As a student, I learned history by memorizing dates, place, battles, generals, and a host of other stuff that I just couldn’t relate to. Traveling, however, has helped put history into perspective, a trait common with Baby Boomers, I believe, who learned history through rote memorization rather than through any experiential or emotional connection. That’s why I believe that Baby Boomer travel to Berlin has become popular. This generation, defined as those born in the years after the end of World War II, are visiting the city that is symbolic of the end of the Cold War.
Here are a five historical Berlin sites that should be of interest to Baby Boomers:
- Berlin Wall – This symbol, which for so many years represented the division in Germany, is crumbling, both from age and tourists. A section has been preserved as a gallery, though, and some other sections are under reconstruction. It may not be the physical structure that it was, but the symbolism is still there, and a visit to some section of it is part of the Berlin experience.
- Berlin Wall Memorial – This somber spot is a tribute to those individuals who died crossing, or trying to cross, the wall and is dedicated to the the victims of the “communist reign of violence.” It’s a sobering reminder of what the wall represented, although it has, at times, been controversial with locals who question its heavy-handedness. Try the viewing platform for a more complete look at history, and what life was like behind the wall.
- Checkpoint Charlie – It was the only border crossing between East and West Berlin, and only visitors were allowed to use it. Residents remained on the side of the wall where they lived. The guardhouse from the crossing has been moved to a museum, but the famous crossing sign (“You are leaving the American Sector”) still remains. Although the spot has become a little touristy, perhaps in large part due to the location figuring so prominently in spy novels and movies, it is definitely a historical spot to consider visiting.
- Tempelhof Airport – Home to a monument commemorating the Berlin Airlift, this now defunct airport still oozes history. Since its closure as an airport, it’s been used for festivals, concerts, and a variety of public and private events.
- Brandenburg Gate – One of the most famous landmarks in Germany, the gate is the only one remaining of those that had to be passed through to enter the city of Berlin. This is the spot where President Ronald Reagan declared, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Two years later, in 1989, it happened.
Of course, once you’re done with your historical sightseeing, you’ll want to check out the rest that the city has to offer. From posh hotels, to parks and gardens, to nightlife and restaurants, there’s plenty to keep you entertained during your visit.
Photo credits: Brandenburg Gate from Norbert Aepli via wikimedia; Checkpoint Charlie sign via wikimedia