Berlin, Alexanderplatz and East German Style

Alexanderplatz postcard

I had considered visiting Berlin several times over the last ten years, there are nearly always cheap flights available but for some reason I have never made it there.  I had often come very close to booking flights but then somewhere more appealing has nicked in ahead of the German capital at the last minute and I have made alternative plans.  Berlin would always have to wait.

This time I had no excuse not to go because I was invited to a gentlemen’s weekend away (ok, a stag party) so together with my brother Richard a party of boys several years younger than me, I left East Midlands Airport early one morning and two hours later was drinking beer at Schoenefeld Flughafen.

My travelling companions…

Berlin Beer

The remainder of the first day was mostly spent drinking beer the details of which I won’t bore you with but on the second day while the boys went off to do boy’s stuff Richard and I planned a walking tour of the city.  The third most visited city in Europe (31m) after London (80m) and then Paris (48m).

We were staying at a hotel in Alexanderplatz so our tour began right there.  Not the most thrilling place in the World I have to say, a large concrete public square and transport hub that was once a main square of the ex German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

The place is vast and soulless, a sprawling mass of functional concrete, glass and steel.  It is completely without charm or anything remotely pleasing to the eye.  I have to take into consideration of course that only seventy-five years ago Berlin was practically a wasteland courtesy of the Soviet Red Army but there seems to have been a collective agreement in Germany not to build anything that could ever be accused of being attractive.

A block of abandoned flats awaiting demolition makes my point for me…

Alexanderplatz derelict flats

I contrast this with the reconstruction work in other European countries.  In Poland for example it seems to me have made a much better job of putting things back together in the major cities of Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw.  But for me France stands out in the matter of restoration as they took time and imagination to rebuild their ruined infrastructure.  Even earlier, after the siege of Paris in 1871 they built a grand city to replace the ruins of the Prussian bombardment and post 1945 they rebuilt towns and cities with style.  St Malo in Brittany stands out for me as a perfect example.

Trains, trams and cars all busily converge at Alexanderplatz and people hurry through past the homeless people in their temporary cardboard homes underneath a concrete railway bridge decorated with graffiti, there are no pavement bars and cafés because it simply isn’t an pleasing place to stop or linger.  It is stripped bare of vivacity, a cheerless place that lacks any sparkle, a rather dreary place to live I imagine.

Alexanderplatz World Clock

For anyone that does want to loiter there is the World Clock that tells the current time in nearly one hundred and fifty major cities from around the world and which in 2015 the German government declared to be a historical and culturally significant monument.  Really?  It isn’t the Eiffel Tower or the London Eye that’s for sure and Alexanderplatz is neither an elegant Spanish plaza or a cultured Italian piazza.

In the centre of Alexanderplatz I concede there is one very impressive structure, the Fernsehturm, a television tower, which at three hundred and seventy metres high is the tallest structure in Germany, and the third-tallest in the European Union two metres shorter than the Torreta de Guardamar in Spain and half a metre shorter than the Riga Radio and TV Tower in Latvia.  Once a symbol of Communist power it has now been adopted as a trademark of the unified city and enjoys National Monument status.

Alexanderplatz Tower

We found a busy restaurant and had an excellent breakfast even though we had to pay for the tea and coffee on top of the food bill and then without regret we slipped out of Alexanderplatz heading south.

Soon after we came across the Red Town Hall, a brutal building built in a style representing Teutonic muscle, German authority and Prussian power.  It was badly damaged during the Second World War but was quickly restored to original plans soon after by the East German regime.  I didn’t care for it I have to say.

At this point we were still in what was East Berlin and our plan, such as we had one was to make our way to what was once Check Point Charlie, where east met west and then cross to what was West Berlin and make our way steadily west towards the Reichstag building and the Tiergarten.

I hoped that Berlin might improve as we went along, after all it has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, just one less than London, one more than Rome (surprising) and two more than Paris which has only one.

Welcome to Berlin

33 responses to “Berlin, Alexanderplatz and East German Style

  1. So, not a huge fan, I gather?

    . . . except for the beer, I assume . . . although going by the surly looks in your companion’s faces, even that might not have been up to par.


  2. So many people seem to end up staying in/around Alexander Platz and it is indeed not the best part of the city. Personally I love Berlin but I wouldn’t recommend that part to anyone apart from an excursion to the top of the TV tower so you can see all the nice bits!


  3. Hearsay numbers again thé official since 1949 are UN WTO where all local tourist offices report to and Paris is first lol!!!


  4. Still trying to work out why Berlin for a stag weekend and not Prague where beer is at least as cheap if not cheaper? Anyway I appreciate your post as it has reinforced my lifetime achievement of never having visited Germany.


  5. Bet they made good beer though; drank great beer in Salzburg when I went there to visit Mozart, he was out, but the beer leaves the Aussie stuff for dead.
    Only thing I liked about Paris was that tower, sooner have gone to Berlin or perhaps Bonn visit Ludvig


  6. There are lots of lovely places in Berlin and I hope you find some of them on this trip.


  7. We went on a school trip to the Soviet Union in 1969 and came back through Checkpoint Charlie. It was very spectacular and tourists would surely pay to see it all re-enacted, especially the mirror on a long handled trolley, looking for escapers on the bus chassis.


  8. Maybe something more than buildings was destroyed by the war and the East German government.


  9. I really loved Berlin. Lots to do, but then I wasn’t on a stag night – or even a hen night! I do agree that Alexanderplatz is just a place to pass through. Both times we were there lots of restoration work was going on elsewhere, last time at Unter den Linden. The only other German city I have visited for any length of time, ie a week, is Munich and it has been beautifully rebuilt. I also like the way the museums and memorials deal with Germany’s 20C history: they face it straight on.


  10. One day Berlin, but too many other interesting places on the list.. 😉


  11. I’ve never warmed to photos I’ve seen of the city but people I know have loved it so you can only judge for yourself. I won’t be rushing there any time soon but that says more about me than Berlin. Enjoy Checkpoint Charlie, Andrew? 😊💕


  12. I can see you were not that impressed. And I will give you much of the city was destroyed and not rebuild in a very impressive fashion. There are a few nice Squares in the center though – like the Buildings of Humbult univercity around Bebel Platz and the Gendarmarkt close to Check Point Charlie. I guess you missed out on those two.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.