Germans have been marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, with hundreds of thousands of revelers flooding the German capital. The celebration culminated with the release of thousands of lighted balloons.
Celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall came to a climax on Sunday evening, as the reunified city remembered the events of November 9, 1989.
The highlight of the open-air day of celebration came as some 7,000 illuminated white balloons were released in slow succession to evoke memories of the day on which one of the world's most fiercely guarded borders disappeared from the map.
Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit sent the balloons on their way with the words "for peace and freedom."
"We're the happiest people in the world and we're thrilled that you brought the Berlin Wall down 25 years ago," Wowereit told the thousands assembled. "Nothing and no one can stand in the way of freedom."
The light installation, running along a 15-kilometer (nine-mile) stretch along the route of the wall, slowly disappeared as each of the glowing white orbs was released.
As the balloons sailed skyward, the Berlin State Orchestra - led by conductor Daniel Barenboim - played Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," the anthem of the European Union.
Alongside Wowereit on the stage were Chancellor Angela Merkel and German President Joachim Gauck. They were joined by figures credited with a major role in bringing down the wall and bringing about a reunited Germany, including Polish Solidarity movement leader Lech Walesa and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The significance of the day was even remarked upon from space, with the International Space Station's German astronaut Alexander Gerst posting a photo of the city taken in orbit, remarking "Hello Berlin - from up here you can see no borders."
Earlier in the day, at a memorial on Berlin's Bernauer Strasse, Chancellor Merkel joined other dignitaries to honor the sacrifice of those who struggled for freedom against Soviet Communism in Germany and beyond.
"It took a long time and many people's suffering to make it possible for the Wall to fall, not just in Germany but also in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and many other countries," Merkel said. "That's something we should remember on a day like today."
Bernauer Strasse was the site of harrowing escape attempts when the Wall was first erected in 1961, including people jumping from apartment windows in attempts to reach the other side.
"The fall of the Wall has shown us that dreams can come true," Merkel said. "Nothing has to stay the way it is, however big the hurdles are."
Merkel also used the occasion to note that November 9 is the date of "Kristallnacht" or the "Night of the Broken Glass," when in 1938, Nazis launched a pogrom against Germany's Jewish community.
rc/tj (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)