04:40 GMT +310 December 2018
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    Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev visits the former Berlin Wall border crossing point Checkpoint Charlie, in Berlin November 7, 2014.

    Celebrations mark 25th anniversary of fall of Berlin Wall

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    Festivities marking the 25th anniversary of one of the hallmark events in recent history, the fall of the Berlin Wall, have begun in the capital and across Germany.

    "I think you never forget how you felt that day — at least I will never forget it," German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 60, stated in a recent podcast. "I had to wait 35 years for that feeling of liberty. It changed my life," she added.

    As part of the celebrations, titled 'Courage for Freedom', Chancellor Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, will unveil a new exhibition at the Berlin Wall memorial.

    On Friday, singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann, who was expelled from East Germany in 1976, performed his famous protest song 'Encouragement' in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament.

    One of the main highlights of the weekend will be the symbolic border of lights, Lichtgrenze. Eight thousand white balloons will illuminate the 15-kilometer (9-mile) path where the Berlin Wall once stood. Each of them has a patron, who shared his or her personal account of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    On Sunday, the balloons will be released into the night sky to the sound of Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' conducted by Daniel Barenboim and performed by the Staatskapelle Berlin.

    Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, will attend the three-day celebration. He is expected to meet with Merkel and German President Joachim Gauck, as well as greet crowds at the iconic Checkpoint Charlie border crossing.

    Germans hold Gorbachev in high esteem for not interfering with the peaceful reunification movement. On Saturday, Gorbachev and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Germany's former foreign minister, will host a debate on the legacy of those historic events.

    Festivities will conclude with a major festival featuring rock stars, including singers Udo Lindenberg and Peter Gabriel, and veteran human rights activists. The event will occur near the landmark Brandenburg Gate on November 9, exactly 25 years after East Germans were finally allowed to visit West Berlin.

    At least two million people are expected to attend the festival, according to AFP. Gorbachev, former Polish president Lech Walesa and Miklos Nemeth, former Hungarian prime minister, will be among those attending.

    The celebrations will be overshadowed by a large-scale passenger train strike, launched on Thursday and expected to last until Monday.

    The Berlin Wall, built in August 1961, fell on November 9, 1989.

    "That magical moment is a reminder to all people everywhere in the world — those alive then, today and well into the future. Tyranny cannot suppress the will of those yearning for freedom and desiring a better life for themselves and for their children," said James A. Baker III, former US state secretary, who was in office when the Berlin Wall fell.

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