Next Sunday it is the 9th November, and the 25th anniversary of the night the “wall came down”. Of course, it didn’t, but the first checkpoints were opened and people streamed from one side to the other and danced atop the hated structure at the Brandenburg Gate in scenes that would become some of the most iconic, not only of the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe, but of the twentieth century as a whole.
As some Under a Grey Sky readers will know, the history of this city that I have called home for over a decade continues to fascinate me, and just over a year ago I began a project called Traces of a Border – a series of explorations of the Berlin Wall Trail as a means to not only understanding the history of the division of Berlin and what it meant for people on both sides, but also the legacy of that division and how it has shaped and continues to the shape the contemporary city.
In many ways the project has been leading up to this week, as I always had the 25th Anniversary of November 1989 at the back of my mind when I began the project, which has been supplemented by running tours along the route of the Wall for Slow Travel Berlin, hosting regular eyewitness history talks at the Circus Hotel, and putting together a short book with my good friend Paul Sullivan, which will also be released this week. So for those of you who are interested in the subject, and happen to be in Berlin over the next seven days, here are the things that we are putting on to mark the occasion – and there is plenty more going on elsewhere in the city which you can find out about on the Visit Berlin website.
Eyewitness History Talk with Hans-Joachim Weber
Tuesday 4th November
Hans-Joachim Weber worked at the West German embassy in Prague in 1989. Following the opening of the border between Hungary and Austria, thousands of East Germans took to the motorway to drive through Czechoslovakia to make their way through Hungary and Austria to West Germany. The GDR authorities persuaded the Czechoslovaks to close their border, which led to thousands of East German citizens heading instead to Prague where they set up camp in the West German embassy compound. These events would prove to be a crucial nail in the coffin of the GDR regime, and Mr Weber will be talking about his experiences in Prague at the time.
(at the Circus Hotel at 6pm – more Circus, Wall-related events here – free and open to all)
Book Launch – Mauerweg: Stories from the Berlin Wall Trail
Thursday 6th November
Mauerweg: Stories from the Berlin Wall Trail brings together two separate walks around the entire 160km length of the former Berlin Wall Trail in the shape of a pair of interlocking essays and 18 full colour photos. The emphasis throughout is on the Wall’s fascinating stories: the tragic deaths and spectacular escapes of the past, exclusive interviews with Berliners who experienced the Wall first-hand, and the various ways in which the Wall continues to shape the contemporary city.
The launch event will include conversation, questions, a reading, some photography, and a bit of live music, and is taking place at the Circus Hostel on Thursday at 6.30pm – and you can order the book here.
Three Tours along the Berlin Wall Trail
Thursday 6th, Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th November
Three tours and three different stretches of the Berlin Wall Trail. On Thursday 6th November I will be ‘Hiking the Berlin Wall Trail’ from Griebnitzsee to Wannsee, a walk of some 15km that takes in some of the most beautiful corners of Berlin as well as a number of fascinating stories. You can find out more about the tour, and book on of the few remaining places, here. On Saturday 8th November Paul and I will be leading as special book launch tour along the banks of the river Spree, reflecting not only on the stories of life on either side of the dividing line, but also the legacy and development of Berlin over the past twenty five years. This tour includes a copy of the book, and you can find out more and book here.
On the 9th November itself I will be leading my Walking the Invisible Border tour for Slow Travel Berlin, from Bornholmer Straße and into the city. This tour is already booked out, but my colleagues at Slow Travel Berlin have a number of other fascinating tours including two complementary walks exploring the architectural developments on either side of the Wall in ‘Building East Berlin’ and ‘Building West Berlin’. All the tours are here.
So it is going to be a pretty busy week… and beyond all these public activities I also want to do some walks with Katrin and Lotte, along the light installation that will illuminate the path of the Wall next weekend.
You can read more on the events of the 9th November 1989 on Traces of a Border