Berlin is back – join the celebrations

Posted on: 16 November 2009 by Mark O'haire

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, no city in Europe has seen more development and change.

BerlinIt divided a nation and united the world through its destruction - and 20 years on the world's most well-known piece of concrete still has the ability to stir emotion.

The 9 November marked two decades since the Berlin Wall was torn down and people around the globe will remember how a city's fortunes and the hopes of a nation were changed overnight with the tumbling down of a solid border.

Not only did the fall of the wall bring about the unification of East and West Germany, it also signified the collapse of communism.

No wonder that Berlin is pulling out all the stops to mark the occasion.

What's happening?

A symbol of the Cold War, the wall began as a cordon of barbed wire put up by communist leaders in 1961 to stem a loss of skilled workers and professionals to West Germany.

The fortifications grew over the coming years along the 860-mile border between East and West Germany. Not only were families separated but many people lost their lives trying to escape to the West.

After months of rising tension in East Germany, the Berlin Wall burst open on 9 November 1989. Many rushed immediately to border crossings after a communist East German government leader told a news conference they were free to travel to the West.

The two Germanys were reunited 11 months later in 1990.

What can I do?

There's plenty to help you get to grips with the history behind the wall and much else besides.

Find out what life was like in the GDR at the DDR Museum and of course the history behind the iconic Trabi car.

Visit the 'Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer'  or 'Berlin Wall Memorial' where you can view a preserved piece of the edifice and a permanent exhibition. A new visitor's centre opened on 9 November. The nearby Documentation Centre features lists of 'escapees'.

Take a trip down to the Mauermuseum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie which was founded in 1962 next to the infamous border crossing.

For some German history, the Museumsinsel occupies the northern part of an island in Berlin's River Spree, covering almost a square kilometre. Explore the five museums with a CityTourCard Museumsinsel which costs €29.90 and also includes 72 hours of public transport travel. 

No visit to Berlin would be complete without seeing the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe featuring 2,711 concrete boxes of different heights set on sloping ground. There is also an underground Information Centre.

Where should I stay?

After the end of the Cold War, Berlin witnessed a construction boom of hotels and offices. The boom led to a significant oversupply of hotels which resulted in comparatively cheap prices even in the 5 star category. (Off-season prices of €100 per night are seen). Especially for a short visit, it may be best to stay at a place in Berlin-Mitte (around Friedrichstraße or Alexanderplatz for example), as most of the main sights are located there. Due to its history most hotels in Berlin are still located in the western part of town (i.e. Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf). You won't find any hotels located directly at the new main train station but they plan to build some in the near future.

Also popular are accommodations in Berlin's surroundings. Due to the good public transport services it's no problem to spent the night in one of the suburbs and to discover the city during the day. 

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