Raffish, artsy, edgy, decadent with layers of history from its past as the capital of the Third Reich to its division by The Wall, Berlin has almost too much to experience in one visit. Remnants of The Wall are still on view as well as vestiges of World War II and current memorials. Culturally rich, the city has an active art scene, a plethora of museums, double performance venues dating from its days divided since both the West and the East required their own and a throbbing nightlife scene with nearly 300 clubs located in everything from a former power station to a reclaimed passenger ship. Like many other places around the world, highlights are visible online until visitors from around the world can see them in person. Maybe the long, long delayed new airport will also be open by then.
To get a visual overview of this sprawling city, youvisit.com has a 360 view panorama of several essential sights. Among them: the Reichstag, the building housing the country’s Parliament, the Brandenburg Gate, the city’s most famous landmark and symbol of the formerly divided city, the stark, sobering Holocaust Memorial and the baroque Bode-Museum, the centerpiece of the collection on Museum Island. Visit Berlin also has an iPhone/Android app About Berlin with historical and current footage.
To go inside the Bode-Museum, originally called the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum when it was constructed from 1898-1904, to see its lavishly decorated, Italian inspired exhibition halls, there’s another 360 degree portal. 61 rooms of sculpture and Byzantine art are on display including sarcophagi from Ancient Rome, objects from ancient Egypt and Renaissance and Baroque era Italian sculpture.
The DDR Museum houses a very different collection: exhibits showing the daily life of citizens in East Berlin during the years in which they were cut off from the West. It’s interactive, allowing visitors to literally get their hands on/sit in items ranging from listening devices to spy on citizens, a typical tower block apartment, a prison cell, the notoriously unreliable locally made car the Trabant and a television showing programs of that time. One of the simplest and most troubling items I saw on a visit was a simple brown covered notebook in which a government plant within an apartment block recorded the activities and visitors of his neighbors, demonstrating how much everyone at all times was under surveillance.
The Wall, constructed in 1961 to keep the citizens in Communist East Berlin from crossing to the West, is commemorated in several places around the city. The Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse is one of the most vivid and sobering, dedicated to citizens lost trying to escape to the West located on a street that was literally split down the middle, with one side in the East, the other in the West. Attempts to help residents in the East escape are detailed in historical videos on the site Risking Freedom.
The longest stretch of The Berlin Wall that is still intact is the East Side Gallery, a 1.3 km long collection of 101 painted images that began a year after its fall in 1989. The tone is more uplifting here, celebrating freedom and the hope for a better society.
As part of that current day, open society, the club scene, while currently shut down, is still alive through its DJs playing the sets they would be playing if the clubs were open. They’re live streaming during the hours that Berliners would be dancing through United We Stream in association with Arte Concert. Berlin (a) live also has DJ sets as well as other musical live streams plus pre-recorded theater and art presentations such as a performance of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (best, of course, for those who speak German.) Berlin Buhnen also has a lineup of performances, both musical and theatrical. And for those who want the soothing orchestral sounds of the Berliner Philharmoniker, their digital concert hall has a collection of their concerts from their archive online.