At the Gates of Modernity
Berlin 2012. To get from East to West you need not dig a tunnel, hide in a car trunk or hop on a hot air balloon. Simply take S bahn from Friedrichstrasse (the border station) or just walk through the Brandenburg Gate.
Today’s Berlin is a city of contrasts. Bullet scarred buildings from WWII provide a juxtaposition against an ultramodern metropolis. The four-year-old Berlin Hauptbahnhof(main train station) is one such example. Combining striking architecture with the mobility requirements of 21st century travelers, the station is one of the largest and most contemporary in Europe.
And speaking of contemporary, Berlin’s modern art scene is truly thriving. Set in an old train station, the Hamburger Bahnhof may have an old façade, but inside holds a collection of works from the 1960s to the present. Past exhibitions have included Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly.
And there lies one of the many contrasts. You can see modernity flourish in art and architecture, but it’s hard to ignore the city’s solemn history. You can step back in time at the Mauer Museum on the same site as the former Checkpoint Charlie. The DDR museum featuring artifacts from the former East Germany. The Jewish museum contains a history of German Jews. The Berlin Holocaust Memorial, located one block south of the Brandenburg Gate, provides a grim, emotional reminder of a time that no one can, nor should, forget.
If you want to see how the city has come together, a great overview is the Berlin hop-on/hop-off bus tour. Freely stop at attractions all over Berlin. Just imagine, having the freedom to do what Berliners could only have dreamed of not that long ago.
For a day trip to one of Germany’s most scenic cities, just hop on the train 30 minutes to Potsdam, home to great wealth and historic movie culture. Rail Europe offers a Potsdam City Sightseeing Tour on board a double-decker, open-air bus. Visit the enormous Park Sassoud with over 700 acres of gardens and palaces first started by Fredrick the Great. The brick gabled houses of the Dutch Quarter. And for film buffs, the Filmpark Babelsberg, where many silent films were made.
Maybe you’re looking to relax poolside after a day of touring. Why not hit the beach! In Berlin? It’s possible when you take a day trip south to Krausnick, the man-made Tropical Island Resort. Home to the world’s largest indoor pool and water park, it also contains an artificial rainforest, hot-air ballooning and a camping ground, where visitors can stay for the night inside the climate-controlled dome. What else would you expect from a country known for engineering?
If you prefer to be more of a traveler than a tourist, catch the Paris-Germany night train. Purchase a sleeper compartment and breakfast is included. Board in Berlin, wake for croissants in Paris. Take a plane? Not someone with your level of savoir-faire. For closer traveler pursuits, get to Prague in five hours on the Eurocity train, and Hamburg in just 90 minutes via ICE.
Today’s Berlin - hip, influential, current. And oh so cool. Just like those who visit.
Contributed by: Adam, Travel Consultant for Rail Europe