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Bornholmer Straße - metallic inlays in the pavement and stripes of cobblestones remind pedestrians all over the city of where the wall cut through Berlin until 1989/90. The only authentic pieces of it still standing can be found near Ostbahnhof, and at the memorial at Bornholmer Straße - the two sites deal very differently with this bit of history, the one being a multicoloured location where people go to enjoy sitting by the water and chill, and the other having the serious approach of a memorial site with a more authentic feeling of how standing in front of the wall might have felt.
Many people asked me why the wall was otherwise erased so entirely, and if it was a sign for wanting to be done with this part of recent history. Honestly said, if you walk through Berlin and keep your eyes open for this particular sign on the floor, you’ll realize that leaving large sections of the Wall intact would cut the infrastructure apart that has grown since then - and maybe seeing how it ran through what are today some of the most vital locations of the city, cutting through the most busy streets, makes you realize that it simply wasn’t possible to keep it much of it around.
Still, only recently a conflict between investors and Berliners erupted when parts of the Eastside Gallery near Ostbahnhof, a tourist magnet piece of the wall that’s been painted by artists with pictures relating to its history, was broken down to make room for a large loft building site at the waterfront - where twentysome years ago, the death zone used to be.
One interesting tidbit about the paintings of the Eastside gallery: the entire eastern side of it is covered in paintings, whereas the western side is kept white, deliberately, to preserve its opressive impression at least to a small degree (or rather, re-painted regularly because people, especially tourists, sign their names on it). Originally, though, there was no way you could approach the East side - you could at best view it from afar, whereas the people on the West side - the inner side, in the case of West Berlin, which was surrounded by the wall- could approach, touch, and paint it with relative ease. West German police even had platforms from which they could glance into the Eastern sector, and I’ve seen pictures where civilians were using these platforms to take a peek, whereas all houses adjacent to the wall on the Eastern side were sealed and abandoned. Eastern and Western personell were forbidden from communicating with each other. Communication was so strictly forbidden especially by GDR authorities that in several cases, when East German soldiers guarding the Wall witnessed children falling into the water, they waited for explicit orders, which took a long time to come, instead of helping immediatly, and in some cases kept West Berliners form helping because defending the borderline was more important. How 100% these details were true or not is hard to say decades later; in any case, rescues were hardly possible in at least five cases between 1972 and 1975 because there was absolutley no communication between the two sides at a time when these children fell not just into a river, but into no ones land while playing.
Today, one of the biking routes through Berlin - a surprisingly good city for biking tours, by the way- is “Mauerweg”, wall way, following the former death zone (to a degree). It can be started at the memorial site in Bornholmer Straße.