Ever wonder was the purpose of the Berlin Wall? Why was the Berlin Wall built? After intense research and lots of visiting, I want to express some thoughts and a few Berlin Wall facts for all of you thinking about visiting this multicultural city. And all on a self-guided walking tour around a central location, the Wombat’s Hostel in Berlin. Here are my words on Berlin before and after the wall.
First of all, this wonderful adventure, which I used to pursue my social and cultural differences curiosity, was part of a Wombat’s Hostel project. They have nothing to do with my content, but it was my starting point and made my days so much fun. Happy to have been their guest. I just had to say that, as I always have to be honest about everything I do.
Berlin is big. Berlin is diverse. And that is why I decided to talk about my experience and to tell you how you can take a self-guided tour in Berlin exploring “Berlin and after the wall” in three pretty big, but inspirational posts. A guide for any traveller to some of the hot spots, and some of the not so known places in Berlin.
This is the first guided tour from a series of 3 self-guided walking tours. This tour starts in Berlin Mitte and I it’s called “Berlin before and after the wall 1: How the West Won and Where It Got Them”.
This was my second time in Berlin and it was just perfect. After visiting all the very touristic places the first time, now I wanted to explore more the connection between their heavy and bloody history and the hipster and eccentric city which is overindulging in pop culture at every street corner.
As my hostel, the Wombat’s City Hostel Berlin had an awesome location, I will guide you through this cultural exploration journey which will combine east Berlin culture and German culture facts, all within a walking distance from the Wombat’s Hostel.
Here are 3 options of self-guided tours, starting from the Wombat’s City Hostel in Berlin, which will help you discover Berlin before and after the wall. Hope your feet hold you for all of them.
- 1. Berlin Before and After the Wall: How the West Won and Where It Got Them (this post)
- 2. Berlin Before and After the Wall: Central Berlin
- 3. Berlin Before and After the Wall: Berlin’s Culture
Don’t try to do it all, but my advice is to do what is of interest to you, what you want to really do, not just to tick off places from your list. Travelling is about discovering, but firstly, I believe is about self-discovery, while discovering the world.
Berlin before and after the wall: How the West Won (and Where It Got Them)
Why was the Berlin wall built?
1. Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer)
To find out more about this, you have to take a 20 min walk from the Wombat’s Hotel. You will get to the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial), which is the memorial site of the German and Berlin division. Here is a touristic centre, free of charge, an elevated platform to see the former border strip (with tower and everything in place). This is the place to see how life survived in Berlin, before and after the Wall appeared.
From there you can walk down on the Bernauer Street to the Visitor centre of the Berlin Wall Memorial, visit the Protestant cemetery, Friedhof Sophien II.
What was the purpose of the Berlin wall? You can read/hear all about their history and Berlin interesting wall facts at theBerlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer).
The Berlin Wall was built to divide both physically and ideologically the city and its population. And it did so between 13 August 1961, until November 1989. Why was the Berlin wall built? Simply put, the wall was a symbol of the Cold War, of the fight between the Americans and the Russians. That’s how I understand it. I need to keep things simple.
The East was controlled by the German Democratic Republic (GDR). They used the wall to “protect its population” from the fascists, which was said to be a conspiration to kill the “will of the people” in building a socialist state in East Germany.
Numerous stories of broken families, ingenious plans to escape the East, through tunnels, or jumping from the second or third floor of a building, still stand as a testimony of the past. The wall still has parts of it in place, while a huge strip is marked by steel.
Why did the Berlin wall fall?
Why did the Berlin wall fall? You are in the right place to find out some of the Berlin wall key facts. Somehow, in 1989, the communist influence declined. All around Europe were revolutions which ended with a change in the form of government. Coincidentally, or not, a series of political revolutions chance the map of Europe in just a few years. Germany, the way it is today, was reunited on 3rd October 1990.
A place to learn about people’ stories and see how contemporary artists have incorporated this into nowadays urban life. Discover their sad stories, notice their perseverance and don’t leave without a taking a minute to reflect on true human values, which helps people all around the world to survive even the worse punishments.
Berlin before and after the wall stands today. Praise it with your visit.
After visiting the wall memorial, walk along the Bernauer Street towards Eberswalder street (you can take the tram). Observe as the remainings of the wall stay behind, the Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood arise and gives room to the contemporary creative Berlin.
A piece of advice any local will give you is to stop at Mauerpark, especially if it’s a Sunday.
Mauerpark literally means Wall park, and it is the former border zone of the Berlin Wall, which used to separate the city. The park is what they used to call the “dead strip” which was the space between the 2 walls built by the East to keep people from escaping to the West. As you already know what that looks like, from seeing the remainings from your first stop, the Berlin Wall Memorial.
Today is a park which inspires freedom and joy, a place where everyone is welcomed. If you are lucky enough to be in Berlin on a Sunday, this is the place to be. Grab some beers to go from a Späti (local small shop, open until late in the night, where locals stop to grab a beer, usually ..to go) and bring them with you.
There is a nice and pretty big flea market, people having a good time with their friends, cultures from all over the world being express and the biggest open-air karaoke. Probably around one thousand people were willing to have a good time and listen to whoever wanted to sing. Joy and smiles all around.
That was the moment I realized how Berlin before and after the wall has influenced the lives of those who were there to see it and those who later came to live this life. Everyone is welcome. And this park is an important ambassador of Berlin’s multiculturality, diversity, creativeness and art.
What happened to East Berlin after the Berlin Wall fell
3. Prenzlauer Berg
This was part the East Berlin and was famous for its diverse cultural site. It was the place where artists, Christians and the gay community would create a huge contrast to the mainstream society, the Socialist Republic of Germany.
It has gone through many changes since then, as many buildings which were occupied by squatters are now home to more elegant shops and inhabitants. There was a slow transition from the street art which was representing the bohemian character of the neighbourhood to what exists today. I felt relaxed and relieved (It’s hard to explain feelings. You have to see it for yourself) to walk around the streets of Prenzlauer Berg.
As its history, Prenzlauer Berg is today known for its bars and restaurants and remains an area of Berlin associated with youth. Welcoming for any international culture, Arabic, Turkish, Vietnamese and Italian and many other cultures can be smelled and tasted on its streets.
Prenzlauer Berg is a very good place to admire a great deal of the architecture of Berlin before the war, and its streets are paved with that chic cobble-stone. Ah, what a peaceful place is Prenzlauer Berg is now.
Prenzlauer Berg is one of the most popular neighbourhood. People from Australia, North America, Spain are eager to move in. And Scandinavians. Apparently, the cost of living and accommodation are attractive compared to other big cities of the world. So don’t be surprised to see lots of families with children, speaking all kinds of languages. Even Asian descent. In my mind, I was wondering which languages will those children learn.
There you can visit some historic buildings like the Prater Beer Garden in KastanienAllee, the “Fat Hermann” water tower near Kollwitzplatz (the first water tower in Berlin), and the former brewery Pfefferbräu in Schönhauser Allee to help you picture the Berlin before the Wall.
Prater Beer Garden
The “Fat Hermann” water tower
Vegan Restaurants (Good and tasty food in Berlin)
Assuming you are hungry (as I always am, but I like to save myself for really nice and vegan restaurants), there are two vegan suggestions in the area: Lucky Leek, which opens at 6 pm and Lia’s Kitchen – 100% Vegan (opens from 12 pm). I really enjoyed this tasty and vegan burger, which is just 10 min walk from the Wombats Hostel. I must admit, I believe Berlin is the vegan heaven.
Jüdischer Friedhof (Jewish Cemetery from Schönhauser Allee 25)
We all have heard of the horrors the Jews have gone through. The Jews had big communities all across Europe, and Berlin has 2 Jewish Cemetery. Since you are in the neighbourhood, visit the one on the Schönhauser Allee. Also known as the Jewish Cemetery Prenzlauer Berg.
This is the site of a former brewery, founded in 1841, that today is the home of the Pfefferbräu microbrewery and brewpub.
After all this walking and admiring, comparing Berlin before and after the wall, you can rest for a while (if you want). Lucky, you are 5 minutes away from the Wombats hostel. Here you can socialize in the comfortable lobby (ah those cushions), or have a beer at the rooftop bar, which has one of the best panoramic views of Berlin. I know, because I tried out some rooftop bars, and this one is definitely top 3 views. The good news is that the rooftop is free and available only for guests.
Hope you enjoyed!
Next self-guided walking tour is “Berlin before and after the Wall: Central Berlin”