The Berlin Wall: History in the Hipster City
Travel blogger, Backpacker Becki, tells us the best places to see the preserved sections of the Berlin Wall and shares what the wall means to the city.
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Berlin is not only Europe’s capital of cool, oozing hipster on every corner of its gritty streets, but it’s a city with a complex history - a history that is never forgotten and the effects of which are still visible today.
Everyone knows about the Berlin Wall, but not everyone knows its meaning. For 28 years a concrete wall divided Germany’s powerhouse of Berlin and as a result divided the entire country, closing off a modern West Berlin from the Soviet run East Berlin and East Germany. But today’s unified city of Berlin, while spitting out trend setters, quirky hangouts and hardcore nightlife, wants us to remember. And learn from it.
The pockets of wall still standing in around the city are memorials; they are a history lesson, serving as a reminder of how such an imposing structure destroyed freedom and divided a nation. Throughout the city you will find streets paved with two rows of cobblestones and gold plaques marking where the wall once stood. A city of contrasts, at times it’s hard to define what was once East and West Berlin in the glory of modernisation, while on the other hand you will stumble upon grandeur structures of former West and the grimy-turned-hip areas of former East such as Kreuzberg and Friedrichstein.
Yet to understand the consequences of the Berlin Wall is to understand the city’s contrasting identities and to understand the local people and the ideologies they have grown up with.
When you wander the streets of Berlin, the past is never forgotten.
So where are the remaining, preserved sections of the Berlin Wall?
The Wall by Checkpoint Charlie
This will be one of the first parts of the wall you come across since it is a short walk from Checkpoint Charlie. Nearly all of this section of wall is untouchable and gated off, since it was chipped away at for souvenirs. However, the small museum-like feel here gives a good introduction to the history from pre-War and what resulted in the Wall’s construction.
The East Side Gallery
A short walk from the S-Bahn Ostbahnhof metro station stands a 1km long beautiful stretch of wall covered in artistic murals painted by an array of international artists. The murals, which have been here since 1990 (one year after the East and West Berlin borders began to open) convey a variety of political and ideological messages and sentiments of peace, some of which are very humbling, others of which are just simply fantastic street art.
The Berlin Wall Memorial in Bernauer Strasse
The area of Bernauer Strasse is rich in history, not only because it’s the site where the first elements of unification took place on November 10, 1989 and where some of the first parts of the wall were pulled down, but because this is where some of the most well-known escape tunnels were constructed.
It’s here that you can really get to grips with how imposing the wall was and how big the ‘no-man’s land’ area was. On one side you have the remainder of one concrete wall, which incorporates sides of housing and apartment buildings, and on the other stands long brown metal bars, marking where the other Wall once stood and symobolising the prison feel it created. Concrete slab markings in the grass highlight mark the location and direction of the escape tunnels.
Becki is the founder of Backpacker Becki – a solo female travel blog, driving travelers to new destinations and to visit the well-known with a focus on off the beaten adventures. After setting off in July 2012 for an indefinite period of world travel, she aims to encourage people to travel differently, and with purpose. Follow on Twitter and Facebook.
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