My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Remembering the Berlin Wall

2012/10/08by Donna Hull


The Wall by Yadegar Asisi brings the Berlin Wall to life

Do you remember the Berlin Wall? I can still hear President John F. Kennedy saying, “Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner),” as he stood near the wall that imprisoned the citizens of East Berlin. His show of U.S. support for West Berlin threatened to catapult humankind into World War III. As I discovered on a visit to Berlin, Germany, boomer travelers must search a bit for remnants of this piece of 1960’s Cold War history that came tumbling down in 1989 with the collapse of communism. A visit to The Wall, The Asisi Panorama of a Divided City, offers a powerful reminder of life in a divided Berlin.

The temporary art installation located on Friedrichstrasse near Checkpoint Charlie depicts an impression of life on a section of the Berlin Wall in the 1980’s. The 18 meter high painting by Yadegar Asisi draws viewers into a panorama of crumbling buildings, abandoned lots and life on both sides of the wall. Special lighting changes the scene from day to night and back again.


Visitors stand on the platform to view The Wall by Yadegar Asisi

A platform placed on top of scaffolding allows visitors to climb up for a different perspective of the painting. When I reached the top of the viewing platform, I felt as if I were a West Berliner peering over the wall for a glimpse of a relative or friend on the other side—a dangerous tangle of barbed wire, empty no man’s land and guards with machine guns separating my free life from their bleak one.


Interpreting the sign at The Wall

Visitors to the art installation walked quietly around the painting talking in whispers, if at all. Somber music played in the background interspersed with snippets of speeches from West German statesman Willy Brandt, President John F. Kennedy and socialist officials of the day. Street sounds mimicked the times—a child laughing or the sputter of a car engine.


A visitor becomes part of the scene at The Wall

I watched as visitors put themselves into the scene. A woman reached out to hold the outstretched hand of a child in the painting as her friend took the photo. Would a digital image allow their worlds to merge into one?

Have you visited The Wall by Yadegar Asisi? Post a comment to share your thoughts. 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s “I am a Berliner” speech. If you’re visiting Berlin, I highly recommend including The Wall in your boomer travel itinerary.

If you go:

Where:  On the Friedrichstrade near Checkpoint Charlie
Admission: 10 Euros
Hours: Daily from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Disclosure: Airberlin, VisitBerlin and The Oder Partnership City of Gdansk have provided this travel experience. As always, the opinions are my own.

A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of New Mexico Backroads Weekend Adventure.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Hogga October 10, 2012 at 8:36 am

So crazy to think that’s how things were such a relatively short time ago!
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Donna Hull
November 8, 2012 at 6:19 am

You are right, Lindsay. In our fast-paced world, events seem to move in a whirlwind. I appreciated the opportunity to stop and think about a major historical event that didn’t happen all that long ago.


October 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm

I lived in Berlin for a short time during college, and it was so strange to me how ever-present the Berlin Wall is in that city, even though the vast majority of the physical wall has been destroyed. It affects the geography, the culture of the neighborhoods… everything. History, in Germany, is not something that existed intangibly, so long ago; it is something that always exists alongside every day live. At least, that’s how I felt when I was there.

This painting looks like it captures that feeling well. Very interesting, thanks for sharing!
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Donna Hull
November 8, 2012 at 6:21 am

Helena, thanks for sharing your insight on Berlin. The wall is woven into Berlin’s history and culture even though it no longer exists. It’s one reason Berlin has 2 of so many things like zoos, airports and 7 major symphony orchestras.


Mark H October 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm

I was so close to being at the wall when it came down, backpacking in Europe at the time. However I turned “right” in Austria rather than “left” and visited Hungary rather than Germany. I can still remember the reaction in Hungary as I tried to find an English paper to find out what was going on. Such a special time in history.
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Single With Kids
October 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm

As a student I worked in Magdeburg in East Germany as a translator in 1988 – returning home only months before the wall was opened. At that time no one could have foreseen the way life was going to change, in fact reunification was an impossible dream, despite glasnost and rumblings in neighbouring states.

There’s a famous quote of the time pre-unifcation – “I love Germany so much, I’m glad there’s two of them” and I share the sentiment. Despite the constant surveillance, there was a life in the Republic that was devoid of materialism and consumerism – something that has now been sucked up and changed beyond all recognition. I haven’t been back to the former GDR for many years now out of a fear of what I’ll find – but German friends who once yearned for the utopia of the West now realise there are places where the gilding is definitely tarnished.


Donna Hull
November 8, 2012 at 6:25 am

Thanks for sharing your experience in East Germany and lending a different opinion to the discussion.


October 16, 2012 at 8:51 am

I haven’t even made it to Berlin yet – unfortunately. I’d visit this art installation in a heartbeat.
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Alexandra October 16, 2012 at 10:39 am

I was living in France when the wall was torn down. It was much more moving fro my husband who had visited both East and West Berlin. I’m sure he will be interested in this art installation.
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October 16, 2012 at 10:51 am

Fascinating. I would love to see this. I remember that wall coming down.
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Irene S. Levine
October 16, 2012 at 12:28 pm

On a recent Crystal cruise to the Baltics, we took a day trip to Berlin and were awed at how commercial the area around Checkpoint Charlie had become. I didn’t see the installation but saw all the graffiti art nearby!


ruth pennebaker October 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

We were there just last summer — marveling at how close we came to a third world war right on that small piece of land.
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MyKidsEatSquid October 17, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I do remember when the Berlin Wall came down. I remember a Viennese professor of mine telling the story of the people in then Czechoslovakia going into the main square in Prague and shaking their keys altogether. It was a sign to the government it was time to go. That was the beginning of the end of the wall.
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Jane Boursaw
October 23, 2012 at 5:49 pm

What a piece of history. I haven’t been there, though one of my favorite foreign movies, The Lives of Others, revolves around the Wall.


Robert Fowler from Boomer Places
December 9, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Donna those are great shots and a reminder of a harsh time in history. I have been to Berlin in 1972 and saw the wall first hand, actually got up on scaffolding and looked over it. Like to go back and take a look now.
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Amy September 1, 2014 at 2:19 pm

We are looking forward to a trip here in April ’15. We were in Berlin 2 years after the wall came down. It was still very dark on the east side. The Iron curtain was still up in many parts and the wall was kind of moved to the side. I can’t wait to see the changes. I love your road trip ideas. We are doing an Amsterdam to Berlin road trip, but now that I’ve seen yours heading east towards Poland I’m thinking that would be a great road trip too.
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