On the weekend of 7-9 November, Germany celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. To mark this event, a light installation, the Lichtgrenze (border of lights), designed by Christopher and Marc Bauder, was constructed, consisting of around 8,000 helium balloons on sticks that traced the route of the wall for 15km through Berlin.
The city anticipated visitor numbers to reach in the region of a million people. It was going to be busy, especially on the evening of 9th November, when all the balloons would be released into the sky, sending with them, personal messages from people who nominated themselves to be balloon patrons.
Passing through the line of the former wall, is a daily occurrence for us. We live just over on the former eastern side of the city, weaving between west and east on our way to appointments. It’s easy to forget, for 28 years, this was never
possible for the residents of this city. With such a dramatic installation in place, we thought this would be a great run. The challenge was, how to do it with all these extra people around.
There was only one thing for it, get up before sunrise, and run towards dawn. As a city that never sleeps, this meant running past many revelers on their way out of clubs, reluctant for their evenings to end. Soon after, we started to meet dog walkers, press photographers, and even other runners like us.
We started at the East Side Gallery, the longest stretch of the original wall, famously decorated by 100 or so artists in 1990. We were led over the river, passing through deserted streets, shimmering in the twilight. In places, the balloons were our only guiding lights, through small parks, pockets of wasteland and cobbled back streets. Soon these gave way to commercial office blocks and brightly lit all-night stores.
We anticipated a sense of occasion as we approached Checkpoint Charlie, but sadly, it was dissapointingly ghastly as usual. A brash, artificial reminder that you will pass into the former American Sector. Too early in the morning to see the actors dressed in their army uniforms, ready for a tourist photo (thankfully).
On past the Topography of Terrors. where another section of the wall remains, we were soon reaching Potsdamer Platz, from where the Brandenburg Gate is just a few minutes run. We were excited to find the lighting technicians going through their checks, ready
for that evening’s free concert events, taking place on a vast stage set up in front of this famous landmark.
From this point, the running is really picturesque. We passed the Reichstag, and turned right, following the Lightgrenze along
the riverside, over a bridge and left again onto the opposite bank, weaving down towards Hauptbahnhof, the main station. The route follows the river for a few kilometers, the balloons reflections shimmering peacefully in the calm water. We pass one of the few original watch towers,
guarded heavily, searching for escape attempts across the river.
Briefly, we cross over onto the western side of the border, before turning a corner into Park am Nordbahnhof, which was once railway tracks that lead into the main railway station. From here, the route lead us onto Bernauer
Strasse, where visitors can see the sensitively preserved area part of the Berlin Wall, including many information points telling stories of the lives of those who endured this huge divide.
Before we know it, Vivien and I have turned into Mauerpark, where the route follows almost a perfect straight line, leading you over a spectacular footbridge before finally reaching Bornholmer Strasse. It was here, on November 9th 1989, the first checkpoint opened and allowed East Germans to pass through to the West to find long lost friends, family, neighbours and freedom.
At this point we had an overwhelming sense of fortune as well as achievement. The sun came out, and almost seemed to be celebrating with us. It was a very special, emotional moment. We celebrated this momentous event doing something that we love, in a free society. Some things just should not be taken for granted.
You can find the route on our page at http://www.mapmyrun.com, and connect with “urbanfoxfitness”