The Brandenburger Tor/Brandenburg Gate © Ricky Yates

The Sony Centre, Potsdamer Platz © Ricky Yates

The Brandenburger Tor/Brandenburg Gate lies at the heart of the Historic Mitte/Historic Centre of Berlin. It was the backdrop to the events of 9th November 1989 that unfolded on television screens around the world and to which several people have made reference in their comments on my previous post about the Berlin Wall. As can be seen in my photograph above, it has now been fully restored to its former glory and it is hard to imagine the concrete panels of the Wall dividing east from west, that used to run directly in front of it.

A short distance south of the Brandenburg Gate is Potsdamer Platz, which until the Second World War, was the bustling heart of the city. Post 1945, it lay in ruins and was then divided by the Wall. Since reunification of the two German states in 1990, Potsdamer Platz has been completely redeveloped and now more resembles Manhattan than a European capital city. The photograph on the left is of the Sony Centre with its spectacular steel and glass roof. Below are pictured three skyscrapers which would not look out of place on the New York skyline.



Skyscrapers at Potsdamer Platz © Ricky Yates

Holocaust Memorial © Ricky Yates

In between the Brandenburger Tor/Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz is the Denkmal für die Erdemordeten Juden Europas, usually known simply as the Holocaust Memorial. Finally opened in May 2005, after many years of debate regarding its design and construction, the 2711 sarcophagi-like columns that rise up in silence across undulating ground, commemorate the Jewish victims of the Nazi-orchestrated genocide of World War Two.

The security controlled entrance  for the official opening of the memorial to Sinti & Roma victims of the Nazi regime © Ricky Yates

It is often forgotten or not even realised by many people today, that Jews were not the only victims of the Nazis. Just across the road from the Holocaust Memorial, in the edge of the Tiergarten, there is now a small memorial to Homosexuals who were also victims of the regime. And on our third day in Berlin, a new memorial, also located in the Tiergarten, commemorating Sinti and Roma victims, was officially opened by Chancellor Angela Merkel. The picture above is the nearest we could get to it due to understandable security restrictions being in place. But you can see it and read more about it, in this BBC News report.

The Reichstag © Ricky Yates

The reunification of Berlin has allowed the restoration of older buildings which had been in disrepair for many years. This is the Reichstag, home of the German parliament until seriously damaged by fire in mysterious circumstances in 1933. It suffered further damage during World War Two. With the decision to move the capital of a united Germany back to Berlin, the Reichstag underwent a complete reconstruction led by the British architect Norman Foster. After its completion in 1999, the building once again became the meeting place of the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament.

Berlin Hauptbahnhof © Ricky Yates

However, some buildings have been transformed and are now hardly recognisable from their pre-1945 appearance. A good is example is the main railway station – Berlin Hauptbahnhof.

Alexanderplatz © Ricky Yates

East Berlin was the capital of communist controlled East Germany. Inevitably here, you can still find plenty of examples of severe communist era architecture. This is Alexanderplatz, created during the 1960s and rightly described as ‘soulless and without trees’ by our guidebook. This despite post-unification attempts to temper the socialist look with a few small trees in the distance!

Communist era housing in East Berlin © Ricky Yates

Nearby, I photographed this classic example of communist era housing, still looking horribly drab.

The Olympiastadion/Olympic Stadium © Ricky Yates

Dating from a different era, this is the Olympiastadion/Olympic Stadium, built in 1936 as a showcase for Hitler’s Nazi Germany. In more recent years, it has been modernised, specifically for the Football World Cup Finals in 2006. It is also the home of Hertha Berlin, the city’s leading football club.

One thing Sybille was very keen to do whilst we were visiting the German capital, was to enjoy a Berlin culinary speciality – a Currywurst. Here she is, experiencing her first Currywurst for many years with appropriate liquid refreshment 🙂

Sybille enjoying her first Currywurst for many years © Ricky Yates

4 comments to Berlin

  • Mike in Bohemia

    Very interesting Ricky.
    Funny how the communist tower blocks still look so horrible. So many buildings like that in Czecho have been transformed by colourful extra cladding and insulation. Even in Zittau they have done it.
    Currywurst is a must when visiting Germany. It was one of the first things I ate in Dresden recently 🙂 When I lived in Düsseldorf, I was a total Currywurst addict 🙂
    At the Holocaust memorial, how tall are those blocks? I can’t see the scale on the photo.
    Best wishes

    • Ricky

      Thank you Mike – I was surprised to see communist tower blocks still looking so horrible, dull & grey, bearing in mind the amount of money the ‘Wessies’ have poured in to help the ‘Ossies’ since 1989. On our Dresden – Berlin journey, there was ongoing massive improvements being made to the autobahn in a couple of places – money being spent on infrastructure. And you see relatively few blocks like that now in the Czech Republic – they’ve been improved with colourful cladding & insulation as you say.

      Regarding the Holocaust Memorial, this link gives you a picture with people which should answer your question regarding height.

  • Another most interesting post, Ricky. I agree that the Communist-era buildings are severe and drab, but I remember plenty of new buildings in the 1960s here which weren’t much more inspiring, but which thankfully have been replaced. Hopefully time will change much of what is left in Berlin.

    I don’t remember Currywurst at all from my time in Hamburg in the mid-60s – perhaps a modern innovation? 🙂

    • Ricky

      Thank you Perpetua – For sure, in the 1960s in the UK, numerous tower blocks were built which were pretty unsightly and not the nicest of places in which to live. There was one directly opposite the Parish Church in Hoddesdon where I served as Curate when first ordained. As you say, many have since been demolished and replaced by more attractive housing, though the Hoddesdon one is still standing I believe. However, as Mike says in his earlier comment, it is surprising that the tower block I photographed in Berlin, hasn’t been renovated like the vast majority of similar ones in the Czech Republic, especially as East Germany has had all the benefits of West German investment.

      Currywurst is originally a Berlin invention – see the Wikipedia article to which I link. But it has become more widespread across many German cities in more recent years, but clearly post the mid-1960s.