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Day 2 - More Like The Berlin I'd Envisaged
Having made the decision to visit Berlin on a whim I'd done no pre-trip research and was pleasantly surprised to find the city had a lot more character than I'd envisaged. I'd assumed that due to the bombing and shelling by the Allied forces towards then end of World War II the city would have been dominated by modernish Hi-rise buildings.
Here at Potsdamer Platz the city lived up to my expectations but not in a negative way. The Hi-rise buildings are not just modern but ultra-so and are examples of how aesthetic contemporary architecture can be.
The area was one of the most devasted during the war and afterwards was at the junction of the Soviet, American and British sectors and so none of the authorities had any incentive to develop it.
With the construction of The Wall the East German's took advantage of the fact that their side of the square was still very much a bomb site and so merely tore down the few remaining buildings and ruins to clear the no-man's land for the restricted zone leading to the wall.
After the collapse of Communism and the country's re-unification the area became Europe's most attractive commercial development site - about 50 hectares of prime city centre location. The new Berlin Senate divided it into four plots which it then sought tenders and plans for construction for under the supervision of the architects Wilmer and Sattler.
For the latter half of the 1990's the area was Europe's largest building site and the result is a modern square centred around its redeveloped underground and train station surrounded by a variety of state-of-the-art structures which mix residential and commercial spaces and still leave plenty of open space.
And for me there was the added bonus of plenty of bars on restaurants, most notably the Mommseneck bar with its selection of over 100 beers and the only pre-war survivor the Haus Huth winebar ;)
- Wine Tasting
- Beer Tasting
Originally, Potsdamer Platz was a square just outside the old city wall of Berlin, and in the early years of the twentieth century became a busy traffic intersection. During the second World War, the area was heavily bombed, and many buildings were destroyed. The border between the British and Soviet sectors ran through the square after the war, and in 1961, this previously almost invisible dividing line became one of the most recognisable symbols of the split between East and West - the Berlin Wall.
Actually, the word wall is not quite correct. The Berlin Wall was actually a wide corridor between two walls, which cut Berlin into two halves. One wall marked the actual border on the west side of the corridor, while a second wall closed off the corridor to the east. The death strip, which included a narrow sentry path for the border guards, lay in between.
Today a twin line of cobblestones marks the exact location of the border wall.
The photo shows sections of graffitied wall, set up as a display in January 2009.
- Historical Travel
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Potsdamer Platz is one of the highlights of Berlin. In this square holds the Berlin Film Festival, better known as the Berlinale, which hands out the Golden Bear for best film of the festival. In this square, since the nineteenth century developed an area of dense commercial and cultural activity. It was here where the first traffic light was installed in Europe. Potsdamer Platz, like the rest of the city came under Allied bombing during the last months of World War II, which led to the almost total destruction of buildings on the site. After the occupation of the city by the Allies, the Potsdamer Platz was in the area dividing the Soviet and American protectorates. With the construction of the wall that crossed it in the west, was in a no man's land unusable and was not rebuilt, despite being very close to the main commercial street of East Berlin. After the fall of the Berlin Wall took on the task of rehabilitating Potsdamer Platz, which they did in the course of less than a decade.
Potsdamer Platz es uno de los lugares más destacados de Berlín. En esta plaza se lleva a cabo el Festival de Cine de Berlín, más conocido como la Berlinale, donde se hace entrega de los osos de oro a las mejores películas del festival. En esta plaza se desarrolló desde el siglo XIX una zona de densa actividad comercial y cultural. Fue en este lugar donde se instaló el primer semáforo de Europa. Potsdamer Platz, como el resto de la ciudad, se vio sometida al bombardeo aliado durante los últimos meses de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, lo que llevó a la casi total destrucción de las edificaciones del sitio. Tras la ocupación de la ciudad por parte de los aliados, la Potsdamer Platz quedó en el área donde se dividían los protectorados soviético y norteamericano. Con la construcción del Muro, que la cruzaba en su sector oeste, quedó en una tierra de nadie inutilizable y no fue reconstruida, pese a estar muy próxima a la principal avenida comercial de Berlín Este. Tras la caída del muro los berlineses se dieron a la tarea de rehabilitar Potsdamer Platz, lo que consiguieron en el transcurso de menos de una década.
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Amongst all the new architecture in Potsdamer Platz there is one corner that looks oddly out of place. On the Sony site you will find one piece that survived World War II and the rebuilding of the area: the Kaisersaal Cafe from the former Grand Hotel Esplanade. The cafe was fixed up and is used today for special events, and you can see it behind glass walls. There is a informational marker that tells more about it, so you can read up a little on the history. It is interesting to know that they cared enough to save this structure that they moved it about 75 meters from its original location, which conflicted with the new construction plans.
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Sony Center - Striking
This popular Berlin site deserves all its praise. A visit to Berlin would not be complete without at least a short walk through the Sony Center. Look up and around to experience the beauty of glass, steel and color in contemporary architecture. With so many huge, impersonal buildings going up in cities across the globe, it is refreshing to find a place that welcomes and is designed for pedestrian appreciation. You can take a ride up the elevator next to the Film museum for a free view of everything from high up. Or just have a coffee in one of the several cafes and soak in the atmosphere.
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
Have Fun at the Legoland Discovery Centre
Although I have not visited the Legoland Discovery Centre myself, I think I should at least tell you that it exists. It opened in 2007 in the basement of the Sony Centre at Potsdamer Platz. The great thing about it is that it is open year-round, as it is indoor, and does not have to be closed over winter like open-air Legoland in Günzburg (Bavaria) which I know well because it is so close to my former home town of Ulm.
So if you travel with children, and you have to make them enjoy a rainy day, this might be the perfect place to go to. (Of course, it is also great for grown-up children like you and me...)
The Discovery Centre extends over two floors, and covers 3500 square metres. It cost 7 million Euro and was built within 6 months only.
The centre includes six so-called adventure worlds (Erlebniswelten), including a 4D cinema, miniland Berlin with the capital's most famous landmarks, an interactive Lego fabric, a big building and test centre, a jungle trail, and a roller coaster ride through a dragon castle. All animals, buildings, plants etc. are made of legos. In total they used about 5 million bricks to build this Lego wonderland.
As said, I didn't visit the Berlin site but if it is only half a good as the one in Günzburg it is still magic.
Daily (except Christmas Day) 10am - 7pm (last admission 5pm); retail store open until 7pm.
Adult: 14.95 €
Child: 11,95 €
Seniors: 13,95 €
Children under 3y are free.
( I do not know if they find those prices funny or if they just think people are stupid...)
How to get there
By bus: M48, 200, 357 Station Varian-Fry-Straße; M41, Station Potsdamer Platz
By train: U2, S1, S2, S25, RE3, RE4, RE5, Station Potsdamer Platz
- Theme Park Trips
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Sony Center: Welcome to Mt. Fuji!
On Potsdamer Platz you can't miss the impressive Sony Center with its unusual dome.
The center is composed of 7 buildings made of steel and glass, each one with its own unique shape; a large plaza in their center, with a pool and fountain; and the whole structure is topped above by the spectacular roof / dome, which is made to resemble Mt. Fuji.
It is snow-white by day, and from dusk until late at night it glows in purple and blue, in a cycle that alternates every 21 seconds. The ilumination was designed to highlight the roof structure of glass, steel and fabric.
The construction of the Sony Center took place between 1996-2000.
The place is bustling with life at all times, day and night. There are apartments, shops, restaurants, cafes and also the German Filmhaus with its Film Museum and the IMAX 3D theater (open daily 10:30 AM - 9:30 PM).
- Study Abroad
- Family Travel
Exciting architecture where west and east meet
There are those who like the way Potsdamer Platz was developed, and there are those who don't. I definitely belong to the former, what about you? Go and check it out yourself and then write your own tip!
Potsdamer Platz was developed in the 19th century, and by the 1920s it is said to have been the busiest square in Europe. It was almost completely destroyed during World War II, and was re-developed and rebuilt in the 1990s.
There was a heated discussion between architects about the style (and height) of the proposed new buildings in this very central square in Berlin, where west and east meet. Those architects who favored ultra-modern, daring high-rise buildings prevailed, and the result is stunning.
Besides admiring the feats of modern architecture, you can:
- Take the elevator to the Panoramapunkt viewing platform. and see East and West Berlin from a height of 100m.
- Look at the symbolic Berlin Wall fragments with their colorful grafitti and read some information about the wall.
- Fall into a tourist trap and have your passport stamped with an East Berlin stamp by a guy dressed in a DDR uniform.
- Enter the huge shopping and entertainmemt complex of Sony Center (see my Sony Center tip).
- Use the Potsdamer Platz as a starting point to tour the many nearby attractions: Brandenburger Tor, Tiergarten, Holocaust Memorial, Reichstag, the Kulturforum, Marlene Dietrich Square with its restaurants and clubs.
- Family Travel
Panoramapunkt, Potsdamer Platz
In 20 seconds the fastest elevator in Europe will take you to the viewing platform of the DaimlerChrysler Quartier. It provides a fascinating view over the entire city. The panoramapunkt on the top is located directly on the line of the former Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz. The cost is 3.50 euro. Opening hours are daily from 11am - 8pm
- Family Travel
- Women's Travel
Here there is Sony Center, DaimlerChrysler building, and DeutschBahn HQ. Sony Center should be your main attraction. You can enter under the giant umbrella, a Godsend on a cold day! Many fun stuff to do here, besides just gazing upward at the awe-inspiring cone. This must have been a part of west germany if i had to guess :P
An old new square
Before World War II, the Potsdamer Platz was the heart of Berlin and a very busy square. During the war it was heavily damaged, and when the Wall was built next to the square, remaining buildings were pulled down to make way for the Wall's death strip. The place was neglected for many years. After the reunification it was renovated and became back a vibrant square, full of shops, bars, cafés, restaurants and many modern buildings. If you like modern architecture, don't miss this square.
One of the modern buildings that I liked most was the Sony Center. It consists of several buildings surrounding an inner courtyard which is covered by an amazing tent-like roof made from steel and glass. Come here at night to see the impressive lighting.
The square is located about 1 km south of the Brandenburger Tor.
Architectural Masterpieces on the Death Strip
This glimmering and glittering square is the symbol of the new Berlin, and its new centre at the site of an historic centre. It has risen from nothing. Well, not really nothing… The area was occupied by the Wall, so was a kind of no man’s land on the western side and the death strip in the east. Incredible if you think that this square – in fact a whole quarter of about 50 hectares - had been a hub of busy city life, entertainment and culture for more than 200 years before World War II. In 1900 there were 92 restaurants, 10 distilleries, 13 cafés and 36 pubs. It attracted the rich and the famous, and became Europe’s busiest square.
To fill the after-war and Wall wasteland with life again was a big challenge, and a real prestige project. World-famous enterprises invested incredible amounts of money into innovative buildings since 1995, star-architects created 19 building complexes. The first massive high-rise inaugurated was the DaimlerChrysler complex in 1998. However, the Sony Center with its circus-like marquee has become the most photographed structure in the meantime.
Berlin’s biggest shopping centre (Arkaden), a multiplex cinema, an IMEX cinema, a musical theatre, the Philharmonie, a casino, hotels, a movie museum, and plenty of cafés and restaurants attract locals and visitors alike. Europe’s fastest lift takes people to the viewing platform of the DaimlerChrysler complex, 93 metres above the ground.
To me, Potsdamer Platz is an agglomeration of architectural masterpieces, where you admire the art of architecture, technology, and innovation. However, I did not feel the need to stay for a coffee. Ok, I would not have rejected a drink in one of the indoor-outdoor cafés of the Sony Centre but I do not feel the need to spend a lot of time in such ultra-modern atmosphere, with ultra-professional people around me, and hotel staff in tails and with stovepipe hats bowing low in front of their customers, like at the Ritz-Carlton in the art-deco Beisheim Centre. Everything seems a bit far away from real life.
Potsdamer Platz - Heart of the City
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, this large area of mass destruction was sold to four commercial companies by the German Govenment and shortly became the biggest construction site in Europe. The largest portion went to Daimler Benz who hired Italian architect Renzo Piano to create an overall plan for multiple office and commercial buildings. Sony constructed their European headquarters, an ovoid modern glass and steel edifice. Several buildings open onto the central forum, covered with a modern glass roof, and filled with restaurants, movie theatres, stores, cafes, and huge crowds. Emerging from the subway to this hyperactive and vibrant commercial enclosure is an exciting experience. The shops and restaurants are on the expensive side from what we could see, but the forum and surrounding architecture are well worth a visit.
Historically, Potsdamer Platz began as a small crossroads for trading routes outside the city walls, populated largely by Hugenot and Jewish refugees seeking religious tolerance in the mid 1600s. Its importance grew after the Electors built palaces in Potsdam, using the street that would become Potsdamer Strasse as their route. The first railroad in Berlin ended at this site furthering growth (1838). Great hotels and private mansions gradually replaced the lesser structures in the area and by the late 19th Century, Potsdamer Platz featured great hotels, classic office buildings, upscale villas, and many embassies. Surviving WWI, the "Roaring Twenties" saw the Potsdamer Platz become the center of Berlin social life as well as the busiest intersection in all Europe, featuring the first traffic light ( manually operated ).
Haute and common entertainment co-existed, one of the most exciting entertainment, commercial, and residential areas in the world. Destroyed by the war and wasted by the wall, rebirth began only after 1990. Today, along with excellent surface and subway access, a new modern train station can only add impetus to the growth of the Potsdamer Platz quarter.
Open 24 hrs it's a stunning steel & glass architectural complex. At the centre under a tent-like roof is the piazza. Here you'll find water fountains, cafes & restaurants, shops, a cinema & apartment complexes. You must visit at night too to see the roof lit up.
Once the busiest crossing in Europe, the Potsdamer Platz was completely destroyed after the war. In 1998 the new Potsdamer Platz, full of modern buildings, officially opened.
In the 1920s and 30s, the Potsdamer platz was the busiest and one of the liveliest squares in Europe. It was a major public transport hub, and the area contained numerous bars, cafés and cinemas.
This all came to an abrupt end in 1943 when the Potsdamer platz was left to ruins by allied bombing. After the second world war, the square located between the American, British and Russian sectors, became a no-man's land. It was completely flattened with the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 when the demolished buildings were pulled down.
In the 1990s, the Potsdamer Platz became what was known as the largest construction area in Europe. The square, together with several adjacent blocks were redeveloped under the supervision of the architectsWilmer and Sattler.
The projects included several landmark towers, a shopping arcade, an entertainment center andresidential buildings.
The first building completed was the Debis tower, by Renzo Piano. Other eyecatchers are the Sony Center, a complex designed by Helmut Jahn which includes an Imax theater and an office tower. Its neighbor, the brown-brick Kohlhof building has an observation deck at a height of 93m.
The square today
The large new underground station, shopping arcade and entertainment center have brought new life to thePotsdamer Platz.
It still is more of a tourist attraction than a 'natural' square, but with the construction of more residential buildings in the neighborhood, the area is starting to grow back to its former status: one of the liveliest squares in Europe.
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