Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin wall, a unified nation looks back.
THE INFAMOUS BERLIN WALL -- the concrete-and-barbed-wire symbol of the iron curtain -- stood for nearly 30 years before crumbling in November 1989. This fall, Germans will carefully mark the 20th anniversary of the wall’s fall, negotiating a tricky intersection where education and preservation of history meet the desire to forget a painful chapter from the past.
A truly cosmopolitan European city, Berlin offers visitors a variety of ways to experience the capital and its 20thanniversary events.
Celebrate and Commemorate> An open-air exhibition in Berlin’s teeming Alexanderplatz highlights the incredible changes that have transformed the former East Germany. Through documents, films, and photos, Peaceful Revolution 1989/90 examines the wall’s history from start to finish. www.samizdatportal.org
> And check out the East Side Gallery, the wall’s longest remaining stretch, where restoration efforts are re-creating the original artwork that covered a portion of the structure after artists from around the world converged in Berlin after the fall. www.eastsidegallery.com
> On November 9, exactly 20 years after the stunning change, Germans will celebrate at the massive Festival of Freedom at the Brandenburg Gate. Giant video screens will review the wall’s collapse. The festival revolves around a symbolic domino fall. Constructed by schoolchildren, the eight-foot-high “dominoes” will stretch about a mile along the wall’s old path. At the appropriate moment, the fake wall will fall.
> Scenes and Traces of a Fall is a collection of photographs snapped from the hours after news broke of the east-west border opening. Images of joyous wall climbers and convoys of easterners’ cars honking their way into beckoning West Germany fill the Max Liebermann Haus. www.museumsportal-berlin.de
> The Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures takes center stage at the German Historical Museum, revealing how disparate sides remained fixated on each other despite the ideological divide. www.dhm.de
> Don’t forget a trip to the historic Glienicke Bridge, which spans the Havel River to connect Berlin and Potsdam. It’s more famously known as the Spy Bridge because it was a favorite spot for U.S. and Soviet officials to swap captured spies.
Tracing the Wall> The wall itself is mostly gone (some Germans wish more had remained for historic recognition). The route and existing traces are illuminated through walking or bike tours. Most pass the East Side Gallery and Checkpoint Charlie, the guard outpost where a 1961 American-Soviet tank face-off took the world to the brink of the unthinkable. Some of the tours include audio elements, and Videobustour employs modern media-equipped buses while tracing the wall’s path. www.berlin.de, www.videobustour.de
Eat and Sleep While Pondering East and West> The five-star Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin has special packages -- including tours, gourmet dinners, etc., starting at about $900 a night -- attached to the fall celebrations. It is adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate and near the sobering Memorial to the Murdered Jews. www.hotel-adlon.de
> At the chic, new Andel’s Hotel near Alexanderplatz in the old East Germany, special Peaceful Revolution packages start at about $200 for two nights. www.andelsberlin.com
> For memorable dining, the TV Tower is a modernized East German relic that was built in the 1960s as a demonstration of socialist might. Considering its amazing views, the restaurant atop (more than 600 feet up in the sky) is better than it has to be. Entrées range from $17 to $27. www.tv-turm.de
> Or for faster eats, architectural marvels, and general people-watching, try the handsome, recently opened Berlin Hauptbahnhof (central train station). Europe’s largest two-level railway station is sometimes known as the Glass Cathedral; The Times of London called it Europe’s biggest and most beautiful transport hub. www.hbf-berlin.de