Berlin Wall walk itinerary

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5. Bernauerstrasse

On this particular street, in August 1961, neighbours woke up one morning to find themselves in a different country from those on the opposite side of the road, as soldiers brandishing bricks and mortar started to build what the East German government referred to as the ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Wall’. Today, 23 years following the Mauerfall, Bernauerstrasse is an essential visit for anyone even remotely interested in finding out more about why and how this happened.

Rather than lease land to entrepreneurs and developers, as was the case at Checkpoint Charlie, the city of Berlin made a wise move post-Reunification in buying up and preserving the land around Bernauerstrasse, on the Mitte/Wedding border as a memorial to the border crossing that had occupied the space between 1961 and 1989.

It’s probably the most rewarding and dignified Wall site in Berlin today. Complete with restored death strip, guard tower and examples of fortifications and deterrents, the memorial is a sobering experience that thankfully, isn’t all about offloading toy Trabants, wall-fragment keyrings and novelty T-shirts.

This is a multi-layered experience, that begins around the Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station (which also features a fantastic ‘Ghost Stations’ exhibition, detailing how the city’s U-Bahn was reconfigured during the DDR era). Here, a visitors’ centre sits across from an extensive research and documentation centre, where you can pore over maps, video presentations and records of the death strip, watchtower and border fortifications. It’s the best place to get a sense of just how brutally Berlin was severed.

With the in-depth documentation, copius amounts of testimony and recorded memories available, the physical memorial becomes even more poignant to encounter. Steel metal rods delineate the route of the Wall leading up toward the U-Bahn Bernauerstrasse and in a grassy former death strip, neat archaeological features show the remains of submerged buildings, barriers, security features and other devilish deterrents. From the centre’s tower you can look down over the Wall and the Kapelle der Versöhnung (Chapel of Reconciliation). Come on a Sunday and you can meander Eastwards along Bernauerstrasse towards the Mauerpark (‘Wall park’) where the city’s legendary open-air fleamarket takes place from early in the morning to late afternoon.  

www.berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de

  1. Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer Bernauer Strasse 111. 4679 86666. (U8 Bernauer Strasse or S1, S2 Nordbahnhof).
  2. Documentation centre Apr-Oct 9.30am-7pm Tue-Sun. Nov-Mar 9.30am-6pm Tue-Sun. Admission free.
Berlin Wall sights and memorials overview

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  2. Part 2
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