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The Berlin Wall Fell Here: A guide to 10 places travellers should visit to explore the division and reunification of Germany

It happened 30 years ago, and memories turn to joyous scenes of Berliners chipping away at the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburger Tor. The showpiece gate is a great site to visit and photograph and has its own varied history. But that was not how the Berlin Wall really fell.

What life was like under the so-called German Democratic Republic, beyond the socialist idylls of Karl-Marx-Allee and the former showpiece centre of East Berlin, is covered in many museums and memorials that remain centres of interest for travellers. A few have been added in recent years.

Much of the material on show in German museums devoted to the topic of the Wall involves the mundane, the currency of daily life that is fading for those who experienced it and beyond the generation of Germans born since reunification. But there are also grimmer reminders and it is customary for German memorials to misery and te¬rror to be free for visitors to contemplate.

More than 200 events are marking the fall of the Wall.

1. Bösebrücke rail bridge, Bornholmer Straße, Prenzlauer Berg

The first place East Berliners managed to get through to West Berlin on November 9, 1989, was from the inner suburb on the east side of the bridge. Following the bungled announcement by the East German government that borders would open, a noisy crowd of citizens gathered at the post that had been sealed to them for 28 years, demanding the guard unit let them through.

After tense minutes, and lacking clear official orders despite his desperate phone calls, the post’s officer in charge resolved to open the gate.

Today, Platz des 9. November 1989 commemorates the moment the first East Berlin residents were able to cross to West Berlin. Information boards at the site record the history of the border post and the night it reopened forever.

The tumult of the rise and fall of the Wall hit what had long been a working-class suburb. Through the early 1990s, many of the district’s streets were shabby hangouts for a youth who had been frustrated during the declining years of the GDR and the area was in need of social investment. This world lent itself to counter-culture lifestyles. But now parts of Prenzlauer Berg rank among Berlin’s prestigious addresses, thanks to the gentrification that has transformed parts of Berlin since reunification.

2. Bernauer Straße, Berlin Mitte

At the corner of Eberswalder Straße and near today’s Mauerpark, the first formal crossing was created through the Wall, 15 minutes after midnight on November 10, 1989. A surviving section of wall is the focal point of Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg, running north and parallel with a now-pedestrian section of Schwedter Straße. Today, this is a popular weekend market site.

But, right along Bernauerstraße, it is impossible to forget the Wall. The street was one of the centres of the drama surrounding the raising of the border, marked by people dropping from windows to reach freedom on the west side. A string of open-air memorials and exhibition sites known as Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer is linked to the reconstructed documentation centre opposite.

Between Nordbahnhof and Brunnenstraße are the remains of the Wall, information boards, audio and visual posts and memorials to victims. Small plates on the footpath mark some of the successful escapes through the barrier. A chapel of reconciliation is east of Ackerstraße.

An exhibit in the Nordbahnhof station subway explains the strange divided rail network of the Cold War years and how the guarded ‘ghost’ stations of East Berlin were closed to the West Berlin rail passengers who travelled under East Berlin territory.

3. DDR Museum, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 1, Berlin Mitte

A visit to this place is one way of getting in touch with everyday East German existence. The popular commercial museum, beside the river Spree in central Berlin, is a busy and crowded exhibition of life in the socialist state with artefacts from the period down to room settings. There is occasional play on some of the more absurd-seeming aspects of East German life, but a jail cell interior shows the harder edge of reality in a repressive state.

4. Stasi-Museum Berlin, Ruschestraße 103, Lichtenberg

The recently redesigned museum is a must for travellers. The Stasi or Staatssicherheitspolizei, run by the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit was the GDR state security and intelligence bureau, the enforcer of repressive political measures. Everything was controlled from here, including an extraordinarily wide network of community informers keeping watch on their own people. After the fall of the Wall, word of these activities spread and in 1990 the building was stormed by angry citizens searching for their security files.

5. Checkpoint Charlie, corner Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße, Mitte/Kreuzberg

The precinct around Checkpoint Charlie is a natural location for museums and memorials. During the 1948-49 Berlin blockade, the military border crossing was a likely Cold War flashpoint. Just after the 1961 erection of the Berlin Wall, US and Soviet tanks faced each other in a tense 16-hour standoff while top-level talks behind the scenes resolved an impasse over US diplomatic access. The spot was the gate between Berlin’s US and Soviet-run sectors and a replica of its famous sign stands on Friedrichstraße. The original US guard house was removed to another museum (see below) but a replacement has been provided for photographic purposes. There is plenty of commercial activity in this precinct, however the practice of almost-replica soldiers posing for paid photographs seems has been banned by city authorities after increasing signs the practice was irritating Berliners.

Nearby on Friedrichstraße, Mauermuseum - Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie tells the story of the Wall with a focus on stories of escape, division and frustration and occasional triumphs of escapees over the border defences.

The Black Box Kalter Krieg is a multimedia exhibition covering the Cold War years with themes such as disarmament negotiations and GDR escape attempts. The panorama art project Die Mauer, one of a series of history-based projects by the artist Yadegar Asisi, presents views of everyday lives either side of the Berlin Wall in the 1980s.

Not far from Checkpoint Charlie, on Zimmerstraße, are more information boards and photographs. Niederkirchnerstraße, between Stresemannstraße and Wilhelmstraße, preserves a chipped, graffitied, but otherwise unadorned section of the Wall. It is the best possible impression of its appearance from the East Berlin side of Checkpoint Charlie for almost 30 years, with the Soviet-controlled Mitte district to the north and Kreuzberg, part of West Berlin, to the south.

6. Potsdamer Platz, Berlin Mitte

It is hard to credit today that the great city traffic junction spent almost 30 years as part of the desolate no-man’s-land beside the Wall. About 150m east of Potsdamer Platz on Erna-Berger-Straße is a surviving GDR guard tower, maintained by a volunteer group, which can be climbed on afternoons for a small donation. Some wall sections with information boards have been set up outside the Potsdamer Platz S-Bahn/U-Bahn station.

Nearby at at Leipziger Platz 9, Deutsches Spionagemuseum focuses on the work of spies and their Berlin Cold War history. The museum includes an interactive spy map and details intelligence operations, electronic monitoring and the story of spy swaps.

7. East Side Gallery, Mühlenstraße, Friedrichshain

Always a popular spot with Berlin visitors is the Kunstmeile or East Side Gallery, a long section of wall on the Friedrichshain bank of the Spree transformed by street art on one side and images on political themes on the other. The nearby Wall Museum East Side Gallery uses multimedia stories and recreations of a dozen room settings to tell the stories of Wall victims and border guards at key historical moments up to the end of Germany’s division.

8. The ‘Palace of Tears’, Reichstagufer 17, Berlin Mitte

At another border crossing, on the Spree near Bahnhof Friedrichstraße, the Tränenpalast exhibition focuses on the business of border controls and how these affected people who applied to visit relatives on the other side of the Wall, including the use of design propaganda. The building was designed by East German authorities to be light on their side, dark on the west, and barriers concealed inspection rooms. Open suitcases show the memorabilia of travellers.

9. Alliierten Museum, Clayallee 135, Zehlendorf

For a more military take on what life was like for the occupiers of West Berlin after World War II and during the Cold War, visit the Alliierten Museum in Zehlendorf, south-west of the city, with its relics of border checkpoints (including the original Checkpoint Charlie post), intelligence equipment and hardware including a supply aircraft.

10. Glienicker Brücke, Potsdam

Potsdam, 30 years ago part of East Germany, has its own Berlin Wall site. The arched steel Glienicker Brücke, the Cold War frontier on the river Havel at the north end of the city, became known as the ‘bridge of spies’ after being used for a known handful of prisoner exchanges. At this isolated spot the border was a simple line across the middle of the bridge (marked by a plaque today), though carefully watched. Here the US reconnaissance pilot Francis Gary Powers was handed back to American officials in 1962 as part of one exchange: others belong to the pages of popular espionage fiction.

Today, the site makes a pleasant stroll. An exhibition on the history of Glienicker Brücke is at the gallery Villa Schöningen, Berliner Straße 86.

For the full story on Berlin memorial site, and the best places to follow the story of the Wall, visit ravenguides.com and download the free 2019 Berlin guide.

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Culture Encounters

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Berlin

Great Cities of Germany

Füssen

Füssen travel guide PDF in 3 pages

The tiny town at the foot of the Alps has its own medieval castle and Baroque monastery as well as being the jumping-off point for visits to the famous Romantic castles nearby.

● How to visit Schloß Neuschwanstein and Schloß Hohenschwangau

● The Wieskirche, a UNESCO-listed Rococo pilgrimage church, is a short ride away

● The town’s own castle, churches and museums

Hyperlink access to essential tourist and accommodation information

Aachen

Aachen travel guide PDF in 5 pages

The Romans developed the hot springs at Aachen, then 1200 years ago the Frankish king Charlemagne set up his court there and the town became the centre of his empire. The 2018 Raven Guide to Aachen is available for free download now.

● A guide to Charlemagne's church, which grew to become the present Aachen cathedral, one of the first world heritage sites

● The Roman and medieval survivals of the city and details of the city tour

● Essential services with hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Eisenach

Eisenach travel guide PDF in 4 pages

The new Raven guide to the Thuringian town, birthplace of Bach and hiding place of Martin Luther early in his revolt against the established church. It is also the site of one of Germany’s great medieval castles, with links to another great German composer, Wagner, and a centre of automobile making.

● Guide to the Wartburg castle

● Guides to the Bach museum of his life and work and museum of car manufacture

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Wittenberg travel guide PDF in 4 pages

More than 500 years after Martin Luther's Reformation, this free guide covers the place where it all began. The town was the cradle of the religious movement that threw off the structures of the Catholic church and shaped new ideas and ways of worship, but also more than a century of bitter conflict that shaped Germany forever.

● Key sites, now world heritage monuments, include Luther's house and the castle

● The church where Luther's revolt began and churches Luther and his associates preached

● Hyperlinks to further tourist information and to websites for city accommodation

Bamberg

Bamberg travel guide PDF in 5 pages

The layout of the UNESCO heritage-listed city centre and a range of Baroque and medieval architecture makes Bamberg one of Germany’s most beautiful cities.

● The Romanesque cathedral, the opulent bishops’ Residenz palace, and its Renaissance predecessor dominate the old town

● The old town hall in the middle of the river Regnitz and the mysterious statue Bamberger Reiter attract millions of travellers

● Summaries of 35 historic sites and museums

● Information on tours, parks, food and the arts

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Trier

Trier travel guide PDF in 7 pages

The Roman Trier was at one time second only to Rome itself. It was home to one of the most powerful Roman emperors, Constantine the Great, and later to Karl Marx. Signs of its past greatness remain for travellers to marvel at. Germany’s oldest city – and one of its oldest cathedrals – remain and are world-heritage listed.

● Read about the ancient Roman city gate Porta Nigra, the Roman bath complexes, a well-preserved amphitheatre and Constantine’s former imperial palace, plus the buildings of the medieval city

● The guide includes more than 30 sites, churches and museums, with essential services, *transport links, transit and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg travel guide PDF in 4 pages

Completely walled with more than 40 towers, the cobbled pedestrian streets of the Romantic Road town perched above the Tauber valley are little changed since the 17th century, with medieval and Renaissance half-timbered houses and stone churches.

● The guide includes 17 sites and museums and an excursion to the Franconian open-air museum at nearby Bad Windsheim

● Essential services, transport links, food tips and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and websites for many of the town’s small accommodation houses

Potsdam

Potsdam travel guide updated for 2019

Potsdam is a curious but beautiful mixture of Prussian palaces and military buildings established by its martial rulers. The Stadtschloß palace was the first royal residence and others gradually multiplied in the city's extensive parklands over 250 years. The city’s minorities grew with waves of immigration, leaving the Dutch quarter Holländisches Viertel, a Bohemian district and the Russian colony Siedlung Alexandrowka and its tiny Orthodox church. This guide offers:

● An introduction to the delicate Rococo palace Schloß Sanssouci and the palaces and pavilions of Park Sanssouci with brief histories

● The story of Potsdam’s ornate city gates, its Baroque streetscapes and 15 museums

● Details of essential services, transport links and fares, accommodation, food and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Regensburg

Regensburg travel guide PDF in 6 pages

The streets, archways and buildings of this medieval city, which grew from remains of a Roman legionary camp, remain. The range of ancient monuments and its streetscapes justify Regensburg’s world heritage listing.

● One of Germany’s classic Gothic cathedrals, several medieval churches, rare Gothic tower houses and one of Germany’s oldest stone bridges

Almost 30 sites and museums, including the nearby Walhalla gallery of great Germanic figures of history

● Information on essential services, transport links and urban transit and fares plus listings of travel essentials

● Hyperlink access to accommodation websites and further tourist information

Würzburg

Würzburg travel guide PDF of 7 pages

The prince-bishops who controlled Würzburg for centuries built wealth, power and influence expressed in Baroque by their huge palace, the UNESCO world-heritage Residenz. Their medieval castle still commands the city, reached by a stone bridge.

● Summaries of Würzburg’s grand residences, the medieval cathedral, churches and other sites

Museums and galleries including one of Europe’s prominent Jewish museums

Tours, essential services, transport links, transit services and fares and food tips

● Hyperlink access to accommodation and further tourist information websites

Passau

Passau travel guide PDF in 4 pages

The border city of three rivers includes the Baroque cathedral of St Stephan, with one of the world’s largest organs, the fortress Veste Oberhaus and the well preserved old town.

● Descriptions of 13 sites and museums, including the exhibits of Passau’s Roman past and history of glass manufacture

● Details of essential services, transport links and urban buses including fares, accommodation, food, tours and spectacular views

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Dinkelsbühl

Dinkelsbühl travel guide PDF in 2 pages

This short guide covers a tiny medieval walled town, left unchanged by a royal decree and now a favourite of artists and a small number of travellers.

● Dinkelsbühl’s town walls and many Gothic and Renaissance buildings keep its atmosphere alive

● Small hotels, pensions and restaurants complement the historical scene

● Essential services, tourist and transport information are included with hyperlinks to accommodation

Augsburg

Augsburg travel guide PDF in 6 pages

The wealth and influence of Augsburg’s powerful families brought the Renaissance to Germany at a time when the city was also the site of key events of the Reformation.

● The home of Germany’s onion-domed towers, museums with magnificent works of art, and one of the beautiful Renaissance streets of Germany, the Maximilianstraße

Guides to more than 30 sites, including monuments to Roman settlement

Transport links and fares, food and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Heidelberg

Heidelberg travel guide PDF in 7 pages

The most common description for Heidelberg is Romantic. This comes from its valley location, half-ruined castle and the towered stone bridge crossing the river Neckar.

● Explore Heidelberg’s cobbled streets in search of the essence of the city – Germany’s oldest university, the churches, monuments to its religious struggles, and its restaurants and cafes

● Discover the castle, its history, and thefunicular railway that makes the climb – and vantage points above the city – much easier

● Several budget hotel and private hostels that help make Heidelberg accommodation affordable, plus hyperlink access to other accommodation and tourist information sites

● Guides to 27 sites and museums

Goslar

Goslar travel guide PDF in 5 pages

The medieval town has hundreds of colourful half-timbered houses, Romanesque churches and the Kaiserpfalz, one of Germany’s oldest palaces. Its ancient Rammelsberg mines were the source of its wealth and are partly responsible for the town’s world heritage status.

19 sites and museums including the finest town houses

● A town walk and Rammelsberg tour

● Information on transport links plus listings of travel essentials and hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

● An excursion to the nearby half-timbered Harz town Wernigerode

Lübeck

Lübeck travel guide PDF in 7 pages

Trade made Lübeck the centre of the Baltic and the red-brick Gothic old town its merchant wealth built is now UNESCO world heritage-listed. Its churches, town houses and civic institutions are preserved and restored.

● The commercial and civic culture of the city through guides to 30 sites, museums and galleries

Tours, the best views and food options with other travel essentials

● Information on transport links and transit services including fares

● Hyperlinks to further tourist information and to websites for city accommodation

Berlin

Berlin travel guide PDF updated for 2019

Get 34 pages of things to do in Berlin free. Berlin is used to crisis, novelty and immigrants – so to visit Berlin is to visit many Berlins. The city that the Enlightenment and industrial progress created survived years of destruction and division.

● Descriptions of places to visit in Berlin including more than 60 historic sites, with guides to walking sections of the Berlin Wall, its museums and its memorials

● A complete guide to what to do in Berlin, including tours, cruises, parks and the best views

● Separate sections for the districts Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and Neukölln, Schöneberg-Tempelhof, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and Spandau, with local food and accommodation lists and quick guides to essential services

● Summary of major transport links with Berlin

● How to use urban transit services including Berlin U-Bahn and S-Bahn, with their differences and the fares

● Summaries of more than 50 Berlin museums of history, art and culture, and information on all major performance groups including orchestras, opera and theatre

● Short history of the city and its precincts

● Hyperlinks to websites for Berlin hotels and hostels and further tourist information

Bremen

Bremen travel guide PDF in 6 pages

One of Germany’s oldest cities includes UNESCO world heritage monuments, ornate Renaissance architecture with a regional stamp, the story of world travellers including emigrants to the US and arts precincts with works by some of the most innovative German artists.

● The ancient St Petri cathedral and 11 other sites including the giant Roland figure

17 Bremen museums including art and the remarkable Übersee-Museum, with exhibits of the wonders of the continents touched by Bremen’s worldwide trade interests

Transport links and the city’s complicated transit system explained

● Hyperlink access to websites for accommodation houses and further tourist information

Dresden

Dresden travel guide PDF in 11 pages

Twice over the centuries, Dresden has been an amazing place. The first period was the Baroque magnificence of the 17th and 18th centuries. The second is now, with much of the city’s splendour restored.

Dresden's city palaces with their museums and galleries, highlighted by the two Green Vault museums, are among the most remarkable in Germany

● The exquisite, rebuilt Frauenkirche

● The Saxon ducal and royal summer palaces of Pillnitz and Moritzburg

● In all, 30 museums and galleries of art and culture

● Information on tours, essential services, parks and views, food and performing arts

● Details of excursions to the medieval city of Meissen, centre of European porcelain, and the fortress of Königstein

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Hamburg

Hamburg travel guide PDF in 8 pages

Germany’s mighty port city attracts travellers from all over the world and was the departure point for generations of migrants. ● 25 sites, ships, museums, monuments and churches that reflect Hamburg’s maritime and trading traditions

● The UNESCO world heritage Speicherstadt, centre of Hamburg’s former free port

● Essential services are listed with a choice of tours, including port tours

● Information on transport links and extensive urban transit services including fares

● Listings of essential traveller services

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

● The city’s arts and music scene, including opera

Nuremberg (Nürnberg)

Nuremberg travel guide PDF in 8 pages

Modern Nuremberg has preserved or restored many walled and historic areas. The city’s leading late medieval citizens were some of the best known German personalities. Then came the Nazis.

● Guides to 20 buildings, historic streets and monuments, among them the Kaiserburg, the castle of early imperial German assemblies

● 13 museums, including Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Germany’s leading cultural history museum

● The courts of the post-World War II war crimes trials, now also a museum

Transport links, urban transit, tours and essential services

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Cologne (Köln)

Cologne travel guide PDF in 11 pages

Cologne is Roman, medieval and modern all at once, a city known for piety, carnival and perfume. Travellers can walk the historic centre and the remains of the Roman wall.

Germany’s mightiest cathedral, which took more than 600 years to complete

● Cologne’s Roman and medieval walls and gates picked out for travellers

● 12 precious Romanesque churches with historical background

● In all, 25 sites and 17 museums of art, history and culture including the Römisch-Germanisches Museum and associated archaeological sites

Transport links and urban transit services including fares

Tours, parks, views, food and performing arts

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Stuttgart

Stuttgart travel guide PDF in 6 pages

The Baden-Württemberg capital is one of Germany’s beautiful lifestyle cities, surrounded by hills and some of the country’s most beautiful palaces and pleasure pavilions.

● 10 sites including Stuttgart’s castle complexes, Schloß Solitude and the magnificent palaces of Ludwigsburg nearby

● 10 museums and galleries of art

Tours, walks through the city’s extensive parks and views

● Guide to essential services and hyperlinks to tourist information and accommodation house websites and a guide to performance art

Munich (München)

Munich travel guide PDF in 13 pages

Munich was founded by monks and built up by dukes and kings, but became a centre of revolution as well as a home for arts, industry and travellers enjoying the good life.

● Germany’s largest museum, Deutsches Museum, and some of its richest art museums

● The city’s extensive palaces and palace gardens are featured

● Almost 30 museums of history, art and culture

● 30 historic sites in and around the city

● Information on major performance groups including orchestras and opera

Accommodation, food and a guide to essential services including transport links and urban transit services and fares

● A choice of city tours and some of its finest views

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites