The Berlin Wall was erected 50 years ago on 13 August 1961, separating East Berlin from West Berlin.
I was in junior high school at the time, but I can clearly remember watching this event on the evening news.
It was a defining moment in the Cold War, when tensions between East and West were running high.
The Berlin Wall ran 97 miles around the three Western sectors of Berlin and 27 miles directly through the city’s centre.
To commemorate the construction of the Berlin Wall, Context Travel is launching a walking seminar that traces the history of this monument while following part of the original route.
20th Century Historian
The walk, led by a 20th century historian, investigates the post-war context of the Wall’s construction, the physical realities of life in the city that it divided, and the implications of its fall for a reunified Berlin.
“The Berlin wall remains iconic,” says Context Travel Co-founder Paul Bennett.
“And yet, so many aspects of it are unclear or not widely known. Our main goal with this walk, will be to understand the Wall for what it was: not merely a concrete barrier but also a controlled series of empty spaces and activities (searches, patrols, observations, and checkpoints) that came to signify all the consequences of the division of Berlin and of Europe.”
Walking the Wall is available daily for the price of 65 Euros per person, or 290 per private group. The walk, like all Context Travel walking seminars, will be capped at six participants and led by historians from the Context docent network.
Founded by National Geographic writer Paul Bennett and graphic designer Lani Bevacqua, Context Travel is a network of English speaking scholars and professionals, including art historians, writers, and architects.
Tear Down This Wall!
On 12 June 1987, US President Ronald Reagan visited the then still divided city of Berlin, commemorating the city’s 750th anniversary.
Standing upon the Brandenburg Gate, he gave a stirring speech in which in uttered this now famous challenge to General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev: “Mr Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr Gorbachev, Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Who could have predicted that 29 months later, the wall actually would be torn down – but not by Mr Gorbechev, but by the peoples of both East and West Berlin.
It is something that I don’t think anyone of my generation thought that he or she would live long enough to witness.
For More Information
“In June 1961 the then East German leader and Chairman of the Council of State Walter Ulbricht said in a statement that was to go down in history: ‘Nobody has any intention of building a wall.’ But less than two months later that is exactly what happened and work started on building the Berlin Wall. Berlin was divided into two. Germany was divided into two. This was exactly 50 years ago.” – Visit Berlin, 13 August 2011, 50th Anniversary of the Berlin Wall.
Berlin is the now capital of a unified Germany. It has also developed into a vibrant centre for culture and the arts.