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  November - December 2009


Tribute to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand,
the world’s longest reigning monarch. Blessed are all Thais to have a King of sincerity, compassion and plain common sense. For all those who respect His Majesty for his integrity, it was an immense relief and joy to learn that the great monarch is convalescing from his recent illness. In this humble tribute, commemorating His Majesty’s 82nd Birthday, AseanAffairs presents a snapshot of His Majesty’s life and works.

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Arriving in Berlin on the morning of 6th October 2009, I was quite surprised at the size of the city’s main airport, Berlin TEGEL, after transiting through Frankfurt airport which is one of the busiest in the world. The simple and small TEGEL airport gives one a sense of arriving at a resort town. But this is Berlin, the capital of Europe’s biggest economy.

Germany was about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was struck by a result of a public opinion survey released ahead on the 9th November celebrations. One-seventh of the respondents taking the survey selected YES for the quiz that goes like this: “Would you like the wall to go up again?” Puzzling it was but I was soon going to find out why.

I was in Berlin just one day before the opening of the 7th Asia Pacific Weeks (APW), Berlin 2009 on 7th October, where I was invited to moderate the first High Level panel discussion.

Waiting in line for a taxi to the hotel, my host from InWent, the event organisers, gave me a tip, knowing that it was my first visit to Berlin: “Berliners are not known for their politeness”.  

With that first preparatory tip and others that followed, the stage was set for me to explore the great city, learn first hand how Germans were coming to terms with the end of the wall and what engagement with Asia means to Germany.

The crispness in the October air added to the charm of exploring the city on foot which one can easily do given the wide boulevards and avenues and parks. Berlin is a beautiful city with historic buildings and monuments at every corner.

On the morning of 10th October, just after the event was concluded, APW took all of us the participant to the construction site of the Berlin Brandenburg International airport (BBI). BBI, in a sharp contrast to TEGEL, is designed to be a grand spectacle with a capacity to handle 40 million passengers as opposed to TEGEL’s 15 million.

“Germany’s flag carrier Lufthansa has made Frankfurt the hub of its worldwide operations. So what are the chances of BBI fully utilising the huge capacity that is being built?”

My curiosity apparently caught the PR executive unprepared. She still tried to gave an answer, which was unconvincing though. She said the other airlines including the low-fare Air Berlin will be there to keep the new airport humming. I didn’t follow up as asked whether that would compensate for the absence of Lufthansa.

Well, I found the trip to the new airport more interesting than the site visit. The tour guide kept us entertained with his non-stop commentary as the bus drove us through the city sights as it took us from the Town Hall to BBI. Here and there on the streets were pieces of the Berlin Wall still standing, every inch of it filled with some art form or the other – which, along with the Brandenburg Gate, are a must-see for visitors.

Passing through the sections of what was formerly East Germany (eastern Berlin), our guide repainted the tragic past. The wall that ran for 150 km, topped with barbed wire and guarded by watch towers every few hundred feet, with mine fields, machine gun towers and fierce police dogs, was a witness to hundreds who lost their lives trying to escape to a better life in the west.     .... Read the Complete Article Subscribe to ASEANAFFAIRS Magazine

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