Tradition and Modernity
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Giving a short and exhaustive indication of what you should visit in a city like Berlin is an utopic undertaking. Monuments, museums, architecture, shopping streets, or even simply the city’s views: everything in Berlin deserves to be seen and will stay in your heart forever. We will try to sketch a hypothetical tour that could catch the various aspects of a manifold city like the German capital, arguing, however, that the whole city offers interesting works or sites. As the city’s territory is vast, it is unthinkable to visit most of the attractions in a single day. The advice is to schedule the days according to the areas of interest and then concentrate the visits on the chosen area.
ITINERARy 1: MITTE
The first district we point out is the MITTE, the historic core of the city.
Starting from the Brandeburg Gate, wher you can look up at the impressive Quadriga of Victory, from where the Wall divided the city into two, and ideally the western world from the Eastern world. This gate, the only remaining one of the city, is now a symbol of the Unification of Germany. Continuing towards the nearby Pariser Platz (A), on the left stands the Reichstag, the seat of the German Parliament and whose spectacular dome can be visited, although we recommend booking it in order to avoid long queues at the entrance (book it online at www.bundestag.de at least 3 days in advance). You will find yourself at the beginning of one of the most impressive and richest streets in Berlin, Unter den Linden (B), where you can admire the Guggenheim Museum, the University , The Neue Wache, with the touching statue dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Third Reich, the Opera House , the Alte Bibliothek and Bebelplatz (C). From this square you can see the monument to the Nazi Book Burning and the Catholic Cathedral of St. Hedwig, the most important sacred Roman Catholic church in Berlin. Crossing the bridges over the Spree River, passing through the island of Colln, called Island of Museums, that we suggest you to visit on a dedicated morning, we continue our journey towards Alexander Platz (E), already visible in the distance. Arrived at the Marx-Engels Platz (D), where the Marx and Engels Monument and Marienkirk, the church of St. Mary, inside which you can admire the Dance to Death (or macabre) a medieval dance. At this point it is worthy to turn slightly towards Rathaus Strasse (F) to see the Town Hall, the Rathaus, and Nikolai Kirke, as well as the Dom, which is a protestant church and the most important place of worship in the city with its impressive dome, and the Zeughaus, home of the German Historical Museum, one of the most important in the city.
The visit to the Mitte ends in Alexander Platz, probably the most famous square in Berlin, the largest but not the most beautiful, especially after the transformation in the ’70s to make it a symbol of socialist glory, and where we find the famous clock Urania. Not far from the square there are the Volksbuhne, the Volkstheater, and the Television Tower (Fernsehturm), where you can experience a 360 ° view of the city.
ITINERARY 2: EAST BERLIN
A second route we propose starts from the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (A), an impressive and scenic monument. Going southwest, passing the Tiergarten Park, you reach the Potsdamer Platz (B), that was, at the beginning of the century, the fulcrum of a lively and irreverent city with literary cafés, cabarets but soon a desert land in West Berlin. After the fall of the Wall, in the second half of the 90s, this square became a huge construction site, probably the largest in Europe, attracting architects from all over the world. This is not really a square, but an area composed by other three areas known as Daimler City, or Daimler Chrysler Area, Sony Center and Besheim Center. Today, it hosts residences and offices and the Berlin International Film Festival, which hosts in February filmmakers and great world stars in front of the Berlinale Palace (Berlinale Palast) in Marlene Dietrich Platz. At the southern end of the square there is the Debis tower, made of stone and glass by Renzo Piano, which was the first building in the area to be completed since the Reunification. Going south to the Stresemannstrasse and then turning left, head to the Martin-Gropius-Bau, which houses some of the most important itinerant exhibits of art and photography, and the Berlin Parliament (Abgeordnetenhaus) (C), the seat of Parliament Of the Land of Berlin, which differs from the Bundestag, the Federal Parliament (or the federal states of Germany), which has instead its seat in the Reichstag building.
During the Nazism, the building became the Court of Justice (The sadly known Preussenhaus, or Prussian House).
Continuing you will find yourself in the Nazi government quarter with Topography of Terror, the center of Nazi terror policy between 1933 and 1945. Today, the strip of land near the Gropius Bau documents the massacres, actions and plans of the Gestapo, the SS and the Reich Security that were based here. We also find the Ministry of Aeronautics and the places where Hitler’s Stationery and Bunker were established.
In addition to the testimonies of the Third Reich you could notice some of the socialist dictatorship, on the Niederkirchnerstrasse a piece of wall has been conserved and you will find some Trabant cars.
We head then to Checkpoint Charlie (D), the most famous border between East and West Berlin, between the Russian-controlled area and the American-controlled one, made legendary by numerous films and novels. Let’s leave the city’s history behind and go to Friedrichstrasse towards the historic center of East Berlin. When the Wall was erected the street was divided and the S-Bahn station was named Tranenplast, House of Tears, where the Berliners of the East said goodbye to visitors returning to the West. Along this road you will find numerous shops of both local crafts and independent creations, as well as luxury stores such as Les Galeries Lafayette. It’s worth deviating slightly to visit a beautiful square, maybe the most beautiful in Berlin: the Gendarmen-Markt (E). This amazing square is surrounded by historic buildings, including Franzosischer Dom and Deutscher Dom.
ITINERARY 3: POTSDAM
If you have several days available, we offer you an “out-of-town trip” to the town of Potsdam.
About 30km from Berlin, the beautiful town surrounded by lakes and rivers and a magnificent park is the Brandenburg’s capital, world-famous for the Potsdam Conference that sanctioned the division of Berlin into four distinct areas of influence. The town can be easily reached by metro from Potsdamer Platz. Remember that Potsdam is outside the A-B areas so you will need to pay a supplement. The journey will take about 40 minutes and will take you directly to Potsdam Central Station. From there you can catch a bus to Sanssouci park, Schloss Sanssouci and the Neues Palais. Potsdam’s palaces have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visiting the interiors is not so interesting, so it’s better to go in Sanssouci park. Two castles can be visited through the park: Orangerie Castle and Sanssouci Castle. Coming out from the Sanssouci Park, head for the city center of Potsdam, a just over 10-minute walk away. You will enter the city center through the beautiful Brandenburger Tor, a triumphal arch. You can stroll along the Brandenburger Strasse, one of the city’s main streets, surrounded by bars, beer shops and souvenir shops. At the end of the street there is a church from where you can visit the old part of Potsdam with its red palaces. You will also notice the second of the three city gates: the Nauener Tor.
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