- The Berlin Wall Trail runs for 99 miles along the frontier that once divided the city
- Completed in 2009 at a cost of $13.4 million dollars, the trail attracts all types of cyclists
- All 14 sections of the trail are connected by public transportation
- Numerous beer gardens lie close to the route
A lone saxophonist plays in the shadow of an overpass while a horde of cyclists looks down at a set of tangled train tracks.
This outwardly gloomy spot is as good a place as any to begin a cycling tour of the "Berlin Wall Trail, " a 160-kilometer (99-mile) path developed to commemorate and transform one of the darkest chapters of the city's past.
Once a popular location for defectors because East German trains cut through a corner of the Western zone, it was here on November 9, 1989, that tens of thousands of people overwhelmed an official checkpoint after a bureaucratic error led to the opening of the border.
Divided by mapmakers into 14 sections that vary from seven to 21 miles in length, the Wall Trail, or "Mauerweg, " traces the entire path of the Wall.
Built in 1961, the Wall divided the city by surrounding West Berlin, for decades following the partitioning of Germany after World War II an island of freedom behind the Iron Curtain.
'Culture, politics and nature'
The Wall Trail is a unique combination of tourist attraction and recreational zone, says Michael Cramer, the Green Party politician and cycling enthusiast who conceived the plan in the early 1990s and is now working on a Europe-spanning Iron Curtain Trail, inspired by the Wall route's success.
"It's a ride through history, culture, politics and nature, " he says.
That feeling hits home as I pedal across the Mauerpark to the Wall memorial on Bernauer Strasse, where a watchtower and a section of the barren "death strip" have been preserved unchanged.
While Cramer's scheme might seem an obvious venture now, it wasn't easy in the beginning.
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