Berlin Wall – fragments and remains
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There's not much left of the Berlin Wall
, but a few fragments and more or less intact stretches of Wall can still be found. What used to be "the best border security system in the world" (to quote the praise for it by GDR
general Hoffmann) has almost entirely disappeared, and what remains of it hardly conveys an impression of what a menacing aura this border once radiated.
Nowhere has a stretch of the full border strip survived. This comprised, apart from the actual border wall facing "the enemy", i.e. the West, a second "inner" wall (i.e. facing the East), and in between the two walls a so-called "death strip" (with watchtowers, barbed wire, patrol tracks, tank traps, guard dogs, etc.).
Generally, it's the outer actual border wall that the least remains of. More fragments can be found of the inner wall. The few surviving watchtowers
(of once over 300) commemorate the former border probably most strikingly.
>what there is to see - and where
>access and costs
>combinations with other dark destinbations
>combinations with non-dark destinations
What there is to see – and where: Here's a selection of the more important sites of Wall remains:
Those who only want to visit one place where the Berlin Wall
was will probably have to head for Bernauer Straße
. Here, a fairly long stretch of original outer border survived, which has partly been restored together with a reconstructed border strip and inner wall to form a (still somewhat vague) impression of the layout of the border. This is best seen from the viewing platform above the documentation centre. Several further bits of inner Wall, patrol track in the former death strip and other fragments can be found in this area as well.
The only other stretches of former "enemy-facing" outer Wall can be found at:
near the old railway bridge (also various bits of inner wall in the nearby St Hedwig cemetery).
b) there's a somewhat longer stretch on Niederkirchnerstraße
bordering the Topography of Terror
exhibition. At both sites the Wall has been battered severely by "wall peckers" (see Berlin Wall today
), in some places so much so that you can actually see through gaps in the wall.
The nearby Checkpoint Charlie Museum
can also be recommended, even though there isn't any original Wall (apart from a section that has been placed inside the museum), but it contains a rich collection of artefacts and documents relating to the history and significance of the Wall, and also to successful escapes as well as unsuccessful victims.
The longest, and probably most significant stretch of Wall (after Bernauer Straße) can be found along Mühlenstraße
north-west of the Oberbaum Bridge. It was a stretch of inner Wall but here it was constructed in the same style as the outer border wall elsewhere. Between the Wall and the banks of the river Spree used to be the "death strip", and since it largely hasn't been built up, the area is still open, so that a good long view of the Wall is possible. This stretch of Wall is best known, however, under the name "East Side Gallery
", since in early 1990 several artists gathered to put large-scale paintings on the inner side of the Wall. Both the paintings and the other, West-facing Wall have been restored to look like new.
Another artistic approach involving bits of Wall is the so-called 'Parliament of Trees
' monument against war and violence – an installation near the Reichstag
on the opposite bank of the river Spree in the government district.
Stretches of the (otherwise mostly lower) inner Wall can be found in various places. One short bit can be found not far from Potsdamer Platz; a fairly long stretch by the Jahn stadium along the so-called Mauerpark ("Wall Park"), which otherwise has been landscaped in a way that no longer remotely resembles the death strip it once was.
This site is near the end of Bernauer Straße towards the north – further north still is Bornholmer Straße
(where the opening of the border began on 9 November 1989).
Another stretch that can be reached fairly easily is at the Invalidenfriedhof
(Invalid Cemetery). It actually forms part of the recently installed "Mauerweg" ('Wall walk') that features text panels with explanatory texts and evocative pictures from the past. Invalidenfriedhof is not far from the new Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) and the Charite hospital.
Just to the north towards Kieler Straße one of the remaining watchtowers
can be found.
When tracking down those bits, a good map comes in very handy. Even more so if you want to explore the remoter areas where Wall remains can be traced. If you really want to delve deep into Berlin Wall archaeology, then I recommend that you do a good amount of prep work, either via the Web or through books. If you can understand a bit of German then you could do worse than arming yourself with a copy of Axel Klausmeier and Leo Schmidt's book "Mauerreste – Mauerspuren" ('Wall remains, Wall traces', published by Westkreuz-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-929592-50-4) – far and away the most detailed guidebook of its kind, which on nearly 300 pages, including countless large-scale maps, photos and precise descriptions, traces down even the most secluded and minuscule remains of the former border between East and West Berlin. Of course parts of the book will grow out of date as the years go by, but much of it will likely remain useful for some time to come …
Some of the remains of the Wall in the centre of Berlin are covered in the "MauerGuide – walk the wall" hand-held multi-media gadgets that you can rent at a number of collection points (see under Berlin Wall
). The photos and videos playable on these machines may help to bring the sites more to "life" (or death, as the case may be – at least they may occasionally help to re-imagine the deadliness of the former border).
The very best Internet guide to Wall archaeology that I know of is berlin-wall-map.com – an incredibly comprehensive, detailed and also (comparatively) contemporary resource. (Warning to all Berlin Wall enthusiasts: using that site can be highly addictive!)
Access and costs: mostly quite easy to get to, though some are a bit hidden and remote; free.
Details: all the sites outlined above are freely accessible – at no cost (other than for public transport, where relevant). Some of the more secluded sites of Wall remains are not quite so easily accessible, for instance because they are at or within works premises not open to the public. But those bits are only of interest to the most die-hard Wall archaeologists, really.
If you don't want to have to bother with navigating, a guided tour may be the thing for you. The Wall Documentation Centre at Bernauer Straße
, for instance, offers a range of tours, even one by taxi to take visitors and a guide to all the most important Wall sights. Obviously, such services do cost money.
flexible, totally depending on how much you want to do. Many tourists make do with one or two of the bits in central Berlin only, which won't take up too much time. If you're after full-on Wall archaeology, time becomes an issue. I mean, there are people who do this for a living! So there's theoretically no limit to how much time you can devote to Berlin Wall (field) studies … A sensible compromise for the average dark tourist would be at least one whole day walking tour (see below – and cf. the general entry for the Berlin Wall
), plus extra time for the official and private museum commodifications.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
generally see Berlin
– you may want to combine different Wall sites into one tour, which can be done if you don't try to cram too much into your itinerary. For instance, the sites from Invalidenfriedhof via Liesenstraße, Bernauer Straße
and "Mauerpark" up to Bornholmer Straße
, can be done in one half-day long walk (in either direction), the other half day you could allocate to a visit to the East Side Gallery Berlin Wall - East Side Gallery
and from there take in an excursion to Schlesischer Busch with its watchtower
too. In the evening you could still go to Potsdamer Straße, to track down the Wall remains and the watchtower
in its vicinity, and then walk down Niederkirchnerstraße, past the Topography of Terror
exhibition and its bit of remaining Wall, which will eventually take you towards the Checkpoint Charlie Museum
where you could finish the tour by visiting the museum. A rather full day, yes, but feasible.
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
Few of the sites of the former Berlin Wall left are found in the more touristy parts of Berlin
, where hardly anything original survived ... except for the stretch of Wall at Niederkirchnerstraße. The formerly most striking border fortifications around the Brandenburg Gate near the Reichstag
building have all completely vanished. At Potsdamer Platz, which used to be one of the most drastic, and widest, of the "death strips", at least a small stretch of Wall survives as well as an original (though relocated) watchtower. So going to see this can be combined with a visit to the modern glitz of futuristic architecture that now fills the area. The Checkpoint Charlie Museum
is also very centrally located on Friedrichstraße. The other Wall remains lie more or less off the well beaten tourist tracks.