The european union, nato and post-september 11th: a berlin-warsaw diary
The European Union, NATO and Post-September 11th:
A Berlin-Warsaw Diary
KEZI-TV / Chambers Productions
Eugene, Oregon USA
Ten minutes off the plane in Berlin, a handful of freshly printed Euros rest in my palm. It's Day11 of the European Union's great currency conversion and I'm eager to fill my wallet with thenew coin of the realm.
This time last year, I was squirreling away my loose Deutsche marks as I purchased souvenirs inthe snowy streets of Munich. Now, five years after my last trip to Berlin, I'm ready to inspectthe architectural and cultural facelift of this vibrant European city.and do my part to keep theeconomy humming.
I'm here for a brief but intensive journalistic program organized by IFA, the Germany-basedInstitute for Foreign Cultural Relations, by the RIAS Berlin Kommission (my sponsoringorganization), and a handful of other top-flight groups and foundations. For the next seven days,I'll join 60 Americans and Germans as we meet with political, business, labor and cultural leadersin Berlin and Warsaw. The focus is on European Union and NATO expansion, set against thecontext of post-September 11th realities. Along the way, I'll catch up with a few friends whowork in local television and radio, take some time to explore the streets and chat up as manypeople as I can.
I'll save the cab for the early morning flight home. Today, I'm taking the scenic route. There's acity bus route that should take me within a block of where I'm staying, passing some of Berlin'snewest landmarks along the way.
Five minutes and a couple of Euros later, I'm staring out the window in slack-jawed wonder. It'sone thing to see the pictures, quite another to come face-to-face with the reality. Berlin isdramatically different from my last visit. And it looks goooood.
The graceful spires of glass-walled office buildings pierce the sky near Potsdamer Platz. Powerfulnew government buildings shoulder the River Spree. The Unter den Linden looks like it's a kissingcousin to the bustling Ku'damm. And who put that gift wrap on the Brandenburg Gate? Theadvertisement for an underwriting telecom company obscures the scaffolding of a winterrestoration job. Clearly, Berlin's architectural facelift, which began early in the 1990s, is goingfull-steam.
I'm jet-lagged from the flight and resolve to sleep at least 10 hours tonight. A hot shower and acup of herbal tea later, I'm doing a quick channel surf on the television before turning in. TheGerman production of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" is playing in prime time. The prizes, Inotice, are now in Euros. But the denominations don't seem to matter much to this contestant,who's sweating without a lifeline, while Germany's version of Regis waits for his final answer.
It's raining lightly when I wake up the next morning. Our group's first meeting isn't until thatafternoon so I take a few hours to check out the refurbished Alte Nationalgalerie. I'm glad I arriveearly. Within minutes of the doors opening, people crowd the galleries to get a look at theClassical Roman sculptures, and paintings by French Impressionists and German Romanticists.
The architecture is as much of a draw because there's new lighting and more vibrant color in therestored galleries, as well as an exhibit detailing the efforts to preserve a small section that stillshows damage inflicted during the bombardments of World War II.
Everywhere I travel in Berlin, people want to share stories about the architecture. On ourafternoon tour, the guide points to key places in what was once East Berlin. The structure thatnow houses the Foreign Ministry, for example, began life in 1939 as the home of the ReichsbankBuilding, before its conversion in 1945 to the Finance Ministry for the East German government(GDR). Starting in 1959, it spent three decades as the seat of the Central Committee for the EastGerman Communist Party. Then the wall fell and in 1990 the GDR's first democratically electedparliament met in its main chamber. The reunified German Foreign Office moved here in August,1999.
The site of the former Checkpoint Charlie -- one of the most storied Cold War crossings betweenEast and West Berlin -- is now surrounded by increasingly upscale shops. Glittering cardealerships are parked just a few blocks away. Dozens of clothing boutiques are within a well-heeled stone's throw from the small, double-sided billboard featuring photos of stern-faced Sovietand American soldiers, whose images stand in the middle of the street just above thereconstructed guard hut.
More traces of war are inside the thick walls of the Reichstag, now home to the Germanparliament, known as the Bundestag. Lest the politicians forget the past as they walk the halls onthe way to their parliamentary sessions or committee votes, the interior walls are still adornedwith graffiti scrawled by occupying Red Army troops during the close of World War II.
The Reichstag -- home to the 1918 declaration of the German Republic, gutted by fire in 1933 --now houses the people's assembly after extensive renovation. The building is capped with asoaring glass dome that, after hours, glows with illumination as it arches into Berlin's night air.
Visitors can follow the spiraling inner walkways up into the top of the dome, then peer downinto the Bundestag chamber below. Or they can gaze through the glass across the city toward thedistant buildings that reach for the sky.
During the construction of the late 20th century, West Berliners placed seven-story heightrestrictions on their business towers. Not so at Potsdamer Platz. The former East Berlin districtis crowded with glass-walled skyscrapers that resemble a clutch of illuminated quartz crystalswhen viewed after dark. Up close, a circus dome of glass and light covers the courtyard of anindoor business and retail mall. It is filled with restaurants, theaters and Berlin's Film Museum.
I arrive by subway on a wintry night, rubbing my gloved hands as I walk, anticipating the chill.
Under the circus dome, I stop to purchase a glass of Gluhwein, that dreadful hot mulledconcoction that clears your sinuses in an instant, tastes positively medicinal, but still evokesenough memories to prompt me to buy it again and again.
Sipping the hot beverage as the steam mingles with my breath in the frosty air, I watch Germanfamilies and couples make their way among the building and businesses, laughing and chatting asthey go. Welcome, Capitalism, to the former East. To many, Potsdamer Platz is an example ofuncontrolled development and corporate sprawl. But tonight, it looks positively magical.
Things are a little less glittery and a lot more functional at the Bauhaus Museum, which paystribute to the artists and designers in Berlin (1919-1933) who electrified the fields of art,architecture and interior design -- until their pranks irritated the National Socialists so much thatthey closed down the school. What's most apparent is how timeless their designs really are:Many of the lamps, chairs and appliances on display are still being sold in stores around theworld.
What astonishes me on this visit to Berlin is not just the evolution of the city's architecture, butthat everyone -- be they tour guides or typical workers -- seems to know the history of each andevery place. Later in the trip, I chat about this with fellow journalist MiChelle Jones, an editorand writer out of Nashville who is pretty knowledgeable about architecture. We muse about thepower of history and design in dynamic cities such as this one. The people define the place. Buthow much do the buildings, in turn, shape the people?
Even our accommodations are memorable. We stay at the Hotel Maritim proArte, whose lobby isfilled with contemporary German art. Each floor is devoted to a different artist. Their works linethe halls and their prints decorate our rooms. Such hotels are increasingly popular in Europe'scosmopolitan cities and I like the way they make me consider my surroundings in a whole newlight.
Even the mostly unlikely spaces can make you think about the character of a city. After the firstnight's opening reception, I walk to dinner with David Binder of The New York Times andChristopher Caldwell from The Weekly Standard. Chris did some scouting when he first arrivedin town and found a comfortable bistro, built -- like so many businesses -- into an arch under oneof the elevated S-Bahn rail lines. It's a hearty dinner under a brick-lined ceiling that vibrates everyfew minutes with the motion of passing commuter trains.
David and Chris are old hands in Berlin. David covered the city on-and-off during the 1960s and'70s when the Berlin Wall was still very much intact. He tells me that he married a woman fromthe East and that he'll spend his free time on this trip visiting many old friends. The nextmorning, he plans to march with some of them in an annual parade honoring assassinated Socialistleaders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. I see the coverage on that night's news but don'tspot David and his acquaintances. He tells me the next morning that it was a good day, but thatthere are far fewer of the aging "old guard."
Binder, like the handful of other veteran journalists in our group, is far more attuned to thecultural subtleties of the "reunified but in some ways still culturally divided" Berlin. He speaks ofthe many "Westies" who still don't visit or comprehend the sense of place and accomplishmentsof those who grew up in the East. At the same time, he realizes that many in the East still shunand remain fearful of the dynamics and politics of the West. Hearing him speak of the Luxemburgmarch, I consider the nostalgia Binder feels for the "bad old days" and ponder how it is the samefor so many who live in and even just visit Berlin: Their memories of the past still profoundlyshape their vision of the present.
The memories are almost overwhelming at the new Jewish Museum. More than simply amemorial to the Holocaust, the strikingly-designed building houses exhibits of the rich andevolving culture of Europe's Jews. But always, there are constant reminders of the systematicmurder of 6 million people. Daniel Libeskind's architectural design weaves a jagged shape acrossa parcel of land that once bordered the Berlin Wall. Look outward through small windows thatshriek of confinement and you'll see monuments to those who died. Look inward throughtruncated panes and you'll touch The Void: Five closed spaces that cut through the floors of themuseum, leaving spaces in the exhibits in the same way that the exterminations left voids inGermany's culture. At the bottom of one of the Memory Voids you round a corner and comeupon a large room. Ten thousand open-mouthed faces cut from rough steel are strewn across thefloor of the concrete shaft, their silent screams painfully loud in our ears.
The museum's opening events fell during the week of September 11th. Organizers postponedtheir activities once they heard of the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. When theyfinally rescheduled their opening ceremonies, they honored the victims of the terrorist attacksalong with all others who die at the hand of intolerance. In the post-September 11th environment,as growing clashes in the West Bank and Gaza make headlines, security outside the JewishMuseum is tighter than ever: Armed guards patrol the sidewalk, concrete blockades protect theentrance. Inside, visitors must pass through metal detectors and have their bags screened beforereceiving a tour brochure.
That evening, half our group heads for the Komische Opera, where we have tickets for"Rigoletto." Verdi's story of the court jester, a lecherous Duke and the jester's beautiful daughteris updated to the mid-20th century: The Duke is a wealthy playboy with a posse of hangers-on.
Rigoletto is an acerbic, hunchbacked friend who draws the ire of some of the Duke's crew. Theopera's scenes are transplanted to the deck of an ocean liner, to a paparazzi-infested cocktailparty, to a 50s-era bar at the rough edge of a busy harbor. The strains of "La Donna Mobile" arefirst heard over a corner jukebox. At the first intermission, it's clear some opera purists are lessthan pleased with the revisions. And it's true that not all of the updates work as well as theymight. But I've always considered "Rigoletto" one heck of a downer, no matter how lovely themusic. So I appreciate the effort.
Petra Gute picks me up after the final curtain. We met a couple of years ago, when Petra came toOregon as part of her journalist exchange program through RIAS. She's smart and funny and has
great taste in restaurants, as I learn when we head for Pan Asia, a new Thai noodle place tuckedinto the back of one of the courtyards in the restored residential and commercial complex knownas the Hackesche Hofe.
Petra knows the New Berlin better than most: She worked with the team that created the popular"Berlin: Open City" travel book to develop video based on each chapter's "tours." And shecovers a wide range of cultural events. Last night, she hosted television coverage of the big annualpress ball, a black-tie fund-raiser at the Deutsche Staatsoper (the State Opera House.). The eventattracts the stars of Berlin media, as well as large numbers of industrialists, artists and publicleaders. The print coverage is enough to rival the society pages of America's top newspapers. Itmakes me realize just how small my town and the media market really are. After dinner, we headfor Berlin's hottest new bar.located, not surprisingly, in an arched space under the S-Bahn line.
And we make plans to touch bases when I come back through Berlin on my way home.
The next night, there's Thai food on the menu again when I meet another friend, Danja Braecklein,for dinner. Danja is another bright young German with a flair for media production and a love ofthe city. As we peruse the menu at Good Times, we talk about Germans' current fondness for allthings South American -- be it the boom in Salsa dance clubs or the import of Argentine beef. Atthe next table, someone's celebrating. Voices sing the familiar lyrics of "Happy Birthday to You"in English. "In English?" I wonder. "Oh, yes," Danja assures me, "We've always sung it inEnglish. No one really knows why."
The Enron scandal makes the headlines in all the German media. Each day, there are at least twostories on the covers of the major newspapers. Karsten Voigt, the German-American Coordinatorin the Foreign Office who offers introductory remarks at the start of our visit shakes his head:"Germans are told all the time that they should be more American," but how, he wonders, canyou explain the American way of doing business in light of the Enron scandal?
It's not just Enron. Germans are nervous about a number of huge companies that are knocking attheir door, led by moguls Rupert Murdoch and John Malone, who are looking for a share ofGermany's lucrative media market and backing their bids for a portion of KirshPayTV andDeutsche Telecom's assets with their multinational fortunes and clout. Firms like Bertelsmannmight own U.S. publisher Random House, but it's another story when American firms want to tieup a chunk of the media market that's based in Berlin.
Meantime, business analysts are keeping a close eye on one high-profile corporate union.
DaimlerChrysler is working to slash spending in its troubled Chrysler line and improve the globalefficiency of the automaking concern, while better integrating management and development onboth sides of the Atlantic. It is, according to Othmar Stein, "a major enterprise. It's something likeworking for a government."
Stein is the Director of Communications for Commercial Vehicle and Automobile BusinessAffairs. He spent time with the Chrysler divisions in Canada and the U.S. before accepting apromotion and a transfer two years ago to Stuttgart. There, he quickly learned about the
differences in North American and German corporate culture, noting that his laid-back "opendoor" policy caused plenty of consternation among many in his department, who have a muchmore formal approach to business involving lots of memos and meetings. Stein says he and hisstaff are meeting in the middle and he thinks the results will be a more efficient and adaptabledepartment.
He thinks similar changes are happening throughout DaimlerChrysler, including in the designdivisions. Two weeks earlier, Chrysler unveiled the Crossfire, a sporty coupe with a body fromChrysler but a chassis, drive train and handling that's engineered by Mercedes.
Stein says company designers have streamlined the manufacturing process, distilling close to 50transmissions and drive trains down to just 15 key models, many of which could be used acrossbrands. But the development's proceeding cautiously. Stein and other DaimlerChrysler officialsare wary of diluting the power of the Mercedes brand.or confusing American consumers, forwhom a Chrysler has a specific feel and style.
At the same time, the automaker is moving cautiously into expanding international markets,planning to grow sales but not manufacture in Poland, working on a joint engine venture withHyundai in Korea, and patiently strengthening its ties with companies in China, where othershave gained an auto industry foothold but "we've never seen anybody make money."
Here is the flip side of globalization: When a country that is an economic powerhouse sneezes,the rest of the world catches cold. The recession in the United States, dealt another hard blow bythe September 11th attacks, sends shivers across Europe. European conglomerates that boughtup American companies a decade ago watch their balance sheets head south. Germany'seconomy, stalled under the twin drag of high unemployment and slow growth, takes anotherdowntick. France, which normally exports a sizable amount of goods to Germany, sees itsnumbers fall. And so on.
In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder faces multiple challenges as he runs for re-election inthe fall. Unemployment topped 10% with the new year -- up to 20% in some parts of the East.
Growth for 2001 stalled at less than 1%. In December, IG Metall -- one of the country's mostpowerful organized labor unions, which sets the tone for bargaining in other sectors -- fired itsopening salvo by demanding wage increases in the next contract of 5% to 7%.up to ten times theinflation rate. In the U.S., this is when politicians would start discussing an increase in federaldeficits to pay for economic incentives. But Germany's deficit crept to 2.6% last year,dangerously close to the European Union's 3% deficit limit. So there's no easy way to stimulatethe economy, much less reduce the strong controls on the German budget.
Still, the EU's common currency and deficit limits help keep any one member country's economyfrom seriously destabilizing the rest. Experts predict that with the Euro, the savings in cross-border transaction fees, plus the potential growth of a stable European currency against theAmerican dollar, will help turn things around more quickly as the recession slows.
But dwindling public budgets might eat into private sector recoveries for quite some time. Evenwealthy German states, such as North Rhine-Westphalia, must look at cutting their 50 millionDM annual incentives that for the past decade helped create and sustain new jobs in the mediaand technology sectors.
For years, German workers were the envy of Europe. Now, their strong wages and benefits aremaking it difficult for the German government and employers to slash benefits and bring costs inline, even with skyrocketing unemployment. Schroeder came into office promising to cutunemployment from 4 million to 3.5 million. His early gains are all but erased by the past year ofeconomic slowdown.
Dieter Schulte, president of the German Trade Union Confederation, counts one-third of allGerman workers as members of his umbrella organization. He says membership growth in hiseight independent unions is fairly flat in the years following reunification. Schulte predicts that'llcontinue as Germany makes its gradual shift from an industrial to a service-based economy.
And there's still plenty of uncertainty on the labor horizon. Schulte says it's a struggle for laborunions across the European Union to work together on issues when their economic systems andlaws vary. He remains concerned about the effect of a possible EU expansion to include Polandand several other Eastern European republics. The seven year phase-in period, he says, couldhelp minimize the effects on his industrial workers. But despite discussions with Germanemployers and Polish trade unions, he remains worried that jobs will continue to leave Germanyin the coming decade.
Much of the job loss is in the "Neue Lander" -- the new states -- of the former East Germany.
Here, immigration is a growing concern as former GDR loyalists fear competition from a flood ofEastern European immigrants, or worry that their jobs are either heading across eastern borders ordisappearing altogether. Schulte says he understands the challenges of a post-September 11theconomy. But after more than half a decade of wage concessions and constraints, he says unions"can no longer afford to just keep living at the expense of others." The jobless rate and the battleover leaner employee benefits promise to be key issues in the upcoming election for chancellor.
Chancellor Schroeder, a first-term incumbent, is a Social Democrat whose party is allied with theGreens. His opponent in September is Edmund Stoiber, the premier of economically robustBavaria, representing the coalition of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and his own ChristianSocial Union. The outside of the multi-story CDU headquarters in Berlin is draped with a hugepolitical banner, patterned with hundreds of hash marks: "How many more jobs lost, HerrSchroeder?" it demands in German.
Our meeting this morning is with Angela Merkel, an early favorite to run for chancellor and theCDU's party chairwoman. Merkel just wrapped up the most bitter week of her political career.
Four days earlier, amid waning support from coalition leaders who doubted the ability of theformer East German physicist to deliver the fall vote against Schroeder, Merkel was forced toabandon her bid and instead back Stoiber.
She is gracious in defeat, refusing to blame her lost candidacy on attitudes toward her EastGerman roots or on the past two years spent healing party breaches in the wake of the Kohladministration financial scandals. Post-September 11th, she says, a successful and deeplyconservative Bavarian premier will be a better candidate against Herr Schroeder.
Four years earlier, Schroeder's coalition captured much of the East German vote with his pledgeto cut unemployment and create new jobs. But with those promises withering in a harsheconomic drought, Merkel predicts a swing to the business-friendly Stoiber: "East German votersare much more volatile; less wedded to one party." If they swing to the CDU/CSU coalition, bigchanges will be afoot in Germany's top job. In the past, Stoiber's emphasized the need to puttighter controls on immigration.something that plays well with beleaguered former Communistworkers in the East.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is a busy man. In the weeks prior to our visit, hehosted the Bonn Talks on Afghanistan. Now, he's being questioned by us about the rumblingsout of the Bush administration toward Iraq: "As long as there is not a smoking gun or evidence ofa smoking gun, it's a very difficult issue.you must be fully aware of the impact" of such a step.
Fischer, arguably Germany's most popular politician, was born in 1948--part of the first Germangeneration that did not experience a war on its own soil. He understands why "security andprotection of the state" is vitally important to his countrymen, in the same way that heunderstands that "European conservatism is very different from American conservatism."
The use of major force is still new in post-war Germany, where citizens are still processing thenation's military involvement in Kosovo. But, Fischer says, "September 11th made it quite clear:We cannot accept black holes of disorder." Without the intervention in Kosovo -- which Fischerthinks came too late -- there would be, he says, a direct entree for Al-Qaeda on the southern flankof the European Union. The Minister of Foreign Affairs took an unorthodox path to his presentjob and admits he doesn't much like military alliances. But he led the calls for NATO to intervenein both the Balkans and Afghanistan, and is passionate about shaping a "foreign policy to avoid asecond Afghanistan experience."
Germany has a large immigrant population, including an estimated 85 thousand Afghans. Whilethe overwhelming majority are law-abiding citizens, the continuing investigation into a possibleAl-Qaeda cell is a sobering one that is reshaping the national dialogue on immigration and bordersecurity.
There is also a slow-simmering public and political debate about whether Turkey should join theEuropean Union in the first round of expansion. Fischer dismisses any charges that the hesitancysprings from a question of religion. He points out that more than 3 million Muslims live inGermany and that Berlin is the biggest Turkish city outside of Turkey. The question, he says, isone of economic development, of "democracy, human rights and some other regional issues.to be
a member of the European Union means to give up a lot of your sovereignty.we'll see if ourTurkish friends are ready when the time comes."
Chancellor Schroeder agrees, saying the EU is "not just some coincidental alliance of states." Hesays it might be at its most effective as an economic market, but that it is also "a community ofvalues. It is a social community." He adds that "in each and every country or alliance based onjoint values.Turkey is far away from this so far. There is no doubt a question of social andeconomic cohesion."
Schroeder learned of the World Trade Center bombings from his staff while he was in his office,working on a speech. They sat together, glued to CNN and the unfolding tragedy. The Germanchancellor feels a strong bond with the city: His wife spent two years living on the Upper WestSide and his daughter was born in New York. He visited Ground Zero because he felt it wasimportant to "get a grasp of what it means." And he thinks a lot of concerns and prejudices aboutthe U.S. government -- "What are they going to do?" -- have been proven wrong in the interveningmonths.
Schroeder admits that U.S. and German intelligence agencies needed better cooperation prior toSeptember 11th. And he says work is continuing to improve those ties. He neatly dodged aquestion about what specific changes were made when one reporter posed it at our briefing. Butlike other Germans officials, he has spoken publicly about the need to crack down on terroristnetworks, including offshore banking systems and money-wiring schemes that fund cells indozens of countries.
A retired American intelligence officer who up until a few years ago was based in Berlin, recentlywrote that "the Cold War has been replaced by ethnic, national and regional conflicts. Thequestion is often no longer where you stand politically, but who you are ethnically orreligiously." But he noted that one encouraging sign in the wake of the terrorist attacks is that"nations with whom we have been on the outs are coming to our aid, as well."
Karsten Voigt, German-American coordinator in the Foreign Office, notes that "after 9/11, wediscovered -- with some surprise -- that we liked the Americans more than we expected." He addsthat Germany in the past few years has come to feel a cautious self-confidence about its role inEurope and in the world: "For the first time in centuries, Germany is surrounded by countrieswho are friends.or at least want to pretend are friends."
Tomorrow, we visit one of reunified Germany's new friends: Poland. But this is the group's lastnight in Berlin. A handful of us are making a stop at the city's newest and perhaps most bizarretourist attraction: A non-descript bar on Dorotheenstrasse, just a few steps from the front doorof our hotel.
The Windhorst Bar & Lounge used to do a decent evening business, attracting its share ofbusinessmen, government and retail workers. But things changed on September 11th. Windhorst,you see, shares a common wall with the U.S. Embassy.
Now there are barricades, armed German patrols and a trailer filled with security personnel thatblocks traffic and all but blocks the establishment's entrance. American diplomats, concernedabout the ease with which terrorists might attack their facility, persuaded the Germans to cordonoff many of the nearby streets.forcing a handful of businesses and at least one art gallery tomove. Windhorst's owners are sticking it out -- for now. After U.S. Ambassador Daniel Coatsmentioned the bar's plight during a morning briefing, many of us resolved to do our duty to helpshore up the business' sagging receipts. Besides, it makes for a good story.
To visit the bar, you carefully approach the patrols at the barricades, let them know where you'dlike to go, and then follow them over to the security window set into the front corner of theportable police trailer. You hand over your passport so the officer inside can write down thepertinent information. Then one by one, you and your friends are taken inside for a pat-downand a search of any bags. Then and only then are you escorted to the entrance of the bar.
Once inside, you'll be able to order a $9 cocktail and sip it in cramped and absolutelyunremarkable surroundings. On the way out, you have to remember to check out with security sothey can check you off the passport list and avoid triggering some late-night concerns.
Somehow, the sight of American journalists -- who ordinarily bristle at surrendering theirpersonal information or undergoing police frisks -- going out of their way to buy overpriceddrinks for the sake of a good anecdote seems absurdly funny.
"I wonder how long they'll keep the blockade up?" an American colleague wonders over his beer.
"I don't know," his German counterpart replies, "Around here, they're used to long blockades."
The next morning, we're up before dawn and dragging our suitcases to the train station. It's atravel day as we leave Germany for Warsaw. A little more than an hour out of Berlin, the traineases across the river trestle at the community of Frankfurt on the Oder. On the other side of thewater is the village of Slubice. We're in Poland. There's a perfunctory check of our passports andtickets, a quick stamp on both, before we return to our thoughts and to our scrutiny of thelandscape and of its people.
It's cold in this part of Central Europe. The morning temperature is still well below 25 degreesFahrenheit. Men huddle around ice-fishing holes at the edge of streams. Foxes pick their wayacross frozen fields. Families gather in silhouetted warmth behind snow-edged windows.
As we leave the river behind, the train moves a little more slowly because the tracks are lessmodern. For four hours, we roll across plains dotted with the occasional village, but largelypatterned with sprawling agricultural fields. Their soil lies tilled but dormant under the alternatingwinter sunlight and fog.
I find myself thinking about the importance of geography and how it shapes the history of aplace and its people. With few natural barriers, armies flooded across these plains with unnerving
regularity. A millennia ago, the ethnic tribes in what is now Poland formed an alliance under thebanner of Catholicism. For almost 300 years, they enjoyed a relative peace. But then came theMongols, followed by the Teutonic Knights, the Cossacks and -- in 1648 -- a series of brutalinvasions by the Swedes.
The Poles formed alliances with Prussia, Denmark and the Habsburgs to return to independence.
Between invasions, Poland often flourished as a European power, its cities brimming with cultureand trade. Poland developed a reputation for ethnic tolerance -- which served as a magnet formany of Europe's Jews.
But independence can be fleeting. The Polish plains lay between two rising powers: Russia andPrussia. Three times in the late 1700s, Poland was conquered and partitioned. Each time, thepeople fought back, buoyed by rising waves of nationalism. But for 123 years after the ThirdPartition, Poland disappeared from the maps altogether. The Poles staged uprisings no fewer thansix times between 1806 and 1905. But the country did not reappear until after the close of WorldWar I, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
In 1920, the Bolshevik Revolution knocked on Poland's door. The army massed to stop theinvaders at the Vistula River in The Battle of Warsaw. This period of relative peace lasted until1939 and the start of World War II, when Poland was invaded by both the Germans and theSoviets. Close to seven million Poles -- three million of them Jewish -- died during that war.
Afterward, with its boundaries farther to the West but its political orientation leaning East, thecountry slipped under Soviet domination for 45 years.
Modern-day Poland shrugged off Communism after a series of labor uprisings in 1989. LechWalesa, the shipyard worker from Gdansk who led the Solidarity union, helped bring his countryto a more Western stance. But nothing comes easily in this strategic part of Central Europe. After13 years of democracy and with a population of 39 million, the Polish Republic is still workingto fully join the Western European community.and still glancing nervously at its neighbors as itstruggles against surging unemployment and a falling Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Two yearsago, Poland became a member of NATO. Now it's working toward accession to the EuropeanUnion by 2004.
Back on the train, the images of Polish life whip past the windows of our compartment. Four-and-a-half hours after we cross the border, we pull into the Warszava Centralna -- Warsaw'scentral train station -- to get a closer look.
Poland is overwhelmingly Catholic. Catholicism is the official state religion. A crucifix hangsabove one of the most visible doorways inside the Sejm's parliamentary chamber. ThroughoutWarsaw on this mid-January day, Christmas decorations still adorn the downtown, mostbusinesses and the interior of every government building. I'm told the trees might come down in afew weeks, but that many of the lights and garlands will stay up through Easter. As we leave thetrain station, we see a statue of the Virgin Mary outside a small hut bearing the banner of a radiostation. We later learn this is one of the religious stations that is also active in Polish politics.
For several hours that evening, we tour the heart of Warsaw by bus and on foot. Our breathhangs in the chilly air, dotted by the occasional snow flurry. By now, our blood has thickenedand those of us from milder climates are handling the persistent cold far better than we did a fewdays earlier. By the end of the trip, 30 degrees seem positively tropical.
We cruise past the 30-story Palace of Culture and Science. A symbol of Soviet domination, itwas constructed between 1952 and 1955 using an estimated 40 million bricks. In the post-Sovietera, there are many who would like to tear it down, brick by brick, to remove what -- for many --remains a reminder of painful times.
Elsewhere, Warsaw is dotted with graceful parks and monuments. They include the sculpture ofPolish composer Frederic Chopin, who reclines in a park under the bronze branches of asculptured willow. Live peacocks huddle beneath snow-dusted shrubs.
The centerpiece of the tour is the meticulously reconstructed Old Town.itself a reconstructionof a 17th century neighborhood that was gutted by fire. Much of Warsaw was destroyed duringWorld War II. The Old Town effort helped restore some of the soul to a city that isarchitecturally far newer than its ancient and conflict-ripped history.
I spend parts of the evening chatting with Andy Glass, a Senior Correspondent for the CoxNewspapers who was born in Warsaw. He tells me that his family stayed one step ahead of theNazis during the war, finally making it to America. This is not his first trip back to Warsaw. Butas we visit some of the many monuments to the horrors of the war, it is clear he still feels thepull of the past.
Among the most moving monuments is the Monument to the Warsaw Uprising. In 1944, asHitler's War spasmed to a close, the Red Army moved toward Warsaw with the intention of"liberating" the city. Partisans of the Home Army, loyal to the Polish government-in-exile, foughtthe Nazis in the streets and in the sewers while the Soviets waited on the far bank of the river,knowing that whichever side was victorious would be fatally weakened by the conflict. After twomonths, Warsaw lay in ruins. The Nazis were retreating toward Berlin. And Red Army tankswere streaming into a shattered city that could put up little resistance.
During our trip, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin made his own visit to Warsaw tomeet with government leaders. In an unprecedented gesture, Putin visited the Monument to theWarsaw Uprising and laid a wreath to honor those who died in the struggle. The video footageand the newspaper photos -- showing the leader of a former Soviet republic honoring those whobattled oppression -- electrified Poland.
As darkness settled on the city, we made a final stop: At the Monument to the Heroes of theGhetto. Of all of the chapters of Polish World War II history, this is the blackest. During theNazi occupation, 450,000 Polish Jews were confined behind the brick walls of the crampedghetto on the city's northern side. Three-hundred thousand were transported to death camps.
Many of the rest died in the filth- and disease-infested blocks, racked by illness and starvation.
By 1943, many of the survivors knew death was a certainty. They resolved to fight and diehonorably. The uprising lasted one month. There were no survivors.
It's snowing almost imperceptibly as we step off the bus for the slow walk to the monument.
There's no conversation. Each of us is alone with our thoughts. I imagine a winter night much likethis one in the ghetto. Bitter cold, filled with the gnawing pain of hunger and the desperate fear ofpeople who've learned the sinister meaning of the word, "liquidation." Of the anguish of motherswatching their children die. Of husbands seeing their wives starve. Of neighbors seeing entirefamilies deported to the death camps. The faces sculpted into the monument are filled with painand grief and resolve. I hear footsteps and glance to my right. Andy Glass moves slowly past, hisface and thoughts unreadable.
We ride back to the hotel a much more subdued group than when we left. History weighs heavyin Poland. But two days of appointments lie ahead. Conversation turns gradually from the pastto the future, to the topics we'll discuss and the people we'll meet.
Dinner that night is enough to put me into a food coma. My brother, who learned Polish duringhis time in the military, only half-jokingly advised me that Polish cuisine makes German foodseem like spa fare. It's hard to tell what a typical Pole on a fixed income might consume, but ourmeals have a strikingly robust consistency: An appetizing soup filled with chunks of meat andslices of sausage and boiled eggs, floating in a rich meat broth; a series of salads filled with eggs,meats and cheeses, an entree -- often breaded or served with a flavorful sauce -- and desserts thatgive a nod to the traditional American indulgences of cheesecake and apple pie. I cheerfully dubthese our "Heart Attack Dinners." But I'm grateful for the rich fare. My body's burning someextra calories during my long winter walks.
Late night on the streets of Warsaw. Men huddle shoulder-to-shoulder in small groups outsidecorner grocery stores to talk and drink beer. Mostly to drink beer. Teen boys stand a ways downthe street, in semi-darkness, doing the same. Many of these men, we learn, are unemployed.
Victims of the global recession and the costs of modernizing industries in order to remaincompetitive in global trade. There are fewer women in the streets. Just the occasional clutch ofchattering teen girls or college students, headed to a friends' house or to a club.
On this night, we are headed to a club, as well: Galleria Off, with its smoky bar in the front room,an unfinished and largely unheated performance space in the back, offers avant garde jazz onMonday and Wednesday nights.
The manager seems surprised by the arrival of all of these Americans and Germans, but gamelydigs out an English-language information sheet, sets up a few more folding chairs in the backroom, then tells us about the evening's events. The opening trio consists of a clarinetist, a bassistand a pianist. They spend a few minutes tuning and noodling with musical passages before thepiano player settles into a syncopated groove and lays down an opening rhythm. Slowly, theother two join in, adding their own undulating melodies. At a folding table to my right, two
earnest young men with a bank of video and slide projectors add a swirl of images to two of thefour walls. Take Windham Hill, add the creative equivalent of LSD-lite, and you have AvantGarde Jazz Night at Galleria Off.
It's comfortable music. The sort that makes you long for a beer to sip while you float on theinterlacing harmonies. After the first set, I head for the front room to see about getting a glass.
But the bar is crowded three-deep with college students, singles and members of our own group,eager to mix with the locals. I spend a few minutes chatting, but the cigarette smoke is thethickest I've encountered in a long time. Claritin or no, my eyes and sinuses say it's time to go:Back into the chilly outdoors for the short walk back to the hotel. I'm joined by two others fromour group, who are also a bit weary and ready to call it a night.
Just a stone's throw from the hotel entrance, an old woman picks her way down the stairs of heraging concrete apartment building and along the icy sidewalk. Her face is lined and her shouldersstooped by more years and history than I care to imagine. She seems oblivious to us as we pass.
She reaches into her canvas shopping bag to pull out a wrinkled paper sack. There's the rustle ofmovement from a space at the base of the building. Lithe shadows move hungrily at the edge ofthe darkness. In a scene I've observed in countless big cities, the woman painstakingly draws outbits of food and sets them in places along the sidewalk. Feral cats, their dark coats sprinkled withdust, bodies lean from the hard winter, begin circling the food, comfortable with the old woman,suspicious of strangers. We watch for a moment, seeing more cats appear from under parked cars.
I catch a blur of dark movement racing across the street from under another apartment building.
The woman remains blind to our presence. She knows only her cats. They are her family. Andshe is theirs. She murmurs in almost indecipherable Polish as she parcels out the bits of food. In awinter marked by bitter economic realities for many in Poland, the woman is spending her meagerzlotys on handfuls of strays. This ritual, we realize, plays out every night on this icy wintersidewalk: The universe distilled to an aging retiree and her creatures of the darkness. Oblivious tothe nearby rumble of traffic and the outbursts of shivering beer drinkers. They know only thismoment. This food. And that is all that matters.
The bond between Poland and the United States is deeper than most Americans might realize.
The U.S. is at nine billion dollars one of the three biggest direct foreign investors in the Polisheconomy along with Germany and France. But the United States has provided more than capitalover the years: It's provided inspiration.
In the late 1700s, during one of the lulls between oppressions, Polish noblemen invoking theUnited States Constitution drafted one of their own. The country's leaders were fascinated andenergized by America's struggle for democracy. And while the Polish effort was short-lived,many in Poland still feel a deep affinity for the U.S. The late Polish prime minister and musicianJan Paderewski spent 51 years buried in Arlington National Cemetery. By his request, his bodywas not returned to his homeland until democracy returned first. Even so, his heart -- inaccordance with Paderewski's wishes -- remains in a bronze monument inside a shrine inDoylestown, Pennsylvania.
Ties between the two countries remain strong, enhanced, in part, by the large number of Polishimmigrants in the U.S. Christopher Hill, the American ambassador to Poland, notes that Chicagois the second-largest Polish city. Prime Minister Leszek Miller just visited President Bush inWashington. Poland's Deputy Prime Minister, National Security Minister, Economic Ministerand others have either made or plan diplomatic trips to the U.S. Hill says Poland is one of thestrongest of the new NATO allies, making very specific offers of troops on the heels of theterrorist attacks. In a sense, says Hill, "We are very old friends, albeit new allies."
So for many in Poland, September 11th was especially devastating. Outside the U.S. Embassy inWarsaw, grieving Poles left flowers and lighted candles in a display that stretched 50 meters.
Everywhere you look, there is evidence of the economic change underway in Poland. The formeroffices of the Communist Party now house a stock exchange. Business programs in privateschools and public universities are attracting record enrollments, as students shell out theequivalent of several years' wages to learn the applied intricacies of the capitalist system andbrush up on their English-language skills. Clearly, this is a workforce with a "bootstrapmentality," eager to pull itself out of the past and become a full member of the global economy.
But membership is not without its challenges and its costs. Polish leaders want their country toqualify for European Union accession in 2004. That would fully integrate them into the 15-nationeconomic engine, enhance free trade, make Poland a player on the international economic scene.
But what's good news for some sectors of the economy is sending chills through others. Smallfamily farms form the backbone of Poland's agricultural economy. One out of every five Polesmakes their living from farming or one of its ancillary businesses -- a higher rate than the rest ofEurope. But agriculture contributes less than four-percent to the nation's GDP. Competition istough for these small farming interests, already unable to compete against the corporateproducers in Western Europe. What will become of them if Poland integrates into the EU? Manyfarmers fear they'll be forced out of their livelihoods: That their farms will eventually becontrolled by international agribusinesses or that the land will be developed to build factoriesowned and operated by European conglomerates who pay less-than-living wages.
The PSL (Peasant Party) wants more funds and subsidies for the farming sector to help stave offan unemployment rate far higher than the 17 percent and climbing in the Polish economy at large.
Poland's growth rate in the 1990s was the envy of Eastern Europe. But the economy expandedby only 1.5% last year, down from 5% at the end of last decade. And Poland will have a toughtime doing much better this year, as it battles the lingering effects of the global recession and thepost-September 11th economic hangover. Professor Danuta Huebner of the Ministry of ForeignAffairs sits on the Committee for European Integration. She admits that the strategy to bumpGDP growth to 3% in 2003, 5% in 2004, is a challenging one: requiring officials to carefullymanage fiscal and monetary policy and prevent dangerous fluctuations in interest rates.
All of this could not come at a worse time for prime Minister Leszek Miller and his DemocraticLeft Alliance (SLD) government. To qualify for EU accession in 2004, Miller and his ministersneed to cut spending again this year to control the nation's deficit. But such cuts won't go overwell among state workers already laboring under a wage freeze and deep budget cuts, or teacherswhose promised pay increases were canceled. In mid-January, Miller marked his 100th day inoffice. But in taking the tough actions needed to bring the economy in line for EU membership, heand his party face the risk of losing their political effectiveness and losing their jobs when thenext elections roll around. Already, at least one opposition party is getting a toehold in theparliament on a campaign to block Poland's joining the EU.
After centuries of foreign domination, many Poles are also suspicious of any union that wouldrequire them to cede some of their hard-earned sovereignty to outsiders. European Unionmembers have to meet a set of common criteria. These go beyond the criteria for GDP growthand limiting deficits. There are human rights protections which might bring conservative PolishCatholics into opposition with more lenient views on topics such as gay rights. There areprotections for members of minority groups in a country still woven with some persistentstrands of ethnic intolerance and anti-Semitism. But to Polish leaders, European Unionmembership is the best and perhaps the only way for Poland to become a true player on theglobal stage.
Huebner understands the challenges of the transition. How do you tell a 55-year-old farmer thathe might soon be out of work? How do you negotiate with political parties that gained much oftheir strength from creating and petrifying jobs in the agricultural sector? How do you placate theland conglomerates that fear they'll lose many of their holdings? But Huebner says only one-thirdof the farms are producing effectively for Poland. The challenge is to negotiate with the EuropeanUnion and convince committee members that what Poles want is a common agricultural policy,not agricultural reforms. And she'd like to see some funds structured to support development inrural areas, developing new and related industries.
Piotr Ogrodzinski, a former official with the Foreign Ministry, believes, "the best way to advanceour interests is to advance enlargement in our region." Like the U.S. Ambassador ChristopherHill, he sees EU membership as another powerful way to draw Poland politically westward. But,says one member of the Sejm's Foreign Affairs Committee, "The question of sovereignty is sostrong, so emotional. We just escaped from Moscow.and are pressed to be under the EU. Somepeople just want some time to be left alone."
But Miller, while not claiming divine guidance, has sought a sort of divine intervention, enlistingno less than Pope John Paul II -- Poland's pope -- to lobby for EU accession. Milleracknowledges that papal assistance is invaluable: the Polish bishops, he says, will be committedto EU integration, meaning that the Catholic Church will help carry the membership banner. Thetiming is crucial. While government surveys show two-thirds of those expecting to vote wouldfavor joining the EU, private surveys of voter attitudes show a similar number of Poles believethe government's economic policies are headed in the wrong direction for the first time since theSolidarity years of the late 1980s. A referendum on EU membership would probably go to the
electorate in 2003, meaning Miller and his ministers have little time to rest during the next twoyears.
On our second evening in Warsaw, we leave the heart of the city, cross the river and travel forclose to half-and-hour to the residence of the German ambassador. Its distance from the heart ofPolish government is a reflection of the strained historical relations between the two nations.
Frank Elbe takes it all in good stride. The commute, he says, is not such a long one. And like hispredecessors, he understands the symbolism behind the geographic separation. Things were moreinteresting prior to reunification, he says, when he and his counterpart from the former GDRwere invited to political receptions. The image of two German ambassadors gives many of uspause. Elbe hopes to someday move his residence into the heart of Warsaw. But for now, thereare bigger issues to help resolve, from cross-border trade to immigration. Like so many diplomats,he's a patient man.
Back in my hotel room, I leaf through a couple of the tourist magazines and shake my head. Somany ads for escort services. So many young women trapped in an empty dream.
Ten years ago, Southeast Asia was still the primary provider of prostitutes to the world. All ofthat changed with the fall of Communism. State-supported economies teetered and fell. Countlessworkers lost their jobs. The economic crash affected women especially and shut many youngwomen out of the labor market altogether.
Organized crime exploited opportunities in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, as well asin Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe. Pimps would often run ads in local newspapers in theUkraine, Russia and elsewhere offering young women passports and jobs as housekeepers andnannies. They'd arrive in another country to learn there was no job and that they now needed towork off their travel debt.
In other places where Perestroika brought rampant joblessness, women made the hard choice toearn money the only way they believed they could. According to reports to the United Nations,the global sex trade is estimated to be between seven to 12 billion dollars (U.S.) annually. But theinflux of Eastern European women to the U.S., Germany and other wealthy industrialized nationshas increased from a trickle to a torrent. Researchers such as Donna Hughes say the situation isnow so commonplace that the women are referred to as "Natashas."
"In Germany," Hughes notes, "prostitution is legal for citizens of the European Union, but illegalfor non-European Union citizens. Therefore, while it is legal for EU citizens to engage inprostitution and (for pimps) to run brothels, trafficked women are doubly victimized, first bybeing victims of trafficking and second for being foreign citizens. An estimated one quarter of the200,000 to 400,000 women in prostitution in Germany are from Eastern Europe." Another ofHughes' sources estimates that 80 percent of the trafficked women in Germany are from Centraland Eastern Europe.
Prostitution is nothing new. Certainly there have always been escorts services and their ilk inevery major city of the world. But throughout the U.S., growing numbers of prostitutes hail fromEastern and Central Europe. As I leaf through the pages of glossy ads hawking erotic toplessmassage, full contact, and English and German spoken, I wonder what price the Western dream?
Morning. Al Eisele settles into the bus seat next to me and squints out the window as we headthrough town. "Warsaw," he opines, "is not a beautiful city. But it is a dynamic one."
Eisele is not alone in his opinion. Several of the Americans in our group -- already working inGermany -- express an interest in relocating to or spending more time covering issues in Poland.
To their minds, this is the new frontier in Central Europe, a place that will experience profoundchange and spark plenty of regional and global stories.
Eisele, based in Washington, D.C., and editor of The Hill, has taken to browsing the bookstoresduring lunch break for souvenirs to carry back home. Yesterday, he found a picture book on NewYork City, assembled by Polish photographer Jerzy Habdas. What makes it compelling is notjust the 119 pages of photos, but the fact that Habdas was apparently finishing up his summerproject when the planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. For Habdas,the result is a book which is primarily filled with images taken by a man clearly in love withAmerica's biggest city.capped off with 18 pages of tragedy, from the smoking ruins of GroundZero.to the spontaneous displays on fences and in park spaces that became instant memorialsto the victims, covered with flowers, cards, hand-scrawled posters and American flags. I see oneof the volumes that evening in a bookstore near the Polish Parliament Building and purchase it formyself.
Before the fall of Communism and the break-up of the Soviet Union, Poland bordered only threecountries: East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Russia. Now, it shares boundaries with seven:Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and the Russian enclave ofKaliningrad.
Kaliningrad: Separated from the rest of Russia by the Baltic Republics. Headquarters of theRussian Baltic Fleet. Home to large numbers of active and retired and military personnel.not tomention their tanks and weapons -- including, perhaps, some with nuclear capabilities. It isKaliningrad that makes Polish leaders -- and many in the European Community -- nervous whenthey talk about securing their borders, expanding NATO and creating a peaceable Europe. Inmany ways, the question of Kaliningrad is a question of confidence between Russia and theEuropean Union -- and NATO member Poland, which is striving to join the EU.
All of this is on the mind of Prime Minister Leszek Miller when we meet with him during ourfinal briefing in Warsaw. I ask him about his earlier meeting with Vladimir Putin. How would hecharacterize their discussion on Kaliningrad? Did they make significant progress? And might hecontrast his hopes for Kaliningrad with those of the Russian president?
Miller says Kaliningrad is the subject of monthly meetings between lower-level Polish andRussian officials. But there are plans for a higher-level summit in March that he hopes willinvolve representatives from other neighboring countries. Miller says his administration islooking at ways, "to be an active partner in terms of capital investments, expenditures, bordersecurity and large investment projects that Russia wants to implement." It is, Miller says, theseeconomic efforts that were the predominant topic of this week's Kaliningrad talks with PresidentPutin.
The best outcome, says Jerzy Jaskernia, the chairman of the parliament's Foreign AffairsCommittee, would be to take the economic experiment even further: Remaking Kaliningrad into aFree Economic Zone, a sort of Hong Kong of the West. Poland and other countries, he says,"would like to establish something functional that's a part of Russia."
Poland joined NATO in 1999, part of the first group of countries admitted after the fall ofCommunism. Now, there's a move to expand the organization, adding some of the BalticRepublics. Miller supports the inclusion of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the same way that hesupports stronger ties to Kaliningrad: "We're not going to turn away from our Easternneighbors.we don't want to see a new Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe."
But not everyone feels as supportive about the potential growth of NATO. The prospect ofexpansion into former Soviet territories disturbs Russian leaders in the same way it did when theallied intervention occurred in Kosovo. But in the case of the Baltics, NATO's influence wouldnestle up against Russia's borders.
Even among Polish analysts, there are misgivings. After years spent under Soviet influence, manylike the idea of having a geopolitical buffer between their country and Russia. But they remainconcerned about rising ethnic tensions in those new republics and about the large populations ofethnic Russians, as well as sizable groups of retired Soviet military personnel and their familieswho live in the region. What happens if one of the Baltics heaves with civil unrest? What ifRussia gets involved? What if that republic then invokes Article Five of the NATO charter? Athreat against one is a threat against all. Poles, muses one strategist, are willing to die for Warsaw.
But are they willing to fight for Talinn or Riga?
Professor Roman Kuzniar, the Director of the Department of Strategic Planning for the Ministryof Foreign Affairs, thinks along the same lines when asked in one of our briefings whether evenRussia might ultimately join an ever-expanding NATO. He asks rather rhetorically of alliancemembers, "Well, do they want to die for Siberia?"
That discussion is perhaps years in the future. More immediate is the future of Polish-Russianrelations in the redefined world order. Piotr Ogrodzinski, drawing from his years in the ForeignMinistry, observes that, "Russia had to accept that we are now part of the Western World.andthat in order to build a good Western policy, you have to have good relations with Poland."
Security's a little tighter returning to Germany and the European Union than it was leaving it. Ourtickets and passports are carefully inspected. Officers peer under the train seats to look forstowaways. It will be interesting to see what happens in a few years, if Poland joins the EU andthe two countries relax their borders. Will Germany lose key portions of its industry to the East?And will Poland lose many of its most motivated workers to the West?
My final night in Berlin, I once again meet my friend Petra for dinner. We're headed to what'sknown as the East Harbor area, a port neighborhood along the River Spree that once lay in theshadow of the Berlin Wall. Now, new apartments spring up on what was once No Man's Land.
Artists and others congregate at FreiSchwimmer, the restaurant on a houseboat that's known forits rustic furnishings and flavorful meals.
We talk about my trip to Poland. About the five (five!) flights I have scheduled the next day -- totake me home and then to a television programming conference in Las Vegas. And about my plansto return to Berlin and Warsaw with my husband, a newspaper editor, in tow. I want him to seehow much things have changed in just a few years.
The next day, as I remove my shoes for scanning under the watchful eyes of armed soldiers atFrankfurt's airport, my eyes look ahead to the day's travels. But my mind is on the past sevendays and the changes that are remaking an entire region.
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