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.
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.
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.
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.