Come and (re)discover the remains of a vanished world and the daily life of its inhabitants via Alexanderplatz, Karl-Marx allee, the Wall and the residential areas of East Berlin.
A part of the people you meet in Berlin were born or lived in the East. How were they living? What do they think of this period? What remains of the East and of the history of its inhabitants in the reunified Berlin? This East Berlin tour presents to you the history of major monuments as well as the ordinary life in GDR.
- Berlin after the war: how is East Berlin rebuilding the old city centre?
- The communist ideals: from utopia to the everyday reality.
- The Berlin Wall: how did people live in the East despite the wall?
- After the fall of the Wall: how to reunite two cities and their populations?
- Berlin today: how is Berlin dealing with the East Berlin legacy?
Private guided tour in English. Walking or by bike. We recommended a 3 hours tour.
A part of the people you meet in Berlin were born or lived in the East. How were they living? What do they think of this period? What remains of the East and of the history of its inhabitants in the reunified Berlin?
Come and (re)discover the remains of a vanished world and the daily life of its inhabitants via Alexanderplatz, Karl-Marx allee, the Wall and the residential areas of East Berlin. This East Berlin tour presents to you the history of major monuments as well as the ordinary life in GDR.
Private guided tour in English. Walking or by bike.
We recommended a 3 hours tour.
East Berlin and Ostalgia
Have you seen the film “Good bye Lenin“? Do you know the Ampelmann and the Trabant? These are charming expressions of a misunderstood phenomenon: Ostalgia.
This word is a combination of “Nostalgia” and “Ost” (“East” in German). This nostalgia for life in the East is difficult to share for those who have not lived in the East. But life in the East is not just about a totalitarian country, the wall and the Stasi.
Daily life, social structure, property and consumption were very different from what we know today. School and health carewere provided for free, housing was cheap, there was work for everyone and people believed they were aiming towards a system that was better than the previous one, promising dignity, peace, equality and solidarity.
Is it just a trend or a deep identity crisis? With this East Berlin tour, we help you find the balance between a demonising portrayal and the idealisation of the past.
East Berlin private tour
Do you know which monument is the highest in the city? The TV tower!
What is the widest avenue in Europe? The Karl-Marx-Allee, of course!
Where are the last remains of the Stalinist cult in the world? In old East Berlin!
Although a few iconic monuments remain in the former capital of the GDR, the former East Germans have seen their city transformed, their history sometimes distorted and their legacy partially destroyed.
Off the beaten track, we experience the social and urban transformations that have taken place in the East. We exchange on the communist principles and how they were implemented. We share with you personal anecdotes or stories of our relatives, friends, companions, neighbours, to help you imagine their daily life, so that their story doesn’t disappear with them.
With BERLINLIKE A LOCAL, you decide to explore Berlin with an independent tour guide, born in Berlin or adopted Berliner. Our tours are the result of years spent studying history, observing Berlin and talking to locals. We wish to transmit our experience in an original way, with simplicity, sensitivity, friendliness and, preferably, humour!
How does the East Berlin tour work?
The East Berlin tour is a private tour in English. Ideal as a bike tour, it is also suitable for a walking tour taking public transports. We recommend a minimum of 3 hours of visit, so that we have enough time to explore several areas and discuss this exciting topic with sensitivity and nuance.
This tour presents East Berlin from 1945 until now. We help you understand the historical context and the major events. At the same time, we make sure you get a feel for the atmosphere and daily life in the East at that time.
To better suit your needs, our Berlin tours can be combined: an East Berlin tour with a glimpse of the alternative Berlin? A guided tour of East Berlin and some explanations about Berlin street art? Contact us for your customised tour of Berlin!
Who is the East Berlin tour for?
This tour is ideal if this isyour first visit to an Eastern Bloc country, to get a feel for the differencesand to get past stereotypesand prejudices.
If you are already familiar with Berlin and East German history, this tour will enable you to expand your knowledge, rediscover familiar moments and explore Berlin in an original way, off the beaten track.
Why an East Berlin tour?
History is written by the winners. It is therefore difficult to hear the voice of our friends, relatives and former East German neighbours, who sometimes struggle to find their place in the reunified Germany.
East Germany (GDR) is a country that no longer exists. Propagandaraged on both sides during the Cold War and often painted a grotesque picture of life in the East.
At the bottom of a GDR block of flats, in a café frozen in the communist era, or walking among the East Berlin glorious monuments, we bring to you this memory, midway between political and social history, architecture and everyday life.
We believe it is essential to share this Berlin heritage, to help Western people better understand the lives of some of our fellow Europeans.
What will we talk about on the East Berlin tour?
Rebuilding an ideal Berlin after the Second World War.
In 1945, communist Berlin is left with a city in ruins. How to help people forget the war and the Nazi bulldozers, using extremely limited means? How can the rubble be transformed into a new world, glorifying equality?
The city is redesigned, whole areas are the focus of urban experiments and become the pride of this new city, that seeks its own direction and identity.
A vision that evolves over time
East Berlin became the showplace of the new communist world, in contrast to West Berlin. Competition between the two parts of the city is permanent and takes many forms.
For 41 years, GDR art, architecture and politics flourished, evolved and sometimes radically changed. For example, its approach to history swings between rejection and fascination. We will show you how this actually affected the city.
The communist regime was one of the most paranoidin history. Its secret service, the Stasi, had considerable resources to monitor and track its population, but also for arresting and re-educating deviant people.
The Berlin wall and several crisis symbolised the gradual erosion of civil rights and the East German population kept wanting to flee towards the West: this eventually brought the communist ideal to an end.
How much of this paranoid madness was part of people’s daily lives? Who supported it? How could surveillance be avoided?
The communist vision of housing and urban development
When we think of communism, we do not think much about urban planning and housing. However, the architecture illustrates brilliantly the post-World War II reconstruction period. They needed to build quickly, extensively, at low cost and promoting new values, in a very large city that wanted to be the showcase for a new world.
By proposing standardised housing, the communist system favoured economy of scale and egalitarian ideals, which reached into the privacy of the family.
During the East Berlin tour, we walk or cycle between the residential buildings and exchange views on the large housing units in Berlin’s old city centre.
Daily life in East Berlin
Western Europe often has a distorted image of everyday life in the East. It is often forgotten that the quality of life in the East increased and that publicservices and cultural activities were very strong, which gave the population an optimistic outlook on their future. The daily life of the vast majority of East Berliners was like in the West: working, spending time with their families, meeting up with friends and exploring the world around them.
Despite the Stasi or the Berlin Wall, former East Berliners have many positive memories of their life in the East. The inconsistencies of the communist regime were part of everyday life and the people managed to find ways to limit the negative consequences… as they did in the West!
Where do we go on the East Berlin tour?
We take you off the beaten track to discover the city’s most famous monuments, spots and areas in the districts of Mitteand Friedrichshainor Prenzlauer Berg. Starting with the TV tower, via the old city centre, the Karl-Marx-Allee and Berlin’s alternative neighbourhoods, and ending with the Berlin Wall.
Depending on the time we have, we can, for example, discover together :
- Alexanderplatz, the TV tower (Fernsehturm)
- The area around the Berlin City Hall (Rotes Rathaus)
- The St. Nicholas district (Nikolaiviertel)
- The Karl-Marx-Allee
- The Friedrichshain area of Germany
- The Prenzlauer Berg area
- The Berlin Wall and the East Side Gallery
- The new area along the Spree
The East Berlin tour can be organised as a walking tour + public transports or by bike. We will adapt it accordingly.
Alexanderplatz, the TV tower (Fernsehturm)
The tour starts at Alexanderplatz, center of the East Berlin reconstruction. This area represents the hopes, achievements and disappointments of the communist ideals and illustrates the great transformations of the pre-war Berlin.
The TV tower (Fernsehturm) is the city’ s central landmark and can be seen from 900km² around the city, helping to locate the old city centre. Today it has become one of the symbols of the German capital.
The area around the Berlin City Hall (Rotes Rathaus)
What remains of Berlin’s old city centre after theSecond World War is located on the East Berlin side. These crumbling areas provided an opportunity to start large-scale construction projects and to rethink how people should live in the city.
The gigantic architecture of this period is a reminder that the state and the community take priority over the individual.
The St. Nicolas neighbourhood (Nikolaiviertel)
Nothing remains of the Berlin that was born in the Middle Ages on the banks of the Spree. As regimes and monarchs changed, so did the buildings, and even before the Second World War there were no buildings in Berlin’s old city centre that originated from the city’s origins.
The best example is St. Nicholas Church in the Nikolaiviertel. The church, oldest religious building in Berlin, has been extensively modified every 200 years. The last changes were made in 1987, i.e. during the GDR period!
The Karl-Marx-Allee project is characterised by excessiveness. The avenue starts at Alexanderplatz and leads to the outskirts of East Berlin, possibly even to Poland or even Moscow! During our East Berlin tour, we can cycle along a section of this avenue to get a feel for the scale of the project and admire this architectural jewel, typical of the style used in the Soviet bloc countries.
We also recall the workers’ uprising at this site in 1953, which led to severe repression by the new regime and to one of the first traumas in East German society.
The Friedrichshain area
Quartier aujourd’hui jeune et branché, il est également connu comme étant l’un des bastions de la contre-culture berlinoise.
Partly damaged by the war, Friedrichshain was barely maintained during the communist period. The subculture was already active there and its inhabitants were often opposed to the regime. After the fall of the Wall, many buildings were left abandoned – the opportunity for a young, creative, political and crafty generation to reclaim the area by squatting in its empty flats.
30 years later, the atmosphere has changed dramatically. Over the last ten years, an intensivegentrificationphenomenon has transformed this district. Thanks to the renovations, the creative and rebellious atmosphere, the many bars, restaurantsand nightlife venues, this is one of the most charmingand surprisingareas in the city.
The Berlin Wall and the East Side Gallery
Most East Berliners did not think about the Wall in their daily lives. Some were committed to the system, others were undecided, others were critical, but only a minority were prepared to leave their country and an even smaller minority took the risk of illegally fleeing the GDR by crossing the Berlin Wall.
The wall represents the absurdand inhumanmeasures implemented by a fiercely intolerant regime when faced with criticism or opposition.
In 1989, a hundred internationalartiststook over a kilometre-long portion of the wallby legally painting muralson it: the East Side Gallery is now the world’s longest open-air art gallery and one of Berlin’s most important attractions.
The new area along the Spree
The Spree feeds into the Elbe River, which flows into the North Sea with Hamburg at its estuary. Berlin is thus connected to northern and western Europe via this river system.
This is why in the 14th century the tiny town of Berlin was able to become a member of the prestigious Hanseatic League, a group of free cities around the North Sea and the Baltic Sea during the Middle Ages.
This area became one of the great industrial centres of the city, massively bombed during the Second World War, it remained partially abandoned until alternative projects brought the area back to life after the fall of the Wall.
Today, the area around the East Side Gallery is once again becoming a place of international exchange and commercial connection through the Media Spree project. Driven by large international companies, this district is becoming one of the city’s new business centres. The result: for more than twenty years, the cranes and concrete mixers have been part of the landscape, along with the wall, the river and the few survivors of Berlin’s subculture in the neighbourhood.
In an entertaining way, we give you the keys to understanding East Berlin and its history.
We talk about the iconic monuments of East Berlin, but we also take you off the beaten track by exploring residential areas in Friedrichshain or Prenzlauer Berg.
In order to get a better insight into the daily life of East Berliners, we share with you anecdotes from our lives or those of our friends and family. We can take a break in a typical GDR café-restaurant, such as Café Sybille or the Volkskammer.
Feel free to ask us for a summary of what we will have seen together during this East Berlin tour. We can also suggest places to visit, restaurants, bars and events for the rest of your stay, or even work out afull programme with you, to help you organise your trip.
See you soon to discover East Berlin!