MITTE (Mitte, Tiergarten,
is the name of the suburb on and around the Fischerinsel, the
island in the Spree river that was the heart of medieval and Hohenzollern
Berlin and later became centre of communist East Berlin.
Mitte has a dense concentration of sights because of the layers
of history it represents. The main street is Unter den Linden,
running east-west from the centre of the old Hohenzollern capital
towards its customs post, the Brandenburg Gate. In front of the
Gate, Pariser Platz is the site of the new French and British
Embassies, and the spectacularly restored Hotel Adlon. Walking
east along the lime tree lined avenue you come to the huge Russian
Embassy, the Meissen Porcelain store and the intersection with
leads south, past the Parisian Galerie Lafayette complex to Checkpoint
Charlie, the famous military crossing point in the Berlin Wall,
where the tanks of the great Powers faced one another on various
occasions. The Museum at Checkpoint Charlie documents the numerous
escape attempts by East Berliners during the Cold War. Northwards
along Friedrichstrasse you arrive at the station of the same name
where ordinary Berliners could cross into the east. The adjoining
Tränenpalast (Palace of Tears) is the name given to the customs
hall where relatives were obliged to say their mutual farewells.
Further north the road crosses the Spree passing the Berliner
Ensemble, base of the famous pre- and post-war playwright Bertolt
Brecht, and the Deutsches Theater, base of Max Reinhardt. Both
men fled to America during the Nazi era.
On the other side of the street, the glitzy Friedrichstadtpalast,
former favourite hangout for the East German ruling circle, still
presents chorus lines and variety shows. Oranienburger Strasse,
running in from the east, runs past Tacheles, a pre-war Jewish
department store, now an Arts centre with cinema and galleries,
towards the splendid restored golden-domed old central synagogue,
now a Jewish cultural centre (the new Synagogue is just round
east along Unter den Linden, the State Library, the Humboldt University,
the German Historical Museum and the Neue Wache (a former guardhouse,
now memorial to war dead), face Bebelplatz, where the burning
of the books took place in 1933. The square is surrounded on three
sides by the Kommode, a Hohenzollern palace, the Catholic cathedral
of St Hedwigs and the State Opera House. Behind the square, a
further square, Gendarmenmarkt, a former parade ground, sports
the Schauspielhaus, now a concert house, and this is flanked by
the twin domes of the French and German Churches. On the edge
of the square lies the Hilton. Further east along Unter den Linden
you cross the Spree river onto Museum island, where the Pergamon
and Bode museums house national archeological exhibits from Asia
Minor. The Berlin Protestant Cathedral, the Berliner Dom, overlooks
the Lustgarten pleasure gardens which lead to the New and Old
Museum and the National Gallery with their collections of largely
Opposite the Lustgarten, the Hohenzollern Schloss Palace, pulled
down after the war is the subject of current controversy as to
whether and how it should be replaced. Currently the open square
is home to a cabaret tent and in the winter a funfair. Across
the river to the east you arrive at a giant square, ranged round
the Fernsehturm, a television tower with its 203 meter high revolving
restaurant, the medieval Marienkirche, the Neptune Fountain and
overlooked by the Berlin City Hall, the Red Town Hall, with its
charming frieze of Berlin history. Adjoining it is a section of
the city, surrounding the medieval Nikolaikirche, which was restored
by the East German government before the Wall came down. This
maze of streets offers restaurants, open air cafes and handicraft
the S-Bahn line is Alexanderplatz, a rather bleak square with
regular markets, street performers and a clock displaying the
time around the world. 'Alex' was the heart of old Berlin in the
period before the First World War, but now the older streets have
disappeared, and plans are afoot to transform the area with a
building project that may dwarf Potsdamer Platz.
To the south of Alex, on both sides of the Spree, a charming
little area round the Märkisches Museum, Berlin's city history
museum, is developing rapidly. Here you can find the ruins of
an old Franciscan Cloister, the restored Parochialkirche (Parish
Church) with its early 18th century tower, and the Ermeler House
with its stucco facade and lush rococo interiors.
of the S-Bahn lines which curl round Mitte, the Hackesche Höfe,
a succession of restored 19th century yards, has become a favourite
entertainment centre in the east of the city - cabaret, cinema,
designer shops and restaurants.
Sophienstrasse, one of the oldest streets in the city, has a
charming row of 17th century, three-storey classical dwellings
and the beautiful Sophienkirche. Here you are in the centre of
the old Scheunenviertel, the original Jewish area of Berlin. A
Jewish boys school, a cemetery (destroyed by the Nazis but now
a small park with a memorial) and an attractive maze of narrow
streets offer many surprises. Mitte is served from the west by
the S-Bahn lines and the U2, from the east, the U5, from the north
and south the U8, U6 and U2.
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TIERGARTEN is the political and administrative heart of Berlin,
and, since the capital moved here from Bonn, of Germany.
In the last few years it has seen huge building projects unroll
- the construction of the new and expanded administrative buildings
for the government (moved from Bonn in 1997), the business and
shopping centre of Potsdamer Platz, and currently the expansion
of the Lehrter Station to the north to allow a new rail link from
Hamburg. The area takes its name from the enormous hunting park
that lay west of the Brandenburg Gate, straddling the Strasse
des 17. Juni. It is a delightful setting for a stroll with its
English Garden, the small canals winding through, and a variety
of vistas that open out at every turn. To its western end lies
the Zoological Garden, and Zoo Station, the main station for West
Berlin. To the east, the Brandenburg Gate leads to Unter den Linden
Reichstag, Germany's parliament, restored after many years, lies
just west of the Brandenburg Gate. A visit to the roof, now a
giant glass cupola designed by Sir Norman Foster, allows you to
look down on the parliamentary proceedings and take in a panoramic
view of the city, dominated by the immense Tiergarten Park stretching
In the very centre of the park the the golden angel on top of
the Siegessäule (Victory Column) draws the eye. Nicknamed Golden
Elsie, she looks down on a star-shaped intersection of roads (the
Grosser Stern) modelled on Paris' Etoile, and ringed with monumental
statues of German generals and statesmen like Bismarck.
Halfway along the Strasse des 17. Juni is the Soviet War Memorial
with a couple of the tiny Russian tanks that stormed Berlin in
1945. In July, every year, the Loveparade, a techno music celebration
attracts hundreds of thousands of kids who come from all over
Europe to dance the length of the avenue.
To the north of the Victory Column lies Schloss Bellevue, a neo-classical
palace with a white facade and the obligatory double wings, the
seat of the President of Germany (a non-executive role), currently
To the north of the Schloss runs the river Spree. Westwards and
north of the river in the direction of Moabit, a district settled
by Huguenot refugees from France in the 18th century, lies a new
business centre, the Teleport, an area of converted warehouses
the east the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, a cultural centre funded
by the Americans, pokes its curved shell-like roof above the trees.
Berliners call it the Pregnant Oyster. Further east again the
Hamburger Bahnhof (the old station for Hamburg) has been converted
into a modern art gallery, which runs spectacular and sometimes
shocking shows, like the recent Damien Hirst exhibition.
The southern edge of the park is dominated by the embassies,
some still in the process of being built. The different architectural
styles of the buildings reflect the various cultures, including
the interesting decision by the Scandinavian countries to share
an embassy compound.
Halfway along the Landwehr canal that winds along the southern
perimeter of the park is the Shell house, a splendid Art Deco
30s building with a white facade that rolls in waves away from
Potsdamer Strasse joins the park from the south a cluster of buildings
are worth attention. The New Art Gallery, designed by Mies van
der Rohe, the Berliner Philharmonie, an extraordinary 60s construction
with marvellous acoustics, the Berlin Central Library, and further
to the east, the tower blocks of Potsdamer Platz. This was the
entertainment centre of pre-war Berlin. Flattened during the World
War II bombardments because of its proximity to the Bunker, and
left barren in the post-war period since it lay in the 'Death
Strip' between East and West Berlin, it became the biggest building
site in Europe after re-unification.
It is the corporate headquarters of Sony Europe and Daimler-Chrysler,
as well as sporting a shopping mall, a casino, an Imax and 2 multi-screen
cinemas (which host the Berlinale Film Festival every February),
the fastest lift in Europe, and a number of fine restaurants and
open air cafes.
Tiergarten is served by the U6 to the west, the S Bahn to the
north, and there are currently plans to run a new U-Bahn line
west along Unter den Linden from Alexanderplatz, providing easier
access from the east.
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Nicknamed 'Red Wedding' this suburb marked the northern expansion
of Berlin during the Industrial Revolution. Its dwellings and
factories sprang up north of the Spree and its docks, and it is
now a busy residential area, running to the edge of Tegel airport,
built to supply Berlin during the Berlin Airlift.
Wedding's spine consists of two roads, running south-east to
north-west, Müller- strasse and Brunnenstrasse, the old roads
to Hamburg. Brunnenstrasse's name refers to the mineral springs
which were discovered in the 18th century and provided a spa facility
for the city.
Here the main shopping facilities are to be found, at Leopoldplatz
and the new Gesundbrunnen shopping mall.
Wedding is a green suburb with many parks. To the east, Humboldthain
park lies, dominated by one of the World War II flak towers built
to defend Berlin. It is now used as a climbing wall. East of Müllerstrasse
is the Schillerpark and to the west, Rehberge and Goethepark with
its little lake, Plötzensee. A beautiful environment with a rather
sinister history. In 1944, in the adjacent prison, the Stauffenberg
conspirators in the plot to blow up Hitler, were hung here, on
meathooks. Further west again you can observe wild pigs in an
open air enclosure.
Traces of Wedding's history can be found in the Anti-War museum
on Müllerstrasse and in the local history museum on Pankstrasse.
Wedding is served by the U6 and U8. Currently the northern S-Bahn
ring is being rebuilt and soon there will be direct and swift
access from Wedding to Prenzlauer Berg in the east.
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