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Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Unter den linden, Berlin

Unter den Linden

Under the linden trees, Berlin

Unter den Linden is a street/avenue/boulevard in Berlin it's one that features in books set in Berlin. Either as a point of nostalgia of better times before the war or set in those heady fun times when Berlin was the place to be. From the books I read, the nostalgia aspect appealed to me, Friederikstrasse where I was staying leads straight onto Unter den Linden. Checking a map I saw that the Brandenburg Gate, which was to be my first stop, was at the end of Unter den Linden. Off I went. Sadly though at the moment the road is a construction site! A new subway line is being built connecting Potsdam Platz with Alexander Platz right under Unter den Linden so it's not so much an elegant avenue as one with construction hoarding all around!

During World War II the linden trees that gave the road its name were all cut down for firewood, but in the 1950s new trees were planted and these are the ones you can see now. I went to the Brandenburg Gate first but Unter den Linden technically starts at the other end, at the Museum Island end (where's there's even more construction!)



The Palace Bridge and the building with the most prestigious address, 1 Unter den Linden. It's called Alte Kommandantur, the original building was badly damaged during World War II and then completely destroyed by the East Germans who built their Foreign Affairs building on the site. That too was demolished and a media company rebuilt the original, there were no plans so the architects had only old photographs and some eye witness reports as to what the building looked like. It was completed in 2003.


Also down by the river the old Arsenal, called the Zeughaus is the oldest building on Unter den Linden. It was built in the late 17th and early 18th century as an artillery arsenal to display cannons from Brandenburg and Prussia. It was later opened as a military museum. It was badly damaged in WWII and restored by the East German government for it to house a museum of German history in the modern era from the communist point of view. It's now the site of the German Historical Museum.


The Crown Prince Palace.

With the removal of the royals in Germany at the end of World War I, the Crown Prince's Palace became an annex of the National Gallery, housing mainly modern art. During the 1930s when Hitler was at the height of his power, he closed the gallery and ordered the destruction of the modern art it housed, only 5 paintings and 10 drawings were not destroyed. The building itself was badly damaged by bombing raids in WWII, the East Germans restored the palace in 1968 and used it as a guest house for visitors to East Berlin. Since the reunification it is used for special exhibitions and cultural events.


Statue of Frederick II of Prussia.

The story behind the statue is probably more interesting than the statue itself, here was a sign in English as well giving some background to it. The statue now is back in its original place on the medium strip of Unter den Linden. During WWII to protect it, it was encased in concrete. After the war it the area it was in became part of East Berlin and in 1950 the statue was moved to Potsdam to the Sans Souci estate, then in 1962 it got moved back to Berlin and the Charlottenhof palace. In the 1980s it was restored and moved to a few metres of its original position, with reunification, more restoration was carried out, the statue moved to its original position and the wrought-iron railing and old lamp-posts recreated and that's what you see now.



The Royal Library, Humbolt University.



The French Church.



The Concert Hall.

These two buildings are part of the same complex and I basically turned a corner and went 'Wow gorgeous buildings' no idea what they were or that they were there. I had just looked at a map for a shortcut to Unter den Linden to walk to Alexanderplatz!



The Russian Embassy (and some linden trees!)

This was just near the Brandenburg Gate, a sign explained that the property was first purchased by one of the Tsars in the late 19th century, it was to be their Berlin home. With the overthrow of the Tsar, the Soviets made it their embassy, much of it was destroyed in WWII and the building that is there is very much an example of postwar Soviet architecture. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, it is now the Russian Embassy.



The Brandenburg Gate.

The Brandenburg Gate was the main Berlin landmark that I was familiar with, so planned to visit it my first morning in Berlin. This was one site I just didn't stumble upon!

The gate was built on the site of an ancient gate which was an entry to Berlin from Brandenburg. It's a monumental gate to Unter den Linden the road that led to the City Palace of the Prussian royals. It was badly damaged in WWII and then left adrift and isolated next to the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. Finally restored from 2000 to 2002 and it looks beautiful now.



The Tiergarten side of the gate, a band was playing so a nice bit of local flavour.

Other than the Brandenburg Gate, all the other places I've listed on Unter den Linden, I had no idea they were there, it was a lot of pleasant surprises. I took pictures (around the construction that was going on!) of pretty buildings and then researched as to what they were! Interesting to me at least was this area was all part of East Berlin, it seemed as though the Soviets at the end of WWII got (albeit badly damaged) the most attractive part of the city.





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