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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The East Side Gallery extends to the Oberbaumbrücke Bridge. We then cross the Kreuzberg district to reach the Soviet Memorial.
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.
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.
· Fat Tire Bike Tours
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
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.