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Berlin Wall

remains of the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz
Remains of the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz, once considered the Time Square of Berlin. Courtesy visitBerlin

The 25th Anniversary Of
The Fall of the Berlin Wall
By Ed Boitano

recreation of Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin
A recreation of Checkpoint Charlie, a border crossing between East and West. Courtesy visitBerlin

n 1962, a dozen seniors escaped from East Berlin by way of ‘Der Seniorentunnel,’ the Senior Citizens Tunnel. Led by an 81-year-old man, the group had spent 16 days digging a 160-foot-long and 6-foot-tall tunnel from a chicken coop to the other side of the Wall in West Berlin. The tunnel was tall because the group wanted to walk to freedom with their wives, proudly and unbowed. An East German acrobat traversed hand-over-hand from an unused high-tension cable while dangling 60 feet over the head of patrolling guards as his escape to the West. One man floated over the Wall in a helium balloon, a woman starved herself so that she could cross the checkpoint in a suitcase in the trunk of a car. These are among the amazing stories of escapes from East Berlin to West Berlin, where several thousand people made it safely across the Wall. The exact number is unknown. At least 136 others suffered tragic deaths.

Backstory

After the Allied powers defeat of Germany in World War II, Germany was divided into two countries, with the West occupied by the United States, Great Britain, France, and the East controlled by the Soviet Union. Berlin, situated in the middle of communist East Germany (GDR), was also divided. West Berlin became an enclave of a capitalistic democracy, experiencing rapid economic growth and a high standard of living. In the East, under the thumb of the Soviet Union, the economy dragged and individual freedoms were severely restricted. By 1961, no longer able to tolerate the repressive living conditions, over 2.5 million East Germans had fled to West Berlin. East Germany and East Berlin were losing its labor force, and desperately needed to stop the mass exodus.

diagram of Berlin Wall

earlier version of the Berlin wall
An earlier version of the Wall. Courtesy Berlin Wall Photographs

The Berlin Wall – coined the ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart’ by the GDR – was erected, preventing East Berliners from fleeing to West Berlin, or even going to their jobs or visiting relatives in the West. The Wall stretched over a hundred miles, cutting West Berlin off from East Berlin and the rest of East Germany.

Robert F. Kennedy visiting the Berlin Wall in the 1960s
Robert F. Kennedy visits the Wall. Courtesy picture: alliance/dpa

East and West Berliners breaking down portions of the Berlin Wall, 1989
Courtesy: Psalms Life

A dual inner-Wall was soon built facing the outer Wall. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, which circumscribed a wide area that contained anti-vehicle trenches, patrols, watch dogs, ‘fakir beds’ and other defenses. The barren strip between was known as ‘no-man’s-land’ or ‘the death strip.’ Any person found in this stark landscape was shot on sight.

On November 9, 1989, following an escalation of massive protests, as well as a shaky Soviet economy, border crossings were opened. Millions celebrated across Berlin and around the globe. Thousands chipped away at the Wall as East and West Berliners embraced each other. Celebrations commenced. German reunification would soon follow.

the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall
The East Side Gallery, the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, is decorated by 118 artists from 21 countries. Courtesy visitBerlin

25 Years After the Fall of the Wall

From November 8 to 9, 2014, Berlin will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall with events and exhibitions, covering the Berlin Wall, the Cold War, and the German reunification – events that have radically changed the course of world history. A light installation will follow the former path of the Wall over 7.5 miles with 8,000 illuminated helium-filled balloons. The installation is rumoured to be visible from outer space, weather permitting. The emotive theme of the event is to focus on the Fall of the Wall as a symbol of hope for a world without walls.

Mauerpark
Mauerpark is a popular place for locals to relax and visit the Sunday flea market along a remaining piece of the back Wall. Courtesy visitBerlin

Recommended Highlights

Berlin Wall Memorial: The commemoration takes place along a mile-long former border strip, showcasing Central Berlin‘s last expanse of the Wall. A new permanent exhibition, “25 Years Fall of the Wall” will be unveiled on November 9, 2014.

East Side Gallery: This is the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, decorated by 118 artists from 21 countries. A must to visit.

Yadegar Asisi’s 360° Berlin Wall: This must be seen to be believed. Artist Yadegar Asisi transports you back to the Cold War with a cylindrical steel rotunda that offers a 360° panoramic view of East Berlin and the Wall in the 1980s.

Cycling the Trail of the Wall: Berlin on Bikes specializes in guided bicycle tours along the path of the Wall. Ask for guide Sascha, who is a cycling encyclopedia on all things Berlin.

Palace of Tears: Situated at a former border crossing station, the museum helps visitors understand the border experience and the steps toward reunification.

Wall Museum & Black Box at Checkpoint Charlie: The museum at Checkpoint Charlie features the Cold War, construction of the Wall, and the fight for human rights. Also located at Checkpoint Charlie, the Black Box informs the public about the history of the famous former border crossing point and the Cold War This is the crossing where U.S. and Soviet tanks faced off for 16 hours in 1961 almost creating a third world war. Checkpoint Charlie can be touristic, but is still worth a visit.

GDR Museum: The museum focuses on everyday life behind the Iron Curtain, and includes such exhibits as a Trabant Car (The GDR’s answer to West Germany’s Volkswagen) original furnishings and home accessories and food items. www.ddr-museum.de

STASI Museum: Modeled after the KGB, the Stasi was the GDR’s infamous secret police. Located in house # 1 of the terrifying former central complex of the Ministry of State Security, the museum showcases original offices, as well as diverse aspects of the political system and the opposition against it.

East German Watchtowers: A memorial to the victims of Berlin‘s former division. In particular, Memorial Günter Litfin is one of the few authentic watchtowers remaining. In a tribute to the first victim of the Wall, the man’s brother generally conducts tours of the tower.

Airberlin jet taking off
Courtesy airberlin

How to Get There – airberlin

Travelers have been known to say that their favorite part of a trip is flying business class. I would not go that far, but flying in airberlin‘s business class certainly made my direct flight from Chicago to Berlin enjoyable. The seats are in private cubicles that adjust to upright, relaxation and completely flat. There’s a private video screen, and the service is impecable. The flight also features indigenous German food, wine and beer. I spoke to passengers in economy who enoyed their flight as well – but probably not as much as me.


Kids enjoying the sun and a new future at Mauerpark. Courtesy visitBerlin

For further information, log on to visitBerlin and airberlin

Related Articles:
Berlin: Yesterday and Today; Berlin in Five Hours; Berlin's Beautiful Bahnhof; Three Things We Didn't Know About Berlin; Berlin's Hoppegarten; A Jogging Tour of Berlin


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Let Ed know what you think about his traveling adventure.

* * * * *

Feedback for "Spokane, Pullman and the Palouse"

Loved the Spokane article – my mom was born there and my grandparents are interred there. Haven't been back in decades.

--- Nancy, Hawaii

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Feedback for "Norway's Fjords"

Hi Ed. I was just reading your great story about traveling through the Norwegian countryside and the voyage along the coast - sounds amazing. I’ve been to Oslo, but definitely would like to return to Norway one day to explore exactly what you wrote about.

Cheers,

--- Sasha H.

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Feedback for "In Search of Movie Locations In the Land of Aloha"

Mahalo for your article on Hawaii film locations. You should check out our new "The Hawaii Movie and Television Book" at: http://hawaiimtvbook.weebly.com/

--- Ed Rampell (Co-Author), Los Angeles, CA

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Hi! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!

--- Christian Louboutin, U.K.

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Cool site.

--- Donna Namaste', San Francisco, CA

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Great work as always.

--- S. Wyatt, Seattle, WA

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Hr. (Danish for sir) Ed,

Thanks so much for your article on Copenhagen, DK...loved it! Very well done actually I used to live in Christianshavn (just next to Christania) and Danish is my second language.

You really did a quite grand job and pulled me ALL of the way into your analogy and experience from my other home.

Just one detail that I thought might have been included.....the bakeries & cheese shops in the mornings in nearly every 5 or so blocks as they waft the incredible hypnotizing aromas of those amazing Danish specialties.

I most especially and absolutely love the fact that you included the "hyggeligt" element...wonderful!!

Another aspect of the Danish language that I have found interesting is that we only cuss to devil rather than the more typically religious icons and that love (elsker) is only very rarely used.

All-in-all you have me totally on your team and I will always look forward to your future writing.

Med venlig hilsen...(with kind regards).

--- Breeze

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Hi Ed,

Thank you for your article on the Cherokee Nation. I really appreciate the historical perspective and recognition of their contribution to American culture.

--- Nora Weber, British Columbia

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Another cool issue. You da' man. One question: Is that Mark Lindsay on the front page?

--- Brent, Seattle, WA

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This would be a fascinating place to visit. There is so much history within our reach that we don't often acknowledge in more than a token way. I am wondering if any individual or group has ever gone on a vision quest, or perhaps a memorial march, by retracing the path of the Trail of Tears? This would be a painful journey, for most, I imagine.

--- Sandra, Seattle, WA

Osiyo! From Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism: What a great description of Kauai! The pictures are awesome and I loved reading your travel report! Keep pushin' on!

--- Lisa Long, Tulsa, OK

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I'm getting hungry again just reading your article! It's hot today and I could really use a shave ice right now.

Hope you're having a great day!

--- Melissa, Honolulu, HI

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Thanks so much for sharing! Wow. The beauty even from the few pictures here and your descriptions is breathtaking... I can't even imagine being there for real! The food looks and sounds exquisite, I'm not sure my kind of exquisite, but I do like to be adventurous on occasion :).Quite the story there.

--- Emily, Boise, ID

Great pictures!

--- Anna Harrison, Palmdale, CA

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Tough job, Ed! Thanks for sharing.

--- Brenda Hughes, Richland, WA

Ed, Tim from the team of Jack and Tim - Star Clipper. Great trip. Always enjoy your postings.

--- Tim & Jack, Washington DC

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Hi Ed,

I really enjoyed your story on the Empress of the North. I was an Assistant Cruise Director aboard her in 2004, and you gave me a treasured walk down memory lane with her.You might know this, but if not .... you can cruise the Columbia again late this summer and early fall. The Empress' sister boat, the Queen of the West, was purchased by American Cruise lines and will offer a Columbia River itinerary which almost mirrors the one my Empress used to travel. Just thought you'd like to know.

--- Paul Penta, 2004 Assistant Cruise Director, Empress of the North, Copperas Cove, TX

Ed, you are by far the most interesting of all the Boitanos. Your coverage is extensive and captivating. It's a real treat to read your blogs. Your article on the Baltic Sea Nations is no exception. But don't get me wrong, the other Boitanos have their own charm and perspective. Thanks for all your articles. I can see it's a work of art. I just now noticed your Dog Quotes --- what a great collection! Keep up the good work. Keep on sharing your travels! This is better than the more popular travelogues.

--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA

Hi Ed,

How's life? Hope all's well in sunny Cal.

Having just received the latest issue of the Traveling Boy newsletter I popped back over to your site to take a look around and came across this article which I had not previously read: www.travelingboy.com/archive-travel-ed-baltic.html

Loved it! First of all, this is a part of the world that I absolutely adore so reading about it is always a pleasure. Secondly, I'm happy to see you crossing things off your Buck with such gusto! Myself, I have already been to Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen, and Tallinn, St. Petersburg and Moscow are all on my Buck. After reading through the article I reminded once again why!

One of my favourite lines in the piece is:

"Granted, eight to twenty-fours in world-class cities like Helsinki and Tallinn hardly does them justice, but a sketch is always better than a blank canvas."

So very true. I'll take a sketch over a blank canvas any day! Besides, sketches often lead to full-blown paintings anyway.

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this story. Hope there are many more fun adventures awaiting you soon!

Cheers,

--- Ashley, Toronto

Thanks for a great trip, Ed - such a comfortable way to travel, particularly to several cities i knew very little about. I've had only one sea voyage - crossed to G.B. on the United States in the early 60s - no balconies, etc. on that ship, as she was prepared to be stripped down to carry troops in event of WWIII, but still luxurious in her own way.

Bumped into a documentary recently on PBS re the old lady who is now docked in Philadelphia, I believe with peeling paint on her sides and funnels and of course the interior stripped and auctioned off of everything...periodic moves to rehabilitate her, but so costly people back off. She was the largest and fastest - still is. Her record was 3 days crossing - we did it in a little over 5 (cruise speed I guess!). They showed regular passengers like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor who happened to be on board when I was, as well as gazillions of stars who traveled on her. Charles Boyer was the only one on my crossing - we were alone in the library one time, but I didn't say anything. He looked immersed in his pursuit of a book. The Windsors were tiny little people, as was M. Boyer (and this comment from a 5'2" observer!). How's that for an ancient history lesson? Anyhow seeing the ship like she is now made me almost teary - surprised myself somehow.

--- Brenda Hughes, Richland, WA

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I loved this article!! Kept me in rapt attention, felt like I explored part of the world myself ;) nice way to start my day, sounds altogether amazing and unforgettable!

--- Emily, Boise, ID

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Great writing!! Reading, education and fabulous locations! All around WOWS!

--- E Dava, Burbank, CA

What a wonderful assortment of travel destinations. I have always been drawn to islands, and as a Pacific Northwesterner, dream from time to time about settling in the San Juans someday (like a lot of us here visualize for ourselves). Hopefully, travel will occur before this particular dream comes to pass. I enjoy reading about the connections you have with the places you write about. I will visit that fishing village in Norway, someday, just because of the photograph. Who wouldn't, after seeing it. Thanks, Ed

--- Sandee, Seattle, WA

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Another great edition!

--- CG, Central California Coast

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Hi Ed,

I sailed into Sooke on my way to port Ludlow from Portland, Oregon in my sailboat few years back. It was interesting port. The entry is snake like channel with local fisherman's local markers only to guide you into the port.

--- Larry, Portland, OR

Wow. I want to go to Vietnam! It's beautiful! Those are amazing pictures!

--- Archie, Pasadena, CA

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Kudos to Mark Twain. He knows how to honor a dog, and kudos to Cedric for all he was and still is and kudos to you for another edition of www.traveling boy.com. Peace and Love,

--- Joel, Pasadena, CA

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Ed, I really enjoy your traveling adventures. Your stories are so well written and the photographs are amazing. Thank you for letting us in on your adventures. You bring the adventure to those of us who aren't able to go. Thank you.

--- Cheryl, Pismo Beach, CA

Amazing story and pictures. To think that 40 years ago we were all terrified at the prospect of going there... what a difference a few decades makes. Fantastic article!

--- Roger, Puyallup, WA

Thanks for your expert insight, Jeremy. Have you ever lived in New York? Don't tell me you are one of those tourists or former transplants. It's a very different experience when one lives here. Unlike Los Angeles, there really is a sense of community. New Yorkers love and care about their city... and, yes, their neighbors too.

--- Lisa - New York, NY

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NY sucks. It's now nothing more than a Disneyland version of its former glory. It city filled with tourists and transplants, and no longer the center of the universe. The WEST is the best. Everyone is moivng to the Coast. Even NY fashion designers check out the LA street scene before launching their new designs. Plus no one in NY knows real pizza. Take a trip to Naples sometime and try the real thing.

--- Jeremy - Los Angeles, CA

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The economic boom is what drove all the changes in New York. The mayors were in the right place at the right time, and to their credit, handled things well. It's easier to clean up the city and cut crime when you have more money to spend. The economic outlook for New York is bleak now with unemployment going up. Bloomberg already is short money and will be cutting services across the board. If things don't turn around, people may not be as friendly in a few years.The idea that New Yorkers are not nice is just a myth; people in L.A. are much more distant and shut-off.

--- Michael, Native New Yorker

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I think that overall, Manhattan has become friendlier in the last few years, not sure why but don't think Giuliani or Dinkins can take credit. There was definitely a surge of NYC solidarity following 9/11, and Giuliani was extremely popular during that period. When he supported Bush so strongly in the election that followed, his popularity plummeted, though. Bloomberg has definitely done a good job with making a lot of bike lanes, blocking off large areas of what was previously street and putting tables and chairs for pedestrian use. Not sure how this economic downturn will affect local attitudes, though....

--- Sue, New York

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This is the best. Keep them coming.--- Paul Ash

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Ed, thanks for putting the Holland button on your site.

By the way, your images really work! I opened the newsletter and was immediately tempted to click on an article. Love it. And also love the fact I can click on images in the articles to enlarge them. The short headline on the image makes me curious. Well done.

--- Bianca Helderman

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Thanks Ed, for this delightful view of this wondrous city! The first time I traveled with a husband to NYC years ago, it was for an Orchestral Conductor's conference. We lived in Newfoundland at that time, so you can imagine my shock of coming from isolation to the big apple!My heart began beating as I looked out of my hotel window at the figures of humans below, scurrying like ants, I was up so high. It wasn't the height, rather, the invisible buzz, that urgently beckoned me to go outside! But when I reached the sidewalk, the rush of pedestrians made me wonder "where's the party?" Friendly? Yes! I lived in NYC for 5 years with a later husband and loved every minute! Being an artist, I could not relax enough to paint, so I took up acting and worked with "Children In Need" a charity, instead and partook of everything NY had to offer from opera and Off Broadway plays and such to ballet and wholistic healings....a city full of everything one could imagine! I truly love NYC and years later am grateful to live in a quieter area of California so I may relax and paint and do my healing work...going back only to visit my delightful haunts. There is nothing like NYC!.

--- Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

Ed,

Great issue. Well done. They keep getting better! --- Grace Conlee Micetich, San Diego, CA

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I loved all of the traveling news! It’s good to know you are still out there in the world. --- Judy Vincent

Ed,

Thanks for getting me back on the Traveling Boy newsletter mailing list- I have missed it!

I do believe we need contributions of the ‘road less traveled’ in the US for those of us whose feet never leave the ground… Ahhhh… the Badlands... Two Medicine in Glacier… the Lava tubes in central Oregon… my next destination wish: Monument Valley.

--- Lorrie Sjoquist

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The photos and descriptions of this trip are wonderful. I love the idea of the slowed down pace of the train. Kind of a throwback to the "good old days." --- Larry Lombard, Puyallup, WA

I think you outdid yourself with the "Two Cities" article. I'm ashamed to admit that I knew so little about these two cities. I learned so much. Your article was jampacked with very interesting trivia. Surprised the Jazz greats and Walt Disney came from practically the same area. And those pictures --- especially the WWI museum --- what an incredible shot --- almost like out of somebody's Satyricon dream. Bravo!

--- Rod, Glendale, CA

What a great article! --- Michelle, Torrance, California

Ed,

The photos are spectacular. I can envision many a romantic novel inspired by these majestic sceneries. Makes me want to do a little more research on Norway. John Lenon must have been one of the converts when he wrote "Norwegian Woods."
--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena CA

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Peter,

Thanks for the kind words and taking the time to write. Indeed, Norway was paradise on earth, and I dream of returning again and again. You had a funny line about John Lennon being so inspired by the beauty of Norway that he composed the song, "Norwegian Wood." If I'm not mistaken, his reference to "Norwegian Wood" is just that: an inexpensive pine wood from Norway that was becoming popular in the UK. I did read somewhere, though, that "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was inspired by Norwegian fjord trek.

Thanks again… and please keep writing.

Ed

Ed,

Reading Peter's implication that "Norwegian Wood" was based on a trip that John Lennon took to Norway led me to do some research.

According to Paul McCartney at a press conference in Los Angeles: 'Peter Asher [brother of McCartney's then-girlfriend Jane Asher] had just done his room out in wood, and a lot of people were decorating their places in wood. Norwegian wood. It was pine, really, just cheap pine. But it's not as good a title, is it, "Cheap Pine"? It was a little parody, really, on those kind of girls who, when you'd get back to their flat, there would be a lot of Norwegian wood. It was completely imaginary from my point of view, but not from John's. It was based on an affair he had. She made him sleep in the bath and then, finally, in the last verse, I had this idea to set the Norwegian wood on fire as a revenge. She led him on and said, "You'd better sleep in the bath." And in our world, that meant the guy having some sort of revenge, so it meant burning the place down....'

Of course, just cause it's on the 'net doesn't mean it's true.

--- Jeff M, Tacoma, WA

Weird piece on Copenhagen (Cosy in Copenhaggen). Do you think now that Keefer’s in the slammer in Glendale for DWI he’s experiencing any hygge? I bet some of those jailbirds would like to see how touch he is.

--- Adam S., Glendale CA

I loved your intro and the way you set up the article. It immediately set the tone of an action-paced adventure. I imagined Annette as a spy in a trenchcoat feeding you top secret information. I'm surprised you didn't get lost. Do they speak English over there? Are the street signs in English? Does a GPS work over there?

I never heard of "hygge" but, like you, I think I've felt that sensation everytime the cold wind blows here in South Pasadena, CA. When I sit beside a warm fire, sipping my hot chocolate, I will remember this article. Thanks!

--- Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA



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