Eighteen days ago I set out on the #IronRoute: a journey of more than a thousand miles. It took me through nine different countries, six different currencies, two continents and it strayed both in and out of the European Union. It criss-crossed along the iron curtain and took me face to face with some of the most important events in recent European history – if history can include my own lifetime.
It showed me chocolate cake and gluwein, war crimes and reconciliation, rail strikes and lost property and it introduced me to the point of iPhone travel apps.
I caught up with old friends, met new ones and had the privilege to interview some of the most fascinating people I’ve met yet.
I’m exhausted, to be honest, as I type this out and I felt the same way when I reached the East Side Gallery in Berlin earlier today.
At 1.3 kilometres long, this former marker of a divided Europe now serves as the largest open air gallery in the world. And open air it is.
I arrived not long before Christmas to a moving wall of hail and sleet. Tears burned the curves of my cheeks, while my torn and drenched map screamed with the wind. I had to walk backwards, to protect my face and, more importantly, my camera lens. With numbness creeping through the soles of my shoes, this is what I saw:
I’ve wondered how to word this, but I’m just going to come out and say it.
This trip really has changed my outlook on the world. When I began planning, it seemed a shame to finish in Berlin, rather than to travel east to the edge of Asia.
Now, after reading, visiting, interviewing and thinking so much about each of the countries I’ve visited and how they’ve changed over the last 100 years, there couldn’t be any place to finish other than Berlin.
I hope to share more of that with you in a (hopefully) more coherent manner over the next few weeks, but for now, thank you so much for following along, thank you to InterRail for the freedom and funding that made this trip possible, thank you to every single one of the many people who helped me along the way – and I’ll be back in touch again soon.
Visiting the Berlin Wall: What You Need to Know
Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there is little that remains in place that separates the eastern and western part of the city. There is a double row of cobblestones that runs over 5 kilometres through the city’s centre. Here are three points along the route that are of interest. The East Side Gallery, located along the Spree River, is an art exhibition that features the longest surviving span of the wall. The Topography of Terror is an gallery located at the former SS headquarters which also features about 200 meters of the wall. Bernauer Strasse features a Berlin Wall Memorial with a visitor’s centre.