The Berlin Wall

Though I’ve been back from our trip to Berlin for a few weeks it seems appropriate that I write this post today, on the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the end of the Berlin wall. After days of protest and years of division, on this day 25 years ago the borders were opened and the fall of the wall began.

Berlin Wall 1986

This image was taken in 1986 by Thierry Noir at Bethaniendamm in Berlin-Kreuzberg.

When compared to the many cities I’ve been to in over a dozen countries, no other city has had quite the intrigue of recent history as Berlin. Recent history might seem contradictory, but as we walked around Berlin I couldn’t help but think of how the city was divided and how the wall had come down in my lifetime. People from my generation lived in Berlin when the wall was still splitting families and stunting dreams. Remnants of the wall remain in various places around the city and bricks embedded in pavements and roads mark the other areas where the wall ran.

Our tour guide, Mark, indicting where the wall once ran.

Our tour guide, Mark, using his nice red Docs to indicate where the wall once ran.

The East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery

The first rendering of the wall was constructed overnight. People of Berlin awoke on the morning of 13 August 1961 to the realisation that their lives would never be the same. I remember visiting the Air Force museum as a kid and seeing a piece of the wall, with  manikin sitting atop it victoriously. They also had a recreation of check-point Charlie. I don’t think at the time I realised how recently those artefacts had been in their original place. Because of this, I was absolutely fascinated by the East Side Gallery and Berlin.

The East Side Gallery is mile-long portion of the wall that is now a gallery and memorial for freedom. Featuring original murals (some recently repainted by the original artists) and new amateur scrawlings, the paintings are bold, hopeful, frenetic, celebratory, and often sad. It is worth the trek to see. Here are some of my favorite images from the gallery.

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By happy accident we were in Berlin on German Unity Day, celebrating the anniversary of when Germany was reunified on 3 October 1990. Though indications of Berlin’s past are everywhere in the city, the people of Berlin were kind, warm, and enjoying their freedom. The architecture and memorials may easily point to the East and West, but the current culture is very much one of acceptance and unity. I’ll have to write another post soon to tell you about everything else we loved.