We tried – The Berlin Wall circuit with Fat Tire Bike Tours

Activities, Tours on March 15, 2012 3:18 pm
   

A friend of mine was visiting in Berlin, and having been enjoying some wonderful autumn weather we decided to go on a bike tour. Like many foreign visitors to Germany my friend was very interested in the subject of the former GDR, and we made our first choice a tour along the Berlin wall – the Berlin Wall Tour with our friends at Fat Tire Bike Tours.

General impressions

What most impressed me was our guide Sam from New Zealand. As a foreigner in the country you might think he was not the most suitable person to explain the history of Germany – yet this was very far from the truth.

Not only did Sam know the history of the former GDR and the Cold War to perfection, but had an absolutely wonderful talent as a narrator, and I never once lost interest during his explanations.

The size of the group was also just right (between 10-12 participants) and there was a real mixture of nationalities. It was also just the right length of time – between 4-5 hours – so to not feel saturated by too much information.

All in all it is a very well-designed tour that may even be of interest to those less passionate about history, so we encourage you to go and try it out for yourselves.

Tip: Oh-Berlin.com clients have a 20% discount on all bicycle tours. Click here for more information.
The Route

The tour leaves from the Television Tower where Fat Tire Bike Tours has their office – you can’t get more central than that!

The first stop is of course Alexanderplatz that was then the most important square in East Berlin.

Weltuhr und park inn

In former times the current Hotel Park-Inn was the favourite accommodation choice for official guests to the GDR and as such the hotel was always closely guarded

The tour continues along Karl-Marx-Alle (formerly known as Stalinallee in the GDR days). At that time it was designed as the main GDR thoroughfare and many of its buildings were built exclusively for propaganda purposes.

Cafe-Moskau

Café Moskau specialized in Moscow cuisine was a favourite haunt of the top-ranked officers in the regime and displays a noteworthy sputnik satellite on the roof.

Kino International

Kino International was the cinema used by the GDR regime for any film premieres and also propaganda projections. Today it is the only cinema in Berlin that still displays hand-drawn posters.

Karl Marx Buchhandlung

The Karl-Marx bookshop still stands as it always has, although today it boasts an additional cafeteria area and an exhibition on the history of the Stalinallee. It was also used as a setting for one of the scenes in the Oscar-winning film, “The lives of others”.

From Karl-Marx-Allee the tour continues along to the left through the Friedrichshain district before making a stop at the Neues Deutschland publishing house; at the time the newspaper of the SED (German Socialist Unity Party). The publishing house was a very fitting backdrop to hear about some of the many crimes committed by the GDR commanders and the Stasi (German Ministry of State Security).

After passing the Ostbahnhof we arrive at the East Side Gallery.

East Side Gallery

East Side Gallery from behind. This 1316 metre stretch is the largest conserved part of the Berlin Wall. The large green area marks the former “death strip.”

East Side gallery

The East Side Gallery is made up of over 100 paintings by 118 artists from 21 countries.

The East Side Gallery extends to the Oberbaumbrücke Bridge. We then cross the Kreuzberg district to reach the Soviet Memorial.

Watch tower

Watch tower on the former “Death Strip.”

 

soviet memorial

The Soviet Memorial marks the burial place of 5000 Russian soldiers.

We return once again to Kreuzberg, cross the Görlitzer Bahnhof Station and travel along the curved line of the Wall, in front of the Engelsbecken area to reach Checkpoint Charlie.

Engelsbecken

Engelsbecken, and in the back ground the reconstructed St. Michael’s Church. This part of the wall is particularly curved.

Checkpoint Charlie

Check Point Charlie. On 27th October 1961 Soviet and American tanks were on the brink of unleashing a third world war when they came face to face in a stand-off.

Embarking on a calm return back to our starting point we made a final stop at a particularly grey and non-descript office building. Sam explained that it was the former GDR Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also the SED Central Committee’s headquarters. As such it was home to the legendary press conferences with Günther Schabowski, who mistakenly made public the possibility of Eastern citizens being able to leave the country. The news spread like wildfire and the borders with the west were opened.

It is these kinds of stories lying behind the very discreet appearance of so many buildings, streets and squares that make this trip along the Berlin Wall so unique and fascinating. In short an excellent trip and an absolute must to try.

Additional information

· Fat Tire Bike Tours

(Tours in English and a few in Spanish)
Panorama Straße 1a
10178 Berlin
Telephone: +49 30 24 04 79 91
Email: Berlin@FatTireBikeTours.com
Web: http://fattirebiketours.com/berlin/

Information about the tours
Berliner Mauer & Kalter Krieg (The Berlin Wall & The Cold War)
Duration: 4-5 hours

April to October: Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 10:30h

(Off season: check by mail or telephone)
Meeting point: Fat Tire Bike Shop, at the aforementioned address.

How to get there
Fast train S-Bahn: S5, S7 and S75 to Alexanderplatz
Metro U-Bahn: U2, U5 and U8 to Alexanderplatz
(The shop is located on a small side street alongside the Television Tower, almost opposite Subways)

· Stadt und Rad

(Tours in German)
Hardenbergplatz 11 (Bahnhof Zoo)
10623 Berlin
Telephone: +49 30 68 83 62 17
Email: info@stadtundrad.de
Web: http://stadtundrad.de

Please note: the tour described above is not given in German. The Berlin Wall tour in German leaves from the Bahnhof Zoo and has a different route. For those interested in a German-speaking tour we recommend you contact Stad und Rad for further information.

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