Palace Of Tears — the song

(This post will be repeated in German)

Click here to see the video on YouTube

The Palace Of Tears, ‘Tränenpalast’, was the nickname Berliners gave to one of the crossing points in the Berlin wall. It was the metro station in Friedrichstrasse. Berliners from the west were allowed through on a day pass to visit their relatives in the east, on the way back it was a place of goodbyes, hence the beautifully ironic name. I passed through it myself on some occasions. The border point was actually underground and there was a marked contrast between the west and east German platforms. The eastern ones were quiet, no advertizing, just some arty murals. The platform in the west part was crowded, dirty, full of advertizing, and with kiosks selling cigarets and pornography.

I made several visits to the old East Germany, the DDR, just before and after the wall came down. I was playing with Oysterband and we came over for festivals and a tour as guests of the FDJ, the Freie Deutsche Jugend, or Free German Youth. It was a huge organization and they seemed to put on all the gigs. You had to be a member to come to them so they had a lot of members, about 2.3 million. They treated us very well, put us up in good hotels and gave us lots of money. However the money was all in Ostmarks, East German marks. There were just three things wrong with that currency, you couldn’t change it, you couldn’t take it out of the country and there wasn’t much to buy. On the first visit I bought some strange presents, gloves, a suitcase, vinyl albums of Bulgarian choir music, playing cards and two large toy train sets. Yes, I was a popular uncle that Christmas.

On the next visit I decided to try and save the money, so with great difficulty, and some help from a friend in the FDJ, I opened a bank account in East Berlin. In July 1989, I had a holiday there, I booked myself into the second best hotel in town, the Hotel Stadt Berlin in Alexanderplatz, only to be told that they only accepted foreign currency and would not take Ostmarks! The FDJ came to the rescue and I was still left with pocketfuls of these small bank notes which had the size and texture of Monopoly money. Never mind, the money was eventually stolen, but that’s another story.

The wall was to fall down in just 3 months and although there was a hint that some change was underway, no one dared to hope for such a complete lifting of all travel restrictions, the fall of Eric Honecker and the reunification of Germany, let alone the fact that the Soviet Union was about to disappear in a puff of smoke.

I remember talking to some girls after a show, -Where are you playing next? -Er, Spain I think. I saw their faces fall and realized that they probably thought they would never see the Mediterranean in their lives, only the Baltic, and maybe, if they were very lucky, the Black Sea.

I had a lot of memories from those days, bothe good and bad. This song is for my old East German friends, and all who said goodbye at The Palace Of Tears. Sorry it took so long to write it. I will be touring the former East Germany in October 2014.

Palace of Tears

The steel gate shuts behind me
Like the bolt of a Russian gun
Part of the wall around us
That keeps us on the run
Well it cuts right through this city
It cuts right through my heart
It cuts right through this country
And keeps our worlds apart

Past the grey stone walls
Shattered by the marks of war
The tide mark of a century
So many died for
And the statues were silent
On that cold rainy day
Waiting for the cranes
To take them all away

I remember your flat in it’s faded grandeur
You said that it suited you
Well it suited me too
I look back on those days with love and anger
That we never dared dream
We’d see the wall crashing down
And the world rushing in

We lay on the floor
With the double doors open
We didn’t talk about time
Our love was unspoken
We knew that I would leave again tomorrow
You could never follow
We watched the rain coming down

You walked me back to the checkpoint
Back to the clamour
And the lights of the western world
And there by the sickle and the hammer
We said goodbye my dear
Like so many others here
At the Palace of Tears

Auf Wiedersehn mine hertz
We said goodbye at the Palace of Tears

Now the checkpoints are demolished
The city has survived
The losers and the winners
Just get on with their lives
If I talked about the good things
From the bad old days
You’d say it’s nostalgia
And I don’t understand the time that’s gone to waste

You walked me back to the checkpoint
Back to the clamour
And the lights of the western world
And there by the sickle and the hammer
I said goodbye my dear
Like so many others here
At the Palace of Tears