At times Berlin looks like one massive building site and it is hard to decide whether the economy is booming or whether Berlin is trying to finally rid itself of the ghosts of the past. Most of the building activity is taking place in the former East Berlin and in the no-man zone where the wall once stood, making it increasingly hard to see East German architecture and constructions.
Probably the busiest building area is the Potsdamer Platz, where famous buildings such as the Sony Center, Deutsche Bahn, and the headquarters of Daimler-Chrysler are constructed. Many more are following. Close by many countries also constructed magnificent new embassies on land that belonged to the respective countries prior to the Second World War. Bus routes 100 or 200 pass by several including the huge joined building used by Nordic countries and the modern Mexican Embassy just outside Tiergarten. The British Embassy is just off Unter den Linden while the French reconstructed on Unter den Linden and the Russians still use the stark building erected by Stalin shortly after the war. The American Embassy is lacking due to disputes over security and aesthetics.
Bearing all this activity in mind, Alexanderplatz is one of the saddest areas of Berlin. The buildings on Unter den Linden were not generally restored by the East German government. The former heart of Berlin, especially the area around Paris Square where the Brandenburg Gate is, was simply too close to the Wall for comfort. As a result the center of activity was moved to the east of Museum Island centering on Alexanderplatz.
Bus 100 terminates just past Alexanderplatz and it is interesting to walk back towards Museum Island – a gentle stroll of about 15 minutes. Some of East Germany’s show-off buildings were on this stretch but currently the area is fairly quiet. On an early Saturday afternoon it was a depressing sight and eerily quiet at times
Here the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) was built in 1969. At 365 meter it is the second tallest structure in Europe and was meant to show off the prowess of the German Democratic Republic. Although the view from the top must still be magnificent the area didn’t seem to attract many visitors nowadays. The base of the tower houses a huge fitness center where souvenir shops and restaurants properly belong (on sunny days the metal sphere of the tower reflexes a cross, the highest in Europe – an irony probably lost on the atheistic former East German authorities!)
Museum Island from this angle is dominated by the copper colored Palace of the Republic, the parliament of the former German Democratic Republic. Although formally the parliament, it was always open to the public and also had theatres, a disco, and sport facilities. It has been closed for the past ten years or so to clean up asbestos pollution inside the facility, but debate still rages on whether the building should be demolished or preserved.