WHEN the crowd's cheers had swelled to such a point that he knew it must be 12 midnight, Herald Pfeiffer had only one thing to say to his friends and family gathered at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate: ``Well, we aren't Easties anymore. Now, we're Westies!'' Or, maybe, Westies-in-training. Minutes before, the little enclave had been practicing their new national anthem, supposed to be sung all over Germany at the stroke of midnight, the moment of reunification.
Neither Pfeiffer & Co., nor others in this mostly East German crowd, managed to sing very well on the morning of Oct. 3. But that didn't dampen their spirits or prevent them from oohing, aahing, and whooping over the fireworks overhead.
``This is an overwhelming event,'' said Otto Reinhard, an East Berliner who, until this year, had known nothing but life under dictatorship - first, in the Adolf Hitler years, then under successive Communist regimes of the German Democratic Republic. ``This date could possibly be the most important in 50 years,'' he says.
Germans from around the country, and tourists from all over the world, flocked to Berlin for the festivities. They strolled the city's main avenues under a nearly full moon, sporting black-, red-, and gold-striped hats, some wearing the German flag as a cape.
On Unter den Linden, loudspeakers broadcast live the beloved Beethoven Symphony No. 9 being performed in the East Berlin ``Schauspielhaus'' under the direction of Kurt Masur, the Leipzig conductor newly appointed as director of the New York Philharmonic.
At midnight, however, it seemed as if all of Germany was packed into the area surrounding the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, the former German Parliament where the moment of reunification was marked by a flag-raising ceremony, the peeling of a liberty bell, and an outdoor concert.
Although the celebration here was certainly joyous, the euphoria of last Nov. 9, when the Berlin Wall was breached, was not to be repeated. There were few tears and none of the emotional hugging and backslapping among perfect strangers that was everywhere to be seen last year.
In fact, officials in Berlin called in border guards and police reinforcements from around the country because of expected rioting from leftist groups opposed to reunification.
Although demonstrations against unity occurred in several German cities, there were few disturbances the night before reunification.
About 50 people, however, were arrested after rampaging through Kreuzburg, the Berlin neighborhood that is home to the leftists and where the social problems of this city are concentrated.
The celebrations here are mostly a series of official events: the transfer of allied control of the city back to the Berlin government and speeches by outgoing East German politicians and prominent West German ones.
On Oct. 4, Chancellor Helmut Kohl will address the first sitting of an all-German Parliament in the Reichstag since it was burned in 1933. (The Parliament has taken on 144 members of the former East German parliament until elections on Dec. 2.)
In a televised speech on Oct. 2, Mr. Kohl thanked the courageous Germans who started the revolution last year.
But he also thanked the non-Germans: the Hungarians, who cut the first hole in the Iron Curtain; Germany's Western allies; and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
A united Germany's place, he says, is in a united Europe, but the Germans themselves have to work hard to overcome internal division.
This will take some time, however, especially in former border areas where the West German welcome mat is wearing thin.
``Of course, after a year of stores so full you can't move and shelves stripped empty, it begins to get on people's nerves,'' says a spokesman for L"ubeck, a coastal city next to the old border.
L"ubeck is having to investigate new road and transport options to relieve congestion brought on by visiting East Germans.
Pawel Podsadny, a taxi driver in Berlin, puts it more strongly: ``I wish they would put the Wall back up and build it even higher.... The East Berliners come over to our discount stores and buy everything out. They come over here to work and still collect unemployment at home.''
Because the East Berliners will work for less pay, Mr. Podsadny says, they are driving wages down and causing unemployment in the western part of the city. ``Basically, I'm not against unification, but they should have done it more slowly.''
Several demonstrators on the night before reunification shared this view.
Anne, a student wearing a face mask shaped like a sheep (``Sheep are dumb, the Germans have been dumb''), believes that there should have been a national referendum in both Germanys on the reunification question. And, she says, there should be a national referendum on a new constitution - an idea under intense debate right now.
But politicians in Bonn insist reunification couldn't have gone any slower, at least not with open borders. Many Germans living in the eastern part of the country strongly agree.
``I'm glad it's finally come at last. Without this, we would just keep spinning around in circles with the same old bureaucratic faces and problems,'' says Manfred Lutz, who runs a bicycle store in the former East German village of Schildow.
``We know it's going to be difficult for a while, but you have to remember how truly horrible it was to be here a year ago.''