THE woman looked down and brushed self-consciously at tears she could not stop. She didn't see that her husband and many of the other East Germans walking ahead and in back of her were doing the same thing. The couple had just stepped across Sandkrug Bridge into West Berlin and a crowd of hundreds was cheering them on as they continued to walk west. They laughed because it was so easy and then they waved to the West Berliners who had come to welcome them.
``I just want to see it,'' said the young grandmother, getting at best only a blurry view of West Berlin. A grown daughter guided the weeping woman by the elbow while pushing her own daughter ahead in a stroller.
``We want to take a ride in a taxi!'' said the daughter.
``We waited 28 years for a ride in a taxi,'' said the grandmother. By now she was laughing. ``First, I just want to look,'' said a young man when asked what he wanted to do first. He and his girlfriend had crossed through the checkpoint several minutes before, but were still hugging each other.
``I want to see the Brandenberg Gate,'' he finally decided.
``What for? We've seen that plenty of times,'' said his girlfriend.
``Not from this side,'' he answered.
The celebration of East Germany's newly opened border began Thursday night at the Brandenberg Gate. Symbolically it was the perfect place for East and West Berliners to meet. The gate is the symbol of a city and the Wall, the symbol of the cold war and a divided Europe.
For practical considerations, too, it was the best place to celebrate. With the exception of the semicircle around the Brandenberg Gate, most of the Berlin Wall has a rounded concrete top. It's difficult to stand on. But at the Brandenberg Gate the wall is wide and flat.
From Thursday night until Saturday morning, thousands of people climbed onto the Wall. The carnival of singing, chanting, and smashing at concrete with hammers was the perfect media event. Even after East German border troops drove the crowds from the top of the Wall early Saturday morning, huge numbers of people flocked to the gate.
Oblivious to the stares of the 200 border troops standing above them, people hammered away at the wall throughout the day. They pulled out small chunks with their hands, or used rocks and metal bars to loosen larger chunks. Especially prized were chunks with paint on them.
South of the Brandenberg Gate at Potsdamer Platz, a new checkpoint was being made. The East Germans planned the opening for early Sunday morning, but that didn't stop a large crowd from gathering at the spot Saturday afternoon.
One young man straddled the round-topped Wall like a horse. He waved to the crowd and laughed as police from both sides of Berlin used bullhorns to ask him to get down. Finally he raised his right hand, shouted ``Freiheit'' (freedom), and climbed back down.
Rattling, smoky Trabants rolled slowly through the border crossing, impeded less by red tape than by a cheering mass of West Berliners and off-duty US servicemen.
Last weekend Berlin welcomed over a million guests to an East-West freedom party.