Berlin Wall 30th anniversary: ‘Then and now’ photos reveal city’s transformation

These photographs of Berlin show how the city has changed over the years.

Berlin Wall 30th anniversary: 'Then and now' photos reveal city's transformation
People climb over the Berlin Wall when it opened on November 9th 1989. Photo: DPA

Once divided by the Wall, Berlin has changed remarkably over the years.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Wall falling, contact lens company Lenstore compared historical photographs of iconic Berlin landmarks with pictures from today by overlaying the images from past and present.

Berlin Wall, 1989 vs today

Photo: Lenstore/David Köster

The Berlin Wall was built by East Germany as a barrier to close off East Germany's access to West Berlin and hence West Germany. 

In the years between 1949 and 1961, about 2.5 million East Germans fled from East to West Germany, including steadily rising numbers of skilled workers, professionals, and intellectuals. At that time, the country was facing an economic and social crisis, which lead the East German government to the decision to close the entire border, and the wall was erected overnight, on 13 August 1961. 

Although the numbers have never been confirmed, it is said that at least 138 people lost their lives trying to escape across the wall, whereas an estimated 5,000 did manage to flee. 

Under raising political pressure, on the evening of the 9th November 1989, a government representative announced that East Germans would be free to travel into West Germany starting immediately and the border was opened.

The above photo shows what the Wall looked in the city and the below photo was taken in 2018.

Photo: Lenstore/David Köster

The Brandenburg Gate, 1928 vs today

Photo: Lenstore/David Köster

As soon as Western media reported about the opening of the borders, people started gathering in large numbers at checkpoints on both sides. Passport checks were dropped by guards at around 11.30pm due to the overwhelming amount of people, by which time people were surging through the open gates.

It wasn’t until 11th and 12th  November that the first pieces of wall were pulled down. A hole was made in the wall segment cutting off the Brandenburg Gate on 10th November, but then sealed off again by the East German authorities, and the wall did not come down properly until 22nd December 1989. The picture below shows the gate today.

Photo: Lenstore/David Köster

Reichstag, 1929 vs today

Photo: Lenstore/David Köster

Until 1989, the Berlin Wall ran close to the east side of the building. The Reichstag was severely damaged during a fire in 1933, but reconstructions only really started after the reunification of West and East Germany in 1990. 

Next to it, at the corner between Ebertstraße and Scheidemannstraße, a row of white crosses can be found as a reminder of the so called “Mauertoten”, the people who lost their lives trying to escape East Germany. To this day, people light candles and bring fresh flowers to this site. The Reichstag today is pictured below.

Photo: Lenstore/David Köster

Berliner Cathedral, 1928 vs today

Photo: Lenstore/David Köster

The erection of the Berlin Wall and consequent split of the city between West and East placed a heavy burden on the religious community of the Berlin Cathedral. While the West Berliners built a community centre in Müllerstrasse, near the cathedral cemetery, in the eastern part, the congregation continued its work in the destroyed cathedral that had been severely damaged in 1944. 

It took time for the two congregations to grow together after 1989, as a lot of understanding was required on both sides in order to go grow back together and find a common path again. The cathedral is shown in the present day in the photo below.

Photo: Lenstore/David Köster

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Five of Germany’s most magical Christmas Markets to visit in 2021

Despite rising infection numbers, most of Germany’s Christmas markets will be open to fill our hearts with festive cheer this year. We give you a rundown of five of the country’s most magical Christmas markets.

Five of Germany's most magical Christmas Markets to visit in 2021
The entrance to the Stuttgart Christmas market in 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Tom Weller

In 2020, many Christmas markets in Germany had to close or were scaled back massively because of the pandemic. This year – at least at the time or reporting – lots of markets are set to open in the coming weeks. 

Here are five we love at The Local Germany. If you have any suggestions for magical Christmas markets in Germany, please leave a comment below. 

Maritime Christmas Market on the Koberg, Lübeck

Lübeck, the so-called “Christmas city of the North”, will be welcoming the festive season this year by lighting up its old town with over 500,000 Christmas lights.

The northwest of the old town island is where you’ll find the maritime-themed Christmas market which has been going since 2011.

Centred around the gothic, middle-aged church of St. Jacob, this Christmas market celebrates the city’s historical sea-faring residents by creating a cosy harbour atmosphere with old wooden barrels, nets and a stranded shipwreck as well as a Ferris wheel with an unforgettable view of Lübeck’s old town and harbour.

Culinary stands offer visitors sweet and savoury dishes, and beverages such as hot lilac punch, mulled wine and, of course, rum.

Extra info: The current rules for events and hospitality in Schleswig Holstein is that 3G applies (entry for the vaccinated, people who’ve recovered from Covid or people who show a negative test)  but from Monday, November 15th, indoor areas will be enforcing the 2G rule (excluding the unvaccinated).

The Christkindlesmarkt in Augsburg Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

Christkindlesmarkt, Augsburg

With its origins in the 15th century, the Christkindlesmarkt in Augsburg is one of the oldest in Germany, and the Renaissance town hall provides a particularly beautiful backdrop to this winter wonderland.

As well as a wide variety of stands selling handcrafted nick-nacks and tasty treats, the Augsburg market also has some especially magical features, including the “Heavenly Post Office,” and “Fairytale Lane”: an animated fairytale depicted in ten scenes in decorated shop windows around the market place.

Extra info: In order to keep dense crowds to a minimum, the Angel performance will not take place this year. The market will also be spread out over more locations in the historic centre and there will be fewer mulled wine stands than in previous years. The stalls will be distributed over the Hauptmarkt, Lorenzer Platz, Schütt Island and Jakobsplatz.

Meanwhile, masks will have to be worn due to the high Covid numbers in Bavaria – and there will be 2G rules around the mulled wine stands, meaning unvaccinated people will not be served alcohol.

READ ALSO: State by state – Germany’s Covid rules for Christmas markets

Medieval Market and Christmas Market, Esslingen

The Medieval Market and Christmas Market in Esslingen, with its backdrop of medieval half-timbered houses, offers visitors a trip back in time, with traders and artisans showing off their goods from times gone by.

The stands show off the wares of pewterers, stonemasons, blacksmiths, broom makers and glass blowers, as well as some old-fashioned merchants selling fun themed goods like drinking horns and “potions” in bottles.

Extra info: This year the number of stands will be reduced from more than 200 to around 120 and the stage shows, torch parade and interactive activities will not be taking place.

View from above the historic Streizelmarkt in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Streizelmarkt, Dresden

No Christmas Market list would be complete without the Streizelmarkt – Germany’s oldest Christmas market in the “Florence on the Elbe”.

This market, which you will find in Dresden’s city centre, first took place in 1434, and since then it has acquired quite a reputation.

The ancient market is home to the tallest Christmas pyramid in the world, as well as the world’s largest nutcracker.

Amongst the dozens of traditional stands, visitors to this market must also try the Dresdner Christstollen: the famous fruit loaf that is baked according to a traditional recipe with chopped dried and candied fruits, nuts and spices and dusted with powdered sugar.

Visitors can also take a ride on the historic Ferris wheel and gaze down upon the lovingly decorated huts of the Striezelmarkt.

Extra info: This year there will be no stage program and the mountain parade has been cancelled.

Old Rixdorf Christmas Market, Berlin

Although not as well-known as some of Berlin’s other Christmas Markets, the Old Rixdorf Christmas market is a romantic and magical spot which is well worth a visit. In the south of city in Richardplatz, Neukölln the old village of Rixdorf was founded in1360.

This charming setting is home to historic buildings such as the Trinkhalle and the Alte Dorfschmiede, and is illuminated every year with kerosene lamps and fairy lights. The stalls and booths are run by charitable organizations and associations. There are homemade trifles and handicrafts, but also culinary delights such as fire meat, waffles, pea soup, and numerous varieties of mulled wine and punch.

Extra info: The Old Rixdorf Christmas Market will be following the 2G model, meaning that all visitors over the age of 12 will be required to be fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19.