Berlin belatedly answers "Where's the Wall?" query

BERLIN (Reuters) - In their zeal to remove the Berlin Wall, German authorities were ruthlessly efficient in eliminating almost all traces of the hated symbol of the Cold War within months of its opening in 1989.

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Since then, countless millions of visitors to the formerly divided city have been asking: “Where’s the Wall?”

The city, belatedly realizing it threw away a bit too much of what was its most important tourist attraction, has belatedly come up with at least a partial answer to the oft-heard question with a new GPS-based multi-media guide.

Similar to audio guides devices found in museums, the 158-gram digital “Walk the Wall” guide covers 15 kilometers (9 miles) of Berlin and offers detailed descriptions, pictures and film clips of various areas of where the Wall once stood.

The Global Position System (GPS) link gives constant updates on a Berlin map -- complete with a blinking yellow box of the holder’s exact location -- and includes a treasure trove of material on the Wall that divided Berlin for 28 years.

There are also scores of eyewitness interviews and stories from the humorous -- such as one East Berlin baby boy who grew up next to the Wall and only built walls with his building blocks -- to the tragic: a young family separated by the Wall.


“Everyone who comes to Berlin always asks the same question: ‘Where’s the Wall?’” said Rosemarie Wirthmueller, director of the project tendered by the city as part of a Berlin Wall remembrance program ahead of the 20th anniversary next year of the Wall’s collapse.

“With the exception of two short segments of a few hundred meters, the Wall has all but disappeared,” she said. “You can’t find any trace of it anymore in most places and even if you know what to look for you can’t see anything in some spots anymore.”

The hand-held guide, with its English or German language narrative, makes it relatively easy to trace the Wall’s route -- at least for 15 km through the city centre. The other 145 km of Wall that surrounded West Berlin from 1961-89 are not included.

There are anecdotes and facts included that even lifelong Berliners might not have known or heard about.

“If it’s successful, we’ll expand the route,” said Wirthmueller. There is a 160-km long bicycle trail running along the Wall now, another part of Berlin’s belated efforts to celebrate the Wall the city so hastily removed in early 1990.

There are also plans to include French, Russian, Spanish and Dutch versions, she said.

editing by Ralph Boulton