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Posts Tagged ‘pergamon museum’

After years of interest, I am finally in Berlin. This city is now known for its diversity in architecture, cultural events, art, and people. What was once “the place to be seen” in the 1920’s and 1930’s, is once again a hot spot in Europe. That said, you have to brace yourself for the amount of construction taking place around you in East Berlin. It borders on shocking at first. Then you remember this is a city which has essentially been built since the wall came down in 1989. Which leads me to the dichotomy of architecture. You have a collection of pre-WWII buildings (most still scarred by bullet wholes and shrapnel) squished between stark Soviet-era cement buildings and uber-modern structures. These are all somehow perfectly at peace with one another. The course of events really became clearer to me after talking to someone who has lived here since 1990. She reminded me that living in Soviet-era East Berlin meant giving up your property. Because much of East Berlin was destroyed in WWII, they had to rebuild, which in this case meant inexpensive and quick-to-raise cement buildings. Once the wall came down, many people came back to reclaim their property. This is when the mass reconstruction wave began. I am not sure when it will end, but so far it has resulted in a cohesive, vibrant, and liveable city.

Here were some of my favorite experiences:

Brandenburg Gate at Night: Beautiful lighting and full of youthful energy.

Brandenburg Gate at Dusk

Brandenburg Gate at Dusk

Neues (New) Museum on Museum Island: Worth visiting for the interior architecture alone. Also has an impressive Egyptian collection. People typically point you to the Pergamon Museum (ancient Greek art and architecture are on display) as a must see, but I preferred the Neues Museum. If time permits, a visit to each of the 5 museums on the island are worthwhile. Tip: Purchase the Neues Museum ticket ahead of arrival. Not only are you given a window of time to arrive, but you also avoid long waits in line. You should also consider a multi-day Museum Pass if you plan on going to more than one museum.

Neue Museum on Museum Island (UNESCO Site)

Neues Museum on Museum Island (UNESCO Site)

Government Place: This is where the Parliament building, Reichstag, is located. This structure is an example of how old and new merge perfectly. I also love the symbolism of the glass dome epitomizing the new openess and transparency of East Germany. Tip: If you have a lunch or dinner reservation at the Reistag restaurant, you can by-pass the long lines into the wonderful glass dome. I was told the food is actually pretty good.

Reichstag (Parliment) Observatory

Reichstag (Parliment) Observatory

Jewish Quarter: This is the Greenwich Village of Berlin. It also reminded me a lot of the Bastille arrondisment of Paris. Full of charming art galleries, boutiques, ethnic restaurants and hidden treasures within passages. Even now this part of town has many people who work in the crafts. This neighborhood, located south of Rozenthaler Platz and north of Museum Island, has a really special Neue Synagoge worth a visit.

Hackescher Markt

Hackescher Markt

Gendarmenmarkt Square: This was easily the prettiest square in Berlin. Sitting in the center is the Concert Hall, with a French and a German church as bookends. These buildings, coupled with the park-like setting and numerous dining venues, make it a nice place to spend the evening. On the day of our visit, the Concert Hall was open to the public and a number of classical music venues were available; we chose to enjoy a Mozart sonata which just brought the whole building alive. Love these moments of serendipity.

Gendarmenmarkt Square

Gendarmenmarkt Square

Potsdamer Platz: Business center which opitimizes the new. The Sony Center is a colossal cluster of several buildings, connected by a glass-domed ceiling, resulting in a lively common square shared by them all.

Sony Center

Sony Center

Within what is known as one the greenest city in Europe, there are supposedly more hotels rooms than NYC. While there are hotels for everyones budget and style, here were a few of my favorite historical luxury hotels:

  • Hotel Adlon Kempinski (http://www.hotel-adlon.de/en/home/index.htm): Sits right at the Brandenburg Gate, between the U.S. and British embassies. If you are interested in international politics, this is the place to see the “whos who” of the political world. The current hotel was rebuilt in the image of the original “first luxury hotel”. Interesting story: The original hotel survived WWII, but was subsequently burned down by the Soviet military who were partying in the wine cellar and left behind their burning cigar embers.
  • Hotel de Rome (http://www.hotelderome.com/): Housed in the original bank building from the late 1800’s, this hotel epitomizes Berlin’s personality. They beautifully maintained the original bank building features (vault and all), while adding a new modern sensibility to the decor and room functions. This hotel is located at the Bebelplatz square where the famous book burning took place in 1933 and sits right next to the Opera. It also affords one of the best views in town from its rooftop garden bar / cafe.
  • Brandenburger Hof Hotel (http://www.brandenburger-hof.com/e/home/intro2.html): Ideally located in a posh part of West Berlin. Gorgeous 1800’s townhouse completely updated with modern conveniences. This is a very intimate hotel with only 72 rooms and suites. Near the famous Berlin Zoo, major Kurfurnstendamm Strasse¬†shopping drag, and Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

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