Thirty years ago, most observers were convinced that socialism was finished. I certainly was. The fall of the Berlin Wall – an event we conventionally date to 9 November 1989, when the East German authorities announced that people would be allowed to cross into West Berlin without risking the guns, the dogs and the mines – happened to coincide with my gap year.
When I saw what was happening on the news, I changed my plans and set off to spend some time in what, in those days, we still called “Eastern Europe”.
To cross into the GDR that winter was to enter a world of pinched, grimy wretchedness. The local equivalents of Burger King and McDonalds were vans selling greasy sausages between slices...
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