The Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989, marking the end of the massive border complex that left the city divided into east and west for 28 years and had a devastating history of tearing apart families, friends and neighbors.
Today, Berlin is among the hottest cities in Europe, where Americans are spending almost three nights per visit — comprising 8.2 percent of the city’s tourism marketshare, with traffic from the U.S. up by 2.2 percent over last year. Berlin Wall monuments and artistic expressions continue to be a draw for travelers from younger generations who did not grow up with a divided Berlin.
Set at the corner of Friedrichstrasse and Zimmerstrasse, or Checkpoint Charlie, stands artist Yadegar Asisi’s 270-degree, cylindrical steel rotunda panorama called “DIE MAUER” (The Wall). Behind it lies a barren border strip, illuminated by the cold glare of search lights. The Asisi panorama gives onlookers insight into how life on each side of the Wall felt and looked, on both sides of the colorfully painted wall.
Asisi lived in Kreuzberg in the 1980s, and his Panorama represents the memories he collected through detailed stories that, although they did not occur simultaneously, give an overall impression of the time.
Visitors can walk along the 12-foot-high platform in the middle of the rotunda to view grey, unkempt house façades; children playing; and graffiti sprayers or locals at a Currywurst stand in West Berlin, while GDR soldiers go about their patrols of the border strip and observe life in the western part of the city from their watchtowers. White slogans on red backgrounds exhort the citizens of the eastern part to remain loyal to the state, whereas colorful advertisements drive consumerism in the west.
Art, music and culture
The Pergamon Altar, one of Berlin’s most famous and popular museum exhibits, is closed to the public for restoration (scheduled for completion in 2025–2026). But, a new, second, 360-degree panorama by Asisi will soon debut in front of the Pergamon Museum, showing the city of Pergamon. Set in a specially designed, temporary exhibition space of about 10,000 square feet, Asisi’s panorama will create an immersive visual effect to be experienced in conjunction with 80 classical sculptures and nine multimedia visualizations of the Pergamon Altar.
Additionally, the Berlin Wall Memorial’s multimedia exhibition offers a look at the actual construction of the Berlin Wall; life with the Wall; the Fall of the Wall; and the last section of the Berlin Wall still standing, as it was originally built.
The five-museum hub of Museum Island (an UNESCO World Heritage Site), will see the opening of the James-Simon-Galerie, which will serve as a central hub and provide direct access to the Ancient Architectures Tour (which is the Archaeological Promenade with a visitor’s center).
This past September, the new PalaisPopulaire opened with “The World On Paper,” showing about 300 items from the Deutsche Bank Collection, which boasts one of the most important collections of contemporary art on paper and photography.
The Parliament of Trees is an artistic installation and unconventional garden of 16 trees that represent the 16 German federal states, and 58 pieces of the Wall recall the dividing line that once ran through the city.
Additionally, the Humboldtforum (or Berlin City Palace), which has been under construction since 2013, is being rebuilt in the heart of the city — not as a seat for kings and Kaisers, but instead with three historical façades and an inner courtyard within a structure that will include the Ethnological Museum and the Asian Museum.
Since the 2017 openings of the Pierre Boulez Saal concert hall and the reopening of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin will be adding another four major cultural sites to the already dense art and culture in the historic Mitte district.
A bike tour and more
Active clients may be piqued by the new Dahlem-Route bike tour, as the 11.2-mile circular route is well-signposted and leads as far as possible over roads with little traffic. The route can be reached from the city center using the U3 underground line or the S1 suburban railway line.
Starting at the Botanical Museum, the tour takes about one and a half hours. But, stopovers at such places as the legendary restaurant and jazz bar, Euerschale at Podbielskiallee underground station (a Berlin institution that serves a sumptuous weekend brunch), would add time to the tour. Athletic types might want to combine the cycling tour with a stand-up paddling excursion across the north side of Lake Schlachtensee.
Getting to Berlin gets easier, next year, as American Airlines will be launching new nonstop service from Philadelphia, four times weekly on a Boeing 767-300, as of June 2019.