The 1920s were an exciting period in the cultural history of Berlin. In the new movement of Expressionism, artists were incorporating life experiences into their work. Practitioners of Dadaism, sought new reality in arts and literature. Walter Gropius launched Bauhaus, a school of design and architecture, while Impressionist Max Lieberman, was inspiring German artists back to a mainstream of creativity.
the literary front, Russian émigré Vladimir Nabokov penned his
first novels from a Berlin pension while Erich Maria Remarque, author of
the classic "All Quiet on the Western Front" was an
ardent devotee of Berlin's cabarets.
Filmmaker Ufa challenged Hollywood's domination of the European market
with spectacular theatres, gala premieres and star power.
The classic performing arts flourished.
Publications and posters produced by Berlin Tourism touted the
arts and culture of Germany's most cosmopolitan city.
again, Berlin is at the forefront of arts and culture.
Ironically, decades of separation have enhanced its storehouse of
cultural venues which currently number: three opera houses, 150 theatres,
170 museums and collections, 300 galleries and a financial commitment of
nearly DM 1 billion to cultural development.
this year, I visited Berlin for the first time on a press study tour.
After nearly 30 years of frequent European travel, Berlin was
still at the top of my "must visit" list.
As departure day neared, even the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq
could not dampen my enthusiasm to visit Germany's capital city.
On departure day, given news reports of long lines and frustrated passengers, I allowed plenty of time for security at Los Angeles International Airport. Arriving at LAX I headed straight for Lufthansa's ticket counters. In no time flat, my suitcase was inspected, security tagged for transit and locked to protect my possessions. In just a few moments more, with boarding cards in hand, I was all checked in for my flight.
long line. No frustration. But more than random good
fortune. It was one of today's most elusive commodities - excellent
747 that was taking us to Frankfurt was in top condition.
Everything in the cabin was fresh and neat as a pin.
As flight attendants helped passengers with boarding, I settled
into a very comfortable seat and just relaxed.
At meal time, the choice of entrees was quite tempting and
complimented by an interesting selection of good wines.
After dinner I sat back and took a nice long nap.
the morning, I awoke to an appetizing breakfast served prior to our
arrival in Frankfurt.
I remember marveling at our flight attendants who were able to
remain so pleasant and unruffled after caring for a planeload of
passengers on such a long journey.
Our departure was delayed by traffic control but arrival in
Frankfurt was ahead of schedule.
That gave me more than enough time to make my way to the
departure gate for the short flight to Berlin.
the cab ride to the city I discovered that Berlin is really a visual
we arrived at the Hotel Grosser Kurfurst, my thoughts shifted to
unpacking, checking e-mail, and a hot shower.
The hotel was modern and attractive. Décor was contemporary with a hint of New York chic. The mix of marble, mirrors, glass and art was working just right. A giant horse with a rather Teutonic looking rider was bursting through one of the walls on the atrium lobby.
Over the next few days I made a few enquiries with hotel staff about the origins of this unusual bit of art but never really discovered its provenance.
my room, I was greeted with a view of a Berlin skyline through the
window on the opposite wall.
The room was nicely appointed and held out an immediate promise
of genuine comfort.
Some nice touches caught my attention.
The desk had phone jacks conveniently located for plugging in my
laptop and plugs for charging it as well.
The bed was large, with big pillows and a lighter-than-air
The bathroom was all marble, bright, with twin sinks, separate
tub and shower, plenty of
towels and nice amenities.
There wasn't a speck of dust anywhere, housekeeping was superb.
All that was left was a quick flick of the TV remote control and
there it was - the Holy Grail of travelers everywhere - CNN.
breakfast room overlooked the lobby from the first floor.
It was a clever use of space, well designed with a competent
staff that got things right - they remembered you and never forgot your
all of our dinners were scheduled out of the hotel, I didn't get an
opportunity to use the Grosser Kurfurst's restaurant.
It had an enticing menu and a cosmopolitan air that
would make it right at home in any major city.
Next time for sure.
The hotel was in the former eastern sector and nicely situated for my movements. It contributed to a very enjoyable visit to Berlin and I can truthfully say that I would look forward to staying there again. The Hotel Grosser Kurfurst, is four star, located on Neue Roßstrasse, owned and operated by Derag Hotel and Living. You can visit them on line by using this link.
European standards, Berlin is a young capital.
The population of the re-unified city today is three and a half
It has more bridges than Venice and is nine times bigger than
is also a city of sublime contrasts.
On its streets and boulevards classic buildings erected by
Prussian era architects exist harmoniously next to superb examples of
In addition, the architecture of the former GDR offers a rather
stark, social-realistic style of architecture.
presented Berlin with a generation of new building sites.
Almost overnight, the cityscape filled with cranes and emerging
profiles of new structures in an unprecedented wave of new construction.
There is also a noticeable number of major renovations and
restorations taking place as well.
All of this development is interspersed amongst existing
buildings with designs inspired by classic Greek ideals and revivals of
styles like Baroque, Renaissance and Romanesque.
good example of Berlin's architectural accord is the new development at
Potsdamer Platz where the flowing red canopy of the 26 story Sony Center
shelters the Kaisersaal.
Built in 1908 at the behest of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Grand Hotel
Esplanade became an immediate favorite of Berlin society.
In the early twentieth century, it was home away from home for
international celebrities like Chaplin, Garbo and Detreich.
of the hotel was destroyed during the second world war.
The Berlin Wall then relegated the broken old building to nearly
thirty years of obscurity.
Upon re-unification, the hotel fell under the protection of
Germany's Landmark Preservation Laws.
After ten years of expert restoration, the remaining ensemble of
public rooms serve as an architectural museum, which once again, are
available for business or social occasions.
rooms dating to the Wilhelmian era include the neo-rococo breakfast
room, the neo-baroque Kaisersaal (Emperor's Room) where the Kaiser
enjoyed his "Gentlemen's Meetings," the 1950s style Palmenhof
(Palm Courtyard) and the Silbersaal (Silver Room).
Three adjacent salons joined by sliding doors on the Gallery
level, accommodate about thirty persons each.
The entire facility, together with the adjacent Café Josty will
accommodate over two thousand persons.
our first night in Berlin our small group enjoyed dinner in the
could have come from the Kaiser's kitchens of nearly a century ago
or any top restaurant today.
Lobster soup with ravioli, ribs of lamb in shallot crust, zucchini-potato
patties and a cottage cheese soufflé with rhubarb.
A dry Reisling, Grans Fassian, and a
Dornfelder, Kreuzberg complimented the meal.
project next to the Sony Center near Potsdamer Platz, the Bleisheim
Center will be Berlin's version of New York's Rockefeller Centre.
In addition to fashionable shopping, the complex will include a
luxury 300 room Ritz-Carlton and a Marriott.
is already an abundance of excellent shopping in Berlin. Perhaps the most
famous of its shopping avenues is the
younger shoppers travel along Ku'damm and Tauentzienstraße
seeking the hottest trends.
However, when one crosses Adenauerplatz the boulevard becomes
much more exclusive.
area surrounding the Kurfurstendam, with its turn of the century
architecture, is populated with fashionable shops and restaurants.
Here, style, design and cozy little cafes all compete for the
attention of each passerby.
addition to top labels and designers, Berlin is also home to an
excellent selection of antique shops.
There are dealers specializing in
all genres popular with serious collectors. Many antiquarians are concentrated in Schoneberg, (Keith-Fugger
and Eisenacherstrasse) and in Charlottenburg (Suarez-Damaschkestrasse,
Savignyplatz) and Kurfurstendam side streets.
Some 100 dealers have set up shop in the antique and flea market
under the overhead railway arches at Friedrichstrasse stations.
They offer jewelry, dolls, furniture, paintings, engravings and
memorabilia of "old Berlin."
But the marathon event for the "shop till you drop" crowd is Berlin's KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens). Billed as the biggest department store on the European continent, it has eight floors of top brand goods, luxury items and a reputation for excellent customer service. It also has a floor dedicated to fine foods which in the spirit of Fortnum & Mason boasts over a thousand varieties of cheese, two thousand wines plus a domed restaurant.
There are a number of eateries featuring all sorts of moderately priced yet delicious delicacies prepared in exhibition style kitchens. While we enjoyed lunch in the Italian court, we were entertained by a throng of gourmets and gourmands in a frenzy of epicurean delight.
around Berlin one is exposed to a seemingly endless variety of national cuisines.
The range of restaurants runs from those for the Platinum Card set
right down to the cash and carry crowd.
I love traditional German dishes.
But, it is also exciting that German cuisine might be experiencing
a transition tending to a lighter touch and new presentation, while
adhering to traditional ingredients and local produce.
A long and illustrious cultural history
culture has never experienced
a period as dynamic as the 1990s.
New museums opened, others were extensively rebuilt as
important collections found new homes in Berlin.
The gallery scene has proliferated in Berlin Mitte and Prenzlauer
annual art trade fair, "Art Forum Berlin" has brought a whole
new art identity to the city.
In the 1990s, the Berggruen collection opened at Stulerbau, "Picasso and his Era" at Charlottenburg and the new Museum of Contemporary Art at the Hamburger Bahnhof gave Berlin new credentials as a world contemporary art center.
June 1998, one of the world's largest and most important museums of the
old masters opened as the new home for the Picture Gallery at the
Cultural Forum in the Tiergarten.
In September 2001, Daniel Libeskind's building was already a
critical success when Europe's largest Jewish Museum opened.
In 2002, three new museums opened: the Heinrich-Zille Museum in
the Max Liebermann Villa in Wannsee and Mies van der Rohe Villa
to the Berlin Armory the German Historical Museum began last May.
Designed by I.M. Pei, the building links baroque with modern
extensive renovations, the Armory will reopen by the end of 2004 when
the German Historical Museum's collections will once again be open to
the public. Also
in 2004, the collection of Friedrich Flick of Switzerland will take
residence in the Rieck Halls (300 meters long) at Hamburger Bahnhoff. The
collection presents about 2000 works by 150 artists from the 20th and
no other place is Berlin's standing in the world of culture quite so
secure as this plot of land in the middle of the River Spree.
Called Museum Island, it was dedicated to "art and
science" in 1841 by King Frederick William IV of Prussia.
(Follow this link to a photo/ map of
Successive Prussian kings became its patrons.
Ultimately their collections of art and archeology became a public
foundation in 1918 -
the Siftung Preubischer
Kulturbesitz - which still maintains the museums and their collections to
this very day.
buildings on Museums Island were heavily damaged in World War II.
In war time, collections were dispersed for safety, only to be
divided during the cold war.
For the next few years Museums Island will be in a state of
Collections are being reorganized, museums reconstructed.
The ensemble of Museums is:
Old Museum (Altes Museum)
oldest of the museums, finished in 1830.
It was built opposite the no longer existing Berlin Castle. Berlin's
oldest museum building, it was here that the Prussian collection of antiques
was first made available to the people by Frederick William III.
Once again, this original collection is now exhibited in part in
the Old Museum.
New Museum (Neues Museum)
in 1859 and located behind the Old Museum.
Nearly destroyed in World War II, completion of its reconstruction
is scheduled for 2009 when it will once again exhibit Egyptian and
Old National Gallery
in 1876, to house a collection of 19th century art donated by the
financier Joachim H. W. Wagener.
The collection was greatly expanded over the years and ultimately
became one of the largest collections of 19th century art and sculptures
in Germany. Badly
damaged in World War II, the building reopened after a complete
restoration in 2001 housing the paintings of the collections. The
collection's sculptures are now located off the island at Friedrichswerdersche
Kirche, a former church.
the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum, it too is currently closed for renovations
. It is
scheduled to reopen in 2006, housing sculptures, late antiques and
Monumental Art, Islamic Art . Projected
completion date of renovations:
completion date of renovations:
your sense of history, a visit to the Pergamon Museum will stir it to
new levels of interest.
Carl Humann who discovered the ancient city of
Pergamon in the winter of 1864/65, excavated the site and with the agreement
Turkish Government, brought the Pergamon Altar to Berlin.
altar, 100 meters wide and dating from King Eumenes II around 170 BC is
an incredible example
of ancient history.
In addition to its monumental size, (one climbs 20 plus steps to
its colonnade level which is about 35 feet above the ground level) the
exhibition is remarkable because of the quality of the art and the
restorative skills of archeologists and museum artisans.
Another area of the Pergamon Museum houses one of the most famous
buildings of Babylon: the Ishtar Gate with five tiers of colored
representations of dragons and bulls.
Island will remain an atelier of the builders arts for the foreseeable
future as a new masterpiece of museum presentation is created. Today,
one can sense the future in admiring the gilded copings of the dormers
of the Bodemuseum.
In the next few years, an archeological promenade with a
subterranean passage will connect four of the five museums.
Visitors will then be able to easily make their way from the bust
of Queen Nefertiti in a newly relocated Egyptian Museum directly to the
Pergamon Altar where the south frieze has been restored .
Island was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999
Classic Performing Arts
is home to great orchestras under famous directors like Claudio Abbado
at the Berlin Philharmonic, Daniel Barenboim musical and artistic
director at the Staatsoper, and Kent Nagano principal conductor at the
Deutsches Symphony Orchestra.
addition, there are three opera houses offering a variety of classic
opera venues are:
Unter den Linden, built between 1741 and 1743 under the
patronage of Friedrich the Great it enjoys the richest tradition of all
Berlin's opera houses.
Repertory opera and ballet companies offer a variety of
outstanding productions each season.
The 2003/2004 season will include 8 ballets with two premieres,
Onegin and Cinderella.
The 03/04 opera season includes 27 productions with no less than 6 premieres.
Komische Oper, a theatre decorated in Viennese late baroque style where
all performances take place in German
offers a comprehensive schedule of productions in a season
generally running from late summer to mid summer the following year.
In 2002/2003 it offered 34 productions with 161 performances.
conceives and presents events in all art forms as
well as encouraging the creative initiative of young artists.
This autumn, it will present the Mariinsky opera under the
direction of Valery Gergiev in performance of three Russian operas of
the 19th and 20th centuries.
Brandenburg and the Prussian Monarchy
rulers of Brandenburg, from Joachim II to Frederick the Great to the
last German Emperor built splendid palaces seemingly sparing no expense
in the process.
For over 300 years they sought the best builders and artisans to
build palaces in and around Berlin.
With the abdication of the last German Emperor William II,
Prussian Palaces and Gardens became property of the state and
ultimately, accessible to the public as museums.
Today, a foundation created to preserve the cultural heritage of
the Prussian Court maintains the 27 buildings, gardens and art
collections of these former royal residences.
the 19th century a landscape gardener,
Peter Joseph Lenne' created an extended landscape for these royal
residences and gardens, the Kulturlandschaft,
that stretched from Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam to Peacock Island
in the Havel River.
In all, the collection of Prussian palaces was of
such great distinction that it was placed on the UNESCO World
Heritage List in 1990.
and Gardens in Berlin
kings lived in Charlottenburg Park until the late 19th century, and each
left an impression on its palaces and gardens.
The park began with a palace of modest size built for Sophie
Charlotte, wife of the Elector, Frederick III. Charlottenburg Palace is
the largest surviving Hohenzollern palace in Berlin.
Construction on the central tract began in 1695 and took eighteen
years for completion.
The new wing was built in 1740 -1742.
Of special interest are the state rooms of Frederick I, the
Porcelain Cabinet, the private apartments of Frederick the Great, his
successors and Queen
Also in the environs of Berlin . .
- Built in 1788 features an extensive porcelain collection
the history of Berlin Porcelain Manufactory (KPM).
The Mausoleum - tombs of King Frederick William III and Queen
Luise, Emperor William I and Empress Augusta.
New Pavilion (Schinkel Pavilion) - Built by Schinkel in 1825.
Collections of art from that era including paintings by Caspar
David Friedrich, Blechen and Schinkel.
Grunewald Hunting Lodge (Berlin, Zehlendorf) - Dating to 1542 and
built for the Elector Joachim II.
Today a museum of hunting history with gallery of works by Rubens
& Gardens in Potsdam
within the extensive grounds of Sanssouci Park there is an ensemble of
four royal palaces.
Work started on the park in the 18th century by Frederick the
the 19th century it was extended by Frederick William IV .
Its centerpiece is Sanssouci Palace, the summer residence of
Frederick the Great .
This superb example of German Rococo architecture houses a
priceless art collection, apartments and state rooms.
Picture Gallery at the Palace Sanssouci, dates from 1755 and was the
first purpose built museum in Germany.
The collection features baroque paintings in Dutch, French and
Italian fashion with works by Rubens, van Dyck and
New Palace, Sanssouci was the most opulent palace built by Frederick the
took over six years to construct in 1763.
It incorporates Royal apartments, guest apartments, Marble
Gallery, Theatre and the Pesne Gallery.
Palace was built 1826 - 1829 and is one of the most important examples
of work by Schinkel.
Notable for the apartments of Crown Prince Frederick William IV
and his wife Elisabeth, Poets Grove and the rose garden.
Orangery Palace dating from 1851 is the most recent palace built in
within Sanssouci Park are: Roman Baths, c. 1829 with Court Gardeners
House, tea pavilion, summer house and Arcade Hall. Church of
1844, modeled on an Italian church, tomb of Frederick William IV and
Chinese House c. 1754, summer dining room and excellent example
of European chinoiserie.
Historic Windmill (replica c. 1787) original was destroyed in
1945, rebuilt 1993 for the Potsdam millennium.
Steam Engine Building c. 1841, this pumping station for the
fountains of Sanssouci Park was built in the form of a mosque
Cecilienhof Palace, built 1914-1917 for the last crown Prince William and his wife Cecile. Today, it is most notable perhaps, as the site of the Potsdam Conference held in 1945 when Harry Truman, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin agreed a reapportionment of post-war Europe. Other palaces in the outer environs of Berlin may be found in New Garden, Babelsberg Park, Rheinssberg Palace and the Mark Brandenburg.
On my first visit, I learned that no visit to Berlin is ever long enough and that all visits to Berlin end with a promise to return. In this article we have but touched on the art and culture of Berlin. We hope to explore other interesting dimensions of this magnificent city with you in future issues.
Lastly, we want to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Berlin Tourism and the German National Tourist Office in the creation of this article.
links for further information
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