A Look at East Berlin, 25 Years After German Reunification

HYPERLOCAL

The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 was one of the most extraordinary events of the 20th century.

The wall, a 96-mile long barrier dividing the previously unified German capital into West Berlin and East Berlin, was established by East Germany in 1961. Nearly three decades later, on Nov. 9, 1989—following weeks of civil protests—the government of East Germany opened the partition, allowing residents to travel to the west side for the first time in decades.

Eleven months after the Berlin Wall was opened, the east and west sides of the city were formally reunited on Oct. 3, 1990.

Berlin has changed monumentally since that day 25 years ago, becoming one of Europe’s top cultural and residential hotspots. Here are 10 places that reflect the city’s transformation over the past quarter of a century.

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1. Kreuzberg — This neighborhood was once enclosed on three sides by the Berlin Wall. Now it is a hipster haven filled with coffee shops and brunch spots. It’s also home to many tech startups
 and is a testing ground for Bitcoin currency.

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2. Mao Thai — This lavish venue is hailed as one of the best restaurants in Berlin and has arguably the best Thai food in Europe. It’s a centerpiece of cosmopolitan Berlin.

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3. Friedrichshain — One of the most heavily bombarded areas during World War II, Friedrichshain is now considered Berlin’s Bohemian neighborhood, a go-to spot for the city’s youth. After the fall of the Wall, low rents and empty spaces attracted artists to the area. They helped turn it into fertile ground for nightclubs, pubs and galleries.

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4. Mitte — Berlin’s central neighborhood includes parts of both the former East and West Berlin. It has now become a tourist destination thanks to its world-class arts and sciences center, Museumsinsel (Museum Island).

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5. Ampelmännchen — These icons on traffic light signals in the former East Berlin are one of the few process-driven traditions that lasted after the fall of the Wall. They were designed by the traffic psychologist Karl Peglau in 1961, whose intention was to create signs that would be easy for the visually impaired to see.

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6. Alexanderplatz — Once a center of the former East Berlin, and marked by its distinctive block style of architecture, this area has seen the development of high-rise apartments and a more modern style of building over the last two decades. It’s also one of the main connecting stations on the city’s train line.

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7. The East Side Gallery — This three-quarter-mile stretch of the Wall has become a canvas for a graffiti mural that is considered the largest open-air art gallery in the world.

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8. Potsdamer Platz — Once one of Europe’s biggest wastelands, Potsdamer Platz has seen a big turnaround since 1990. Eight months after the fall of the Wall, it was the site of one of the most famous concerts in music history, put on by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. The area is now a major commercial hub that nearly 100,000 people pass through every day.

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9. Hackesche Höfe — Another center of Berlin’s nightlife, this neighborhood is known for its seven restored courtyards that are dotted with restaurants and bars. The Hackescher Markt is called the unofficial Old Town of Berlin and has become a popular shopping district.

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10. Hauptbahnhof — After reunification, German officials made a push to revamp Berlin’s train system to seamlessly connected both sides of the city. In 2006, the brand new Hauptbahnhof station was unveiled. It has a unique design, with glass walls and multiple levels. Hauptbahnhof serves as Berlin’s main train station for both intra-city and long-distance travel.

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