I’ve waited almost two years to see the Berlin Wall, one of the most epic sights in all of Germany.
So it was hard to ruffle up any enthusiasm when this was the first glimpse I had of it:
My first disappointing look at the Berlin Wall.
This lack-luster, ordinary wall is what I had eagerly anticipated for almost two years? This puny wall is what divided a country for 28 years? I couldn’t hide my initial disappointment from Julian, our well educated docent from Context. He led us on a three hour tour of the wall and took us to the viewing platform at the Berlin Wall Documentary Center. It was there that it became apparent that there was more to this “puny” wall than meets the eye:
A recreated “death strip” that separated East Berlin from West Berlin.
Getting over the wall was only the first hurdle. The would-be escapees then had to make it through the “death strip” which was surrounded by guard towers with guards who had orders to shoot. The estimated 5000 would-be escapees had no place to hide. 124 of them didn’t make it:
Memorial photos of East Berliners who died trying to escape.
All notions of this “puny” wall were washed away. But I still couldn’t help noticing the lack of graffiti. The graffiti that the Berlin Wall is so famous for was missing. You know the ones that East Berliners created in protest of the wall?
Graffiti was only found on the west side of the wall.
Not so fast. Julian explained that graffiti was only found on the west side of the Berlin Wall. Defacing the wall in East Berlin would have resulted in severe punishment by the communist state. It made perfect sense once he explained it and debunked yet another myth in my head.
The Open-Air Exhibition is free and worth seeing the wall in its various states.
Slowly, it dawned on me, the Berlin Wall in itself isn’t impressive. Its significance lies in the oppression it represented, until change and growth broke out – 28 years later.
Thank you to Julian from Context for our complimentary tour. As always opinions expressed are my own. Context Travel offers three hour tours of the Berlin Wall. Guides provide an extensive history and you will visit numerous sites relevant to the Berlin Wall.
Also check out expat Adam’s Things to Do in Berlin and Simon’s journey to nearby Potsdam Sanssouci Park: A Photo Tour.