Exactly 24 years ago on November 9th, the whole world witnessed a very moving event: the Fall of the Berlin Wall on 9th November 1989. Today, parts of the Wall are still standing just 5 minutes away from our hostel. This is why we would like to dedicate today’s blog article to the Berlin Wall and take you on a little journey back to the past.
What was the Berlin Wall?
Since 1952, East Germany was separated from West Germany by a wide exclusion zone that was built by the GDR (German Democratic Republic). This nearly 1400 km long exclusion zone ran from Bavaria to the Baltic Sea and divided cities, countryside and settlements. Millions of people were separated from each other and there were only a few motorways and railroad crossings left which connected the West to the East. In Berlin, there were only 77 streets left which went into West Berlin and all telephone lines to West Berlin were cut. The few loop holes from the East to the West were closed with the construction of the Berlin Wall starting on August 31st in 1961. During the night from 12th to 13th August, the border through Berlin was strengthened with stone walls and barbed wire and in the following weeks and months, the 46 km long Wall was built between East- and West Berlin. From this moment on, GDR citizens could not enter the Western part of the city anymore. Despite the massive wall, the ditches and the watch tower, many people tried to flee from to West Berlin.
What happened on 9th November 1989?
During the end of the 80s, Michail Gorbatschow came into power in Moscow and wanted to modernize the state by applying openness, tolerance and reformation. This approach changed the Soviet Union a lot and the leadership of the GDR lost Moscow’s support. This was when the inhabitants of big German cities started to demonstrate against the government and a lot of people fled through the former Czechoslovakia and Hungary. The privy councils chairman Erich Honecker was discharged from his honors on October 18th 1989 and there was a wind of change. Nevertheless, the Fall of the Wall on 9th November 1989 was a great surprise for everybody which is why it was also called “The wonder of Berlin”. On this evening, thousands of people stormed over the border and the excitement burst into euphoria. Germany was reunited.
What is the Berlin Wall today?
Nowadays, the Berlin Wall has almost disappeared – there are only 1.5 km of the Wall left in the German capital. The so-called “East-Side Gallery” is a listed, 1.3 km long piece of the former Berlin Wall and the world’s biggest open air gallery. The gallery, which is situated along the Spree River between Oberbaumbrücke and Ostbahnhof, was developed as a project of 118 international artists in 1990 after the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
The most famous piece of art on the Wall is probably the “Bruderkuss” from artist Dimitri Wrubel which shows Erich Honecker (GDR) and Leoni Breschnew (Soviet Union) kissing intensely. This socialist brother’s kiss was an official greeting amongst communists and socialists and was shown through a kiss on the mouth or cheek or a passionate hug. Even though Wrubels “Bruderkuss” became the symbol of Germanys U-turn and can still be found on thousands of souvenirs, the artist didn’t earn any money with his famous picture and until today, nobody is really interested in his other work. So in the end, he got famous but not rich at all.
We are very lucky to be situated really close to the East Side Gallery, meaning that you can experience a piece of German history hands-on within just 3 minutes: just walk down the Warschauer Straße towards Spree River and then you’ll see the former Wall.
If you want to find out more about the Berlin Wall, you should definitely visit the museum „Checkpoint Charlie“ – one of the most famous control points and border crossings of the city. In October 1961, Soviet and Allied armors stood face to face and officially started the Cold War. In today’s museum at Checkpoint Charlie, you can read stories about spectacular escape attempts and get detailed information on the history of the Wall.
Another advice from us is to visit the historical site on “Bernauer Straße” which shows an entirely maintained piece of the former “strip of death”. Here you can experience what the Wall looked like in the past, including old Wall pieces, documentation centers, memorials and the wide death stripe between the two former walls. From Industriepalast, you can get to the historical site by taking the tram M10 which stops directly in front of our door and brings you to the stop “Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer” within 30 minutes.
What happens on the 25th anniversary of the Wall Fall 2014?
If you are in Berlin during the same time next year, it is definitely worth staying in the city until 9th November. Next year on November 9th, the whole city will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Wall Fall with creative and atmospheric events. There will be an impressive light installation made of balloons which will illuminate the entire course of the former Berlin Wall as a “symbol of hope for a world without walls”. Like that, you can take a walk along the former Berlin Wall and get an idea of its dimension. Furthermore, you can go up former watchtowers or do a guided cycling tour along the Wall path.
So, if you are in Berlin at that time of the year, it is a must to find out more about the Berlin Wall and its fall and to take a short walk around the corner of our Industriepalast Hostel to see the impressive East Side Gallery.
is Berliner by choice and a passionate backpacker himself. As a receptionist he knows the real hostel life; as a blogger he's been writing for Industriepalast Hostel's Berlin blog since 2014.