After arriving at Berlin Tegel airport early in the afternoon, and learning the proper pronunciation of my last name (I quite liked how the guy at the car rental desk said it), we slowly (oh, how painfully slowly) made our way to the apartment my wife found on Air B&B, a fantastic place near the Frankfurter Tor U-Bahn stop. The location was prime, but even better was the 1950s Soviet-inspired East German architecture. So before talking about The Wall, let me introduce you to our building.
According to Google Street View, there was a McDonald's attached to the building. Wow, what luck! I love going to McDonald's in foreign countries to see what exotic things they have on the menu (what is this "Big Mac" thing I have heard so much about). To my bitter disappointment, the McDonald's was gone, replaced by a wine shop. While wine shops are great, I really had my heart set on other things, like fries and such. This experience marred my entire trip to Germany.
But check out the statues of the proletariat atop the building, laboring away for their future, fighting against the evil bourgeoisie in West Berlin who would oppress them and make them choose between the 43 different kinds of mayonnaise instead of the one they had, if the stores weren't out.
I had grand plans for our first day in Germany. After our arrival, and briefly getting settled, we would head to Alexanderplatz, mosey our way down to the waterfront and take a Spree River cruise. However, this was overruled as being too optimistic given our energy level at the end of a long flight. This seemed a sensible observation.
So instead, looking at Google Maps (my favorite site), I noticed that just a mile down Warschauer Straße was the East Side Gallery, i.e. the Berlin Wall. So plans were changed for an abbreviated evening. Which turned out quite well, and as an added bonus, when the rainstorm rolled in that evening, we were watching the downpour from our apartment instead of from the top of a boat.
The story of the Berlin Wall is well known. Built by the East German to keep other East Germans from leaving, it was the visible symbol of the Iron Curtain separating free and communist Europe. But in 1989, the wall came tumbling down (thank you Günter Schabowski and David Hasselhoff), and fast-forwarding to today, there is little remaining of the infamous wall. But there is some left, and the largest section is at the East Side Gallery between Mühlenstraße and the river.