You cannot miss the course of the most famous wall in European history. It has kept its shape long after the great events that saw its construction and destruction, and seems as random as its delusions which inspired it. It zig zags across squares, water courses and even through the underground rail network.
A memorial to the wall at Bernauer Strasse has become the most important attraction for the city, but you don’t have to go that far. First they seemed to want to brush it away, to pretend it never existed, 41 years of division, 26 years of the wall and now 36 years of unity.
Eradicating it and boxing it off to a memorial park with its watch towers and litany of martyrs was never gone to be a runner.
The legacy is everywhere, in the architecture, the twin city centres and whopping arcades, the old west Berlin An Lár still glitzy and neon and over the top, the old East Berlin An Lár still elegant and arty like grandfather’s music collection.
The division seems distant to the younger generation. Our guide recalled the pioneer songs of her childhood and the sense that they were fed that they were in a higher place, a have from decadent parasitic and dying capitalism.
“We decided we would rather be in the jungle than in the zoo,” said our guide, Markus Mueller-Tenckhoff.
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In fact West Berlin was capital of urban informality, Europe’s counter-culture central, at the heart of everything that was inspiring the youthful and energetic, alongside Detroit at the forefront of techno and trance music,
Why Berlin? “techno sounds very good in empty warehouses,” Julian Schroer says.
Julian guided us on a 17-kilometre cycle tour of the city, organised by Fat Tire Bike Tours, through the waterways and then, a special treat, a cycle along the runway of the Templehof airport, a 1923 structure that was once among the largest in the world and is an icon among air-heads.
It was to be built over, like Croydon, but a campaign by the residents of Berlin has kept the runways open to cyclists, ball chasing children, panting dogs and parents with prams.
Berlin’s new airport has turned into a long-running drama which just might give the Berlin Wall itself a run for its longevity record.
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The city has lost its wall but kept its contradictions. The terrific public infrastructure of the east, best sampled over dinner at the TV Tower Restaurant Sphere looking down on capitalist and communist past alike, the defiant squatter mentality of the west, still evident in the message to Media Spree from Berlin’s rebels to the businesses across the River.
To complete your weekend, dine in restaurant Fleischerei, try Berliner Currywurst at the GDR museum and treat yourself to the melt in the mouth cuisine with truffle cappuccinos in Vox Restaurant.
To get a glimpse of how Berliners see their own recent history, the nerve tingling musical about the fall of the wall, Hinterm Horizont at the Theater am Potsdamer Platz, comes with English sub titles.
You don’t get all the nuances or subtleties, but when the two Stasi guys came out for their bow at the end, the audience boohed, then applauded.
Walls can stay standing in odd ways.
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Eoghan Corry flew to Berlin with Aer Lingus, for lowest fares see aer.lingus.com. He stayed at the Park Plaza Hotel and traveled back via Germany’s rail network with Deutsche Bahn through scenic Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Hesse to Frankfurt, +3531 8665841 www.railshop.ie or your local travel agent.
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