Two hours out of Berlin, taking the train from Hauptbanhof, is the city of Dessau, home to the Bauhaus School in the years between the decline of the Weimar republic and the rise of Nazi Germany. A testament to changing times and attitudes, the buildings represent a style of building established many years later. Turn right out of Dessau station and the main school buildings are five minutes’ walk away. Here you can stop for a tour and find out more about the work that inspired architects and designers for years to come, as well as grab a beer and something to eat in the basement restaurant; but there is much more with the masters’ houses a few minutes away and then a stylish restaurant on the banks of the Elbe a further ten minutes walk. All over the city are examples of the work of members of the school, with also the delight of taking one of the city’s trams to see the southern suburbs. The city is a must for the architectural history enthusiast as well as the social historian.
Deassau Station has a regular service direct from Berlin Hauptbanhof.
Google map: bit.ly/Sp9oLu
"Brush with the devil in the 'other' Frankfurt."
On the easternmost frontier of Germany and separated from Poland by the Oder river is the other Frankfurt. An hour by train from Berlin this is the birthplace of Heinrich von Kleist, the C18th playwright and author of Prinz Friedrich von Homburg. Magnificent, red brick Gothic buildings dominate this old Hanseatic outpost. The Marienkirche church includes unique and incredible C14th stained glass windows depicting the life of the very normal looking antichrist and his pack of demons. Wander over the river to Slubice, part of Frankfurt until 1945, for lunch in Poland.
Google map: bit.ly/SpaC9I
Even with the wealth of architecture to see in Berlin, it's good to get out of the city and visit a small town in former East Germany that was so influential in development of craft, art and design.
Dessau was the home of the Bauhaus from 1926 to 1932, with such 'masters' as Kandinsky and Klee, and designers like Josef & Anni Albers. There are numerous groundbreaking white concrete-faced buildings around town, but the highlight is Gropius' Bauhaus building, with its stylish balconies and wealth of workshops inside.
From Berlin, trains are only 90 minutes from Hauptbahnhof, costing around £35 return. Once in Dessau, all of the buildings are free to visit, and there are frequent guided tours in English and German.
You will get to see the Masters' Houses decorated just as when they lived in them, and a short tram ride away is an entire estate of 1930s workers housing, some of which you can visit or even stay in!
In the area around Mulackstrasse you'll find a lot of good new architecture. Not really large houses, and sometimes even solutions for just one family - but only ten minutes away from Alexanderplatz.
There is for example the white Case Study House 08 by HSH architects on the corner with Gormannstrasse. Another interesting building is the townhouse by plus4930 architects (Mulackstr. 16). The houses in this district are not as high as in the rest of the city and even the roads are smaller. That's why the district has a very typical flair. Mulackstrasse is not far away from Hackescher Markt and you'll find a lot of bars and shopping opportunities here.
A vast ghost airport - you probably won't see anybody about, but don't hesitate to come in. Hitler's and Albert Speer's pride, Tempelhof had to be closed in 2004, but still operates some flights.
U-Bahn Platz der Luftbrücke
A suburb of old West Berlin which still feels like a medieval village a million miles away from Berlin. Full of 12 and 13th century timber-framed houses straight from a children's story. Off the tourist trail but it's worth seeing for an idea of how Berlin was before the wall was erected.
U-bahn line 7 will take you into heart of Spandau.
An independent city bordering Berlin with it's own unique character. It's full of wonderful churches and the old town hall is not to be missed. A must see is Parc Sansouci - allow a whole day to see it all.
Only 30-45 minutes from Mitte on Line 7 of the S-bahn. Direct line to Potsdam Hautbanhof (Potsdam city centre).
The former demonstration boulevard of the GDR, the Allee is a unique site, offering a glimpse into the political and architechtural past of East Germany. It has integrated itself well into the West, offering various shops and restaurants. There is a wonderful beer shop along the Allee offering at least 300 different brews; just a little more enticement if you're into that kind of thing...
A sumptuous palace, more fit for a fairytale queen than the wife of Friedrich I. Replete with intricately networked galleries and stairwells, and a majestic cupola. Head west on the U Bahn and get schlosst in the imperial splendour of its labyrinthine interior. The lavish ballrooms and bedchambers serve as a seamless conduit to the late 1700s when Freddy built this Beckhamesque summer-home for his bride Sophie-Charlotte.
The highlight is the west wing; packed to its gilded ceilings with generous rococo detail that would have Mr. Llewellyn Bowen prostrating himself on the parquet floors in awe of the designer’s decadent lack of restraint. The audio guide is a must and its sophistication is in keeping with the rest of the grandeur.
There’s a stunning backdrop to boot; marbled lawns and immaculate hedgerows, good enough to eat. These evocative gardens, delectably manicured in French Baroque, are wistfully nostalgic. More magical Prussian history than you can shake a pretzel at.
Charlottenburg, Altes Schloss
Spandauer Damm 20-24
Tel.: 32 091-440
[Line U2, Sophie-Charlotte-Platz]
The Palast der Republik's ugly copper shell is a familiar site to anyone who has been to this part of Berlin. A former parliament building for the GDR, it was built by Erich Honicker to show off the wonders of socialism to international visitors. Since 1990 it's been closed because of problems caused by (British-supplied) asbestos. This has now been stripped out - along with much of the interior in preparation for redevelopment, and the building is now safe for visitors.
Tours are conducted, in German only. They run hourly on weekend afternoons during September and October, ahead of the building's demolition next year.
Tours advertised on the fence of the Palast on Unter den Linden. Nearest station Alexanderplatz.
See the "last built European Boulevard" by taking a walk eastwards from the astonishing Alexanderplatz. Take a look at the Cinema International with its fabulous lobby. By passing the Strausberger Platz you will enter Karl-Marx-Allee with its splendid and opulent façades (built in the early 1950s by socialist workers using war ruins). It was east Berlin's pride and aorta and, now again, there are nice cafes, art galleries and the street's sheer monumentality will take your breath.
Karl-Marx-Allee; nearest U-Bahn: Alexanderplatz or Strausberger Platz (U5)
It's a museum that tells the story of Checkpoint Charlie and those who tried to cross the wall in the bad old days of the divided city. The stories of those divided by the wall are really moving, and the tales of those who made it across the divide are astounding in their ingenuity. I spent hours here, even though it's just a small building, as there is just so much to take in.
A medieval brick fortress set on an island in the vast Havel river. Climb the Juliana tower for fabulous views of Spandau's centre.
Nearest u-bahn station is Zitadelle on line 7. Just a 10 minute walk down the busy main road between Berlin and Spandau.
Bank designed by Frank Gehry. The restrained facade hides a glazed atrium housing an amazing sculptural steel clad chamber. Tours on Monday morning or admire from the bank lobby.
Pariser Platz, next to Brandenburg Gate
Berliners would say I am crazy but I was quite intrigued by the former Eastern neighbourhood of Schöneweide. The facades of the buildings show many aspects of the Communisty way of life, and people's attitudes too. Not far from it, there is a beautiful park called Köpenick. It is definitely worth visiting - if you want to see real life rather than playing safe and seeing only what is touristy.
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