Traces of the Wall survive in Berlin


BERLIN -- For 28 years, visitors to Berlin saw a city that was defined by one thing: Die Mauer, or the Wall, which not only split the city in half, but symbolized the ideological barrier between East and West, communist and capitalist.

The Wall was the primary fact of life in Berlin, the center of its bifurcated universe. Then, in 1989, the Wall came down.

Today, the Wall may not be totally forgotten, but it is almost totally gone. "Most people don't even remember where it was anymore," said Tini Rothkirch, general manager of the Hotel Dorint am Gendarmenmarkt.

To solve that problem for tourists, one clever publisher has issued a map -- for sale at airport stands and downtown souvenir shops -- that shows where the Wall was, so tourists can still track the route of that infamous landmark.

For those who never got a chance to see the Wall before it was torn down, there are still a few remnants here and there. By far, the longest, most complete section is a piece now known as the East Side Gallery, in the southeast part of the city along the Spree River.

About eight-tenths of a mile long, it has become a broad-scale canvas for dozens of works by more than 100 artists.

There's also a museum devoted to the days of the Wall: the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, at Friedrichstrasse 44, near the site of the famous former border crossing.

If the physical face of Berlin is changing, so is its population. Since the Wall came down, nearly 1 million residents have moved out, while 800,000 new arrivals moved in, meaning that nearly one in three of Berlin's 3.2 million inhabitants is literally a "new Berliner."

Many of the recent arrivals are from Turkey, eastern Europe and Russia, including thousands of Russian Jews.

This influx has made Berlin a more cosmopolitan city than it was before, a fact that is reflected in everything from its cultural life to its cuisine.

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