Saturday is the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was not there then, but I have two chunks from the wall on the whatnot in my dining room. Both are gifts from an-11-year-old girl who gleefully dug them out soon after that momentous day.

During the 28 years that the wall divided Germany into a Communist East and democratic West, I was sometimes under surveillance for my contacts with dissidents in the East. At other times, I was a guest of the East German government and was provided with a guide and a driver eager to show off the best of East Germany to me.

The more than 27-mile long wall dividing Berlin went up in August 1961. On a cold and snowy December day that year, I first passed through Checkpoint Charlie, the crossover point for Westerners seeking to see a bit of East Berlin. I remember going into a modern art museum and seeing virtually nothing on the walls. At the entrance desk, I asked where all the art was. “You must remember,” the young woman at the desk whispered, “that — like Jerusalem, we are now a divided city.”

I left the museum and walked on. As I neared the big Friedrichstrasse railroad station, I saw a message flashing in lights above it. I could make out “Kennedy” and “Khrushchov,” but could read nothing else. But the names made me nervous. What might be happening in the world outside that I knew nothing about? I was cold and wet from the snow, so I went inside the station. In the buffet inside I joined, in German fashion, an elderly couple sitting at a table drinking coffee and reading travel brochures of the Soviet Union. Though I knew no German and they no English, we nodded and smiled. Then an East German policeman — a Vopo — approached the table. He leered at me (58 years ago, I was in my 30s). Then he said something to the elderly couple and went off, I assumed to the men’s room. Despite the language barrier, the old man somehow let me know that the Vopo had said he would drive me back to Checkpoint Charlie. He said that was not a good idea. Then he grabbed me by the hand and led me upstairs to the S-Bahn — the overhead train that went back to the West. He thrust an East German mark into my hand and pushed me toward the turnstile. Since I had my American passport, I was able to go through and back to West Berlin. As we crossed over the wall, I could see soldiers there and police dogs barking below.

The next morning, when I was at breakfast in my pension, there was a call for me from the American consulate. Officials there wanted to know if I was back in the West because I had not come back through Checkpoint Charlie. It was reassuring to know that my country cared.

But that afternoon — despite having been frightened — I wanted to go back. As I walked through Checkpoint Charlie, the American soldier letting me through warned that I must be sure to return through the checkpoint.

In the years that followed, I went as a travel writer throughout East Germany. For the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther in 1983, I visited Eisleben, where he was born, and Erfurt where he studied and Wittenberg where he posted the 90 theses that were the basis of Protestantism on a church door. In Eisenach, where he was imprisoned for his own protection, and where he translated the Bible into German, I met a staunchly anti-Communist East German woman who would become a fast friend. She lived in a small town in Thuruingia, just at the border with the West. Although the physical wall did not extend that far, there was a watchtower with armed guards in the middle of the bridge.

Karla would find me wherever I was traveling in East Germany and go with me — even when I was a guest of the government. I sent her a postcard once, saying simply (since I knew little German and she little English): “The cats are fine. The weather is good.” The postcard was intercepted, thought to be a message in code, and resulted in my getting a file with the Stasi, the East German secret police.

When the wall came down three decades ago and I got my file, I learned that the Stasi, interrogating my friend’s son in law, an East German soldier, asked how his mother in law could know not only an American, but an American who came from Martha’s Vineyard? The official said important people in the American government such as Nicholas Katzenbach (attorney general) and Robert McNamara (secretary of defense) had homes there.

I made other friends in the East over the years. In Dresden, the guide to the Catholic cathedral became a close friend with whom I marched for freedom in a candlelight parade just before the wall came down. In Berlin, I met the parents of the girl who gave me the pieces of the wall. They were an East German AIDS specialist and an actress with East Berlin’s leading theatre company.

A few months ago when I was visiting her in Berlin, the actress and I walked one evening to where the wall once stood. There are pictures of those who were shot seeking to escape from the East to the West. Some came hidden in car trunks and underneath cars. Some tried coming through tunnels they dug beneath the wall. One family made it in a hot air balloon they had constructed. Others simply sought to climb over the wall and were killed as they climbed. At least 136 are known to have died trying to cross.

So this 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is especially meaningful for me.