The hitchiker's guide to the Berlin Wall
- April 28, 2008 11:05 AM |
- By Ian Johnson
It can be hard to find what remains of the Berlin Wall, a divisive landmark that for 28 years split the German capital and an entire generation, but history buffs wanting to see the last vestiges of the iconic symbol of east versus west no longer have to consult old maps or seek out guidebooks. A new high-tech guide offers individualized walking tours connecting the key points where the 166-kilometre-long wall once stood.
Commissioned by the Berlin city government and to be introduced May 1, the hand-sized "Walk the Wall" guide features a headset and touchscreen that displays a colorful map of the city that can zoom in and out, showing the users where they are. The route of the former barrier between East and West Germany is marked in red and a yellow line guides the visitor from one wall section to the next, calculating the distances via GPS. The guide also gives information about 22 historically significant spots along the wall's route.
"With the help of this guide, we finally have an answer to the most often asked question: Where was the wall?" Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said.
Starting on May 1, the wall guides can be rented at five booths throughout the city. They cost between $9.50 and $24 depending on how long visitors want to keep them. They'll initially be available in German and English, but manufacturer Antenna Audio is planning to offer the guides in other languages as well.
It took a team of historians and computer experts a year and $797,000 US to develop the software, said Rosemarie Wirthmueller, Antenna Audio's managing director for Europe.
Audio files and video documentaries give an overview of the wall's Cold War history, starting on Aug. 13, 1961, when East Germany began building the barrier to wall off the capitalist enclave of West Berlin in a bid to stop a westward exodus from the communist state. Most of the wall was torn down after Communist East Germany collapsed and the border was opened in 1989.
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