I first visited Berlin in the early 1980s. Berlin was then a divided city. I stayed in the Western zone near the Kurfurstendamm, which at the time was the heart of Berlin. I took a one day bus tour to the East. We crossed through Checkpoint Charlie. The bus was thoroughly searched by East German border guards. In contrast, the American military just let us pass freely.
The West was vibrant with shops, restaurants and people everywhere. In contrast, buildings in the East still showed signs of having been bombed in the war. There were Soviet style memorials throughout East Berlin. Our East German guide was openly dispirited and seemed to be reciting a script he was told to speak, especially when he spoke of “warm relations” with the then Soviet Union. At the end of the day, I was glad to be back in the West where I felt free and comfortable.
In 2018, I went back to Berlin to see an undivided, transformed and reinvented Berlin, still under construction 73 years after the end of WWII. I stayed near the Kurfurstendamm so I could compare my experience today with the early 1980s. My hotel —Pension Peters— is a small owner-managed hotel, where I felt like a temporary resident in a nice Berlin neighborhood.
I saw the transformation of Berlin immediately. The Kurfurstendamm is no longer the center of town. The heart of Berlin today is in the former East, which was a shambles when I was last there. The Kurfurstendamm is now a nice shopping street in a lovely Berlin neighborhood called City West but isn’t the heart of the capital.Continue reading “Berlin: A Wonderful Capital City”