What To Expect
Erected on the night of 13 August 1961, the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart (as it was officially referred to by the East German government) or the Wall of Shame (as it was called in the West) ran 97 miles around the three western sectors of Berlin and 27 miles directly through the city's center. The imposing concrete barrier and its infamous "death strip" soon came to represent the most ominous symbol of the ideological and physical divide between Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc, artificially severing one culture into two - and literally cleaving the city of Berlin - for over a quarter century before finally crumbling in the days, weeks and months following 9 November 1989.
Led by a 20th century historian, this three-hour walk unravels the complex social, cultural and political history of the Berlin Wall by tracing a section of its former route through the city's center. In doing so, we will investigate the Post-war background of the Wall's construction, the physical realities of life in the city that it divided, and the implications of its fall for a reunified Berlin. Our main goal will be to understand the Wall for what it was: not merely a concrete barrier but also a controlled series of empty spaces and activities (searches, patrols, observations and checkpoints) that came to signify all the consequences of the division of Berlin and of Europe.
Beginning at the Berlin Wall Memorial in Bernauer Strasse, the site of some of the earliest and most dramatic escape attempts from the communist GDR, we will stop at numerous exhibitions, memorials, artworks and historical locations in order to get a sense of the scale and nature of the city's division. We will see how the Wall was constructed and expanded, the ways in which it was used as an ideological symbol by Cold War powers, and ultimately how and why it fell. Finally, we will discuss the irony that Berlin is now largely associated with a structure that no longer exists.
The fate of the Wall since 1989 and the debates about place and identity to which it has given rise dramatize the larger issues of national identity in a newly unified Germany. As we pass the many memorializing sites along our itinerary - the "ghost stations" exhibit at Nordbahnhof, Karla Sachse's artwork Kaninchenfeld (Rabbit Field), a preserved GDR watchtower, and others - we will ask fundamental questions about the tension in Germany's troubled history between destruction and forgetting, on one hand, and preservation and remembering, on the other. That is: should this history be erased completely from the city's map or etched indelibly into the city's memory? Nowhere is this debate more evident than along the route of the Berlin Wall, its physical concrete no longer visible but its social, cultural and political repercussions apparent everywhere.
Meals and drinks
Tips and gratuities
Optional activity costs
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4 hours and 30 minutes