Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A brief visit to Berlin

To see my photos of Berlin, click this link:  www.picasaweb.google.com/WEF100

Through fortunate circumstance I was able to spend a day in Berlin. I stayed in a wonderful little hotel, the Hotel Alt-Tegel near the airport. It was a beautiful, if cold, snowy day. The streets near the hotel were covered with a nice blanket of white. The old-style street lights added charm to the neighborhood. I surprised how much this part of Germany looks like Western Pennsylvania. From the freeway, it looked like I was traveling the Parkway on my way to Pittsburgh. Because the hotel was within 1000 feet of the last stop on the subway, I went into the city. The subway was clean, well maintained and quiet- no sounds of wheels screeching on steel rails. Coming out of the subway station in the city, I saw a statue titled “Trains to Life,Ttrains to Death 1938-1945.” It was covered with snow, the whiteness of which contrasted starkly with the red flowers placed on the statue. I walked many blocks to see Checkpoint Charlie (from Wikipedia: Checkpoint Charlie "Checkpoint C" was the name given by the Western Allies to the most well-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Germany and West Germany during the War. The Soviet Union prompted the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961 to stem the flow of Eastern Bloc emigration westward through what had become a "loophole" in the Soviet border system, preventing escape over the city sector border from East Berlin to West Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie became a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of east and west, and—for some East Germans—a gateway to freedom. Soviet and American tanks briefly faced off at the location during the Berlin Crisis of 1961.)

The importance of Berlin in modern history cannot be underestimated. I took pictures of some of the information boards surrounding the site, which is under construction. I thought my picture of the old Soviet automobile was quite good!

I walked along Friedrichstrasse. (From Wikipeida: Friedrichstrasse is a major culture and shopping street in central Berlin, forming the core of the Friedrichstadt neighborhood. It runs from the northern part of the old Mitte district (north of which it is called Chausseestraße) to the Hallesches Tor in the district of Kreuzberg. Due to its north-southerly direction, it forms important junctions with the east-western axes, most notably with Leipziger Straße and Unter den Linden. The U6 U-Bahn line runs underneath. During the Cold War it was bisected by the Berlin Wall and was the location of Checkpoint Charlie. As central Berlin's traditional shopping street, Friedrichstraße is three blocks east of the parallel Wilhelmstraße, the historic heart of the old government quarter until 1945. The Friedrichstraße was badly damaged during World War II and only partly rebuilt during the division of Berlin. The section in West Berlin was partly rebuilt as a residential street; in the late 1960s, the remains of the former Belle-Alliance-Platz at the end of the Friedrichstraße, renamed Mehringplatz, were completely demolished and replaced with a concrete housing and office development designed by Hans Scharoun. Despite its central location, this area remains relatively poor .Friedrichstraße was rebuilt in the 1990s, and at the time it was the city's largest construction project; work continues north of Friedrichstraße station. A number of well-known architects contributed to the plans, including Jean Nouvel, who designed the Galeries Lafayette department store and Philip Johnson, who created the American Business Center at Checkpoint Charlie. The redevelopment received mixed reviews, but the street once again became a popular shopping destination.)

The buildings along Friedrichstrasse are of the same scale as the buildings in Washington, D.C. They are mostly under five or six stories and provide a pedestrian friendly corridor.

I then walked to the Brandenburg Gate (From Wikipedia: The Brandenburg Gate is a former city gate and one of the main symbols of Berlin and Germany. It is located west of the city center at the intersection of Unter den Linden and Ebertstraße, immediately west of the Pariser Platz. It is the only remaining gate of a series through which one formerly entered Berlin. One block to the north stands the Reichstag building. The gate is the monumental entry to Unter den Linden, the renowned boulevard of linden trees which formerly led directly to the city palace of the Prussian monarchs. It was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a sign of peace and built by Carl Gotthard Langhans from 1788 to 1791. The Brandenburg Gate was restored from 2000 to 2002 by the Stiftung Denkmalschutz Berlin (Berlin Monument Conservation Foundation). Today, it is considered one of Europe's most famous landmarks.)

I was very excited to visit Berlin for even a short time. I will be very happy to return.

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