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Berlinermauer (Berlin Wall)

February 5, 2009

Yesterday, my first full day, I walked around Friedrichshain, the neighborhood where I am staying.  I had looked at a map, but didn’t consult one along the way.  I chose my direction by looking down each street and tried to keep my bearings along the way (I did a fabulous job, thank you very much).  All of the buildings here are five or six stories tall, but few are taller.  I am glad to begin my visit in February, when everything stands solemn and grey, in all of its Soviet glory.  The neighborhood seems to consist mainly of apartment building compounds.  Each group of 5-7 buildings surrounds an overgrown, sad-looking garden and often, a playground.  I look forward to seeing these areas in the spring or summer, when they are at least green, and at most receive some attention and use.

I made my way to the Spree river, which I kept to my right.  The Spree was one of the natural borders between East and West Germany (though it flows generally East/West, so here, East Berlin is north of the river and West Berlin is south).  Several of the failed escapes to the West involved attempted crossings of the Spree.  Now, the riverbank is notable for the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining section of the wall (1.6 km; just shy of a mile).  It was awesome (see photos to the right).  It is covered in murals, tags, and stencils with political messages, artistic works and a lot of random names and phrases.  As I should have expected, many of the newer political messages were in support of Palestine (though the Israeli border wall wins hands down: the Berlin wall was 3.6m/12ft high and the Israeli wall is 8m/26.24ft high, so I don’t think a crowd is going to be able to take it down like Berliners did in 1989).  I hope to seek out more pieces of the Wall that remain and eventually (in several chunks) walk the 43km/27mi that divided East and West from 1961-1989.

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