work so much on his vegetable patch, though his son does. He lives in a flat nearby rather than in the tree house. He’s still a much-loved local hero.

I heard this story on a walking tour offered by Alternative Berlin Tours, led by the remarkable and endlessly interesting Dave. Very highly recommended.

 An entry for Six Word Saturday. In her post, Debbie too has chosen to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall

21 thoughts on “Tree House at the Berlin Wall”

  1. A very interesting story, Margaret. I’m hoping to be back again next year and must check out the garden and treehouse. And I must try one of those walks. I try to do at least one of these more unusual guided tours wherever I go now as they always give you something you won’t get from guidebooks.

    Like

  2. Oh, that *is* a great story! We were at the JF Kennedy Presidential Library last weekend and sat and watched the video of Kennedy’s Berlin speech, Ich Bin Ein Berliner. It amazes me that it’s been that long since the Wall fell . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. An uplifting tale and so good to hear that a petition has been successful. I seem to remember signing a ‘Revoke Article 50’ petition along with 6,103,056 others earlier this year and . . . . !!

    Liked by 1 person

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