Childhood home in West Germany (1986)

I lived on the second floor of this building in Bell, West Germany as a kid in 1986/1987. It’s sort of an odd feeling, thinking that I lived in a country that no longer exists. This was during the Cold War and on the front lines of nuclear annihilation, but I was too young to know about that.

If you’re not familiar with what I mean, Germany was divided into East and West Germany after World War II. East Germany was controlled by the USSR and West Germany was controlled by the Allies, and later basically just the US. The US still has military bases in Germany today, actually, which is pretty unpopular with the Germans. When I lived there as a child, the Air Force base we lived on had to be fenced in because of large and violent protests by Germans.

Sky News coverage of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

In 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the United Soviet Socialist Republic, East and West Germany were reunited into one country again. Shortly after that, my family moved back to the United States, so I don’t really have any memories of living in Germany after reunification, but I do have a lot of wonderful childhood memories of living in Bell, which was (and is) a small town west of Frankfurt near the French border.

I remember playing with the sheep in a nearby pasture, climbing cherry trees, eating crab apples straight from trees, breaking and smelling fresh scallions in the field behind our home, building snow forts, and rhubarb growing in a garden across the street. I remember finding my first pet, a stray cat, in an alley down the street from our building. I remember a truck that came around regularly with fresh meats, fresh breads, candies, and desserts.

I remember playing with German children and starting to learn to speak German before we moved onto a US Air Force base and I, sadly, forgot it all. Now all I know how to say is, “Guten morgen” and “eine bier bitte”, but one of those I learned as an adult, because German beer is amazing! I’ve started using Drops to learn (and relearn) some German.

Germany was a really amazing place to spend a good chunk of my childhood. Living in a place where I could walk on dirt paths through the woods and daydream, where we went on field trips to thousand-year-old castles, where we could go hiking in the hills where knights and pilgrims traveled, had a big impact on my interests and outlook that persisted long after we moved away.

I’ve been back to Germany once since I was a kid, and it was just on a layover at the now closed down Air Force base that we moved to from Bell. Sometimes I think about going back to enjoy the country, but I wonder if it would be worth destroying my childhood memories with reality.