Germany marks 50th anniversary of the Berlin Wall — where to commemorate

This year, Germany marks the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall, a barrier that isolated East Berlin from West Berlin for almost 30 years and was a powerful physical symbol of the Cold War. On August 13, 1961, authorities in East Berlin ordered the construction of the Wall in order to stem the tide of Germans moving from Communist East Berlin to Capitalist West Berlin. When it was completed, the Wall was 28 miles long, 12 feet high, and included gun towers, razor wire, and land mines on its eastern side.

To commemorate this historic anniversary, visitors to Berlin can learn more about the Wall in three poignant ways:1) The first place visitors should go to learn more about the Wall is the Berlin Wall Memorial, which contains the largest remaining sections of both sides of the Wall, a documentation center, and memorials to the many victims who died trying to escape East Berlin.

2) The German Historical Museum is currently hosting an exhibit of the photography of Thomas Hoepker and Daniel Biskup, two West German photographers who used their lenses to document life in East Berlin during and after the Berlin Wall. Aptly, the exhibit ends on October 3, Germany’s Unity Day.

3) Finally, of course, there’s an app for that. The Mauerguide is an app that relies on GPS to guide users along the original path of the Berlin Wall. In addition to its maps and handy walking instructions, the Mauerguide includes political and historical information about the Wall, film clips, and interviews.

[Photo credit: Thierry Noir via Wikipedia]

The Berlin Love Parade

Each week, Gadling is taking a look at our favorite festivals around the world. From music festivals to cultural showcases to the just plain bizarre, we hope to inspire you to do some festival exploring of your own. Come back each Wednesday for our picks or find them all HERE.

The Berlin Love Parade has been described as the Mardi Gras of Germany. It is a festival that started in 1989, four months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The first year’s theme, “Peace, Joy and Pancakes” echoed a time of intense change and excitement, with hope for a bright future.

Though many have looked at the Love Parade in recent years as a massive rave party with scantily-clad dancers lining the streets, it was really started as more than that – a political movement to bring a sense of unity to a divided country that was about to rise up again in the western world.

As 150 people gathered in Wittenbergplatz, the parade began in West Berlin and became a celebration of cross-cultural unity, while maintaining individual identity. Twenty-one years later, it is a mega-event that brings nearly 2 million participants. The individual identities they sought to preserve remain strong as visitors walk down the streets of the Kurfuerstendamm and hear musical genres from every walk of life, each one louder and more exciting than the one before.

Dancers and visitors to the Love Parade can dress however they like; lavish costumes add to the exhilaration and ambiance. Germans and visitors alike of all ages come and, though it’s more racy than some traditional German festivities, its exciting for the whole family with floats and decorations and, of course, good ol’ German Beer.

Although it was briefly canceled in 2003 due to the lack of sponsors, it was brought back by popular demand in 2006 and has now developed into a huge “the world’s largest dance festival” with many different themes co-existing. Although it is no longer held in Berlin, it is now known simply as “Love Parade” and is held in different regions each year throughout Germany. Parties are even held in cities across the globe to celebrate Love Parade’s theme and message of love, joy and hope, from Tel Aviv to San Francisco.

The 2010 Love Parade is scheduled to be held in Duisberg, Germany, on July 24th. Fans from every corner of the world will be packing their neon leggings as they anxiously await the start of the “World’s Largest Dance Festival” to kick off once again this Summer.

Cycling the Iron Curtain

Paul Kaye had an idea. He loves cycling, photography, and Cold War history, so he decided to combine the three by cycling the length of the old Iron Curtain from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic and documenting his journey.

The 3,600 km (2,237 mile) ride took in several different countries, some of which didn’t even exist when the Cold War was on, and countless towns and villages that are now reunited after a long period of separation.

His photos of crumbling watchtowers and scraps of the Berlin Wall are highly evocative, especially to someone like me who grew up with the threat of nuclear war hovering over his head. I remember in high school when someone was talking about something that might happen in the far future, they’d qualify it by saying, “If we don’t blow ourselves up first.” I’m very happy I haven’t heard that expression for twenty years now.

Paul’s Curtainrider blog tells the whole story. The BBC has a great gallery of his photos here. He’s also come out with a lavishly illustrated book telling of his adventures.

The European Union is turning the entire route into an Iron Curtain Trail for hikers and cyclists, so get your bike ready and head out to see some history.

Berlin hotel offers bed, breakfast and a piece of the wall

The Westin Grand hotel in Berlin has recently added a surprisingly creative package to their lineup of perks.

Instead of the usual drab spa services, or package with a snack in your room, the Westin is offering guests the chance to stay at their hotel and take home a piece of the Berlin wall.

Right in the main lobby of the hotel is an authentic piece of the wall, weighing in at 2.7 tons.

Guests who book the “tear down the wall” package will receive a night at the hotel, along with a safety helmet, goggles and a hammer and chisel. They are then free to bang away on the wall and grab their very own piece of history.

After the hard work, guests can visit parts of historic Berlin with a complimentary guidebook. The package even includes a glass of Champagne and a Currywurst.

Packages start at EUR199 and can be booked directly on the web site of the Westin Grand Berlin.

Berlin celebrates 20 years of wall’s collapse

The Berlin Wall was pulled down 20 years ago, giving birth to a new industry: selling pieces of the Berlin Wall. Remember that? Well, all the pieces were probably bought long ago (well, except the “real” one that you picked up last week, of course), but there is still plenty you can do to celebrate. The list of cultural events is long and impressive, like the German translation of a short word in English. So, take a look at what Berlin has to offer.

Long Night of Museums lets you visit 100 museums will be open from 6 PM Saturday until 2 AM on Sunday every weekend from January 31 to August 29.

Take in the 59th Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) from February 5 to February 15; more than 400 films will be screened, many of them European premieres.

At the Festival Days at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Wagner’s Lohengrin opera will be staged, and other classical music performances will be available from April 4 to April 12.

Enjoy even more of the cultural stuff at the Extended Opera and Theatre Night on April 25. Half-hour events are available from 7 PM to 10 AM on 60 stages, and buses take visitors from theater to theater.

Other events include:

  • Berlin’s Lesbian and Gay Street Festival, June 20-21, and Christopher Street Day, June 27
  • Fete de la Musique, June 21, free concerts on over 50 open-air stages throughout Berlin
  • Jewish Cultural Days, Aug 29-Sep 6
  • Classic Open Air Berlin, July 2-6; opera, classical music
  • Berlin International Beer Festival, Aug 7-9, when Karl-Marx-Allee turns into the world’s longest beer garden and bar, with 190 breweries offering beer along a mile-long stretch
  • Real Berlin Marathon, Sep 19-20, a 42-km run
  • Festival of Lights, Oct 13-25; fireworks, light shows
  • JazzFest Berlin, Nov 5-8, with big bands and international jazz stars

Noticeably absent from the agenda: David Hasselhoff.
[Via Toronto Sun]