Walking the Berlin Wall

by James Glazebrook

When Context Travel invited us on one of their walking tours, we chose “Walking the Wall”, and then immediately regretted our decision! As tourist attractions go, we’ve always found the Berlin Wall to be a deep disappointment – after all, it’s only steel and concrete, daubed in hippy-dippy murals. And surely, as Berlin residents and bloggers, we already know everything there is to know about this part of the city’s past?

It turns out we needn’t have worried, because our guide Rasmus brought to life the human history of the Cold War era, with anecdotes gathered from unique sources like his older colleagues, stories running from the tragic to the ironic. We were particularly fascinated by the city’s struggle to preserve a lasting legacy while balancing the interests of the people whose properties line the memorial site, and the broader population whose taxes are paying for it. True to the travel company’s name, we got context in spades, and learned a great deal more about the history of the Berlin Wall. Choose a day with guaranteed good weather (if that’s a thing), and book a “Walking the Wall” tour here.

Context Tour Walking the Wall  Pavement

Context Tour Walking the Wall Closeup

Context Tour Walking the Wall Olive

Context Tour Walking the Wall  Decay

Context Tour Walking the Wall  Deceased

Context Tour Walking the Wall White Rose

Context Tour Walking the Wall No Mans Land

Context Tour Walking the Wall  Watch Tower

Context Travel: Topography of Terror, Nazi Berlin Tour

by James Glazebrook

Context Travel: Topography of Terror, Nazi Berlin Tour

Storified by überlin · Sun, Oct 07 2012 10:07:05

I recently spent a week tweeting for @I_amGermany, and the best thing I did by far was the Context Travel Topography of Terror, Nazi Berlin Tour. I’ve already been to the Topography of Terror, the former headquarters of the Gestapo, SS and state security, so I wasn’t expecting to learn much. But thankfully that was just the last stop on an epic, three hour walk through the city’s dark past. Our guide Herri started his story back in 1237 – the year that the Nazis said Berlin was established, so they could throw it a big 700th birthday party – and carried through to the run-up to World War Two, and its enduring effects on the city it long divided. My tweets can’t do justice to a tour that introduced me to the many historical sites I’d overlooked, and showed me the obvious attractions through fresh eyes, but maybe they’ll give you a taster. 
Brandenburg Gate! http://twitpic.com/b0d1qqI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0d0n4 recognise this? Clue: some important scenes in a major Hollywood film take place in, on and around hereI am Germany – James
Fact about the Hotel Adlon- the last emperor reserved a suite to shower in because the Palais had no hot waterI am Germany – James
Hitler cut down the linden trees on Unter den Linden in 1936 and replaced with trees smaller than the flagpolesI am Germany – James
Didn’t realise there was an British sector of Germany as well as Berlin. we used to own the whole Northwest of your country!I am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0dj9c Bundestag, #BerlinI am Germany – James
These white crosses commemorate people who died trying to cross the #Berlin wall http://twitpic.com/b0dknfI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0do01 memorial to all elected officials interned by the Nazis, in front of the Reichstag, #BerlinI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0dpg9 "Den Deutschen Volke" #Berlin ReichstagI am Germany – James
@El_7oss @Davethedick wow, in standing in front of it and still getting it wrong. DEM Deutschen VolkeI am Germany – James
Heinz Sokolowski tried to cross the #Berlin Wall after 7 years in prison. He was killed on this spot. http://twitpic.com/b0e0gwI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0e45o apparently the US embassy in #Berlin gets called Guantanamo 2, because of how it looks from this sideI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0eaar "the secret of salvation is remembrance", old Jewish proverbI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0ee9e an original piece of the #Berlin wall, a gift from a cement companyI am Germany – James
Under this pavement is Hitler’s bunker http://twitpic.com/b0eiceI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0ejkx DENKmal. More MauerI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0em39 the face of Johan Georg Elsner, who planted a bomb in an attempt to assassinate HitlerI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0eqi8 a rare example of brutalist architecture in #Berlin, the Czech embassyI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0et8z the former Ministry of Air Defence, a building of typically Nazi scale and orderI am Germany – James
Social realism, a mural of tiles commemorating the DDR http://twitpic.com/b0eu7zI am Germany – James
Flags, Finance Ministry. http://twitpic.com/b0cxr1I am Germany – James
Did you know that the Nazi book burnings was organised by academics and intellectuals themselves?I am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0ewzt Die Welt balloon, tethered to a Trabi, #BerlinI am Germany – James
http://twitpic.com/b0f1ng the Topography of Terrors, built on the ruins of the Gestapo, SS and state security headquartersI am Germany – James
@ContextEastEuro tour over, full of fascinating information, but in dire need of food.Thanks for all the replies, which I’ll answer in a bitI am Germany – James

Tweeting for Germany: What I Learned

by James Glazebrook

If you noticed that our Twitter feed was quiet(ish) last week, that’s because I was tweeting for I am Germany instead. I am Germany is a rotation curation project, which allows anyone who applies (and is approved) to offer their unique take on the country they call home, for one week. Just like @sweden, but with less Nazi chat. Here’s my takeover page, designed to showcase both Zoë’s stunning photography and my big ol’ beard:
I am Germany Twitter page

Nice huh (the beard)? Anyway, here’s what the experience taught me:

1. I love “meeting” new people
That’s why I fell in love with social media in the first place. Because not only are networks like Twitter a great shortcut to finding people with similar interests, no matter where in the world they are, but also because you end up speaking to people with different beliefs, ideas and perspectives. My new followers welcomed me to the rotation, asked me a couple of polite questions, then immediately started grilling me about the “expat backlash” debate that’s engulfed our deceptively silly “You Know You’re A Berliner When…” post.

2. I missed my Tweeps
Even though I kept my eye on the @uberlinblog timeline, I felt myself torn between two communities: one that I’d built up from scratch, including friends and family, and people I’m nearly as close to but have never met in real life, to one populated by complete strangers. I feel like I missed out on a lot of content, conversations and chuckles by not being “always on” …it was pure luck that I was watching when @iamkosmonaut tweeted the riveting story of his family’s experience of the reunification of Germany:

3. People need reasons to follow, share and reply
People like puppies and people love Olive, but people REALLY loved it when I took her for a walk on Tempelhofer Park. It seems simple, but a few smartphone photos showcased a uniquely Berlin space, whose very existence speaks volumes about the city.
Tempelhof on I am Germany

But the best thing I did was go on a Context Travel tour of Berlin (full review to follow), which gave me another excuse to post photos of historical sites, as well as passing off the guide’s expertise as my own ???? Just as the tour showed me things I’d previously overlooked, live-tweeting it allowed me to share my discoveries with a new audience.
White crosses on I am Germany

4. I’m really good at Twitter!
Never mind #FollowFridays, I was getting Follow Monday and Tuesdays! At the risk of sounding arrogant (too late?), it’s only because I kept the above rule in mind that (most) people seemed to like me. Seven days isn’t long to establish who you are, strike the right tone and fight fires when you don’t (see below) – so you need to know what you’re doing, and dedicate enough time to do it right.

5. Outside of Berlin, *trying* to communicate in German doesn’t count for shit
Almost every time I tried to tweet in German, someone would correct me. I’m not complaining (I am), because I know that I need constant correction if my Deutsch is ever going to improve. But after a while I started to feel like German speakers in Berlin have been humouring me, like on 30 Rock when Jon Hamm plays a doctor so handsome that no one dares tell him he’s terrible at everything (including the Heimlich Manoeuvre). Ignore the fact that I just compared myself to Jon Hamm and consider the possibility that your German is nowhere near as good as you think, but no one’s bothering to tell you.

In my case, this results in stupid shit like this:
LOLs on I am Germany2

Minutes later…
LOLs on I am Germany3

6. Some people can’t take a joke
If you follow @uberlinblog, you’re probably used to me saying things I don’t really mean in order to get a laugh. Or, “joking”. I think Twitter would be a boring space without funny people saying funny things, but last week reminded me that some have signed up for other, more factual, reasons – and that not all of them share my sense of humour.

This didn’t go down well:
I am Germany 2




Bizarrely, it wasn’t my crass insensitivity (on the eve of German Unity Day) that offended, but my use of the word “own”. Two people pulled me up on this semantic issue: “I think both parties would quarrel with the notion of “own” on that!”More occupied than “owned”. Owned is a horrible imperialistic concept. Know you were joking, but words matter.”

Those guys may have been humourless, but at least they were right. Unlike the chode who objected to this:
LOLs on I am Germany

After being accused of providing a “piss poor representation of Germany” by someone who felt “it might be no harm if you gained a bit of a broader perspective on Berlin cuisine”, one kind soul rushed to my aid, pointing out the Food & Drink section of this blog, which has already led her to a “superb dinner” at Pantry. 

7. Some people take “I am Germany” literally
At times it was surreal talking about being an expat in Berlin, learning the language and trying to integrate, while at the same time being criticised for not speaking, or being, German. When this all came to a head, with the suggestion that native English speakers are over-represented on @I_amGermany, organiser @katbitemusic dispelled this notion…
katbitemusic on I am Germany2
…but she shouldn’t have had to. The whole point of I am Germany is that “a single voice cannot represent a country”; I’d go further and argue that no collection of individual voices, no matter how numerous, can represent a whole country. Rotation curation shouldn’t be subject to quotas or any selection criteria other than each applicant’s merits as a tweeter. And each new voice should challenge, rather than conform to, followers’ perceptions of a particular country, region, city or group of the population.

For a quick overview of rotation curation, check out this chronology on the Rotation Curation blog. Oh, and follow me and Zoë on Twitter: @uberlinblog.