From Medieval Stone Towers to a Cold War Symbol
The Oberbaumbrücke: A Historic Bridge Telling the Story of Berlin's Past, Present, and Future
The Oberbaumbrücke in Berlin is not just any old bridge – it's a symbol of the city's past, present, and future and a city icon.
First built in 1724 as a wooden drawbridge, it connected the districts of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. At the time, it was known as the "Oberbaum" bridge, which means the "upper tree/log" bridge as it stood upriver of the city. Its companion, now long vanished, was located on the other side of the city downriver. The bridges were part of the city's final outermost wall which functioned mainly as a toll and customs border, although it could also be used in defence if needed.
The bridge was rebuilt several times over the centuries, most notably in the 1890s when it was converted to a stone arch bridge. It was during this time that the distinctive towers were added to the bridge, modelled on medieval stone towers found in a town outside Berlin.
Look closely when you visit and you'll find bullet and shrapnel scars still scattered around the bridge on the footpath. If you look downriver, away from the centre of town, you'll be looking at one of the Soviet army's main axis of advances into the city during the 1945 Battle of Berlin. Unsurprisingly, the bridge was damaged in the fight and the remains of that are what you're looking at.
During the Cold War, the Oberbaumbrücke became a symbol of the divided city. It was one of the few crossing points between East and West Berlin open to pedestrians, and it was heavily guarded by both sides.
In the years following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Oberbaumbrücke became a symbol of the city's reunification and rebirth linking as it does the former districts of East and West Berlin. It's now a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, with its picturesque views of the Spree River and its proximity to some of the city's best attractions.
In recent years, the Oberbaumbrücke has even become a popular spot for street performers and artists. You might see a guitarist strumming away on the bridge, or a group of acrobats practising their moves. It's a vibrant and dynamic place, a reflection of the city itself.