Visit Berlin. Just visit it. If you haven’t the time to read this article in full (or you’ve landed here by accident) just re-read the first 2 words, they’re all you need so I’ll write them again… visit Berlin. But if you do make it to the German capital, can you really bring your own chunk of the Berlin wall back with you? Like… genuinely?
Berlin is a city with a turbulent, emotional and scary recent history. It is a city that wears it heart on its sleeve and has more emotional, tear-jerking, jaw droppingly-shockingly horrific museums than all of Europe combined. It does not shy way from its turbulent past. The city is crammed with history, inspirational art work and plenty of stories of struggle and determination but also success.
Not only did Berlin succumb to Hitler and his Nazi Party, purge its entire Jewish population and become the whole world’s enemy but it also, more recently, gave birth to the infamous, life-changing, instrument of separation known as the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall separated West Berlin from East Berlin (and the rest of the German Democratic Republic which encompassed it) for nearly thirty years. The wall fell in 1989 and there are plenty of emotional scenes which I highly recommend watching on Youtube (BBC reporting the fall of the Berlin Wall – Part One). The implications and horrors of this atrocious plan are far too big for this little blog to even begin to rant about so I’ll skip to the subject title… Buying The Berlin Wall.
Buying The Berlin Wall
My first trip to Berlin in 2012 with The Wife (then gf) was fairly conventional. A 25th Birthday present to Lucky Me involved lots of walking, museum trips, cultural visits, art galleries, good food and drink plus very tired feet. My eyes and mind were opened to the beauty of Germany. I returned to Berlin in 2015 with my pals for quite a different kind of break; my Stag Do. I’m sure you’ll hear more on that another time. It was on this second trip that I stumbled into our hostel’s reception at 4am, suitably inebriated, and bought my friend a birthday present I had spotted when we checked in; a piece of the Berlin Wall kept it a little Plexiglas cover with an engraving of the wall’s fall date. He was over the moon.
Pieces of the Berlin Wall are everywhere. They fill the shelves of several Berlin tourist shops, they’re at the airport and, evidently, even in cheap €7 per night hostel receptions at 4am (right besides the doughnuts and beers). They come in all shapes and sizes, from that of a small coin to rocks to boulders. The largest remaining piece of the Berlin Wall I’ve ever seen was a 0.8 mile stretch at the famous East Side Gallery, often photographed coated in layers of graffiti; whilst the strangest I’ve witnesses has been the wall behind the urinals at Main Street Station Casino, Las Vegas. But are these souvenirs really from a wall demolished 27 years a go? Surely the rubble has become dust or its all sold by now or its all just a massive, tourist con.
My skepticism hit me like a tonne of bricks (now that’s irony) when I inquired at my hostel reception, drunk at 4am, about how many pieces were available to buy (I fancied one myself). The response was “this is the last piece…. but we can get some more in tomorrow”.
Get some more Berlin Wall in??? Huh?? Go chip off a piece from the fenced off memorial to segregation from days gone by? Or just nick some concrete from the local construction site and cleverly market it?
I can feel my skepticism spreading.. right? Maybe you’ll whip up your own pieces of Berlin wall to sell in your neighborhood?
It is, in fact, real. So it seems. It transpires that 90% of the Berlin Wall souvenirs you’ll find all come from ONE supplier based in North Berlin. Selling pieces of the Berlin Wall was the brainchild of one man, Volker Pawlowski, who started rolling out his idea in 1991. He spent time and effort visiting recycling centers which made use of the wall once it fell and began purchasing it in huge quantities. Eventually he bought around 100 individual segments of the barrier, weighing 2.75 tonnes each and rising 3.6 meters per segment. It is estimated that in 1991 these segments were worth between €500-€1000 each and they are currently valued at €4000+. Pawlowski still claims to own over 40 segments himself, whilst other Berlin historians also claim large sections of the wall can still be sourced (and are still being re-used) across the city.
When you consider that there were nearly 100 miles of concrete standing nearly 4 meters tall and about 30 inches deep, its not hard to believe the estimates above. Now if that doesn’t put the scale of this atrocity into perspective then I guess nothing will.
So buy a piece of wall, infact buy two. One as a historic relic; a signal of unity defeating separation. Use the other to smash, to break, to burn; hoping these atrocities never happen again.
WITH THANKS TO:
Katarína Chovancová (MAIN IMAGE)
Have you visited Berlin? Ever bought a piece of the Berlin Wall or other questionable memorabilia? Let us know in the comments wayyyyyy below.