Gadget to bring back Berlin Wall for tourists

Tourists in the German capital disappointed to find little of the Berlin Wall left will from next month be able to have it reappear before their eyes with a gadget unveiled on Monday.

Gadget to bring back Berlin Wall for tourists
Photo: DPA

A handheld multimedia device, available for rental from May 1, will allow visitors walking through the city to see what the Cold War barrier looked like at the spot where they are standing.

The MauerGuide (Wall Guide) is part of plans by the Berlin government to preserve the history of the despised Wall erected in 1961 by the communist regime of East Germany to stop a mass exodus of its citizens.

“MauerGuide presents a well-documented and customized account of history that is appealing to tourists and fits nicely with our overarching memorial plans for the Berlin Wall,” Berlin state secretary for culture Andre Schmitz said after Mayor Klaus Wowereit tested out the device.

Using GPS navigation technology, the device presents pictures, video footage and audio recordings on the history of the Berlin Wall at five prominent sites along its former route, manufacturer Antenna Audio said in a statement.

The commentary, in English and German, will also allow tourists to avoid herds of tour groups and find their way on their own, said the company, a unit of US media company Discovery Communications.

Of the 155 kilometres (96 miles) of grey concrete that cut Berlin in two for 28 years, only three kilometres in total is still standing. It was chiseled apart by East Germans euphoric over the opening of the border in 1989 and large slabs were sold off to foreign buyers.

Visitors to the city centre can rarely differentiate between the former east and west of the once-divided capital, which has seen a dramatic construction boom since the Wall was toppled in a peaceful popular uprising. The Berlin government in 2006 announced a €40-million ($64-million) drive to preserve remnants of the Wall.

Victims groups estimate that more than 1,000 people died trying to escape East Germany, many of them shot by communist border guards.