Berlin Wall, Germany
Get orientated – It started in 1961, with rolls of barbed wire dividing the streets. But Die Berliner Mauer – the Berlin Wall – quickly became a more permanent structure: a 4m-high brick barrier, bolstered by a secondary wall of reinforced concrete, overlooked by watchtowers and patrolled by soldiers and guard dogs. It ran for 160km, dissecting Potsdamer Platz and making a border crossing of the beautiful Oberbaumbriicke, a double-decker bridge spanning the River Spree. For 28 years the barricade divided East and West Berlin, a very literal boundary between democracy and Communism at the height of the Cold War. It was the focal point of hostilities between Russia and the USA; 192 people were killed trying to cross it. Eventually mounting civilian pressure resulted in the wall being torn down on 9 November 1989. Now, 25 years on, only fragments remain.
Getting there – EasyJet flies direct from various UK airports to Berlin Schonefeld. Returns cost from £53; flight time is from 1hr 45mins. The airport (berlin-airport.de) is 18km south-east of central Berlin. Getting to the city centre is straightforward; the fastest route is via the Airport Express train, which takes 30 minutes to reach the Central Station. A single ticket costs €3.20 (£2.50). S-Bahn trains, buses and trams also link the airport to the city. If you prefer to get a taxi, expect to pay over €45 (£35.70).
The visit – If possible, visit during the anniversary. On the weekend of 9 November, a new type of wall will be forged: thousands of illuminated, helium-filled balloons will create a 12km border of light across the city; celebrations will reach a crescendo when the balloons are cut free. There’s still plenty to see year-round though. Visit Checkpoint Charlie, on Friedrichstrasse -once the only crossing point for foreigners between East and West Berlin. Today a replica booth, complete with sandbags, marks the spot. Next head to the East Side Gallery, in Friedrichshain.
Here you’ll find a 1,316m stretch of original wall, which is emblazoned with artwork and satirical images. Another section of the wall along Bernauer Strasse is now an official place of remembrance. The keen historian can follow the Berliner Mauerweg (Berlin Wall Trail), which traces the line of the former fortifications. The 160km route has been divided into 14 sections, making it easy to plan a foray on foot or by bike. If that’s not enough, don’t forget the city’s other 420 galleries, 50 theatres and 153 museums! Seelvisitberlin.defor more info.