Berlin and Environs

In the heart of Berlin, looking down the river Spree, old buildings left and right
Looking down the Spree in the heart of Berlin

Berlin and Environs

The battered old capital of Germany is slowly knitting together, and generally, looking pretty good. The central part of town, where the Berlin Wall stood, important areas like Potsdamer Platz, have not been re-built. Architects from all over the world are busy drawing plans. No one concept seems to have won out. Mercedes-Benz broke ground for its complex - just now - at the end of October. What is sure, is that Germany's government in Bonn will be moving to Berlin in about five years - or so they say: Berliners are skeptical. The government members have homes in Bonn and a comfortable West German life, they would have to buy new homes in Berlin, a city they don't know or like, and restructure their lives. It would be like moving from Sonoma County to L.A. -- the Government has thousands of employees. Inevitably though, the government will move to Berlin.

Subway-lines that existed before the war and were divided for the forty years of East Germany's existence, are now reinstated, though - Berliners say -they are still not functioning as well as they did in 1929. West Berliners now go into the center of their city- in East Berlin - for this and that, mainly for cultural events. But basically they still haven't formed relationships there and spend most of their time in their original neighborhoods. In many senses, the Wall still exists - in peoples' minds. Also,there are special political problems that bother everyone. East Germans make only 80 percent of what Westerners make. In Berlin, which is all in the East, this makes no sense at all.

Tower observatory built for EinsteinThe environs around Berlin are accessible now, some of them fascinating, like Potsdam, where Sansouci, the palace of Frederick the Great is viewable, and the Einstein Tower, erected for Albert Einstein by the architect Erich Mendelsohn when the great physicist Einstein was head of the Prussian Academy of the Sciences. He had a study and an observatory here, a very futuristic design for the 'twenties, that seems like a submarine conning- and ivory tower observatory wrapped into one.

What the Russians left

a metal gate to a broken-down barracks area Officer housing also in terrible condition

The Russian forces left nothing but devastated buildings and rubble when they left their sites. These are near Potsdam, just west of Berlin. Their sites are all toxic. The American Army left its Berlin facilities in June and since the Americans were in the habit of taking over the best places after WWII, they gave the Berliners back some prime real estate, all of it in very good condition.


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Proceed to Part 2: Freiburg: Living the Good Life or, switch to another Part:

1. Berlin and Environs--Top of document
3. Jena and Environs: Work in East Germany
4. The Klemms: an East German family
5. Building, Housing and Work in Jena
6. Kahla, an East German Success Story
7. Buchenwald and Beyond: The continuing legacy of the Holocaust
8. Duisburg: The East-West Unification Blues

9. Return to Index