It’s both disturbing and impressive, the thought of that much concrete and wire mesh fencing crudely wrought together, carving up the German countryside into indiscriminate delineations of “east” and “west.”
For nearly thirty years that was the role of the Berlin Wall. It was perhaps the greatest symbol of the irresolvable tension between communism and capitalism, and a decades-long reminder of the lingering tragedy of World War II.
But perhaps more impressive than the speed at which it was erected on August 13, 1961 has been the speed with which the wall has disappeared, if not from the public consciousness then at least from the surrounding landscape. Few traces of the structure itself still exist, and where you do find stretches left standing (sites like Bernauer Strasse and the East Side Gallery), a modern Berlin and a steady flow of tourists make it difficult to fully grasp its magnitude.
Which begs the question: what’s a traveler interested in an immersive Berlin Wall experience to to?
Thankfully, the memorial Berliner Mauerweg walking and cycling trail was created for just this purpose.
Faithfully retracing the wall’s circuitous path around West Berlin, the route consists of 160 judiciously marked and mapped kilometers that give cyclists the opportunity to see firsthand just how extensive this historic barrier truly was. Within the city, a street-level brick path helps guide the way, while posted signs and informational panels direct cyclists along the bulk of the path that runs through the German countryside.
You’ll inevitably have to contend with a few obstacles along the way, however tree roots and cobblestones notwithstanding the ride is surprisingly smooth and well maintained throughout.
As for the psychological impact of the trail, powerful sites like Checkpoint Charlie and the Peter Fechter memorial stand in stark contrast to a placid east German countryside lined with forests, rivers and lakes, so be prepared for a series of mixed emotions. You’ll also want to prepare yourself to invest a few days in the tour should your intention be to truly soak up all the sights and informational stops along the way.
If a multiple-day ride isn’t in the cards, don’t fret: there are S-bahn and U-bahn lines servicing parts of the Berliner Mauerweg, so tackling the trail by section is always a viable alternative. And yes, bikes are allowed on the trains in designated cars for the simple cost of an extra ticket.
To this end, the 30 km stretch between Berlin’s Brandenburger Tor and the locality of Rudow to the southeast makes for an excellent day of riding along the Berlin Wall Trail. Its course will take you through the bulk of the main urban sights including Checkpoint Charlie and the East Side Gallery, then out along several watery tributaries of the Spree until arriving in calm, near-rural farmland.
If this type of shortened itinerary tickles your fancy, Spinlister has put together a guided map to help get you there and back to the city center again without issue. Which isn’t to say we wouldn’t recommend hitting up the entire length of the Berliner Mauerweg if you have the chance, because we absolutely would.
Just consider this the next best thing.