Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hamburger Bahnhof and the Reichstag

On our last full day in Berlin we took the tram to Hackescher Markt and spent some time wandering around the renovated courtyards of Hackeshe Hofe, a complex of apartments and interlocking courtyard spaces originally built in 1906-7 by young Jewish idealists. When this area was part of East Berlin and the GDR they were forgotten, crumbling, derelict buildings. They were restored in the 1990s according to the original plans, and now form part of the glamorous shopping district of a reborn Mitte.

We continued walking north west on Oranienberger Strasse, the "spine" of the former wealthy and vibrant Jewish quarter of old Berlin. We come to the Neue Synagoge, a partial reconstruction of the almost terminally damaged original. Work started on reconstructing the dome and the facade in 1989. Behind the facade there are now offices and a small museum - more reminders of Berlin's violent past. 

Further along we come to the (in)famous Tacheles building.  It had been vacant and derelict for years in old East Berlin. The building was squatted by artists after the fall of the wall in 1989 who then dominated the artistic sensibilities of the whole district for a decade or so. The government offered to sell the building (cheaply) to the squatters in1997 but they refused the offer. In 1998 it was bought by a German company who are currently engaged in its reconstruction......but it looks like they have an awfully long way to go yet.

After a few false moves we eventually find our way left into Invalidenstrasse and are then surprised by our discovery of Sarah Wiener im Hamburger Bahnhof Cafe Restaurant on the banks of this offshoot of the River Spree. It all looks very charming today but I am taking the pic below from a bridge that used to form part of the wall where there were many deaths from people trying to escape across it.

We had lunch here before visiting the Hamburger Barnhof, Museum for Contemporary Art. The museum was opened in 1997 in a beautifully converted former railway station. It draws its exhibitions from the incredible Flick (note, that is not the Frick) collection. Although this visit I was most impressed by the the works in the temporary exhibition - collected works from the Marx collection.  Marx (not Karl!) obviously knew his stuff and has collected some wonderful Warhols, Lichtensteins, Rauschenbergs and the rest of their ilk. 

I thought Warhol's Mao was just stunning - and I had never seen it before (and his 10 Foot Flowers).

We were fortunate enough, granted that I didn't get on to the booking website until earlier in the the week, to be allowed a space on the 8.00pm roster to view the the Reichstag's Dome on our last evening in Berlin (the last space left for the week). Since it was opened in 1894 to house the German Diet it's been severely damaged by fire in 1933, almost obliterated by allied bombing at the end of WW11 and left with nothing much done to it after the war.  Like so much else in Berlin the building was fully restored (virtually reconstructed) after reunification in 1990. It now houses the Bundestag (the Federal Government Diet) since 1999.

It was quite stressful making our way in - VERY TIGHT security, very officious. I didn't have a printed copy of our booking (no printer you see) and we had our passports examined and full security check. Physically, the building is not easy to enter now with special air locks and security lifts and there is no way you can just wander around the building, everything is VERY closely monitored - anyway we made it in....

This is a pic of Rob on the roof of the Reichstag looking out over the River Spree and the old East Berlin.

And this is a crap copy of a (not bad) pic of Rob in the grounds of the Reichstag overlooking the River Spree and the old East Berlin in 1975.  In those days the badly damaged building was not the Bundestag and you could wander all around and over it.

The newly constructed dome of the Reichstag is a technological, environmental and aesthetic marvel (in my humble opinion).  It opens up the parliamentary chambers to light, air and movement (and heating and cooling) and symbolises the transparency of the new Republic's democratic government.

This was an amazing thing to do on our last night in Berlin...and it even gave us one last magical view of the Brandenberg Tor.  Auf wiedersehen Berlin; you are one amazing city.

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