The Paddington area in the eastern part of Sydney is full of surprises. It played an important role in the moon landings, it has a tribute to David Bowie hidden in one of its backstreets – and, tucked away within a small local park, is a piece of the Berlin Wall. But why? Here’s what you need to know…
The (extremely simplified) History Bit
For those not up on their European history, the Berlin Wall was put up in 1961 to create a physical barrier between the east and west sides of Germany. Yes, the one city contained two countries.
This happened because after the Second World War, Germany, and parts of Berlin, were divided between the French, the US, the UK and the Soviet Union.
In 1949, France, the UK and the US merged their regions to create the country of West Germany, while the Soviets ran East Germany. Berlin had parts of each country within its borders.
While at first, people from the two countries had some rights to travel between the two countries, in time the different leaderships and their ideologies created a disparity. After an estimated 2.6 million people escaped across the border from the east to the freer, seemingly more prosperous west German side, the east put up the wall to physical close the border between east and west Berlin.
The wall spanned 155km and surrounded West Berlin. In some places, it consisted only of barbed wire, but the majority, 106km of it, was an imposing wall of grey concrete panels nearly 4m high. (That’s a bit of it above from when I went to Berlin around 2010.)
As well as being tall, the eastern side of the wall was heavily guarded. Despite that, an estimated 100,000 people attempted to cross it while it was in place. Only around 5000 succeeded.
The wall ‘came down’ metaphorically in 1989 when the border between the two countries was officially dissolved, and in the next few weeks and months, the wall was physically dismantled – in some places through people attacking it with pickaxes and shovels. A few sections were left intact in Berlin as a memorial to the past – and, others were transported around the rest of the world.
One year later Germany became one country again.
So, how did a piece of the Berlin Wall end up in Sydney?
The answer to this is quite fabulous.
According to the website of the Goethe Institute, owners of the building outside which the piece of wall is now located, this piece of wall was actually stored in the car park of a Sydney warehouse for quite some time.
It had belonged to a German-Australian businessman who had stored it with some industrial equipment. Over time, the warehouse had lost track of the wall’s original owner and had just got used to seeing it around – but, then one of the staff members posted some pictures of it on Reddit.
It was spotted by the Goethe Institute and, in 2019, on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the wall, it was moved to the small park outside their office where it will, eventually, be turned into a larger memorial to the wall and its history.
So, there it sits, graffiti-covered in the middle of a mostly residential area of Sydney.
The graffiti on the wall reads Jeder Hat Kraft which means Everyone is Powerful in German.
It was actually part of six panels all painted together – others included sayings like ‘Stop Stop Stop’ and Rettet die Erde – Save the Earth. You can see a picture of how it originally looked here.
How to Find the Berlin Wall in Sydney
It’s not in an area you might necessarily travel to as a tourist, but it’s very easy to get to by bus or train from the CBD in about half an hour.
The official address is Euroka Reserve, Ocean Road, Woolhara.
If you want to come by train, then get on the T4 line to Edgecliffe station. The wall is about 10 minutes walk south from there.
If you’re coming by bus, you can get the 333 from the city and get off at the stop closest to the Light Brigade pub (which has a very nice rooftop bar if you fancy stopping off en route). The wall is about a 13-minute walk north from here.
If you’re on the Big Bus hop-on, hop-off service, stop 29, Centennial Parklands, is the one to choose. Again it’s just over 10 minutes walk from the stop.
What Else is Nearby
It’s pretty near Paddington Markets and also close to Centennial Park, both of which can be fun to explore.
You might want to take a short detour to see the David Bowie Mural which is on nearby Elizabeth Street.
You can also jump back on the 333 and head to Bondi Beach.
Paddington is also full of bars, restaurants and cafes.
I already mentioned the rooftop bar at the Light Brigade but other good eating places to stop nearby include The Lord Dudley pub – home to one of the best Sunday Roasts in Sydney.
If you’d prefer something a bit more upmarket, then check out Chiswick Woolhara, owned by famous Australian chef Matt Moran.
Other Parts of the Berlin Wall in Australia
As I said, there are a few panels of the wall dotted around the world and there is one more piece in Australia.
It’s located in Canberra outside the Harmonie German Club in the suburb of Narrabundah.
So, there you have it – where to find a piece of the Berlin Wall in Sydney – and how it got there. Cool story huh?