Overview: This tour begins at a Berlin Wall memorial that features remaining parts of the dividing barrier and potent reminders of those who... more »
This tour begins at a Berlin Wall memorial that features remaining parts of the dividing barrier and potent reminders of those who... more » died trying to cross it. The tour ends in East Berlin's hip Prenzlauerberg neighborhood, home to many dissidents during the German Democratic Republic, and currently a great area for grabbing a snack or doing a spot of shopping.
Along the way, you will experience sobering views of the death strip, a grassy no-man's land that separated the inner wall on the east side from the larger outer wall on the west side. You also will see where people jumped to safety as the wall was being built as well as landmark houses where underground tunnels provided an exit route for dozens of dissidents before being discovered by Stasi (East Germany's secret police) spies. The contrast between then and now is most stark in Mauer Park, an afternoon meeting place in the middle of the death strip for musicians, boule players, young mothers and graffiti artists. less «
Tips: The best time to do this walk is on a Sunday afternoon, but it's pleasant on any sunny day.
This memorial is an excellent opportunity to see a remaining standing section of the Berlin Wall and to wander around the death strip, the grassy no-man's land that separated the inner wall on the east side from the larger outer wall on the west side.
In the death strip you will see memorials for those who died trying to cross the wall and the... More rebuilt Church of Reconciliation, which was located in the death strip and destroyed by the GDR before being rebuilt after German reunification.
Make sure you cross Bernauer Strasse and walk up the multiple flights of stairs to visit the memorial viewing deck. The effort will reward you with sobering views of the death strip and of the Berlin skyline.
A visitors' center at Bernauer Strasse 111 has historical information and guides, excellent historical postcards and public restrooms.
The visitor center is open daily 9:30am-7pm.Less
When GDR began building the Berlin Wall along Bernauer Strasse in August 1961, the street became famous. Many residents of buildings that abutted the wall jumped out of windows and across the wall to the west.
Make sure you look down for circular plaques indicating the names of individuals who successfully escaped ("Flucht" as it is... More written on the plaques).
As you walk parallel to the wall and the death strip along Bernauer Strasse, notice the dreary 1970s and '80s buildings on the west (left) side. Most people didn't want to live against the wall, so the western neighborhood of Wedding that abutted the Berlin Wall typically attracted lower-income residents.
After the wall came down, Wedding remained lower income while the eastern neighborhood across the street gentrified. These days, rents in the now-desirable, former east are about double those in the former west.Less
Dissidents trying to flee East Berlin across the wall had all sorts of strategies: hiding in secret compartments of cars permitted to cross, ramming trucks directly through the wall, using ropes to shimmy over the barrier and, of course, building underground tunnels. Twelve tunnels were started in this neighborhood but only three succeeded in... More becoming portals for escape.
You will first walk by one of three successful tunnels at Schönholzer Strasse 7. This 135-meter-long (442-feet-long) tunnel permitted 29 people to escape over two days in September 1962 before the Stasi shut it down. You may wonder why the tunnel was started on the side of the street farther away from the wall. Probably because the Stasi had extra spies watching houses that abutted the wall.
Before walking to another tunnel site, you may wish to make a short side trip to Arkonaplatz, which has a wonderful market on Fridays and Sundays, and several cafes for any required rest stops. To go to Arkonaplatz, turn right on Ruppiner Strasse and walk two blocks. To continue along the aall's path, turn left at Ruppiner Strasse and walk back to the death strip.
When you reach Kremmener Strasse, stop at No. 7 and look down. You will see that several of the street's cobblestones have been replaced by bronze plaques that bear the names of Jewish residents who were deported to concentration camps during WWII, as well as their dates of birth and death. These are part of a project called "Stolpersteine" by the artist Gunter Demnig; it aims to acknowledge Nazi victims across Germany and other occupied countries.
At Kremmener Strasse 15 you will find a tunnel that was built in the basement of a bakery but that unfortunately failed. The tunnel reached 45 meters (148 feet), about one-third the length of the successful Schönholzer Strasse tunnel, but the Stasi got wind of the diggers and arrested 19 of them in 1963.Less
If any place exemplifies how time can change the atmosphere of a dire place, Mauer Park is it. Located on a part of the former death strip where the wall made a sharp 90-degree turn north, off of Bernauer Strasse, Mauer (German for "wall") Park is where the neighborhood congregates.
Sunday is the best time to visit, when a huge flea... More market populates the park's western border, giving you the opportunity to buy locally designed clothing, Turkish snacks, East German memorabilia and also a fair amount of weird junk. But on any sunny afternoon you are likely to find musicians jamming, young mothers pushing strollers, hipsters lounging around, joggers, graffiti artists, boules (a form of lawn bowling) players and, if you walk to the park's far northwest corner, two ponies and a climbing wall.
To get a lay of the land, climb up the small 30-meter-high hill, where you will see graffiti artists applying their designs to an interior part of the wall. If it's a Sunday afternoon, you may hear cheering from an amphitheater connected to the hill, where thousands of spectators watch a weekly, free outdoor karaoke show.
Mauer Park is a place to wander around, relax and do some serious people watching.Less
This street gives you an idea why Prenzlauerberg is such a popular East Berlin neighborhood. You can relax in a myriad of lovely cafes and restaurants or spend your Euros in local designer stores.
If you are a coffee aficionado, visit Bonanza Coffee Heroes (Oderberger Strasse 35), a tiny hole-in-the-wall cafe where the owners also manage to roast... More their own coffee beans. For fresh waffles or a scoop of excellent ice cream, try Kauf Dich Glücklich (which translates to "buy yourself some happiness" at Oderberger Strasse 44).
But as you stroll along the street, don't forget to scrutinize the buildings. Several, particularly around Oderberger 40, have the remnants of WWII sniper fire still in the facade, a reminder that Russian troops fought the German army throughout Berlin to conquer the city.
If you've still got some steam, continue walking along Oderberger Strasse until you come to Kastanienallee, where more cool shops and cafes can be found.Less
On Sundays, get lost among hundreds of tables at the Mauer Park flea market.
Two ponies, a petting zoo and a climbing wall.
Find fresh waffles and ice cream here.
Oderberger Strasse 44
Stop here for excellent, freshly roasted coffee.
Oderberger Strasse 35
Have a blast Sunday afternoons in the Bearpit amphitheater.
Look down just in front of Kremmener 7 for bronze stones that honor Jewish residents deported to concentration camps in Nazi Germany.
An unsuccessful escape tunnel can be found at Kremmener Strasse 15.
A good place to grab lunch and a coffee during the day. It becomes a hip bar at night.
A nice green square with markets on Friday and Sunday.
This tunnel at Schönholzer Strasse 7 proved to be a success.
The visitors' center offers historical information and guides, excellent historical postcards and public restrooms.
Bernauer Strasse 111
Find more shopping and cafes here if Oderberger Strasse only whet your appetite.