This November 9 marks 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Germany’s once-divided city is celebrating the occasion with a host of events.
Jazzfest Berlin (Oct. 30– Nov. 2) is celebrating its own anniversary of 50 years as one of Europe’s most renowned music festivals. Among the star-studded performances of everything from hard bop to the blues, don’t miss the resurrection of Die Engel, a rare four-part work of avant-garde short operas by German composers Ulrich Gumpert and Jochen Berg that premiered in 1988, capturing in music the restlessness leading up to theWall’s fall. In a special anniversary program from the Berliner Philharmoniker (Nov. 6 and 9), British maestro Simon Rattle will conduct Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Karol Szymanowski’s Stabat mater—two works preaching a message of freedom and fraternity—at the yellow-tiled Philharmonie building on the edge of the Tiergarten.
Following a prayer service at the nearby Chapel of Reconciliation, the Berlin Wall Memorial’s Documentation Center will reopen on the 9th after an extensive renovation. First built in 1965 as a parish house, the building now hosts a new permanent exhibit about the wall’s history, attached to a glass-encased observation tower overlooking the original border. For more experiential education, ride or walk the Berlin Wall Trail (berlin.de), which traces the former border of West Berlin 160 kilometers around the city past numerous historical sites.
The biennial European Month of Photography Berlin (Oct. 16–Nov. 16) is Germany’s largest photography festival, and its sixth edition takes on the theme “Upheavals and Utopias,” examining the differences between Europe past and present with special attention paid to Germany’s role over the last century. Helmut Newton, Robert Capa, and Nan Goldin are but a few of the big names on the roster of 500 photographers whose works will be displayed in galleries and institutions around the city. In the Ephraim-Palais special-exhibition house of the Stadtmuseum Berlin, West: Berlin – An Island in Search of Mainland (Nov. 14–Jun. 28, 2015) takes a day-in-the-life approach to postwar Berlin, examining the mentality and ambiance of the divided city with photographs and artifacts. The 18th-century rococo Palais is a showpiece itself: the facade was dismantled during the rapid urbanization of the 1930s and stored in West Berlin for 50 years until it was rebuilt on the Wall’s eastern side.
The anniversary celebrations culminate with the Lichtgrenze (Nov. 7–9), a light installation stretching 12 kilometers through the city center along the course of the Wall, from the former border crossing at Bornholmer Strasse past the Berlin Wall Memorial, Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, and finally to Oberbaum Bridge. Comprising thousands of illuminated helium balloons, the “border of lights” should make for a remembrance so bright that—weather permitting—it will be visible from outer space. But only for one weekend: On the evening of the 9th, the balloons will be released into the night sky as a symbol of the openness Berliners have enjoyed since reunification.
This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Recalling the Wall”)