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Unter den Linden, picturesquely named for the linden trees that have historically been planted along it, is a wide boulevard that would have to be considered Berlin’s most prestigious stretch of road. Several of Berlin’s most historical buildings are located on this road, and it was heavily used by Prussian and German royalty during the years of Prussian and German royalty. It began life in the 16th Century as a bridle path from the Stadtschloss (city palace) to Elector John George of Brandenburg’s favorite hunting ground to the west, a forested area known as the Tiergarten. It was widened into a boulevard and planted with linden trees in the 17th Century.

The east end of Unter den Linden begins where a street called Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse crosses the Kupfergraben branch of the Spree and abruptly changes its name. The first historical building appears immediately on the right, a pinkish building from 1730 that was once an armory, but which is now the main building of the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum). We didn’t visit this museum, as our energy was lacking by this time, but we continued westward.


Deutsches Historisches Museum and Spree
Deutsches Historisches Museum and Spree River
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Statues, Deutsches Historisches Museum
Statues, Deutsches Historisches Museum
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We noticed at this time that none of the rumored linden trees were to be found along this stretch of road. This was nice in that it allowed for good views of the buildings, but also not so nice, as the stormy weather of a couple of days earlier had transformed into a heat wave, and the weather would have been made more bearable by the presence of some shady trees.

Continuing westward, we passed by some of the buildings of Humboldt University, a school I for one had never heard of. On looking into it afterward, I found it to have a remarkable history, however. It was founded in 1810 by Wilhelm von Humboldt (brother of geographer Alexander) with the name University of Berlin, a name that was changed a few times before arriving at the current Humboldt name. The list of people who have been associated with the school in one capacity or another is beyond impressive, including names like Otto von Bismarck, Albert Einstein, Heinrich Hertz and his nephew Gustav, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Otto Hahn, Werner Heisenberg, Hermann von Helmholtz, Felix Mendelssohn, Max Planck, Arthur Schopenhauer and Erwin Schrödinger, among many others.


Main Building, Humboldt University
Main Building, Humboldt University
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Max Planck Plaque
Max Planck Plaque
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During the years of Nazi and Communist power, dissent was strongly discouraged among the school’s faculty and student body, and many were deported or imprisoned; some simply disappeared. In 1948 the Free University of Berlin was established in West Berlin as an alternative. Humboldt University, much more tolerant of diverse viewpoints since reunification, now has about 33,000 students.

On the south side of Unter den Linden, we noticed another building with the school’s name across its top, and a large open area in front of it. This building is one of the University's library buildings, and the open area is known as Bebelplatz. It was formerly known as Opernplatz, and in 1933 it was the location of a famous Nazi-hosted burning of books taken from the University library, featuring guest speaker Joseph Goebbels. There is apparently a memorial consisting of a window into an underground chamber of empty bookshelves. We didn’t see this memorial, as we were on the wrong side of the street and unaware of its existence. We continued west.


University Library Building

University Library Building
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Just past Humboldt University we couldn’t help but notice a 44-foot-high equestrian statue in the middle of the street. This is a statue of Frederick the Great (Frederick II), King of Prussia from 1740-1786. It’s made of bronze and was completed in 1851. A lower tier of the statue shows life-sized depictions of some of Frederick’s most accomplished generals. More discussion of Frederick will appear on a future web page.

Statue of Frederick the Great
Statue of Frederick the Great
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Supporting Cast Members
Supporting Cast Members
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The Frederick statue marks the beginning of the actual linden trees on Unter den Linden. Their presence makes photography difficult, unless one wants photos of linden trees. But we did appreciate the shade, and we found a place to eat lunch, which we also appreciated. It had already been a busy day, and it was now past 3 PM – we were starting to wilt and needed refueling.

Pasta with Pesto
Pasta with Pesto
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Quiche with Vegetables
Quiche with Vegetables
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Eventually the linden trees ended and Unter den Linden dumped us out into a big open area. This area is called Pariser Platz, a name bestowed in 1814 in celebration of the defeat of Napoleon (temporary, as it turned out) and the occupation of France’s capital. The most famous landmark on Pariser Platz is the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor), which occupies its western boundary. The Brandenburg Gate was completed in 1791 as a symbol of peace under King Frederick William II. Perched atop the gate is a chariot-equipped goddess, represented over the years as either Peace or Victory, depending on who was doing the representing.

Nella and Connie, Brandenburg Gate
Nella and Connie, Brandenburg Gate
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Connie and Nella and Brandenburg Gate
Connie and Nella and Brandenburg Gate
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Quadriga Atop Brandenburg Gate
Quadriga Atop Brandenburg Gate
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Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate
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In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, Pariser Platz became a prestigious location, and was surrounded by foreign embassies, the city’s finest hotel and a number of expensive offices and apartments. But then Adolf Hitler happened, and as with the rest of Berlin, everything changed for Pariser Platz. First, Allied forces bombed the daylights out of it, flattening pretty much everything in the area (except for the Brandenburg Gate, which somehow survived mostly intact). Then the area, which was just inside the post-war Soviet-controlled sector of the city, was cleared and turned into a zone where it was most advisable to not be, as anyone appearing in it was subject to being shot. The Berlin Wall went up just on the other side of the Gate, and the area became the physical manifestation of the Iron Curtain.

But in 1987, just on the other side of the wall on the other side of the Gate, Ronald Reagan gave his "tear down this wall" speech, and by 1990 this is exactly what happened. There was a great deal of media coverage centered on the Brandenburg Gate area as the Berlin Wall went away. With Berlin (and Germany) reunified, it was determined that Pariser Platz should be returned to its former glory, and construction began. American and French embassies were established in prominent locations on the Platz, and the luxurious Adlon Hotel was rebuilt in the style of the original (Michael Jackson famously dangled his son Blanket from a balcony in 2002, to the universal horror of the American media). A Frank Gehry designed building (currently occupied by the DZ Bank) was built, and a museum devoted to the Kennedy family was opened (JFK’s 1963 "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech made him a local hero). There is even a Starbucks.


Connie and U.S. Embassy
Connie and U.S. Embassy
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Atrium of DZ Bank Building
Atrium of DZ Bank Building
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Hotel Adlon
Hotel Adlon
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Hotel Adlon, Kennedy Museum, Nella and Connie
Hotel Adlon, Kennedy Museum, Nella and Connie
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From Pariser Platz we passed through the Brandenburg Gate into West Berlin (nobody shot at us) and walked northward through a corner of the Tiergarten so we could see the home of the German Parliament, the Reichstag building.

Brandenburg Gate from the West

Brandenburg Gate from the West
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The Parliament, or Bundestag, makes use of a number of buildings, but holds their general meetings in the Reichstag. The Reichstag building was constructed from 1884 to 1894, its completion date falling during the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who didn’t much care for parliamentary democracy. Nevertheless, the Parliament (then called the Reichstag) inhabited the building for the remainder of the Kaiser’s reign, which ended with his abdication in 1918. In 1916, the words Dem Deutschen Volke (to the German People) were added to the front of the building, and the Parliament continued to meet in the building through the years of the post World War I Weimar Republic, until 1933. At this time the building was badly damaged by a fire of suspicious origin, a fire used by the newly-in-power Nazis as a pretext to crack down on German communists (though evidence of any involvement by them was lacking).

The building wasn’t used as a government meeting place again for many years. Hitler didn’t have any use for a parliament, and during the years of a divided Germany, the East German government met in East Berlin and the West German government met in Bonn, in the far west of Germany, on the Rhine River. After reunification and some heated discussion, it was decided to move the new government back to Berlin, and repair work was begun on the Reichstag building, which still bore scars from the 1933 fire, World War II and decades of neglect. The renovated building opened for business in 1999, sporting a brand-new glass dome.


Bob and Reichstag
Bob and Reichstag
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Dome and Inscription
Dome and Inscription
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We were interested in looking inside the building, and possibly visiting the dome, which has twin spiral walkways and a magnificent view of Berlin. However, for some reason the building was closed to visitors when we arrived, so we were only able to view it from the outside. A good place for doing this is the large grassy area in front of the building, an area called the Platz der Republik. It’s also a good place for sitting and resting your feet, which was Nella’s chosen activity. Connie and I walked around on the grass and took pictures of the building, noticing that there were people walking around inside the dome, on its walkways. We figured they were either VIPs or people who got there before the entrance was closed.
Reichstag Building with Indoor Pedestrians
Reichstag Building with Indoor Pedestrians
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Nella on Grass, Connie and Government Buildings
Nella on Grass, Connie and Government Buildings
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After we’d had our fill of the Reichstag, we found an U-Bahn station and returned to our hotel. It was warm in the room, due to the lack of air conditioning, so we turned on the room’s fan. And we rested, as we were planning to return to the Museumsinsel the next morning, for a visit to the Pergamon Museum.

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