Berlin Buildings

Like many old cities, the centre of the original city is surrounded by gates, named after where the road from that gate leads to when you leave the city by that gate. In total there were 18 of these gates and although most no longer stand, a few of them are remembered in the name of underground stations. Hallesches Tor at the southwestern point of what is now Berlin Mitte was presumably the gate to the city of Halle (Saale), Frankfurter Tor is at the east of the centre towards Frankfurt (Oder) at the Polish border rather than Frankfurt (Main) with the famous FRA airport.

The most famous gate, and the only one still remaining, is the Brandenburg Gate, which sits at the end of the boulevard Unter den Linden and opens up onto the Tiergarten park from the city centre. The word for “animal” (tier) in the name of the park comes from its origin as a hunting ground and should not be confused with the zoo. The Reichstags building was built on the then edge of Berlin with views over the Tiergarten, so the famous gate is merely walking distance from the parliament. Whether the bollards have ended up this way or were designed to be at an angle is unclear.

Like the gates, main stations in Berlin were also named after the cities to which the trains travelled from Berlin. My misunderstanding of why the Anhalter Bahnhof carries that name is difficult to explain in English. Suffice to say I thought it was derived from the word “anhalten”, which means to stop and after which hitchhikers are named in German as they stop cars. I had never quite understood why a station would be called “stopping station” or “hitchhiker station”. Surely stopping is the point of every station and people get picked up there?

It was only when I read the information surrounding the now ruined old station building it became clear to me that it is named after Anhalt, a duchy around Dessau, which was represented in the Bundesrat in the German Empire and became a Freestate in the Weimar Republic, now part of Sachsen-Anhalt. The Berlin station was badly bombed in the Second World War, and only remnants remain at the surface. Pictures of it in its former glory are displayed in the S-Bahn station below ground.

Right in the middle of the city, there remain other reminders of a more recent past. Although dismantled in most places and sometimes replaced with alternative paving stones a couple of sections of The Wall still stand. This one is close to the other much-photographed site from the same time in history, Checkpoint Charlie, one of the crossing points between the Soviet and American sectors of Berlin. The sandbags are now full of concrete, so probably not much use as shields. I was amused by how close to the entry into the American sector the epitome of American fast food has found a space to rent.

Not far from Checkpoint Charlie is the Bundesrat building. This is the second house of the German parliament and home to representatives from each of the states. The building feels far less grand and does not appear to be open to the public. I suspect the fact that each state has what appears like an embassy in Berlin means that the Bundesrat building really only needs to house the meeting chamber and offices for the clerks rather than its members.

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