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The Traveller's Magazine
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This summer Berlin will mark the anniversary of an event that no one saw coming fifty years ago, not even the leader of East Germany’s Socialist Unity Party in the 1960s. On August 13th, just past midnight, the Berlin wall went up. It took 29 years to bring it down again. This summer marks its 50th anniversary.

Last year Germany celebrated the 20th anniversary of the wall’s destruction, with many celebrations, parties and events. This summer a different sort of anniversary will take place, commemorating the 50th anniversary of its construction. Unlike last summer’s parties, this summer’s organised events will be much more low-key and will focus on exhibitions about Germany’s history.

August 13th, 1961 was a day that changed the lives of Berliners completely. From one day to the next, the daily life was turned upside-down. The wall essentially split friends, neighbours, families, entire streets and public transportation routes apart. Berliners still talk about it, not the tragedy of the wall, but how life changed overnight.

Today in many parts of Berlin all that is left of the wall are cobblestones set into the otherwise immaculately poured concrete, outlining where the wall once stood. This summer there will be photographic displays along the route, depicting life in a city that was divided. There will also be special displays set up along the East Side Gallery, the only stretch of wall that is still standing in its original position.

To really understand the sheer size of the wall, it’s worth exploring the 160km loop called the “Death Strip” which, at one time in history, was guarded with barbed wires and armed guards. Today it’s called the Berlin Wall Trail which is divided into 14 trails that are easily explored by bike or on foot. Starting June 15th, urban installations will be set up along the length of the wall.

Special Events

Memorial Ceremony

The commemorative ceremony will start at 10:00 on August 13th, 2011 at the Berlin Wall Memorial which is dedicated to all the victims of the Wall. It will feature a wreath-laying ceremony and will also include speeches and interviews with victims of the Sociality Unity Party. There will also be an open-air cinema from August 11th to 13th at the Berlin Wall Memorial.

Behind the Wall

This exhibition at the Orangery at Glienicke Palace will present the history of the Wall which in effect divided the Prussian Arcadia in Klein-Glienicke, a small town outside of Berlin which is now part of Potsdam, that was located close to the famous Glienicke Bridge. Today the gardens of the Prussian Arcadia are a UNESCO World Heritage site, worth visiting.

Exhibition runs June 19-October 3, 2011

1961. On a Sunday in August

KulturRaum Zwingli Church near Oberbaumbrücke will host a series of events this summer which high-lite the lives of seemingly ordinary residents on both sides of the wall. Their stories will be told with video and texts, photographs and other media. More workshops are yet to be announced.

Exhibition runs July 29-September 11, 2011

Berlin Border Cinemas

The building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and the unification of the two sides essentially ended a chapter of Berlin’s film history. The film series, “Flicks at the Iron Curtain – Berlin Border Cinemas, 1950-1961” will recreate this long-forgotten era of Berlin cinema history. Screenings will be shown over the course of the summer, introduced by witnesses from that time who will talk about these pop-up cinemas during the Cold War and what kind of films were screened. The films will be accompanied by a photo exhibition and some will even take place in their original locations.

Exhibition and films run August 12-September 12, 2011

For more information on events in Berlin this summer, check out 50jahremauerbau.de. From London, find flights to Berlin for £76 with Ryanair this August.

Do historical events like theses inspire your trips? Can you imagine life in Berlin 50 years ago?

Img: siyublog / Flickr cc.

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