Saturday, July 13, 2013

Berlin: Olympiastadion


Jesse Owens wins four gold medals for the USA!  Berlin was the site of the 1936 Summer Olympics, during the time that Germany was under Nazi control.  Hitler believed that the Germanic People were the most pure race and were thus superior to other races.  He hoped to use the games, which were awarded to Berlin prior to Nazi control in 1931, to show the world  the superiority of the Germanic Race.  In contrast to Hitler's belief, Jesse Owens, an African American Track and Field Athlete from the United States, considered inferior by the Nazi's because of his race, won four gold medals and was the most successful athlete at the 1936 games (The German athletes also fared well at the games).

Inside Olympiastadion 2013
There have been two stadiums on this site.  The first, Deutsches Stadion, was built by Otto March for the 1916 Summer Olympics, which were aborted because of the First World War.  Prior to the building of the first stadium, a horse-racing facility existed on the site.  When the International Olympic Committee named Berlin as the site of the 1936 Olympics, the German government planned to restore the original stadium and retained Otto's son, Werner, to do the restoration.  When the Nazi's came into power in Germany in 1933, they decided to use the Olympics as Propaganda and commissioned the building of a new stadium, called Reichssportfeld.  Werner March was still in charge of the project and was assisted by his brother, Walter March.

Roof of Olympiastadion 2013
Construction on Olympiastadion took place between 1934 and 1936.  It's capacity reached 110,000 spectators.  In 1998, there was much controversy over what to do with the the stadium.  Some wanted to tear it down and build a new stadium.  Others wanted to allow it to slowly crumble (similar to the Colosseum in Rome).  The final decision was to renovate the stadium.  The playing field was lowered and the lower tier of seating, built into the ground, was demolished and rebuilt.  During construction, the workers found an unexploded WWII bomb buried beneath a section of seating.  The reinauguration ceremonies were held on July 31st and August 1st 2004.  Currently the stadium is home to soccer team, Hertha BSC, and many concerts have also been held at the stadium.

Stadium entrance from inside the park
Marathon Gate and site of the Olympic flame
Next to the stadium is Maifeld (Mayfield).  Maifeld was created as a huge lawn that would be used for demonstrations, especially May Day demonstrations.  The total capacity of the field was 250,000 people (60,000) in the stands.  During the Olympics, the field was used for polo and equestrian events.  After the war, it was used by the British forces to celebrate The Queen's Official Birthday and for sports.  Maifeld became the home of the Berlin Cricket Club in 2012, and the day that we visited, there were cricket matches on the field.

Maifeld, Langemarck-Halle and the Bell Tower
The Bell Tower reaches high into the sky on the western end of the Reichssportfeld among the seating area of the Maifeld.  The entire city of Berlin can be observed from its peak.  The bell tower housed the Olympic Bell.  During WWII, Reichssportfeld was mostly untouched, but the Bell Tower was set on fire by the Soviets, who wished to destroy Nazi archives that were inside.  The British forces demolished it in 1947 but rebuilt the tower in 1962.  The bell fell 77 meters and is unable to sound.  Today it is displayed in front of the stadium and a replica is in its place in the tower.

Langemarck-Halle and the Bell Tower
Langemarck Hall sits beneath the seating area at Maifeld.  It was originally intended as memorial to young soldiers who died in WWI.

Inside Langemarck-Halle
The Forest Theatre, Waldbuene, which is used for concerts today, is currently closed to the public.  We got our only glimpse of the theatre from the top of the bell tower.  It was built in 1936 and was used for gymnastics competitions during the Olympics.  It seats up to 25,000 spectators and is used as one of Berlin's largest concert venues.

Waldbuene, among the forest
Equestrian Facility at Olympiastadion
Swimming Facility
Many statues, like this one, can be found at Olympiastadion
View of Olympiastadion from the Bell Tower, looking toward the Marathon Gate.  The Berlin skyline can be seen in the background.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Berlin: Charlottenburg Palace

Schloss Charlottenburg

After a long day of touring Berlin, and on the way back into the city from The Olympic Stadium, we stopped in Charlottenburg to visit the palace and search for dinner.  Parts of the palace are open to the public for a fee but had already closed for the day.  However, we were still able to see the grounds and garden (chances are that we wouldn't have paid to go inside anyway).

The Charlottenburg Palace (Schloss Charlottenburg), located in the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf borough, is the only remaining royal palace in Berlin.   It was originally commissioned by Sophie Charlotte, wife of Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg (Friedrich later crowned himself King Friedrich I of Prussia in 1701).  It was inaugurated in 1699.  At the time it consisted of one wing and 2 1/2 stories.

Charlottenburg Palace Orangerie

The palace was named Charlottenburg after Sophie Charlotte, who died in 1705.  The orangery was built in the years after her death.  The dome was also added to the center of the building at that time.

There is a wind vane in the form of a gilded statue on top to the dome.
The garden at Charlottenburg was designed in 1697 in the Baroque style.  It was redesigned in 1787 but was restored back to its former Baroque style after WWII.  The gardens are freely open to visitors today and are frequented by local residents and tourists alike.

Garden at Charlottenburg

Duck Pond at Charlottenburg

View of the garden and back of Charlottenburg Palace
Charlottenburg Palace was damaged during WWII but was later reconstructed.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Around Berlin

Berlin is the capital of Germany and home to a rich history.  The city was first documented in the 13th century, but at the time, was not an important city.  Because of its location, over the years, Berlin became one of the most important cities in the area.  Between 1701 and 1945, Berlin was the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia, The German Empire, The Weimer Republic and the Third Reich.  After WWII, Berlin was divided into East and West (see Berlin: The Wall), and West Berlin, contained entirely in East Germany, was surrounded by the Berlin Wall from 1961-1989.  After German Reunification in 1990, the city of Berlin again became the capital city of Germany.

Today Berlin is a meeting of old and new.  In the midst of the modern city stand many structures that are a daily reminder, both to residents and visitors, of the city's past.

Potsdamer Platz
Today, Potsdamer Platz, named after the city of Potsdam, consists of modern buildings containing offices, restaurants and a movie theatre.  The owners/developers of the two largest sections of Potsdamer Platz are Daimler and Sony.  Because the Berlin Wall passed directly through the square it mostly laid in ruin from 1961-1989.  After that time, it was seen as a way to reconnect the east and west sectors of Berlin.

Potsdamer Platz marks the point where the road from Potsdam passed through the old city wall of Berlin at the Potsdam Gate, which was severely damaged during WWII and later demolished when the Berlin wall was built.

A small section of the old city wall of Berlin still exists near Klosterstrasse
The Spree River looking towards the Berlin Dome
The 4.7 Acre Holocaust Memorial, located in the Friedrichstadt neighborhood, is a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.  Designed by architect, Peter Eisenman and engineer, Buro Happold, the memorial contains 2,711 concrete slabs that vary in height.  Eisenman's project text states that the memorial was designed to produce a confused and uneasy feeling in its visitors.

Holocaust Memorial
Walking into the memorial from the street, it appears that all of the slabs are of similar height, but the memorial was built on a hill.  As visitors get deeper and deeper into the memorial, the slabs become taller and taller, eventually reaching close to 16 ft.  Many visitors also point out that the memorial resembles a cemetery.

One block from the Holocaust Museum stands Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, one of the most well-known landmarks of Germany.  The gate, which should not be confused with the Brandenburg Gate in Potsdam, was rebuilt in the late 18th century as a neoclassical triumphal arch.  The gate was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia.  It was damaged during WWII and was inaccesible in postwar Germany because it was directly next to the Berlin Wall (click here for a photo of the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin wall shortly before it fell in 1989).  The gate was fully restored between 2000 and 2002.

Berlin's Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate was not one of the old city fortifications but instead was one of 18 gates erected in the 1730's as part of the Berlin Customs Wall, which included the old fortified city and many of its suburbs.  Atop the Brandenburg Gate rests the Quadriga, sculpted by Johann Gottfried Schadow.  After the Prussian defeat in 1806, Napoleon took the Quadriga back to Paris, but the Quadriga was restored to Berlin only a few years later, upon Napoleon's defeat in 1814.

Note the height of the Brandenburg Gate
Sidewalk Chalk Artist near the Brandenburg Gate
Hotel Adlon, near the Brandenburg Gate, was made popular in American pop culture when Michael Jackson dangled his son out of the hotel's windows in 2002, but the hotels history dates back much farther than 2002.  The hotel originally opened in 1907 and was one of the most famous hotels in Europe.    It was largely destroyed during WWII (though a small wing continued operating until 1984).  It later rebuilt and reopened in 1997.

Hotel Adlon on the Pariser Platz
The Berlin Hauptbahnof, or Berlin Central Station, is the main train station in Berlin.  The Hauptbahof, which opened in 2006, is on the site of the historic Lehrter Bahnof, which opened in 1871.

Berlin Hauptbahnof
The Oberbaum Bridge crosses the Spree River near the East Side Gallery.  The double-decker bridge is considered one of the city landmarks.  The lower deck carries a roadway, while the upper deck carries line U1 of the Berlin U-bahn line.  In 1732, a wooden drawbridge was built in this spot, but after several modifications, it was no longer adequate.  The new bridge opened in 1896.  When the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, the Oberbaum Bridge became part of the border between East and West Berlin.

The Oberbaum Bridge is a double-decker bridge crossing the Spree River on Oberbaum Strasse.
Ampelmann, Berlin's pedestrian traffic signal, was created by Karl Peglau in 1961.  Today, Ampelmann has become somewhat of an icon in Berlin.

East Berlin Ampelmann character in front of an Ampelmann Store
Sign in front of an Ampelmann store showing the pedestrian traffic signals in several countries
Statue of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia from 1740-1786
Hackescher Markt was laid out as a market square in 1750 by King Frederick II.  After German reunification, the area, with its old buildings, became an area of commerce.  Today, the old buildings of Hackescher Markt boast many shops and restaurants.

Hackescher Markt

Pink Shops in Hackescher Markt
To read more about my time in Berlin

Berlin:  The Wall and Berlin: Alexanderplatz and Museuminsel and look for more posts to come!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Postdam, Germany

After returning to Berlin, we took the train to Potsdam for a day trip.  Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg.  Located on the River Havel, Potsdam is about 15 miles southwest of Berlin (and a short train ride).  Potsdam was the city of residence of the Prussian kings and German Kaisers until 1918 and is considered to have a similar status in Germany to Windsor in the United Kingdom.

Looking across the Havel river to St. Nicholas' Church on the Alter Markt
The Old Market Square (Alter Markt) is Potsdam's historical city center.  For three centuries, Alter Markt was the site of the city palace (stadtschloss), a royal palace built in 1662.  The palace was damaged in 1945 during WWII and demolished in 1961 by the Communist authorities.  Today Alter Markt is dominated by the St. Nicholas Church and Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus).

Altes Rathaus was built in 1755 by Dutch architect, Jan Bouman
Potsdam's Dutch Quarter
The two street Dutch Quarter was built by dutch architect, Jan Bouman between 1734 and 1742.  It was to be used by Dutch artisans and craftsmen invited by Frederick Wilhelm I to settle in the area.

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul 

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul stands at the eastern end of Brandenburger Strasse.  It was built between 1867 and 1870 with Byzantine and Roman stylistic elements.  It was the first Catholic church in Potsdam.  Inside are three paintings by Antoine Pesne, considered one of the greatest artists of the Baroque and Rococo styles.  

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul

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Old Town looking toward Nauener Tor

Nauener Tor is one of the three preserved gates of the city of Potsdam.  It was built in 1755 by Johann Gottfried Buering and is one of the earliest examples of English Gothic Revival Architecture in Continental Europe.  The gate was constructed based on a sketch by Frederick II of Prussia.  Originally the three gates, Nauener Tor, Brandenburger Tor and Jaegertor, were connected by a wall.  Today, they are connected only by a promenade.  

Brandenburger Tor from the "field side"

Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), not to be confused with Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, stands at the western end of Brandenburger Strasse facing the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul at the eastern end.  Brandenburger Tor was built in 1770 and 1771 by Carl von Gontard and Georg Christian Unger, by order of Frederick II.  Brandenburger Tor, along with the other 2 gates, was intended to prevent desertion and smuggling.  Prior to the construction Brandenburg Gate, there was a smaller, more simple gate standing in the same place, but towards the end of the Seven Years War, Frederick the Great had the new Roman Style gate built in it's place as a symbol of his victory.  

Brandenburger Tor from the "city side"

The two sides of the gate, the field side and the city side, were designed by two different architects in two different styles.  Carl von Gontard designed the city side as a rendered facade with Corinthian style lesenes and trophies.  His pupil, Georg Christian Unger, designed the field side in the style of the Arch of Constantine with Corinthian double-columns and ornamentation like the golden trumpets.  The two pedestrian walkways were not added until 1843, under Frederick IV, to cope with the increase in pedestrian traffic.  The gate has been a free standing structure since the wall was demolished around 1900.  

Two kilometers west of the Potsdam city center sits Sanssouci Park.  King Frederick the Great ordered construction of residences in what is now Sanssouci Park in 1774.  In French, sans souci means "without worries," and Frederick the Great wanted to live here without worries.  At the time the palace was surrounded by nurseries and gardens that contained flowers and several thousand fruit trees.

Part of the Green Gate in Sanssouci Park

Flower Garden in Sanssouci Park

Garden in Sanssouci Park

The Sanssouci Palace is the former summer residence of Frederick the Great.  The palace was designed and built by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff between 1745 and 1747.  King Frederick wanted a place where he could go to relax and get away.  Unlike many other palaces, Sanssouci is only a large, single-story villa.  The style of the palace is considered Frederician Rococo because it was built and decorated in the style of King Frederick's personal taste.  

Sanssouci Palace
Frederick did not accept suggestions from his architect, including Knobelsdorff's suggestion that the palace have a semi-basement story to give the palace a commanding presence and prevent dampness.  Knobelsdorff was eventually fired because of a disagreement on the location of the palace, and it was finished by Jan Bouman.

Great Fountain and Vineyard Garden at Sanssouci Palace
Frederick regularly spent summers at the palace throughout his lifetime, but the palace remained empty after his death.  Nearly 100 years later, Frederick Wilhelm IV moved into the guest rooms with his wife.  They kept the furniture that was there and replaced missing pieces with furniture from Frederick's time.  Frederick Wilhelm IV turned the palace into a fully-functioning country house, which required enlarging the service wings.  Frederick had not wanted to make repairs and have the palace serviced because of his wish that the palace would only last his lifetime.

View of the Vineyard Garden and Great Fountain from the Palace
Sanssouci Palace

Frederick Wilhem IV also commissioned the building of the Orangery Palace.  Two architects, Freidrich August Stueler and Ludwig Ferdinand Hesse, were hired to turn Frederick IV's drawings into  a reality.  It was built in the Italian Renaissance style.

Orangery Palace
Orangery Palace
The middle building (shown above) with its twin towers is the actual palace.  It is joined to the 103 m plant hall.

At the end of the Seven Years War, Frederick the Great had the New Palace (Neues Palais) built to celebrate Prussia's success.  Built between 1763 and 1769, the palace is considered the last great Prussian Baroque Palace.  In stark contrast to the Sanssouci palace, Frederick wanted to display power and glory in the New Palace.  It was not a regular residence for the King but a demonstration of his power.

Looking towards the New Palace
The palace fell into disuse after the death of Frederick the Great in 1786 but later became the summer residence of German Emperor Frederick Wilhelm III.  Frederick III had been the crown prince for 27 years, but only reigned as emperor for 99 days before his death, less than a year after the death of his father.  He was succeeded by his son, William II.

Neues Palais
At the time of our visit, the gardens at the New Palace had not yet been planted for the summer.  The gardens at the many palaces we visited were at varying stages of replanting as they must be replanted every summer.  Inside the palace are a theatre and four gathering rooms that were used for balls and state occasions during Frederick the Great's lifetime.

New Palace from the other side
Charlottenhof Palace is a small neoclassical palace built by Frederick Wilhelm IV in place of an existing farm house.  The land was given to Frederick IV and his wife, Elizabeth as a Christmas gift by Frederick III.

Charlottenhof Palace

The Roman baths of melded Roman and antiquated Italian styles were created by Frederick Wilhelm IV between 1829 and 1840.  Frederick IV came up with ideas and drew the actual drafts.  To build the baths, he hired architect, Karl Freidrich Schinkel, who he also hired to build Charlottenhof Palace.

The Roman Baths
The Chinese House (Chinesisches Haus) was designed and built by architect Johann Gottfried Buering 1755 and 1764 (it took nine years because of the Seven Years War).  The building was used for small gatherings.

Chinese House, Sanssouci Park

If you're ever in Berlin, Potsdam is definitely worth the short trip.  Old town, with its many restaurants and cafes, along with the old city gates, is a fun place to hang out, and you don't want to miss Sanssouci Park, with its many palaces and beautiful gardens.  We were in awe by the shear size of Sanssouci Park.