Berlin Wall Walk
The East German government, in an attempt to keep their beleaguered citizens from fleeing, built the Berlin wall practically overnight in 1961. On November 9, 1989, it was torn down, signaling the dawning of a new era. Most of the wall has been demolished but you can still walk the trail where it used to stand and visualize the 12-foot-tall border that once divided the city.
Follow the Cobblestones
These days, it’s hard to believe that Potsdamer Platz used to be a no-man’s-land. But in front of the gleaming skyscrapers, next to the S-bahn station, a tiny stretch of the Berlin Wall stands as a reminder of the place’s history. And just over on Erna-Berger-Strasse is the last of the hundreds of watchtowers that stood along the wall.
When the wall fell, Berliners couldn’t wait to get rid of it and souvenir hunters came out in droves with hammers and chisels to take pieces away. You can still follow the rows of cobblestones on the ground that mark where the wall used to stand, though. The path illuminates the effects the Wall had on the city: it cut through streets, neighborhoods, and even through buildings, which were then abandoned.
Walk south along Stresemanstrasse from Potsdamer Platz, and then head east along Niederkirchnerstrasse two blocks to Checkpoint Gallery, a border crossing that foreign nationals used to cross between the American and Soviet zones. Niederkirchnerstrasse turns into Zimmerstrasse. Continue east along that to the modest column engraved "He only wanted freedom," in German, at Zimmerstrasse 15, commemorating Peter Fechter, an 18-year-old who was shot and killed while trying to escape to the West. Follow Zimmerstrasse and turn left on Axel-Springer-Strasse, then right, onto Kommandantenstrasse. Keep walking past Sebastian and Waldemar streets and you'll reach Engelbecken Pond. This is a good place to rest.
Peace in the Shadow of the Wall
Keep walking along Bethaniendamm and you'll come to a colorful ramshackle wooden structure.This is where a Turkish immigrant named Osman Kalin planted vegetables in the shadow of the Wall, in West Berlin in a small area that had been strewn with garbage. Little did he know that this piece of land actually belonged to East Berlin but the Wall had missed it. His family still grows onions and cabbages on the plot. Even the most bizarre circumstances were normal in Cold War Berlin—and some of these oddities have survived the change of times.
Plus Ça Change . . .
Cross the Spree River at the Schilling Bridge and turn right to walk parallel to the river. Fast-forward on Holzmarkt and Mühlen streets to the famous East Side Gallery, where artists from all over the world decorated the remaining 4,000-some-foot Wall with colorful paintings. A section was demolished to construct a riverside condo. The future of this iconic piece of the Wall remains unclear.
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