Bayreuther Strasse 10, Berlin, DE, 10789
- Phone: (49) 30 2350020
- Fax: (49) 30 23500299
The original Alexanderplatz (affectionately known as 'Alex' by Berliners) was completely flattened during the War. Its present day appearance is a prime example of East German town planning: a huge, windswept pedestrian area surrounded by featureless 1960s high-rises. But those who are familiar with Alexanderplatz from Alfred Döblin's novel of the same name will find that none of the hustle and bustle of the square has disappeared. Alexanderplatz is still very much a commuters' thoroughfare and is regarded by locals as the true centre of Berlin. Named after Russian Tsar Alexander I who visited the Prussian capital in 1805, Alexanderplatz was at the centre of the mass-demonstrations which brought the Berlin Wall tumbling down in November 1989. Massive redevelopment has now begun under the direction of architect Hans Kohlhoff, but no completion date has been set.
Although plans are afoot to radically redesign Alexanderplatz, the square is still dominated by socialist buildings whose architectural beauty still attracts attention. One of these, Haus des Lehrers, is marked by an impressive 125 metre long mural which wraps its way around the building. Painted by Walter Womancka, this colorful depiction of "the perfect socialist life" is a classic example of the kind of art once promoted by East German authorities for propaganda purposes. Erected in 1964, the building represented a break with the monumental architecture of the Stalin era and a move towards a more cosmopolitan and transparent style. Originally built as a congress center for teachers, the building is now used for exhibitions and cultural events.
Opened in 1929, just three years before Hitler seized power, this art house film theater soon became a place of refuge for anti-Nazi resistance fighters during the Third Reich. A commemorative plaque in the foyer reminds visitors of those dark days. After the War, the Babylon became socialist East Germany's only art house cinema. Even after the fall of the Wall, the cinema has remained true to its tradition and continues to show old silent movies, East German classics and other controversial or arty films, all of which should make any film buff's heart beat a little faster. The Filmkunsthaus Babylon is not to be confused with the other Babylon cinema in Kreuzberg".
Located in Alexanderplatz in the heart of eastern Berlin, this 1960s structure towers over the whole city. Built by communist authorities at the height of the Cold War, West Berliners cheekily christened the TV Tower "the Pope's revenge" because of the sparkling cross which appears on the pinnacle of the tower when the sun shines on it. Although regarded by many as an eyesore, the views from the top are hard to beat. The revolving Telecafè at 207 meters (680 feet) is a pleasant spot to stop for a coffee and a relaxing gaze over the city.
No other square in Berlin has changed its name quite as often as Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. And that's saying something, because each new political regime in the German capital has traditionally set about renaming streets and squares after its own particular heroes. Previously known as Bülowplatz, East German authorities renamed the square in the fifties after their favourite national hero, Rosa Luxemburg. The central point of interest on the square is the Volksbühne am Rosa Luxemburg Platz theatre, one of the liveliest and creative stages in Berlin. Equally popular is Babylon cinema, an independent cinema with a long tradition.
Built between 1896 and 1905, Stadtgericht boasts extravagant stairs which are its best features; and elegant columns. It is partially exposed by urban redevelopment. Much of the building is undergoing restoration. This building of five floors is the second largest after Berlin building of the castle. The four complex once stretched over a length of 220 metres parallel to the S-Bahn route. The City Court was until 1990 the Supreme Court seatof the GDR.
The ancient Marienkirche, built of rough stone and crowned by a copper green steeple, was first mentioned in chronicles from the year 1294. As such, it contrasts starkly with its surroundings ; a series of spartan socialist monoliths towered over by the futuristic TV Tower. Lonely and full of pride, it reminds us that Berlin is in fact an ancient city, although little has survived successive centuries of turmoil. The inside of the church is as plain as the socialist urban landscape outside, a place where Medieval protestantism meets twentieth century agnosticism.
Strolling through the windswept square between the TV Tower, the Town Hall and the Palast der Republik, you may unexpectedly stumble across an exquisite baroque fountain known as the Neptunbrunnen (Neptune Fountain). Built a hundred years ago and severely damaged during the War, it was removed from its original site close to the former Royal Palace, thoroughly restored and then re-erected at Alexanderplatz. Surrounded by faceless socialist architecture, the intricate fountain seems slightly out of place here, yet this simply adds to its fascination.
While plans are afoot to reconstruct the ruin of Schinkel's classic Elisabethkirche on Invalidenstraße, the Franciscan Monastery Church near Alexanderplatz will not be rebuilt. It shall instead remain in its present state as a memorial to the senselessness of war. Originally constructed in 1260, the church used to be Berlin's most impressive Gothic building before being bombed to pieces during the Second World War. The stunning red brick arches and columns have no roof, no knave, no tower, no spire. They stand alone on a deserted plot of land which is currently used for open-air art exhibitions and theatrical performances.
The 'Red City Hall' is how Berliners refer to their town hall. Seat of the Mayor and the Senate since reunification in 1990, the building was also home to East Berlin's local government in the GDR era, although the name actually stems from the reddish colour of its walls rather than from the political leanings of its politicians! Built in 1861-69 by H. F. Waesemann, the design reflects a strong Tuscan influence. Two years after building work was completed, Germany was unified by Kaiser Wilhelm I. Consequently, Berlin became the capital of Germany and its new city hall, the supreme administrative building.
The Berlin outpost of the popular Sea Life chain of aquariums is unlike any other. Visitors can spend hours perusing tank after tank of exotic fish, but the culminating attraction here is the AquaDom, a hulking cylindrical fish tank with a great glass elevator shaft in the center. Kids of all ages look forward to that ride. Surrounded on all sides by sea creatures large and small, you'll feel as though you've actually entered the big blue deep.