The new Berliner Schloss

This morning, I awoke with good intention but with the same ill and exhausted weakness as before, during the past two weeks. I got up, took a bath and had breakfast, but felt myself getting weaker and emptier. I decided to take a nap again, until feeling rested, but instead fell into a deep sleep for a few hours. When awakened again, I still felt ill, but hoped that with fresh air and the exercise of a small excursion, I would feel refreshed. This, turned out to be the case.

Charlene and I jumped on the U8 to Wittenau, and got out at Alexander Platz. I immediately recognized the wide market, where before the hustlers played their ball tricks in the early nineties. They are now gone, the new hustlers now are the politicians of the new unified Germany. We walk along the U-Bahnhof beneath the immense Fernsehturm, with its awkward, but certainly not doubtlessly ugly design. Its awkwardness itself is a reason for appreciation. From the Fernsehturn, on the other side from the Marienkirche, we saunter along the Rathausstrasse, but cut into the green surrounding the Neptunbrunnen. With the weathered bronze statues behind us, we cross over to the Marx-Engels-Forum, now the guests from the centrally located Radisson Hotel have a perfect view over this monument to the labor class struggle. On the other side, the Spree and the Kupfergrabenkanal surround the Museen Insel, with at its shore, the half stripped down Palast der Republik and on it’s opposite, the magnificent Berliner Dom. Here via the Liebknecht Brücke we enter the most popular tourist area, with the most beautiful musea in the world. We will return here later during our visit, many more times. We now cross the Kupfergrabenkanal via the Schlossbrücke, with the white marble statues, it resembles a shortened and cleaned up version of the Charlesbridge in Prague. I do not recognize the figures that are depicted, but hope to learn and fill in all the gaps in my knowledge of Berlin this year.

From here we walk to the Brandenburger Tor and to the Jewish Memorial across the new to be build American Embassy. The Französischer Platz now is dominated by the beautiful French embassy, not as historic as the Russian Embassy with its square top tower that looks like Lenin’s tomb in white marble with a starred flagpole, a little down Unter den Linden, but certainly as elegant.

A short passage through the Tiergarten and we end up at the Sony Center near Potsdammer Platz. The Sony Center’s roof is an eye catching glass cover, whose eye is offset from the middle, creating an impression of an interrupted or misplaced oval. Parts of the glass roof is spun by single wings of canvass, as once the Roman theatre was believed to carry. The inner court becomes a lively spectacle itself, with layers of spectators, a prestigious yard for Volkswagen’s virtual test drive-inn or the 3D cinema. It’s a little disappointing to notice how introverted this vividness is, and how dead the outer spaces of the Sony Center still are. Potsdammer Platz is still very much a drawing table’s product. The SAT1 balloon that continuously goes up and down into the air, carrying the rare tourists daring to be airlifted with a single cable’s lifeline attached, creates some life, but the huge traffic square in front of Potsdammer Bahnhof is not much more than dead space being crossed by the black spots of people traversing the empty field of architectural dreams. The intimacy of the Sony Center’s court, where order and harmony is meticulously avoided, is in stark contrast with the Potsdammer Platz’s solitude, which despite the many new buildings has not been filled.

At Potsdammer Platz we take the U2 to Ruhleben, getting out at Nollendorfplatz. There we walk along Einemstraße, up to Kurfürstenstraße, where we take a left. At the entrance to the Zoologischer Garten’s Aquarium we cross over to Tauentzien, from where we walk to the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche. The blue-colored glass stones of the memorial completely overshadow the remnants of the neo-Romanesque tower ruins.

There is a small fair taking place, offering products and information from the Staat Brandenburg. At the side of the market, next to an Asian stand, we eat a warm Gëmëz (Gënzëm?), a traditional meat roll from rural Anatolia, Turkey. The stand offers only Dürürm or Gëmëz, either with different fillings of spinach and goat cheese, meat, or vegetables. We rest and recuperate at the steps, behind the street artists, who work on their drawings or sell their feathered Indian-looking ornaments.
We walk down Kurfürstendamm before taking the U15 and U1 home to Hermannplatz.

When I visited Berlin ten years ago, a discussion was still ongoing at the time about the rebuilding of the Berliner Schloss, which was blasted down by the order of SED party leader Walter Ulbricht on 7 September 1950. To back up the call for reconstruction and stir up public support for the plan, the façade at the time was covered by a giant screen hanging in front of the former Staatsrat building, representing the old façade. In the place of the Berliner Schloss ruins came the Marx-Engels Platz and the Palast der Republik, the terrain serving as a parade ground for the new Communist GDR. In November 2003 however, the Bundstag decided to irreversibly rebuild the palace of Berlin by public financing. Now, the public is offered to contribute and buy a stone for €250, or the more generous funders may buy a portal or a window frame. In return, the sponsor will be mentioned in stone in the palace walls as contributing founder.

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