Berlin must-sees: Bebelplatz

18 08 2007

Bebelplatz (Bebel square) on Unter den Linden was designed by Frederick the Great, who became ruler of Germany in 1740, and was a great patron of the arts. It was first known as “Frederick’s Forum”, and later as “Opernplatz” (Opera square). In 1947 it was named Bebelplatz, after August Bebel, a leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in the 19th century.

On May 10th, 1933, Bebelplatz was the site of the notorious Nazi book burning event, organized by the minister for propaganda and public enlightenment, Joseph Goebbels. More than 20,000 books written by Jews, Communists and others, including Marx, Freud, the Manns, Kästner and Heine, were burned there in a large pyre.

Since 1995, this event has been commemorated by a monument designed by the Israeli artist Micha Ulmann. The monument is a plastic transparent window set into the ground, through which you can see an empty library. It’s very easy to miss in this pretty large square, so look carefully.

Bebel Platz book burning monument.

Next to the monument there’s a plaque, bearing the words of the poet Heinrich Heine, from his tragedy “Almansor”, written in 1820 – more than 100 years before the book burning event: “where books are burned, in the end people will burn” (“Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen”).

On September 9, 2006, an organization called “Dropping Knowledge”, which aims to encourage social change through dialogue, held an event named “The Table of Free Voices” in Bebelplatz, a very appropriate location for that, if you ask me. You can read all about it, and much more, in their website.

Berlin must-sees: Unter Den Linden

16 08 2007

Unter den Linden Boulevard stretches from Brandenburg Gate to Schlossbrücke (palace bridge), at the heart of Berlin’s Mitte quarter. It exists since 1573, but rose to importance under Friedrich the Great. The linden trees (lime) were cut down by Hitler’s order (he had very different plans for that place). The buildings were pretty much destroyed in WW2. Some were reconstructed, others built anew. The trees were of course planted again.

Unter den Linden.

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Berlin Must-Sees: Museum Island (Museumsinsel)

12 08 2007

The Museum Island (Museuminsel), a UNESCO National Heritage site (since 1999) is really a very special place, and one of the true pearls of Berlin’s Mitte quarter. It all started in 1830, when King Friedrich Wilhelm the 3 wanted to let the general public view the royal art treasures of Germany. That’s when the Old Museum (Alte Museum) was built.


The Old Museum.

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Berlin must-sees: Pariser Platz

8 08 2007

Pariser Platz is the square linking The Brandenburg Gate to the Unter den Linden Boulevard.

Pariser Platz. Pariser Platz again.

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Room of Silence (Raum der Stille)

6 08 2007

The “Room of Silence” is located in the north side of the Brandenburg Gate. It is inspired by the meditation room in the UN building in New York. The room was opened in 1994, and offers the people passing by a chance to sit down in silence, meditate, rest and so on, and is decorated with abstract pictures. We can tell you it is indeed a very relaxing, positive experience. They have a website, but it’s in German only.

Opening Hours: Apr-Oct 11:00 -18:00, Nov & Jan-Mar 11:00 -17:00, Dec 11:00 -16:00.

Good to know: there is a tourist information store on the other side of the brandenburg gate, where you can buy maps.

Berlin must-sees: Brandenburg Gate

4 08 2007

Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) is one of the most prominent “trademarks” of Berlin. Located at the west end of Mitte quarter it is the only remaining city gate, and also became a symbol of the division of the city, because it was situated in the “no-man’s land” just behind the wall (click on the images to enlarge).

Brandenburg Gate and bear. Brandenburg Gate ruins.

Brandenburg Gate Quadriga. Brandenburg gate at night.

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