Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

July 2005: Berlin

Berlin, more so than most places, has seen a vast amount of change in the course of my own lifetime. The city was arguably the crucible of European history in the 20th Century and to this day, even amidst the post-reunification excitement and reconstruction,  you can almost smell and taste that historical legacy in the celebrated Berliner Luft. Just as new buildings have been springing up everywhere in a bold expression of hope for a better future, so too, with almost predictable regularity, the restless ghosts of the old century resurrect themselves to make their mark on the visitor's senses. It's that kind of place : exciting, thought-provoking and occasionally disturbing, all in one heady mix.

I had visited Berlin on two previous occasions : first, in 1982, with the city cruelly partitioned and the Cold War showing no signs of any let-up; and secondly in 1997, with the wall not just down, but seemingly in the process of being physically expunged from the city's fabric, as Europe's biggest building site got ready for the restoration of its status as the seat of government of a united Germany. Another eight years on, and with the initial round of rebuilding presumably over, I decided it was time to go back for another look.

Tiergarten district

Originally constructed in front of the Reichstag to commemorate Prussian victory against the Danes, the Siegessäule was moved to its present site at Großer Stern by the Nazi regime.

On the first day of my visit, the Siegessäule marked the starting point of a 'Herbie' rally of Volkswagen Beetles.

This Arts Centre, celebrating the diversity of world cultures, was jointly built by Germany and the USA. It is regarded as a symbol of the friendship between the two countries.

Berlin's Carillon, the largest in Europe, was built in 1987 to mark the city's 750th anniversary.

I think the Reichstag looks superb with its new dome. It is now, of course, the home of the German Parliament.

The top of the dome is open at the centre. Those wanting to take in the magnifcent views can either lean on the rail or have a rest on the circular seat.

The impressive support for the viewing platform.

Gently sloping, dual walkways wind their way around the inside of the dome.

The Brandenburg Gate and the reconstructed Pariser Platz, so recently part of the infamous death strip.

The Holocaust Memorial or, more correctly, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This controversial new memorial lies between the Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz.

From the busiest urban hub in Europe, to the middle of No Man's Land, to one of the most prestigious addresses in Berlin. Potsdamer Platz is again a transport interchange, prime office location and centre of entertainment.

The Sony Center is a popular gathering place for movie-goers and diners alike.

Mitte district

The Museum of German History is just one of many fine buildings on Unter den Linden.

Confusingly, Berlin has at least four church buildings within a few hundred metres of each other, all claiming to be cathedrals. Undoubtedly the most impressive is the Lutheran Berliner Dom.

The Old Museum is situated next to the Berliner Dom on the rather theme park-sounding Museum Island, a world heritage site.
The Old National Gallery is one of the most popular museums on Museuminsel.

The Bodemuseum, currently under restoration, sits at the northern tip of Museuminsel. The TV Tower at Alexanderplatz is clearly visible in the background.

Neue Wache, Unter den Linden. The walls and floor have been re-lined to obliterate DDR symbols, while the flame that once burned here has been replaced by an enlarged copy of Käthe Kollwitz's Pietà.

The Marienkirche in Alexanderplatz is dwarfed by the TV Tower, built in 1969.

Alexanderplatz - Alex to all Berliners - was the stern and unattractive focal point of the old East Berlin. It is now a much more pleasant place. Here we see the Marienkirche and the Neptune Fountain.

Much of the grim communist architecture in Alexanderplatz has been torn down and replaced by something a little more stylish and colourful.

The Gendarmenmarkt contains the twin Deutscher Dom and Französischer Dom, neither of which is actually a church! Destroyed in the war, they have been restored as museums.

Originally a theatre, the concert hall sits between the German and French "churches" in the Gendarmenmarkt.

The TV Tower gives stunning views all the way from Museuminsel to the Tiergarten and beyond.

Remains of the Wall

I discovered this surviving section of the wall not far from Potsdamer Platz. Some local artists have made their message clear. Love the Trabbi!

A preserved section of the wall sits above the excavated cellars of the former headquarters of the SS.

Compare this view of Checkpoint Charlie to my 1982 photo, when it was for real! The site is now basically a tourist atraction.

A (fake) American soldier poses for pictures, while the much expanded Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum is clearly visible in the background.

In some locations, the former line of the wall is marked by cobblestones.

Checkpoint Charlie, from the Russian Sector.

Other areas

At one end of what was once West Berlin's most celebrated street, the Kurfürstendamm (or Ku'damm). The original steeple was left in this state as a deliberate reminder of what war means. The modern replacement is quite a contrast.

Happily now just a memorial ... so close, but never touching.

Charlottenburg Palace - another triumph of restoration, following near-destruction in WWII.

The palace has extensive and impressive grounds.


A journey through recent history

Travel back in time to see Berlin as I had previously experienced it :-

1982 : Front Line in the Cold War

1997 : The world's biggest building site

Base : InterContinental

Linked report from same trip :-

Flight Log : BA985