Even though Berlin is nowhere near the north coast of Germany, it was the first city in our cruise itinerary. Our day “in port” involved a 3-hour bus ride from Warnemunde, where our ship actually docked, to Berlin, taking a 5-hour walking tour, followed by a 3 hour bus ride back to the ship.
For this Cold War history buff, being in Berlin was, even if just for a few hours, a dream come true. We saw, or glimpsed from the bus window, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the 1936 Olympic Stadium (whose bell I wrote about in my book), Checkpoint Charlie, and the remnants of the Berlin Wall.
One of the most moving spots was a fence near the site of the Berlin Wall that commemorates those killed trying to escape over the wall. The last victim was killed in May of 1989, only 6 months before the wall collapsed.
An excellent book about how the wall came down is The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall, by Mary Elise Sarotte.
This morning I ran across this interesting article about a previously undiscovered section of the Berlin Wall that was recently found by locals out on a walking tour.
Here’s how CNN reported it:
The Berlin Wall
came down in 1989. But it seems that its story still hasn’t been fully told.
A previously unknown section of the wall was discovered in summer 2018 in a residential section of northwest Berlin.
Several locals on a walking tour came upon a 20-meter (66-foot) section of crumbling wall, covered in graffiti, in June. The wall had been covered by overgrown bushes, which is how it had escaped discovery for so long.
Much has been written about the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later, but the Berlin Crisis of 1961 was more decisive in shaping the Cold War-and more perilous. It was in that hot summer that the Berlin Wall was constructed, which would divide the world for another twenty-eight years. Then two months later, and for the first time in history, American and Soviet fighting men and tanks stood arrayed against each other, only yards apart. One mistake, one nervous soldier, one overzealous commander-and the tripwire would be sprung for a war that could go nuclear in a heartbeat.
On one side was a young, untested U.S. president still reeling from the Bay of Pigs disaster and a humiliating summit meeting that left him grasping for ways to respond. It would add up to be one of the worst first-year foreign policy performances of any modern president. On the other side, a Soviet premier hemmed in by the Chinese, East Germans, and hardliners in his own government. With an all-important Party Congress approaching, he knew Berlin meant the difference not only for the Kremlin’s hold on its empire-but for his own hold on the Kremlin.
Neither man really understood the other, both tried cynically to manipulate events. And so, week by week, they crept closer to the brink.
It’s a fascinating read.
In all my travels I never made it behind The Iron Curtain, so I never saw the Berlin Wall. However, while on a visit to Iceland a few years back, I did see a piece of it standing outside the historic Hofdi House in Reykjavik. Hofdi House is where President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Michael Gorbachev held a summit in 1986 that set the stage for the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the end of the Cold War. To commemorate that summit and what it led to, a piece of the wall stands on the grounds of the House.
By the way, an excellent book about the summit, written by one of Reagan’s aides is Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War, by Kenneth Adelman.
Iceland in Winter