An article in Der Spiegel chronicles the deterioration of former Berlin Wall checkpoints into a massive tourist trap. For entrepreneurs and private businesses seeking to capitalize on the anniversary of the Wall’s collapse, “business is booming,” the article says. One popular attraction is the so-called “Trabi Safari”—a guided tour in a Trabant, a gas-guzzling car that is a relic of East German design:
“Guides try their best to recreate the odd world behind the Wall. ‘Safari’ guests are subjected to traffic checks by men dressed as officers of the former East German police force. Now they are also forced to exchange their euros for East German marks, which they can spend on such classic Socialist fare such as ‘Solyanka,’ a Russian soup, or an Eastern European version of ragoût fin.”
“Are businesses like this trivializing East German history?” the article asks.
On August 13, the 50th anniversary of the border between and East and West Berlin being closed, the president, chancellor and other politicians in Germany will give speeches and talk of the 136 Berlin residents who died at the Wall. They will gather at Bernauer Strasse, the street where the Wall used to run right along. The article mentions pickle-eating contests at former checkpoints, entertainers dressed as Allied forces at Checkpoint Charlie posing for pictures and a private Berlin Wall museum that attracts about 865,000 visitors a year. Attractions there include old spring guns and depictions of the “most ludicrous” attempts at scaling the wall.
Ninety-nine percent of the Wall’s former border facilities have been removed. Remnants of half-destroyed concrete sections of the wall recently underwent tests to assess their risk of collapse.
Meanwhile, Berlin has surpassed Rome as Europe’s third-most popular tourist destination.