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Why Visit the Berlin Wall

Dividing the capital of Germany for almost three decades, the Berlin Wall is among the most important and captivating pieces of history in the country. The graffiti-covered remaining part of the wall which we can see today was once a sad border which was raised almost overnight, dividing the city in half. But who built it and why?

The border not only separated the citizens geographically, but the difference was also political, economic and ideological. East Berliners lived on the territory of the German Democratic Republic, or GDR, and were under the Soviet Communist Party. Western Berlin was an enclave that was part of the Federal Republic of Germany, FRG.

The salaries and quality of life overall were better in the west, and many of the easterners who were not supportive of the regime (or simply wanted to reunite with their family members) attempted to flee to western Berlin.

It is known that about 3.5 million people actually made it to the other side of the country, yet, not all of them succeeded to do so as on August 13, 1961, within a night the east and west border of the city was suddenly split by barbed wire.

Soon a 3.6-meter (10-feet) tall concrete wall began to be raised right in the center of Berlin, it was built by constructors under the guard of soldiers, cutting through the city and its surrounding areas. It took almost a decade to complete the construction of the 43-kilometer (27-mile) wall across Berlin which was then extended for more than 100 more kilometers (62 miles) along the western border of the German Democratic Republic.

Friends and family members remained trapped on either side of the border until 1989 when the wall, as well as the "Iron Curtain", had fallen. The reason for the wall was to prevent East Germans from fleeing into Western Germany, watchtowers guarded by German officers with machine guns made it next to impossible to cross the border alive. To keep people within city limits, the wall was guarded by dogs, hidden bunkers, strips with spikes, and even mines.

Behind the wall, there was a fence with spikes and the so-called "Death Strip" that was about 100 meters (328 feet) wide and with more than 300 watchtowers with guards who had direct orders to shoot anyone who wanted to cross the wall.

Despite the possible risk of death, about five thousand people escaped to the west during the years of the wall's existence, for example, by digging tunnels beneath it.

Today, much of the wall is gone, but parts of it remain as a memory of gaining freedom and a symbol of the Cold War.

Some parts are protected and exhibited pieces, while others are a canvas for various kinds of art, often referred to as the longest art gallery in the world. Where the wall in no longer present, a line showcases the former barrier that divided Berlin into East and West.

In some places, watchtowers make it possible to overview the no man’s land, plus, the most famous crossing point called Checkpoint Charlie, is among other major Berlin sights.

Numerous fascinating museums, such as the Wall Museum, display some of the infinite amounts of powerful stories that involve this sight, but, in any case, no Berlin tour would be complete without a visit to the wall.

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