Once upon a time in Paris, I was idly examining a map of the city. Having spotted "Place de la Bastille" in the network of the streets, I immediately put it on my Paris itinerary: I was curious what this old prison I knew from numerous books by Alexandre Dumas looks like now. It turned out it looks like nothing - not a single trace of it survived the French Revolution.
With the Berlin Wall, things are different. There are some remnants of it spread over Berlin. In order to help you choose which historical sites of the Berlin Wall to visit on your next trip to Berlin, we made a list of the most interesting still standing parts of the Berlin Wall and will tell you what is so peculiar about it.
1. The Berlin Wall Memorial in Bernauer Straße For a number of good reasons, the Berlin Wall Memorial might be your first address to see the rests of the Berlin Wall. It has the biggest remaining part of the wall and the hinterlandwall.
This place has a great exhibition that sheds light on the historical context, the construction of the wall, informs about people who died trying to flee Eastern Germany, successful attempts, everyday life next to the Berlin Wall during communist times and about many other topics.
The place for the memorial was chosen among other reasons because some events of an especially dramatic character took place here: During the years of communism, one of the town`s churches got 'captured' between the front wall and the borderland wall. It was used as a watchtower and finally, it was blown up. After the reunification of the city, a chapel was built in the very same place. With its minimalistic design and for it being built mainly from natural materials, like clay and wood, the chapel is claimed to be an architectural success. If you are an architect, don`t miss it, we bet the chapel would be of great interest to you.
The exhibition of the Berlin Wall Memorial is mainly located outdoors. You may often witness people chilling on the green lawn between the exhibition stands. This image certainly sends the message that the normal life of the city was successfully restored.
2. Mauerpark Close to the Berlin Wall Memorial, there is a famous park Mauerpark - the venue for a huge flea market on Sundays and karaoke on Saturdays. Now a popular Berlin location, it once used to be a no-mans-land. Here, you can still see the hinterland part of the Berlin wall - completely covered in graffitis.
3. East Side Gallery The East Side Gallery is a part of the wall covered by graffiti made by artists from all over the world. Located between Ostbahnhof and Warschauer Straße, it is close to the numerous clubs and bars of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. If you have an appreciation for street art rather than for museum expositions, East Side Gallery is definitely a place you should head to.
4. Cycle along the former Berlin Wall Rent a bike, check the route here and explore the historical sites of the Berlin Wall in your own tempo. Choosing the full-length route, you will see the trendy 'in' neighbourhoods and sleepy suburbs - and get a complete impression of the German capital.
5. Berlin Wall Bike Tours Consider taking the tailored short tours by bike companies such as Berlin on bike. It might even make sense to do it a couple of times as each guide has his own tour. The guides might share their own story of living by the wall while showing the Berlin Wall historical sites or even get you involved using quite "unorthodox" interactive learning methods like climbing the wall.
6. Checkpoint Charlie If you really want to see all the Berlin Wall sites in Berlin, you should definitely pay a visit to this small museum close to the famous border crossing point between Eastern and Western Berlin. However, I like its exhibition slightly less than that of the Berlin Wall Memorial. It focuses mainly on the devices with the help of which people used to flee, while the exhibition of the museums' main 'competitor' is more versatile and qualitatively better. The Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie is in private hands and charges a 10 EUR entrance fee - the other top memorial sites are for free.
7. The Topography of the Terror This memorial site was built on the premises of the former Third Reich secret state police main office. Its exhibition is mainly about national socialism, but not exclusively: A remnant of the Berlin Wall in Niederkirchnerstraße is part of the museum's tour.
8. The Brandenburger Tor This popular tourist site doesn't stand primarily for the separation of Berlin. However, when the gate became a dead end, it certainly became a metaphor. If you are a fan of David Hasselhoff (or of the myth surrounding the figure of the Baywatch star) and want to pay tribute to Hoff saving Germans from communism on his way to liberating South Africa from apartheid, the place is your Mekka and Jerusaleem. In 1989, Hoff gave a concert here and arguably inspired the East Germans to tear down the wall ;)
9. Cherry Alley Behind the Bornholmer Straße - the place where the border was first opened - there is an alley of Japanese cherry trees (a gift from Japan!) symbolically planted down the former border between East and West Berlin. If you don't know why the trees are here - it is just a pretty cherry alley, but if you are conscious of the history of this place, the alley has suddenly a new meaning...