A Great Divide

Best Places to see the Berlin Wall

Of all the walls people have built, the Berlin Wall is perhaps the most famous notorious. A potent symbol of the ‘Iron Curtain’ that separated the Eastern Bloc from Western Europe during the Cold War; after nearly three decades the Wall came down almost as unexpectedly as it went up.

Berlin Wall

A Great Divide

To think of the 136 lives lost at the Wall, the families torn apart, the persecution, the propaganda; it is surprising that there is very little that psychically remains of the Wall today. Though what endures in the hearts and minds of the German people is perhaps another matter.

On a recent trip to the Berlin, I went in search of the best preserved stretches of the wall, which is no longer a symbol of a people’s terror and a government’s oppression; but rather, a symbol of the people’s triumph over tyranny.

1. Typography of Terror

Nowadays a museum, the building was once the headquarters of Gestapo during the Nazi regime. The Berlin Wall was built to run along the street from 1961 to 1989. Visitors to the Typography of Terror are able to see, amongst other exhibitions, excavated prison cells where many political prisoners were tortured and executed. As the strip of the Wall that ran along this street was never demolished, there are some of the largest remaining sections of the Berlin Wall still visible here.

Niederkirchnerstraße 8
10963 Berlin

berlin wall typography of terror2. Berlin Wall Memorial and Documentation Centre

Along with videos in English and German detailing the construction and subsequent fall of the Wall, there is also a viewing platform where visitors are able to get a unique perspective of the Berlin wall – from above. Here, a 70m segment of wall has been rebuilt in its original position to give some idea of the magnitude of the barrier methods that were once in force.  The double walls (east and west) are clearly visible with the imposing concrete piping topping the front wall. Between the fortifications lie the aptly named ‘death strip’; a clearing where trigger happy guards with shoot-to-kill orders could easily take aim at those attempting to cross the border. The space between the two walls was known to have been booby-trapped with trip wires that alerted silent alarms, beds of nails, vicious guard dogs and land mines.

Bernauer Straße 119
13355 Berlin

Berlin Wall Memorial

‘Death Strip’ as seen from above

3. East Side Gallery

Perhaps the most well-known remaining segment of the Berlin Wall is the 1.3km section that comprises the East Side Gallery. An inadvertent memorial to freedom, the gallery is one of the largest collections of open air art in the world. Artists from all over the world contributed to the 105 paintings, and many form part of an ongoing demand for the City to protect the section from vandalism and destruction, as well as calling for recognition of the gallery as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Today the East Side Gallery stands as a documentation of Germany’s turbulent history, but with a message of hope and peace. It is also a way to remember the 136 souls that lost their life while attempting to cross the Berlin Wall.

Mühlenstrasse 45-80, Berlin

 

Berlin Wall

Each rose for one dead of the 136

East Side Gallery Berlin Wall

Some of the paintings along the East Side Gallery

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