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Under the linden trees
In 1985 I stood on the western side of the Brandenburg Gate and peered across the Wall and No Man’s Land, through its arches to what was at one time the most elegant street in the city, Unter den Linden. With its western extension, Straße des 17. Juni, it forms the same sort of classically symmetrical urban vista as Paris’s Champs Elysées, with the golden gleam of the Siegesaule (Victory Column) at one end, the Brandenburg Gate as its mid-point and distant views of the Berliner Dom (cathedral) in the east. But in 1985 it was difficult to see this view properly, and impossible to walk its length. Not so today; with reunification the boulevard has rediscovered its former glory and once again forms the central spine of the city.
Unter den Linden takes its name from the linden or lime trees that were first planted there in 1647. Duke Friedrich Wilhelm, also known as The Great Elector, was dedicated to the development and beautification of Berlin during his reign and ordered the planting of long rows of Linden trees to spruce up the route from his castle home to the Tiergarten hunting ground, and to keep the route more shady and comfortable for his travels. Thus his carriage ride took him "unter den linden", that is “under the lindens”. Lime trees still line the central paved strip, although of course they are not those that Friedrich planted there. Many will have been replaced over the years, and in the 1930s many were cut down when a tunnel for the S-bahn was constructed beneath the road. Those that remained were used for firewood in the last days of World War Two, when the city was under siege. The ones we see today were planted in the 1950s, restoring the character of this famous avenue.
A stroll “under the lindens” will take you past many of Berlin’s grand buildings, including the Berlin State Opera, Humboldt University, St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, the Neue Wache (once the guardhouse for the royal guards and now the National Memorial to the Victims of War and Tyranny), the Zeughaus (German Historical Museum), and the Altes Palais.
- Historical Travel
Berlin Walk - Unter den Laden
This was my favourite Berlin "Walk", picture taken from viewing platform of TV Tower. You can see Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathederal) just before start of Unter den Linden (One of the most famous streets in Berlin) leading up to Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburgor Tor - last city gate remaining, built in 1791) and the Reichstag (German Parliament) and Reichstag Dome.
Travel my train to Zoologischer Garten S Bahn or U Bahn and catch Bus 100 for a pre walk tour down Unter den Linden, exit at Alexanderplatz and walk back.
Some of the many sites to see on the walk
* Alexanderplatz (communist designed commercial square and transport hub)
* TV Tower (365m) is worth going up on clear days and queues are not long
* Marienkirche - Gothic Lutheran Church built 1270 (free tour (donation) 1pm)
* Neptunbrunnen - Neptune Fountain (within Alexanderplatz)
* World Time Clock (within Alexanderplatz)
* Statue of Marx and Engles in the park opposite Alexanderplatz
* Schlossbrucke (Bridge) that leads over river onto start of Unter den Linden
* Berliner Dom (Cathederal, royal crypts / climb 270 steps for good views)
* Unter den Linden (One of the most famous streets in Berlin)
* Deutsches Historisches Museum, History museum
* Kronprinzenpalais, Crown Princes Palace
* Neue Wache, war memorial (neo classical architecture)
* Humboldt University (statue of Helmholtz in front)
* Reiterdenkmal Friedrich, (Equestrian Statue of Frederick the Great)
* Staatsoper, State Opera House (neo classical farcade)
* Bebelplatz, old opera square (site of the book burning)
* Alte Bibliothek, old state library (beautiful baroque building)
* Altes Palais, neo-classical palace (behind Alte Bibliothek)
* Staatsbibliothek, state library (ivy-clad building)
* Russische Botschaft, Russian Embassy (monumental wedding cake design)
* Pariser Platz (Monumental square close to Brandenburg Gate / embassies)
* Brandenburg Gate / Brandenburgor Tor (last city gate, built in 1791)
* Reichstag (German Parliament)
* Reichstag Dome (free entry / long queues shorter in late pm)
Unter den Linden
Unter den Linden is Berlin's loveliest boulevard and the heart of historical Berlin (Mitte). It extends from Pariser Platz, at the Brandenburg Gate, to the Schlossbrucke bridge, a distance of about 1.5km.
It is named for the linden or lime trees which line the grassed pedestrian area between the two carriageways. During the last days of World War II most of the trees were destroyed or cut down for firewood. The trees were replanted in the 1950s and have flourished ever since.
There are many interesting buildings along Unter den Linden (their street number is in brackets below). You can visit the Deutsches Historisches Museum, which is Germany's largest history museum. It is housed in the Zeughaus (2), which was the royal arsenal building built in 1706.
Also you can see the Russian Embassy (63-65), built in typical Stalin-style; the Deutsche Guggenheim (13-15) with its contemporary art exhibitions; the Alte Staatsbibliothek - Old National Library (8), which was founded in 1661; and the Humboldt Universitat (6), Berlin's oldest university, founded in 1810. Oh, and the statue of Frederick the Great in the middle of the road, facing west.
Why not take a walk along the boulevard and admire some of the buildings, or on a fine day you can have a break on one of the seats under the pretty linden trees.
- Budget Travel
- Historical Travel
Deutsches Historisches Museum Web Cam
Take a stroll down Unter den Linden and enjoy the streetscape. It is full of classic buildings, statues, history, culture and people. Deutsches Historisches Museum has web cams looking down Unter den Linden to Brandenburger Tor and back to Berliner Dom. I enjoy regularly looking at this web cam site as it brings back so many great memories. The web-cams are updated every 30 seconds 24 hours a day. The museum itself, as you can probably guess from it's name, has a focus on German history and is open daily, except Wednesday, from 10am. to 6pm with free entrance. This photo was taken April 12, 2005 and shows a large roadworks project in action, other photos attached show the completed works and seasonal impacts. The first building on the right is the courtyard entrance to Humboldt University. The statue in the middle of the street is the famous equestrian statue of Frederick the Great. The Brandenburg Gate can be seen in the distance and is an excellant start, finish or return point fror a walk down the street. The trees you see dividing the roads are lime trees from which the name of the street was derived, "under the lime trees".
A Boulevard from Brandenburger Tor to the Castle
This is not a typical photo of Unter den Linden, as this tree-lined boulevard is Berlin’s central avenue. It leads from Pariser Platz on the east side of Brandenburger Tor to the (no more existing) Castle on Museumsinsel, passing the greatest surviving monuments of the former Prussian capital, and then further to Alexanderplatz.
This photo, taken through a passage of Brandenburger Tor, shows the ferocious building spree that takes place in this area, with the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz in the background.
Works on the boulevard already started about 1650, ordered by Elector (Kurfürst) Friedrich Wilhelm. The name means nothing more than “Under the Linden trees” – guess why… The boulevard followed a former riding path, commissioned by Elector Johann Georg in 1573, and connecting the Castle with Tiergarten which starts on the west side of Brandenburger Tor.
On this side of the Gate the avenue continues as Straße des 17. Juni (Street of 17 June), passing the Victory Column (Siegessäule).
If you are interested in more detailed descriptions of all the wonderful buildings and attractions on the boulevard Unter den Linden have a look at the Things to Do Tips of VT member mgmarcus. He has compiled them with love for detail on his Berlin page, including Deutsches Historisches Museum, Alte Kommandantur, Kronprinzenpalais, Zeughaus and Neue Wache.
Update July 2009
Berlin's Castle I mentioned earlier as no more existing will be rebuilt from 2010. At the end of 2008 the Italian architect Franco Stella from Vicenza was announced as the winner of the competition about the project which is considered Germany's most important building site of the century. The Bundestag, Germany's Parliament, had given out clear conditions for the kind of building they are expecting. This means: Three facades and the dome have to be Baroque reconstructions, and the eastern side can be modern.
The castle - in German: Berliner Stadtschloss - had been the site of the Prussian Kings. When it had fallen into ruins during World War II, the East German government had decided to blow it up in 1950. In 2002 the Bundestag decided to have it reconstructed. The costs are limited to 552 million Euro. A fundraising club has to raise 80 million Euro for the Baroque facade. Since December 2008 a model can be seen at the Kronprinzenpalais.
The castle will be home of the so-called Humboldt-Forum which will be a showcase of culture and science. On 40,000 square metres it will feature non-European collections of Berlin's museums and a selection of the science archives of Humboldt University and pieces of the state library (Landesbibliothek).
- Historical Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Unter den Linden
This Berlin's most elegant boulevard flanked by linden trees starts at the Brandenburg Gate and stretches over the Schloss Bridge to the Schloss Platz. It is one of grand urban gestures done by Friedrich Wilhelm and was the main axis of the Prussian metropolis.
In the 1930s Nazis replaced linden trees with flagposts, and the boulevard was replanted again after the war but with the establishment of the wall on its western edge it lost most of its meaning. On the other hand, we can thank East Germans that this wasn't turned into another pedestrian street with Kaufhof and Woolworth department stores like so many others in other (West) German cities that were subject to heavy bombings. Slowly but carefully GDR has put a lot of efforts to reconstruct most of the historic buildings from the war debris and today big works (still going on here) are in fact only make up efforts to make this grand boulevard shine in all its monumental glory.
The eastern part of the Unter den Linden is the most interesting with some of Berlin's best public buildings built around former Forum Fridericianum which stood approximately where the State Opera stands today.
The New Guard House or the Neue Wache is one of the most famous buildings by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, an architect who literally transformed nineteen-century Berlin with his Neoclassical buildings scaterred all over the center of town.
The Neue Wache stands at the eastern end of Unter den Linden and when it was built in 1818 it was to serve as the guardhouse for the royal guards. In 1930 it saw its first transformation into the memorial center dedicated to the soldiers who died in World War I. Then in 1957 it was converted by the GDR government into a Memorial to the victims of Fascism and Militarism. A grotesque change of guards happenned here every day.
After 1989 the Neue Wache serves as the National Memorial to the Victims of War and Tyranny. Schinkel's Neoclassical facade resembles to the Greek temple but it is inside chamber that is the most interesting with ray of sun playing on bare walls surrounding Pieta statue by Kathe Kollwitz.
The area around eastern end of Unter den Linden is filled not only with nice Neoclassical buildings and statues but also with historic stories that took place here. It takes a while to grasp all the information you can read in your guidebooks and it takes a while to stop at least in front of the most important places and think in silence about the things that took place here.
Directly opposite the University buildings is Bebelplatz which was the scene of the notorious Buchverbrennung - the burning of books by Nazis that happenned in 1933. Thousands of books that conflicted with the Nazi ideology went up in smoke in May 10th. Erich Maria Remarque, Thomas Mann and Ernest Hemingway were among the authors whose books were destroyed.
Berlin knows how to make memorials and the one on Bebelplatz is among the strongest ones. It features a simple glass plate on the square floor where you can take a look into an underground chamber called "The Empty Library" - a room with walls made of empty bookshelves. Luckily, shelves of the University Library accross the street aren't as empty.
Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841) designed the "Neue Wache" in the early 19th century. It is generally considered to be an outstanding example of neo-classical architecture.
For its first century, the Neue Wache served as a guardhouse for Prussian troops. In the 1920s, it became a Memorial to soldiers killed in World War I. During the DDR era, it was rededicated as a "Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism." Now, it has once again been re-dedicated as a Memorial to all the victims of war and dictatorship worldwide. Memory and memorials are always contextual and "political" in the broadest sense; sightseeing in Berlin makes this perfectly clear.
The atmosphere of the Neue Wache is austere and solemn. There is a circular opening in the roof of the building, underneath which are arrayed a variety of wreaths. There is a also a copy of a powerful 20th century sculpture, "Mother With Her Dead Son," by Kathe Kollwitz, a Berlin artist who lost her own son to World War I. This is a subdued, serious, and contemplative war memorial - and should be an early stop for all first-time visitors to Berlin.
- Historical Travel
Unter den Linden - Bebelplatz
Bebelplatz is a special square to hold on your visit for half an hour
Main attractions are :
The Hedwigs Kathedrale
The staple of books
In 1933, Nazi Minister for Propaganda Joseph Goebbels began to synchronize culture, by which the arts were brought in line with Nazi goals. The government purged cultural organizations of Jews and others alleged to be politically or artistically suspect. The works of leading German writers such as Bertold Brecht, Thomas Mann Lion Feuchtwanger and Alfred Kerr were thrown in to flames in a book burning ceremony in Berlin.
The writer Heinrich Heine wrote long before this ceremony (see plate):
“Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen“"Where they burn books, they will end in burning human beings."
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
Staatsoper was commissioned by King Frederick II of Prussia in 1741, designed and built by Georg von Knobelsdorff as the first and the oldiest structure on Babelplatz. At that time it was called Hofoper (Court Opera) and was inaugurated with the performance Cesare e Cleopatra in 1742. After the collapse of the German Empire in 1919 the opera was renamed Staatsoper.
After Nazis takeover, members of Jewish origins were dismissed from the ensemble. Many German musicians associated with the opera went into exile too. It is less known fact that great Herbert von Karajan was one of staatskapellmaster during the Thied Reich.
After WW II the opera was reconstructed in its Baroque form and reopened in 1955.
Unter den Linden
Unter den Linden (under the lime trees) starts at the Brandenburg Gate and ends at the Schlossbrücke Bridge and is approximately 1 mile in length. It is a street that has a grassed central mall with a carriageway running down either side. It is a place to sit and rest, have a drink or something to eat. It is a street of grand buildings right in the heart of Berlin with expensive hotels, embassies, museums, the State Opera House, University Buildings and statues. The street has a long history with the lime trees first being planted in 1647 and was used as a riding path, over the years contained many grand buildings and palaces. The area ended up totalling ruined during WW2 with all the trees being cut down for firewood and all the building destroyed but reconstruction over the years has returned the street to its former glory.
On the eastern end of Unter den Linden, gathered around the monument to Friedrich the Great we find some of the most important buildings in Berlin. It is amazing to compare what we have today with images showing the 1945 postwar rubble and it must be admit that the former GDR has put a lot of effort, time and money to reconstruct all these historic buildings.
Humboldt University today occupies the building that was originally palace of Friedrich the Great's brother. After Wilhelm Humboldt established the University here in 1809 this was the house of some of Berlin's best brains including Karl Marx, Karl Liebknecht and Albert Einstein.
When I was here a small market of used books was held in front of the main entrance and it made a nice contrast with the Neoclassical facade of the University building.
Next to the Humboldt University there is another grandiose building dating from late 19th century. It houses state library in Berlin, once the main Prussian and later main GDR library today it is one of two main libraries in Berlin (yes, that's possible in a city that is still recovering from recent division).
If you peek inside you'll find "Ivy League" courtyard with a fountain in the middle. Many students from the nearby University come here to study and there is also a small cafe here where you can enjoy your coffee in this calm oasis away from the Unter den Linden.
Berlin's Most Beautiful Avenue
Berlin's magnificent boulevard, the centrepiece of the Old Berlin, leads from Pariser Platz at the »Brandenburg Gate to the Schlossbrücke bridge. Unter den Linden was originally a bridle path: from 1573, it led from Berlin Palace to Lietzow, later Charlottenburg, and then on to Spandau. From 1701, the Linden became more and more built up, mirroring the rising splendor of the monarchy and the new architectural style.As time went by, the »Zeughaus (Arsenal) and the Friedrichstadt appeared; under Frederick the Great, they were joined by the Kronprinzenpalais, the Prinzessinnenpalais, the »Opera House and the Palace for Prince Heinrich, now the Humboldt University. The »Forum Fridericianum, begun at the end of the 18th century, was to be the intellectual and artistic centre of the monarchy, with the »Staatsoper, the Academy Library, »St. Hedwig's Cathedral and, on the opposite site, the Palace of Prince Heinrich. Schinkel's great architectural achievement was the unification of the various buildings and styles into a single aesthetic concept: this led to the creation of the »Neue Wache (New Guardhouse), the Schlossbrücke bridge and the redesigned Lustgarten; in this way, Unter den Linden became a coherent ensemble. At the end of the 19th century, the »Berliner Dom was constructed.
During the Second World War, Hitler ordered the linden trees to be chopped down so that the road could be widened and integrated into the east-west axes; by the end of the war the avenue was a wasteland of ruins. Those buildings which still stood were gradually reconstructed, but the real work of rebuilding, which included the demolition of the Stadtschloss (Berlin Palace), only began in earnest in 1958. Sleek, 1960s buildings with uniform façades began to appear. The place of the former Berlin Palace was taken by the Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic) which had to be closed in the nineties due to its intoxication with asbestos. Since the Fall of the Wall, many buildings have been restored and reconstructed.
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