The Berlin Wall stood as a symbol of oppression for almost three decades. Creating a nation of divided citizens, the imposing wall is one of the most iconic structures of the 21st century and its reach could be felt all around the world. Delving into the history of the Berlin Wall is a step back into the past of a world struggling to recover from the Second World War.
Dividing east and west
The end of World War Two signalled an unsure future for defeated Germany. At a pair of Allied Peace conferences in Yalta and Potsdam, the fate of Germany’s territories was determined. It was here that it was decided to split Germany into four ‘allied zones’, the eastern part of the country went to the Soviet Union and the western part to the United States, Britain and eventually France. Despite Berlin sitting entirely in the eastern part of the country, during the Yalta and Potsdam agreements the city was divided into similar zones. Simmering tension of the Cold War was only exacerbated by the decision to divide up Berlin. The existence of West Berlin, a consciously capitalist city deep within a communist East Germany, ‘stuck like a bone in the Soviet throat,’ according to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
Suddenly a wall arrives
After a decade of calm, tensions flared again in 1958 and for the next three years, the Soviets, encouraged by the seemingly endless flow of refugees from east to west, most of whom were skilled workers, started to threaten West Berlin. Summits, conferences and talks all came and went without any concrete solutions, meanwhile, the flood of refugees continued and by June 1961 roughly 19,000 people left the GDR through Berlin. The numbers continued to rise until on August 12, 1961, when around 2,400 defected to Berlin, the largest number of people to leave East Germany in a single day. That night, Soviet leader Khrushchev gave the East German government permission to stop the flow of emigrants by closing the city’s border for good. In one night, part of the Berlin Wall was erected, causing an already divided nation to awake in disarray. Despite this, the wall did defuse the mounting tensions of the Cold War and slowed the flood of refugees moving from east to west. The opposing structure didn’t stop people from trying to make the great escape to the west and roughly 171 people lost their lives trying to defect, while over 5,000 more East Germans managed to make the impossible journey to the west.
Its eventual fall
Nearly three decades later, as the Cold War began to thaw, on November 9, 1989 the spokesman for East Berlin’s Communist Party announced a change in his city’s travel ban with the West. He stated that starting that day, citizens of the GDR were free to cross the city’s borders. East and West Berliners flocked to the wall, drinking beer and champagne and chanting ‘Tor auf!’ (Open the gate!). Confused and overwhelmed guards opened the checkpoints and just like that, the city was reunited. More than 2 million people from the East and the West gather to participate in a celebration that was, as one journalist wrote, ‘the greatest street party in the history of the world.’ As quickly as it arrived it seemed the Berlin Wall would fall and Germany was reunited for the first time since 1945.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.