Berlin is a city with a divided past.
Living as an expat in Germany has flung wide History's door and left me wishing I had paid better attention in World History. The little I remember is disgraceful and I suppose I'm trying to make up for lost time by learning…well…everything now. I've tapped the fire hydrant, pressed my lips to its mouth and I'm gulping 'til my eyes bulge like baseballs.
Ignorance aside, standing in the presence of spectacular architecture and art, walking in the steps of heroes and villians and everyman from centuries past, you can't help but be moved…
Berlin eclipsed expectation.
It's an important city whose history wasn't confined to state or even country. The decisions made by its leaders for her people affected the world.
My next post will share my Top Ten must-sees for Berlin tourists, but today I wanted to highlight the iconic Berlin Wall, its fall synonymous with the end of Communist reign in Germany. To see it, touch it and meander its stories alone is worth a trip to Berlin. Add it to your Bucket List.
Yes, Berlin is a city with a divided past, but thankfully her present tells a much different story.
Interesting Berlin Wall Facts:
- The Wall dividing East and West Germany (and East and West Berlin) was constructed overnight on August 13, 1961 by the German Democratic Republic (GDR).
- The "Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the 'will of the people' in building socialist state in East Germany;" in reality it was to prevent defections of East Germans to West. Over 2.7 million people had defected prior to the Wall's construction, crippling the East German economy and undermining political gain.
- Construction of the Wall took place in different phases over the course of 19 years. Early itinerations of barbed wire gave way to reinforced concrete.
- Initially the Wall was 87 miles long; eventually it was extended to over 100.
- Its fall began on November 9, 1989 after Hungary opened its borders to East Germans; demolition wasn't completed until October 1990 completing reunification and establishing Germany as one country.
- Graffiti was only on the West German side.
- Accounts vary for the number of East Germans murdered trying to defect to West Germany; sources suggest over 80 and as many as 200. Countless more were imprisoned for attempting to or helping others escape.
I remember watching it on TV as they started tearing the wall down. The video for the Scorpions’ song “Winds of Change” showed footage of that day too and it makes me cry hearing that song even today. There is a big piece of the wall also at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA.
I remember going through Checkpoint Alpha, driving across East Germany to Checkpoint Bravo late at night in January of 1979. We went through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin 2 days later and what I saw broke my heart. We were not on a tour, so we left the beaten path-with Russin soldiers openly tailing us and taking pictures, which might make that the most dangerous thing I can remember ever doing. The parts of East Berlin that they wanted westerners to see were cosmopolitan, clean and pretty amazing. When we went beyond that we saw broken, bombed out buildings and breadlines. It made such an impression on me as a young woman. I’d love to go back and see the unified city sometime. Loving your series, Robin!
This is just so fascinating! I’ve read accounts of the wall but seeing the pictures make it a little more real…
My husband went through CC in 1962, right after the wall went up. Gathered with his travel mates in July to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that trip. Imagine that. SCARY. We’ll be in Berlin in May of next year and the wall is at the top of our list of what to see.
Wow…. how did I not know you lived in Germany? My parents met there… Really fascinating post. Moving. Thanks! 🙂