Visiting Family Behind the Iron Curtain – Journeys to Görlitz, East Germany with Bill Blosen

I have always wondered what small town life was like outside of Berlin in the GDR. In this episode of Radio GDR, Bill Blosen and I sit down to talk about his experiences traveling to Görlitz, a small medieval town on the East German-Polish border.  He went there to visit family as a young man in the 1980s before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Bill and I both work in technology and recently got to talking about our respective language skills. When Bill said he spoke German, I mentioned my recent travels to Germany and interest in the GDR and was pleasantly surprised to discover his personal journey behind the Iron Curtain. He tells us about his grandparents’ concern over approaching Soviet soldiers during World War II, their experience with shared housing after the founding of the GDR, his travels through checkpoints at the Inner German border and on the cobblestone Reichsautobahn to Görlitz and the lessons those trips taught him about gratefulness and freedom. From East German speed radars to tips on getting blue jeans past pesky border guards, Bill’s story will fascinate you.

Bill mentioned his sadness at finding general dilapidation with buildings in the GDR and how reunification brought restoration to Görlitz after 1990. Below is a personal picture across from his family’s former house showing a decaying building.

The first floors of these buildings contain boarded up shops, since the independent small shops went away in deference to the state run businesses.

Here are a few great links that show the dilapidation Bill describes in several towns in the GDR and the beautiful town that Görlitz is today.

Before and after the fall of the Wall: A journey through the East

19th century dilapidated buildings in Görlitz

17 photos that will make you want to visit Görlitz, Germany

Experience Görlitz Picture Gallery

Here is a picture of a May Day Parade in Görlitz in the mid-1980’s. Bill mentioned that the May Day parades were basically forced – the majority of people lived with the situation and got through it, but were not strong participants.

Thank you for a wonderful interview, Bill – we look forward to welcoming you to Radio GDR again soon!

Today’s episode was made possible with the financial support of Radio GDR listeners. Find out how to support the East Germany Podcast here.

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