5 years, 5 months ago
We’ll go to Berlin any time at the slightest excuse. They open a Currywurst Museum? Good enough for us. Three new beach bars on the banks of the Spree? We’ll take it. So when the German capital is going all out to celebrate one of the most dramatic events in its recent history the chances of us missing out aren’t high.
It’s the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th this year. And in a city famed for being able to make a party out of two lawn chairs and a beer cooler, it’s a fair bet this particular bash won’t be a restrained affair. So if you missed Berlin’s most memorable night back in 1989, now’s the time to catch up – a lot’s happened in the past 25 years.
BIG SURPRISE, BIG PARTY
Eye witnesses to the fall of the wall remember it as a ‘surprise’. One minute it was all border crossings and visas and the next, unified Germany was dancing on the top of the most recognisable Cold War symbol, dismantling it with anything they could lay their hands on and East Berliners were driving their ancient Trabants to freedom. It’s always described as a ‘Peaceful Revolution’ and Berlin’s planned celebrations for November 9th 2014 reflect that spirit exactly – but with lots of fireworks, champagne, balloons, music, dancing and thousands and thousands of party people.
The focal point of the anniversary is the ethereal column of white, helium filled balloons created along the length of the original Berlin Wall. Every balloon carries a message and on the night of the 9th they’ll be released en-masse into the city skies accompanied by the Berlin Philharmonic playing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (of course). Marooned for 30 years by the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate is another immense symbol at the heart of this year’s celebrations and it’s also the venue for the city’s spectacular ‘official’ street party.
But if we know Berlin (and we do) unofficial celebrations will be planned all over the place and it’s almost guaranteed you’ll find a party or an event happening nearby wherever you’re renting with HouseTrip in the city.
GET INTO THE SPIRIT EARLY
True enthusiasts can walk the Mauerweg or Wall Way. Our advice? Be discerning. No doubt about it, the history’s fascinating and bits of the wall are very moving. But it’s a hike and a lot of the pilgrimage is just ordinary city and Berliners looking at you in a kind, but bemused way. This November the alternative is to take a Lichtergrenze tour along the amazing light installation, great for getting a perspective on the Berlin Wall’s significance and seeing the parts still worth seeing. www.visitberlin.de/en/event/11-09-2014/guided-tours-along-the-lichtergrenze/
If you aren’t up for walking even a little of the wall, you have to at least check out Checkpoint Charlie. The world’s most famous border crossing stands right on the spot where US and USSR military tanks had the 1961 face-off which almost sparked WWIII. You’ll find the historic hut on Friedrichstrasse sitting on its own little island right next to The Wall Museum.
Legend has it, the first thing many recently liberated East Berliners wanted in 1989 was directions to Kaufhaus des Westens, Europe’s largest department store. Seems a bit of a trivial concern on such a momentous occasion? 30 years wearing rough, brown wool and even the most high minded of us might be keen on some new clothes. 25 years down the line, Kaufhaus des Westens is still worth a visit for the vast 6th floor food hall and oyster bar and the views from the rooftop restaurant. More East than West shopping traditions can be found every Sunday at Berlin’s enormous Mauer Park Flea Market. This classic city experience is on the Wall Way route so you can balance your flimsy inner shopper with some serious history. And if you want to taste the results of 25 years of Berlin harmony, head to Markthalle IX food market. This is home to Heidenpeters’ incredible microbrewery, the place for the city’s finest in slow, local and seasonal produce and venue for Street Food Thursday evenings.
There are chunks of the Berlin Wall all over the world today but Berliners don’t need rubble to remind them of the astonishing events of November 9th 1989. The 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Wall is all about light and peace and a great big party so if you ever needed an excuse to visit city, this is the one you’ve been waiting for.