Berlin Wall, Berlin
Most visitors to Berlin are aware of Checkpoint Charlie which is located at the southern end of Friedrichstraße in Kreuzberg but as someone who wants to visit the not so well known, I decided to visit Checkpoint Bravo. Very few visitors ever go to what was a very busy checkpoint during the cold war. There were in fact 2 Checkpoint Bravos. The original, which was smaller, was closed when the Autobahn route was changed by the GDR at the end of the 1960s. Originally because of the unusual route, the Autobahn ran for 2kms through East Germany after the crossing point. The route was changed so you entered West Berlin immediately after the checkpoint. There is little left of the old checkpoint. Three flagpole for use by the allies. Behind the flagpoles there was originally a long wooden hut, which was the checkpoint building. The building was unfortunately demolished soon after it was closed. The only building still standing, is the rest stop restaurant but as it was abandoned over 40 years ago and it is in a dilapidated condition. The site has recently been sold to a mystery buyer, so its future is uncertain When I visited there had been a snowstorm the previous day so it was not possible to pick up on the old markings and other signs of the old Autobahn route but I will probably revisit on a warmer day.
Photo 1 is of the 3 flagpoles of the western allies. The checkpoint building was immediately behind the flagpoles.
Photo 2 is of the old rest stop restaurant
Photo 3 shows some of the damage inside the old restaurant
Photo 4 shows part of the old Autobahn route
Photo 5 was shot on the old Autobahn Bridge over the Teltow Canal
The wall - there are a few sections left, the largest being at the east side gallery. Here the wall is full of grafiti with many interesting designs.
Brandenburg gate - the site of many a historical speech
Reichstag - closed when we went at Xmas (Xmas day, 25th)
Checkpoint Charlie - touristy spot of the old border checkpoint between east and west. DEspite being touristy theres an informative exhibition on the road and also a museum, so still worth the visit.
Potsdammer Platz - Xmas markets here if youre here at Xmas
Gendarmenmarkt market - this xmas market was big, and all the usual things, live music/acts on stage, many sausages, food and mulled wine. etc. 1 euro to get in.
This tower gives you a great view over Berlin and is free to enter. There is a lift to the top but it wasn't working so I took the stairs. From the top, you can look out over a section of the wall that is still standing which has been preserved by the Stuttgart architects Kollhoff and Kollhoff. You can see a watchtower and the strip of No Man's Land between what was East and West Berlin. Looking up Bernauer Strasse, you can see a row of metal poles signifying where the wall stood and you can also see murals on the walls of houses and buildings showing pictures from the history of the Berlin Wall.
Just across the road and slightly up the hill from the viewing platform, you can visit the Chapel of Reconciliation and listen to accounts of people's recollections of divided Berlin using the various information points.
There are also points on the ground marked by plaques which show where people attempted to escape over the wall and where tunnels were built.
This time i went to visit another part of the old Berlin's wall. It's not at Postdamer Platz but at Nordbahnohf and believe me it's totally different. It's not a tourist trap and there you can "feel" how hard it'd be to live at the time of the divided Berlin. There is also a monument for the persons that lost their life trying to excape. The monument is not big but have the names of the people, their pictures, the date of the born and of the death. It's so bad to think that someone just died in 1989 when the wall was close to fall. It's a place where you can take your time..walk..watch..think. Most of all it made me think.
There is also a wall museum close to it but i didn't visit it so i don't know how it is.
The Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer) is arguably the most famous landmark in Berlin. During the time when Berlin was split the wall was built to fully separate the east from the west. Many families were cut off from each other and people who lived in Eastern Berlin who worked in the west had their employment terminated. With Western Berlin thriving many people from the east tried to illegally cross the boarder with deadly consequences. The stop the easterners from relocating to the west the eastern government issued shooting orders which meant that if they saw anyone trying to climb the wall or sneak into the west they were to be shot immediately.
The wall was finally taken down in 1989 although much of the wall is still in existence and is dotted around Berlin in different locations such as in Potsdamer Platz.
The Mauerpark was originally the old Nordbahnhof railway station which ran trains to the north coast and Prussia. When the station was moved, its name was changed to Güterbahnhof Eberswalder Straße and it became a freight yard. The station and freight yard bordered the French and Soviet occupation zones. When the Berlin Wall was put up the station was closed as the freight yard became part of the death strip. After reunification it was decided to change the narrow strip which was the death strip into a park. Efforts have been made to purchase the industrialised western side but without success. A large weekly Sunday Flea market is held on the industrial western side. The park is not what I would describe as attractive but it is very popular with locals. A piece of the old Berlin Wall stands on the high point of the park. The wall is a popular place with graffiti artists to leave their mark before someone else does the same to their work.
The Berlin Wall was a continuous work in progress that evolved over the years. It was not a single wall but a series of well thought out and constructed obstacles. There was an inner wall on the eastern side. Then there was a signal fence which alerted the guards. This was followed by sharp steel spikes, the patrol road, security strip, tank traps to stop cars and finally the border wall. There were also watchtowers every 250 metres, dogs running loose on some sections, landmines and automatic guns that could be set off. At night the border was brightly so much so that it could be seen from space. The inside faces of the wall were painted white so that it would show up escaper better.
Ghost stations in the UK normally refer to railway stations that still exist but have been closed down. Ghost stations had a different meaning during the period the Berlin Wall was in existance. Various lines spanned both east and west Berlin. When the wall went up trains from the west could travel through the eastern section but would slow down at the heavily guarded stations. The stations were normally closed to those in the east to stop escapes. As the tunnels and trains could be used as a means of escape from the east to the west the tunnels were reduced in size at some points so that there was very like clearance in order to prevent persons clinging to the sides of the train. The stations were left in a time warp from 1961, which those riding the trains could see. The west Berlin authorities had to pay dearly to use the eastern side of the city with a large annual payment required. There is a photographic exhibition at the Nordbahnhof of ‘Border Stations and Ghost Stations in Divided Berlin’ which displays the history of the Ghost stations. The Nordbahnhof station was one of those ghost stations which was closed during the Berlin Wall era, though the line remained open. The exhibit is on the mezzanine floor which can view during normal station opening hours. I am sure that the station platform lighting must have special tubes because when you look out of the train windows it always looks dim, atmospheric and eerie.
The watchtower in Schlesisicher Park is one of only three watchtowers that remain in Berlin. The watchtower is 10m in height and 4.2m by 4.2m wide and was built in 1963. It was a command post and was manned by 3 border soldiers and 1 officer and was responsible for a further 18 watchtowers and the electronic security devices for this section of the border. The watchtower was constructed of pre-cast concrete and had 4 floors one of which was underground. The first floor was the staff room with the observation floor above which gave good views on all four sides. After reunification the tower should have been demolished but was saved by the perseverance of the Museum of Forbidden Art. It was classed as a historical monument in 1992. The Museum of Forbidden Art held exhibits in the tower until it ran out of money in 2004 and handed the tower back to the government. It has since been repaired and restored in its original colour.
During our 4 day stay in the Mercure Checkpoint Charlie Hotel we walked past this preserved section of the Berlin Wall each day. There were always people reading the information boards attached to the wall containing photos and history of the Wall which divided Berlin during the Cold War.
Photos showing the district during this period were interesting.
Around the corner to the left was the re enactment of the "Checkpoint Charlie" Guard House where American soldiers contralled movement between East and West Berlin.
Go down to Bernauerstr and see one of the few remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall. You'll find also memorials to those who lost their lives trying to cross the wall.
Across the road is an S-Bahn station (Nordbahnhof) which also has an interesting exhibit of the "Ghost Stations". These are stations on the lines run by West Berlin but lie under the East Berlin territory. The East Germans sealed off these stations creating what is known as "Ghost Stations".
The Berlin Wall was a "must see" while in Berlin and with a good local friend we went to see the "East Side Gallery" A section that is really colourful and had been painted in different sections by various artists sending their message with their brushes..some of the images are extremely well done and very colourful. I beleive there must have been at least a kilometer of The Wall standing in this particular part that we walked and viewed and is extremely interesting to see ..You will leave with some really good colourful photos as souvenirs also.
There's really not much to say about the wall itself other than it's a relic that most tourists will want to see for themselves but quickly move on. I think I imagined that it would be taller but other than that it's not the wall itself but the stories behind it that really make for the interest in its history.
There is a single piece of it at Checkpoint Charlie - much daubed. See the photo. There is a nearby museum giving much more information but we didn't go into this one.
A long stretch of the wall is located next to the exhibition called the Topography of Terror which is not about the wall but more about the rise of the Nazis and their subsequent downfall during World War II. There are a few explanatory signs but really nothing very much about the wall itself as far as I could tell.
I went out for an early morning walk near my hotel in ChauseeStrasse and came upon a few pieces of the wall and further round the block and running in parallel to the ChauseeStrasse was a long line of cleared land (see other photos) which I can only assume was part of the border areas which I understand ran along this part of the Berlin. It was interesting to chance upon this area which has clearly not been developed yet. It made me think what it must have been like back in the days of the DDR when people risked their lives to cross open stretches of land to reach the west and yet for me it took just a few minutes, if that, to walk across this piece of wasteland in perfect safety and peace. How times have changed in less than 25years.
The 9th of November was a Thursday in 1989, and I was still at Magdeburg, on next day many people managed to get a seat on a flight to Berlin, and I stayed there for the weekend. I didn't get back before Monday noon, and by that time I had missed a test in History - but what History teacher wouldn't accept the excuse I had?
Not knowing the history of the area I wondered why the number 50 tram turned around at Bjornson Strasse on Sundays instead of carrying on across the bridge and why should there be a turn around at this point. When the Berlin Wall was in palce the Bornholmer Strasse Bridge was a crossing point. The Bornholmer Strasse S Bahn station became a ghost station where the trains going to the east or west of the city never stopped. There is a small exhibition on the eastern side of the bridge with photographs from the cold war era and a small memorial. There is a concrete wall along the back of the path. When the wall was first put up people use to climb the fence and work their way down the railway embankment cross the lines and come up on the other side in the west. As usual the way to stop this was with a taller inner security concrete wall which also ran pararell with the railway lines. At least 5 people met with accidents here and 4 more were shot by border guards. But this is where it all ended for the Berlin Wall on 09 November 1989 when thousands of people were able to freely cross from the east into the west and the GDR collapsed shortly afterwards. Going back to the beginning this was as far as trams could in the east and the reason for the turn around.