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!

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