In 2014 Berlin celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. While Berliners won’t forget this monstrous concrete symbol of political division and paranoia, the majority of it was torn down in the early 1990s. But there are still a few places to see remnants of the Wall.
The East Side Gallery (U-Bahn: Warschauerstrasse Strasse), a 2km ( 3/4-mile) section of the Wall along the Spree River southeast of Alexanderplatz, is the longest and best preserved section left standing. It was painted by an international group of artists in the 1990s and is considered an outdoor art gallery. The Wall is still a political flashpoint for many Berliners. Controversy recently erupted when the city tried to restore some of the sections of the East Side Gallery that that had been damaged by weather and graffiti, and again when a real-estate developer removed two sections and began constructing an incongruous luxury apartment building behind the old Wall. The Berlin Wall Memorial/Berliner Mauer Dokumentationszentrum (Bernauer Strasse 111; www.berliner-mauer-dokumentationszentrum.de; Tues–Sat 10am–6pm, Nov–Mar to 5pm; free admission; U-Bahn: Bernauer Strasse), created by the government as a memorial center, is a 230-ft.-long (70m) reconstructed stretch of the Wall at Bernauer Strasse and Ackerstrasse. The memorial consists of two mirrorlike stainless-steel walls that include fragments of the original wall, and a memorial building with photos of the area pre-1989 and eyewitness testimonies of what it was like when the wall stood. Part of the memorial is the Chapel of Reconciliation (Kapelle der Versöhnung), a contemporary building set on the site of a church that was blown up in 1985 in order to widen the border strip at this spot.
Architecture Beyond the Main Sights
Just north of the Tiergarten is the Hansaviertel, or Hansa Quarter (U-Bahn: Hansaplatz). The architecture of this area was an outgrowth of the great INTERBAU 1957 (International Builder's Exhibition), when architects from 22 nations designed buildings for the totally destroyed quarter. The diversity here is exhilarating: Fifty architects took part, including Gropius, Niemeyer, and Duttman.
Le Corbusier also submitted a design for an apartment house for INTERBAU 1957, but the structure was so gigantic that it had to be built near the Olympic Stadium (U-Bahn: Olympia-Stadion). The Corbusier House, called Strahlende Stadt (radiant city), is one of Europe's largest housing complexes -- its 530 apartments can house up to 1,400 people. Typical of the architect's style, this tremendous building rests on stilts.
The architects of rebuilt Berlin were also encouraged to design centers for the performing arts. One of the most controversial projects was the Kongresshalle (Congress Hall), on John-Foster-Dulles-Allee, in the Tiergarten, just west of Brandenburg Gate (S-Bahn: Unter den Linden). This building was conceived as the American contribution to INTERBAU 1957. The reinforced concrete structure has an 18m-high (60-ft.) vaulted ceiling that reminds some viewers of an oversize flying saucer. Berliners immediately christened it the "Pregnant Oyster." The building today is used mainly for conventions. More successful was the Philharmonie, new home of the Berlin Philharmonic, at Matthäikirchstrasse, and its adjacent chamber music hall, next to the Tiergarten. The tentlike roof arches up in a bold curve, and the gold-colored facade glitters.
One of the city's tallest buildings sits in the midst of the city's busiest area. The 22-story Europa Center, just across the plaza from the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at Breitscheidplatz (U-Bahn: Kurfürstendamm), is the largest self-contained shopping center and entertainment complex in Europe. This town-within-a-town opened in 1965 on the site of the legendary Romanisches Café, once a gathering place for actors, writers, and artists in the flamboyant 1920s. Berliners dubbed it "Pepper's Manhattan," after its owner, K. H. Pepper. In addition to three levels of shops, restaurants, nightclubs, bars, and cinemas, it contains dozens of offices, a parking garage, and an observation roof. At the Tauentzienstrasse entrance, you can find two pieces of the former Berlin Wall.
The Best Sightseeing Deal -- The CityTourCard gives you free entry to more than 50 museums in Berlin, a free trip up the Fernsehturm (Television Tower), and reduced fare on BVG tours. The card is sold at all BVG and S-Bahn (urban rail) ticket counters and at some 200 hotels, and it's also available from automatic vending machines run by the BVG. Ticket holders may take children ages 5 and younger free. The cost is 25.50€ for 72 hours (shorter and longer cards are available, along with those that include Potsdam) For more information, visit www.citytourcard.com.
Marker Identifies Hitler's Bunker
The notorious bunker of the Third Reich was marked publicly in 2006. The Führer Bunker, as it is called, was where Hitler staged his last stand, committing suicide on April 30, 1945, as Soviet troops encircled the bunker. Stalin had issued orders to bring Hitler to Moscow alive. "History can be good or bad, but even if it's about a devil, people must be informed of history," said former SS Staff Sgt. Rochus Misch, a Hitler bodyguard who lived in the bunker with him and attended the unveiling of the marker in June 2006.
For decades, Berlin officials refused to mark the site, fearing it would become a place of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis. Misch dispelled the widely circulated myth that the bunker had 12 floors and an underground highway that Hitler used to cruise beneath the city. The bunker was constructed in 1935 and was fortified by walls 4.2m (14 ft.) thick. The bunker is not intact under the parking lot that covers it. Soviet soldiers blew up most of the bunker in the 1980s, and the foundation and walls were filled with rubble. The marker bears graphics, photographs, and a chronology of events in both German and English. The location of the bunker is at the corner of In den Ministergarten and Gertrude Kolmar Strasse near the Potsdamer Platz.
Berlin in Berlin -- Midway along the Tauentzienstrasse, near the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, is the imposing sculpture Berlin, commissioned to celebrate the city's 750th anniversary. Unveiled in 1987, its broken-chain motif symbolized the broken link between East and West Berlin. Today, it serves as a striking reminder of the city's painful past.
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