Fall of the Berlin Wall: On 29th anniversary, it’s a different world

(CNN) — Twenty-nine years ago, on November 9, 1989, a most extraordinary thing happened.

After decades of dividing a city and a nation, the Berlin Wall came down in a revolution sweeping communist Eastern Europe.

In the blink of an historical eye, Berlin, Germany and world drastically changed. Germany’s biggest city would be reunited. For that matter, the entire country would be.

The ripple wave from this event would eventually reach Moscow, toppling the Soviet Union’s empire and ending communist rule in Russia that dated back to World War I.

Joyous Berliners, dismantling that wall with hammers, shovels and even their bare hands, would redefine the world order in one spectacular night.

And this event would also change the world of travel.
In short order, a whole new region of travel opportunities opened up to Westerners and others around the globe. Young people today who enjoy trips to Budapest, Prague, Krakow and other cities in Eastern Europe would scarcely imagine these popular and welcoming destinations as drab zones that were difficult, if not impossible, to enter.

And who would have anticipated the ultimate symbol of the Cold War, a utilitarian and hastily built structure to keep East Berliners inside the communist section of the city, would end up being a tourist attraction?

What to see

BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 05: The Brandenburg Gate at Pariser Platz photographed during the Designers Get Together at Dachresidenz during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2014 on July 5, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

The Brandenburg Gate at Pariser Platz is a popular gathering spot in the 21st century.

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Decades later, the few remaining remnants of the Berlin Wall and its footprint are of historical and even recreational interest. Here are a few of the many wall-oriented spots to see in Berlin:

Brandenburg Gate: A good place to start your historical tour is the Brandenburg Gate, the history of which reaches back way beyond the communist era to Napoleon, who took the gate’s crowning statue away during his military campaign through Europe in the early 1800s. (France returned it.)

The gate was the famous backdrop for US President Ronald Reagan’s memorable challenge to the Soviets in the 1980s to “tear down this wall.” Once the symbol of oppression, it’s now the city’s symbol of free movement and newfound prosperity. And it makes a great spot for a selfie.

East Side Gallery: You can see more than 100 large-sized murals painted onto one of the few remaining pieces of the wall left standing. The murals can give visitors a good sense of the joy and hope that swept through Berlin and the rest of Germany at this time.

David Hasselhoff looks back 25 years to singing on the Berlin Wall to unite East and West Germany. Hala Gorani reports.

Old St. Hedwig Cemetery: The wall had no respect for the living — or the dead. You can still see a segment of the wall that ran by Berlin’s oldest Catholic cemetery. Along with the wall, you can see interesting mausoleums dating much further back in time.

Berlin Wall Memorial: This somber site is a memorial to people who died trying to cross into West Berlin and might be the best place to see what the wall looked like at the end of the 1980s and soak in the atmosphere of a city divided.

Checkpoint Charlie: This is name that Westerners gave to what was probably the best-known border crossing between East and West Berlin. James Bond fans with a keen eye might recognize it from the movie “Octopussy.”

Wall bike tours: On nicer Berlin day, you can actually trace the wall’s path by bicycle. You can get maps and a bike rental and strike out on your own, or you can experience it through a tour operator.

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