NOWHERE ROARED LOUDER IN THE TWENTIES THAN GERMANY’S CAPITAL CITY, BERLIN.
The old Reichstag building, now the German Parliament, and below, the Berlin Wall. Left: Berlin Oberbaumbridge and below, Berlin Cathedral. photos // thinkstock
Short- stay visitors to Berlin will focus on the Mitte, where the principal sights are to be found. I base myself at the excellent budget hotel Motel One BerlinHauptbahnhof – named after the nearby main railway station into Berlin.
Bravely, I opt for some unconventional methods of sightseeing. First, I take a tour in a bicycle Velotaxi. Pedalled by a fi t young man, who acts as my guide, I perch at the back of the vehicle, sheltered by a small roof, and with a blanket over my lap. It’s like being conveyed by rickshaw in the Far East in colonial days.
My next expedition is a Trabi Safari, a two- hour car trip along the route of the Wall, and its separate Inner Wall, covered by graffi ti and also more serious art.
Berlin has never had a reputation for great architecture. The old Reichstag building – now the German Parliament, the Bundestag – does however have a striking glass dome created by British architect Sir Norman Foster.
The interesting things in Berlin Mitte lie indoors – in the shops, multitude of restaurants and bars, theatres, cabarets, clubs and, above all, in the wonderful museums. There are fi ve of these on the so- called Museum Island and many more elsewhere.
Berlin has not shied away from its twelve grim years under Hitler. There is a riveting photographic display of some of the terrors of those times in the bomb- site basement of what used to be the Gestapo headquarters, at the Topographie des Terrors.
For me, the greatest symbol of Berlin’s renaissance is the rebirth of the Potsdamer Platz. It is back in business and, what had been ground zero, is a busy traffi c intersection once again and the home of skyscrapers – which stand out in Berlin’s low- rise skyline.
On Ebertstrasse, which runs up from Potsdamer Platz to the Brandenburg Gate, lies an important and signifi cant memorial. It is modern Germany’s riposte to the anti- Semitic policies of the Third Reich, which led to the murder of millions of Jews in the Holocaust.
The memorial takes the form of more than 2700 unmarked blocks of grey stone, which visitors can wander through. The experience is designed to refl ect the disorientation and sense of being lost which the Jews suffered.
That period of history may be diffi cult for many to accept, but it’s important to recall that before Hitler rose to power, this buzzing city was one of the most exciting places in Europe.
Today, much of that vibrancy and excitement appears to be resurfacing. Nightclubs may have taken the place of cabaret halls and cloche hats may have been replaced by an array of gravity- defying hairstyles, but that same spirit of carefree decadence is still very much alive.