5 things we learned from maps of the Berlin Wall

The wall in 1975. Image: Edward Valachovic via Flickr, reused under a creative commons licence.

A quarter of a century ago, the Berlin Wall was torn down, rejoining two cities into one. Cartographers responded in different ways to the wall's erection and destruction - usually choosing to emphasise either unity or disunity, depending on their politics.

CJ Schuler, a cartographic historian, has tracked the ways the wall was represented by maps on mapping blog Here.

Here's five things we learned from his piece.

1. Some East German maps left off West Berlin altogether.

This 1988 map from East Germany shows the western part of the city as a gaping hole, surrounded by a thick pink line:

2. Two U-Bahn lines went under the wall.

The lines didn't actually connect East and West, but the configuration of the metro system meant some western trains passed through 11 abandoned stations under the eastern part of the city. Only one train station, Friedrichstrasse, actually allowed passage between East and West Berlin.

3. Western U-Bahn maps made the city look connected.

This subway map used in West Berlin appears to show the city's transit network as one contiguous system:

Only by reading the small print could travellers find out that the eastern stations were "only accessible by the BVG East and DR". There was actually only one train station in the city  where you could pass from east to west, and it was, as you'd expect, controlled by guards and checkpoints. 

4. Eastern U-Bahn maps, meanwhile, fiddled geography to make it look like West Berlin didn't exist.

As with the geographical map above, East Berlin's U-Bahn map used a clever trick to miss out West Berlin altogether: it superimposed a map of the East German suburb of Potsdam, which lies further west, on top of West Berlin, and makes its lines part of a radial network with its centre at Alexanderplatz. 

Image: Frank Jacobs’ Strange Maps.


5. After reunification, the Berlin Senate set up a commisison to change East Berlin's Soviet place names. 

Around 80 streets were renamed in total. Leninallee became Landsberger Allee (wonder why they felt they should change that?). Otto Grotewohl Strasse, named after the East German prime minister, reverted back to Wilhelm Strasse, its original name

You can read Schuler's full article here

 
 
 
 

There isn’t a war on the motorist. We should start one

These bloody people. Image: Getty.

When should you use the horn on a car? It’s not, and anyone who has been on a road in the UK in living memory will be surprised to hear this, when you are inconvenienced by traffic flow. Nor is it when you are annoyed that you have been very slightly inconvenienced by another driver refusing to break the law in a manner that is objectively dangerous, but which you perceive to be to your advantage.

According to the Highway Code:

“A horn should only be used when warning someone of any danger due to another vehicle or any other kind of danger.”

Let’s be frank: neither you nor I nor anyone we have ever met has ever heard a horn used in such a manner. Even those of us who live in or near places where horns perpetually ring out due to the entitled sociopathy of most drivers. Especially those of us who live in or near such places.

Several roads I frequently find myself pushing a pram up and down in north London are two way traffic, but allow parking on both sides. This being London that means that, in practice, they’re single track road which cars can enter from both ends.

And this being London that means, in practice, that on multiple occasions every day, men – it is literally always men – glower at each other from behind the steering wheels of needlessly big cars, banging their horns in fury that circumstances have, usually through the fault of neither of them, meant they are facing each other on a de facto single track road and now one of them is going to have to reverse for a metre or so.

This, of course, is an unacceptable surrender as far as the drivers’ ego is concerned, and a stalemate seemingly as protracted as the cold war and certainly nosier usually emerges. Occasionally someone will climb out of their beloved vehicle and shout and their opponent in person, which at least has the advantages of being quieter.

I mentioned all this to a friend recently, who suggested that maybe use of car horns should be formally restricted in certain circumstances.

Ha ha ha. Hah.

The Highway Code goes on to say -

“It is illegal to use a horn on a moving vehicle on a restricted road, a road that has street lights and a 30 mph limit, between the times of 11:30 p.m. and 07:00 a.m.”

Is there any UK legal provision more absolutely and comprehensively ignored by those to whom it applies? It might as well not be there. And you can bet that every single person who flouts it considers themselves law abiding. Rather than the perpetual criminal that they in point of fact are.


In the 25 years since I learned to drive I have used a car horn exactly no times, despite having lived in London for more than 20 of them. This is because I have never had occasion to use it appropriately. Neither has anyone else, of course, they’ve just used it inappropriately. Repeatedly.

So here’s my proposal for massively improving all UK  suburban and urban environments at a stroke: ban horns in all new cars and introduce massive, punitive, crippling, life-destroying fines for people caught using them on their old one.

There has never been a war on motorists, despite the persecution fantasies of the kind of middle aged man who thinks owning a book by Jeremy Clarkson is a substitute for a personality. There should be. Let’s start one. Now.

Phase 2 will be mandatory life sentences for people who don’t understand that a green traffic light doesn’t automatically mean you have right of way just because you’re in a car.

Do write in with your suggestions for Phase 3.