During the Cold War, the Berlin Wall came to represent Germany’s divided nation and capital. Though mostly dismantled now, it remains a potent presence, marked by sites that hark back to a sinister time in the city’s history.
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The Bornholmer Street border crossing is where the Wall first was breached, on November 9, 1989, following a surprise announcement by East German officials that border controls were being loosened. East Germans flocked to the crossing, overwhelming guards, who soon lifted the gates. As the news spread, Berliners gathered at the Brandenburg Gate, totem of the city, which President John F. Kennedy visited before proclaiming “Ich bin ein Berliner” during his famous Cold War speech.
Just to the north looms the Reichstag building, where Germany’s reunited Parliament first convened; damaged in World War II and abandoned by East German officialdom, it was renovated and reopened in the 1990s. To see one of 302 watch towers that secured the Wall, visit the Berlin Wall Memorial.
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler print magazine. Continue reading on Intelligent Travel blog, published Nov. 6, 2014.