1. Checkpoint Charlie
Today a haven of tourist-friendly shops and restaurants (and a fair amount of tat), back in 1961 this was the location for a face-off between US and USSR tanks that could potentially have triggered off World War III. The city’s only crossing for Allied personnel, diplomats and civilians entering and exiting the East, Checkpoint Charlie has remained an iconic attraction, synonymous with the Iron Curtain since its opening in 1961.
The home of one of the last surviving stretches of Wall in central Berlin, Niederkirchnerstrasse’s specimen was the last update to the basic infrastructure, known as ‘Grenzmauer 75’.
Chipped, bashed and in cases, with panels knocked out, the Wall sits within a landscape of extraordinarily concentrated Berlin history…
… next to the venerable Martin Gropius Bau museum and gallery and immediately abutting the grisly ‘Topography Of Terror’ open air exhibition, on the site of the former Gestapo headquarters (and subterranean torture chambers).
5. East Side Gallery
Set up in 1990, to preserve a stretch of the Wall that ran alongside the Spree river in Kreuzberg with murals by over 100 artists, the East Side Gallery is one of the largest open-air permanent art exhibits in the world.
6. East Side Gallery
Today the artworks are almost as anachronistic as the Wall itself and are in danger of vanishing under duress of the elements, lack of resources for restoration and countless scribbles and spray painted messages from tourists, graffiti artists and vandals…
7. East Side Gallery
Some, though, are as vital and vivid as ever.
8. River Spree death strip
Along Muhlenstrasse in Kreuzberg, the River Spree was designated as part of east Berlin and became a deadly, aquatic death strip patrolled by police boats to prevent daring would-be escapees. The stretch of the wall along the Friedrichshain riverbank, behind the East Side Gallery, is part of the former ‘Hinterland’ (inner) wall. Behind the remnants of the wall, controversial new construction and the O2 World Arena is vible, evidence of a fast-changing Berlin.
9. Schlesischer Watchtower
Still standing in Schlesischer Park, this former command post between Kreuzberg and Treptow on Puschkinallee was a critical point of surveillance along the border control. Complete with rifle hatches and searchlights, the four-storey structure is 10 metres high and 4.2 by 4.2 metres wide, served as a central command node for 18 watchtowers and countless electronic security devices.
At Bernauerstrasse stand probably the most in-depth and fascinating memorials to the Wall to be found in the city…
Steel girders mark the course of the wall down to the Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station and along the way, the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer complex offers a dynamic and engrossing array of monuments, recreations, historic preservations and documentation of the Wall…
… and in particular, the border crossing that once stood at this site.