Thursday, August 18, 2011

BERLIN PART 3: REMNANTS OF THE WALL

As previously mentioned, our first stop in Berlin was in transit to Denmark.  Our second stop was part of the cruise portion of our trip later on in our journey.

"Wait!" you might say. "Berlin is not on the ocean!"  Yes, that is true, which is why we spent two hours driving each way from the port city of Rostock to Berlin and back.  Yes, we were VERY glad we had taken the opportunity to explore on our previous stop in Berlin.

On this visit, instead of just seeing where the wall had been, we actually got to see remnants (and/or representations) of the Wall itself at several different locations around the city.

Potsdamer Platz is a famous square at the center of Berlin that was bombed to smithereens during the war, then later bisected by the Berlin Wall and left completely desolate.  After the Wall came down, it was redeveloped and is now a major commercial center.  Pieces of the Wall have been left up as an interesting kind of public art:
 
Berlin's "East Side Gallery" is a 1.3 kilometer-long section of the Wall that was left standing and painted by 117 different artists.  We drove past this in our bus and didn't stop.  It is one of the places I would like to return to.
This famous painting of Brezhnev kissing East German Chancellor Erich Honnecker has been very controversial.
This observation deck allows visitors to get a clear view of a segment of the Wall and the Death Strip behind it.

The concrete wall was on the West Berlin side, and residents could walk right next to it.  On the East Berlin side, however, was a second fence that prevented East Berliners from approaching the Wall. The completely barren area between the two walls, known as the Death Strip or No Man's Land, had anti-vehicle trenches, guard towers, and no cover for anyone trying to approach the wall.  Some areas were strewn with land mines and barbed wire, and at night the area was swept by spotlights.
One of the 120 guard towers along the Berlin Wall

Few of the Death Strip through a crack in the concrete wall.
A Wikipedia photo of the Wall and the Death Strip from around 1960.  Note the extensive artwork on the West Berlin side.  Berlin is currently one of the key cities in the contemporary art scene. Perhaps the emotion-charged paintings on this wall are part of the foundation for that movement in Berlin.
An outdoor museum in this area gives the history of the Wall.  The picture below shows how churches were razed to make way for the Wall and Death Strip.

West Berliners looking over the Wall, trying to get a glimpse of loved ones:
Markers show where people attempted to flee and the date of their escape:

The top of the wall was rounded and slippery with no hand hold anywhere to aid a person trying to climb over:

There is a quote painted on one section of the Wall that we did not see but which I've seen in pictures: "Many small people who in many small places do many small things can alter the face of the world."   I admire the courage of the East German people who did not give up, who remained Germans and did not become Soviets, and who finally, after 28 years, 10 months, and 27 days, took that Wall down piece by piece.

3 comments:

  1. Interesting how stark and dreary these pictures are compared to the rest of your posts of Europe.

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  2. Unbelievable -- and what amazes me most is that this is such recent history...we can hardly distance ourselves from it in order to feel better

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  3. When we went to the Newseum in Washington DC, they had six sections of the wall, a guard tower, and around the edge of the exhibit room, video of events regarding the wall (including a couple of escapes from E. Germany, as well as footage from the day the wall fell), and reprinted articles and commentary on the Wall. That room carried a big punch, because as Susan noted, that history is very recent for us older folks. Interesting post.

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