Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany

In En-Route, Europe, Germany, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travelby JanisLeave a Comment

The 9th November 1989 is not so long ago.

On a cold winter’s morning in December, we stood at the Berlin Wall Memorial reading the horrific stories of division and pain, and I could barely stem my tears.
 
On 13th August 1961, the lives of so many innocent German families were to change forever. I just couldn’t imagine the incredible heartache and despair the residence of Berlin were succumbed to.

Sections removed from the Berlin Wall, places to see, things to do in Berlin, Visit Germany

A section of the Berlin Wall

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Gary and I can remember sitting at home watching the events unfold on TV only 30 years ago.

This is one of the things I find so disturbing is that this is recent history and not something that happened in someone else’s lifetime.

So, when Gary and I headed to Berlin last year to experience how Germany’s capital city celebrated Christmas, we really wanted to visit the Berlin Wall Memorial.

What a year!!

1989 was a significant year in history for many countries, Romania saw the fall of communism, with the overthrow of Nicolae Ceaușescu. Then in the Fareast, China witnessed the Tiananmen Square Protests in Beijing.

Approaching the Berlin Wall

As we walked closer to the Berlin Wall, my steps seemed to get slower, I couldn’t believe we were coming face to face with it.

A view as the Berlin Wall as arcs around against Bernauer Strasse with just the tower blocks in the background.

Berlin Wall along Bernauer Strasse

After just stopping and staring at it for a while, I couldn’t help myself but go and touch the wall. I just laid the palm of my hand on it, where, so many hands must have felt it before.

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A little bit of history

Prior to the wall being erected, efforts within Germany were being made by the communist Germany Democratic Republic (GDR) to stop East Berliners migrating to the west. During the late 1940s and 1950s, it is believed that over three million people defected to the west.

Graphittied sections of the Berlin Wall arranged in two-columns

Sections removed from the Berlin Wall

It is astonishing to comprehend that the initial barrier was erected over one night.

When Berliners awoke on the 13th August 1961, life would barely be the same again.
 
The preliminary barrier was of barbed wire; however, within a few days, the wall was being erected, with checkpoints and manned border crossings along the route.

A blown-up picture on the end of a building block depicting the scene of the Berlin Wall in 1961.

Memories along Acker Strasse

The completed concrete wall was around 68 miles in length and was just under 12 foot in height. In addition, there were over 40 miles of barbed wire fencing and more than 300 look-out towers being manned day and night.

Discover Berlin’s historical past

Jump on this reasonably priced 4-hour walking tour. Just a few of the sites you’ll see are the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall.

Berlin Wall Memorial

The open-air memorial is so touching, and it was just by here that “no-man’s land” ran along, otherwise known as the “Death Strip”. The location where so many risked and lost their lives for freedom.
 
It was also here between “no-man’s land” that a cemetery was located. The graves have since been removed.

A view of a split in the Berlin Wall allowing you to see both the east & west sides.

Berlin Wall East and West

As you stroll around in the memorial grounds by the wall, you just feel this unnerving silent, chilling presence of what occurred here only 30 years ago.
 
There’s an incredibly touching commemorative wall, which will always stay in my memory. Photographs of innocent people from the very young to the old, with the dates that they lost their lives while trying to cross the strip to a better life.

An oxidised metal memorial picture frame of 3 rows of portraits of those who died trying to cross the Berlin Wall.

Commemorative wall at the Berlin Wall Memorial

The stories are so moving too, voices were being played of families that had been separated, during this horrific time.
 
One was of a family that lived on the eastern side and would stand at their window. They looked out across the wall, and as they were unable to wave at their loved ones, for of fear of being caught, they would stroke their hair instead.

A grey and bleak view of the Berlin Wall from the grass area that's was once known as the "Death Strip"

Bleakness of the Berlin Wall

It was so incredibly moving.

Bernauer Strasse

The Chapel of Reconciliation that now stands within the Berlin Wall Memorial was founded on the same site where the former Reconciliation Church once stood. When the Berlin Wall erected the church sat in the “Death Strip” and made the church inaccessible. In 1985 the East German government gave the orders for the original church to be blown up.

A modern oval place of worship built on the original "Chapel of Reconciliation."

Chapel of Reconciliation, by the Berlin Wall

Just by the chapel are metal markings on the ground, where so many tunnels were dug in an attempt to reach the west.

Steel stepping-stones across the grass of no-man's-land marks out the path of "Tunnel 57", another attempt to breach the Berlin Wall.

One of the tunnels dug under the wall

Four rusting iron girders pointing towards the sky representing of the Watchtower Memorial Strelitzer Strasse.

Watchtower Memorial Strelitzer Strasse

It was also astonishing to see that some of the buildings along Bernauer Strasse, which the wall was erected alongside in 1961, still remain. Murals & pictures are now on the side of them, depicting how time progressed.

A large picture of people fleeing across the street on a building on Bernauer Strasse.

Homes along Bernauer Strasse, on the edge of the Berlin Wall

The other image that just sends chills down my spine is the sight of the watchtower, they just shout segregation, controlling and imprisonment.

A watchtower in no-man's-land against a grey sky.

Watchtower by the Berlin Wall

Why not?

Start creating your own historical trip to Berlin, you can fly directly into Germany’s capital city with easyJet & British Airways.

Berlin Wall

While walking by the wall, it is so apparent to see which side of the Berlin Wall was on the east and which on the west. As the western section was graffitied and on the eastern side not a flash of colour was to be seen.

A section of the heavily graffitied Berlin Wall.

Graffitied Berlin Wall

A view of the Belin wall with no graffiti, and just exposed iron reinforcement bars within the structure of the concrete wall.

The graffiti-free side of the Berlin Wall

In some of the sections where the wall has been demolished or removed, cast iron rods have been inserted into the ground.

This gives quite a weird perception and almost makes it like a window to the other side.

A section of the Berlin Wall where the structure has been replaced with evenly spaced iron rods that allow you to see through where the wall once stood.

Cast iron rods repl the Wall

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Around Berlin

While we visited Berlin, we also headed to Checkpoint Charlie and Potsdamer Platz.
 
Checkpoint Charlie was one of the main crossing points between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. It played quite a significant role during this period, although now it has become a bit of a tourist attraction. However, I still wanted to see it.

The hut that was once the US. Army post at Checkpoint Charlie.

Checkpoint Charlie

A single concrete section of the wall that now stands near the Checkpoint Charlie Museum.

Part of the Berlin Wall

Potsdamer Platz was completely destroyed during World War II. Then, when the construction of the Berlin Wall began, it ran straight through the centre of the square and made it an even more bleak and uninhabitable area

Sections of the Berling Wall, intersected with storyboards, by Potsdamer Platz underground station.

Berlin Wall sections in Potsdamer Platz

Potsdamer Platz played a pivotal role in the fall of the wall, and its border crossing opened on 11th November 1989.
 
Today this part of town has completely been regenerated and is home to the Sony centre. As you wander throughout the city of Berlin, you’ll keep seeing markers in the ground where the Berlin Wall would have stood.

Hit the road

If you’d like to discover more of Germany on a road trip and unable to bring your own car give SIXT car hire a go. They cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

Brandenburg Gate

Just along the road from Potsdamer Platz is the Brandenburg Gate, and often been the site of significant historical events. On the night of 9th November 1989, scenes of mass celebrations occurred here. Although, it wasn’t until 22nd December 1989 that the border crossing at Brandenburg Gate was opened.

The illuminated Brandenburg gate at dusk.

The Brandenburg Gate

You must visit

Some people may not feel comfortable visiting such a poignant place in our history; however, I was so pleased we did. It isn’t easy reading their stories or walking around the memorial, but it needs to be remembered.

Inspired to visit Berlin?

The Berlin Wall Memorial should be experienced by all.

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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