On our first full day in Berlin, we went on a walking tour of the city. I never knew how big Berlin was. The tour lasted about four hours, and we only stayed in East Berlin for most of that time! Our tour guide was amazing because she knew so much about the history of Berlin, but she also told us great stories to help us really visualize what it was really like during a certain time in the past.
One of the most interesting points of the tour for me was visiting some of the remains of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall was established during the Cold War in August of 1961, forbidding any emigration from East Berlin to West Berlin. Our tour guide explained to us how the wall was literally put up overnight, and wherever anyone in Berlin happened to be for that night, in the east or in the west, that is where they would be stuck by the next morning. Some were separated from families or loved ones by the wall, barbed wire, and multiple guard towers and checkpoints. West Berliners were permitted only short, approved visits into East Berlin, and there was sometimes a risk that they would not be able to return.
Our tour guide told us amazing stories about people who escaped from East Berlin to West Berlin. For example, one woman spent months in advance preparing for her escape by losing as much weight as she could. Then, at a pre-arranged date, her boyfriend from West Berlin came to East Berlin for a day, and she was so thin that they cut open the passenger seat of his car, put her inside it, and stitched the lining back up. They were able to drive back to West Berlin without being caught!
The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and German reunification followed shortly in 1990.