Berlin: An Introduction

Berlin: An Introduction

Berlin-Introduction-2Berlin has been at the epicenter of the most catastrophic conflicts of modern times but the seeds of these hostilities were planted centuries before. This 3 ­hour tour of Germany’s capital city takes a broad view of the political and ideological forces that unleashed genocide and global war in the 20th century. Exploring Berlin’s iconic landmarks while emphasizing the tumultuous Nazi and Cold War eras, you will learn how in the 1700s tiny Prussia’s violent transformation into Europe’s dominant military power already set the stage for the great tragedies of recent history. At the same time, your guide helps you to consider present ­day Berlin’s successes confronting its dark past and renewing itself as dynamic modern capital known for multiculturalism, tolerance and creativity.

Berlin-Introduction-3We begin at Potsdamer Platz, the business center which replaced the wasteland formerly known as East Germany’s “Death Strip.” Following the path where the Berlin Wall once stood through to the historic Tiergarten Park, you take in the dramatic new Holocaust Memorial and the Reichstag. While the mysterious fire that damaged the Reichstag in 1933 was used by the Nazis as the pretext to suspend civil liberties and arrest political opponents, the grand glass dome created for the building in 1992 by architect Norman Foster (complete with walkways that look down into the Parliament), provokes a discussion about the symbolic intentions of the cupola as metaphor for Germany’s reunification, transparency and commitment to democracy.

Berlin-Introduction-4Reaching back further into Berlin’s past, we follow the footsteps of Napoleon through the Brandenburg Gate, discussing the impact of the French revolution as a catalyst for German nationalism. Traversing the Unter den Linden, Berlin’s royal boulevard lined with palaces, museums and theaters, we pause at the famous equestrian statue of Frederick the Great, for a discussion of Prussia’s “Poet King” and his role in shaping the militaristic and cultural orientations of the future German Empire. At Bebelplatz, site of the 1933 Nazi book burning, you’ll learn about Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and its terrible consequences. As you cross Museum Island (Berlin’s answer to the Louvre), we will discuss the city’s 19th century development into a cultural center.

Next, Hackesher Markt, a charming pocket of pre­war Berlin, affords us a chance to ramble through a network of hidden courtyards. From here, Alexanderplatz offers a striking counterpoint; once a historic square, the East Germans rebuilt it as in the 1960s as a communist bloc showplace complete with futuristic government buildings, apartment blocks and the iconic TV Tower. We’ll confront the longest surviving segment of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery and learn of its 40­ year history. Finishing at Checkpoint Charlie, the legendary crossing point from West Berlin to East where, in 1989, thousands of East Germans poured across the border bringing the Cold War to an end, we conclude by discussing the East/West divisions that continue to impact Berlin even as the city evolves new sensibilities and directions.

f4Fabiola Bierhoff is an art historian and PhD Candidate in the History and Cultural Studies program at the Free University of Berlin. She received her Bachelor in Art History at Radboud University Nijmegen in 2006 and holds a Masters in Museum Curatorship summa cum laude from the Free University of Amsterdam. Her Master Thesis on the alternative East German art scene was awarded the Annual Master Thesis Award 2010. Since 2009 she has been an art writer for the bimonthly magazine De Witte Raaf. Fabiola is currently conducting research for her dissertation, which is provisionally entitled “The Role of Autonomous Art Criticism for Performance Art in the Last Decade of the German Democratic Republic”. Her research is funded by a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and a research grant from the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.
DanHeadshotDan Borden grew up in Houston, Texas where he earned an architecture degree at Rice University. After getting his Masters degree from Columbia University, he worked as an architect in New York City for 15 years. His love affair with Berlin began when he visited as a student in summer 1987. After several more visits to the city, he settled in Berlin in 2006 where he works as a teacher, writer and filmmaker. He has contributed to books on the history of architecture and film. His monthly "Save Berlin" column in Exberliner magazine explores the city's architectural history and future.
Jean UlrickJean-Ulrick Désert is a conceptual and visual-artist. He received his degrees at Cooper Union and Columbia University (New York) and has lectured or been a critic at Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Humboldt University and l’école supérieur des beaux arts. Désert's artworks vary in forms such as billboards, actions, paintings, site-specific sculptures, video and objects and emerge from a tradition of conceptual-work engaged with social/cultural practices. He has exhibited widely at such venues as The Brooklyn Museum, Cité Internationale des Arts, The NGBK in galleries and public venues in Munich, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Ghent, Brussels. He is the recipient of awards, public commissions, private philanthropy, including Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (USA), Villa Waldberta/Muenchen - Kulturreferat , Kulturstiftung der Länder (Germany) and Cité des Arts (France). Désert established his Berlin studio in 2002.
f3Peter Bijl, born-Dutchman, originally a journalist, has been the initiator/driving force behind different cultural festivals, websites, platforms and exchange projects. After moving back to Berlin in 2008, the city that had gotten under his skin profoundly, he's been doing this internationally. In Utrecht he put up the 9-day Berlin festival Mitte Bitte!, in Berlin he initiated a similar 12-day program of Dutch/Flemish culture: Flachlandfest. Both festivals took place in 2008 and were initiated, developed, financed and produced in only a few months time. As a curator / artistic director, Peter’s highlight was the city-wide manifestation 'No Man’s Land'. A multidisciplinary weekend in November 2009 at 40+ locations in Utrecht, celebrating and commenting the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall: a festival as a work of art, using space, creativity and personal stories in different disciplines to tell Berlin’s incredible story. In ‘No Man’s Land’ Peter let Berlin’s heavy history interact with its light and creative present, via the red thread of personal stories. After realizing these festivals, Peter moved on to connecting cultures and stories in a different way: by joining musician Tjerk Ridder in his Caravan Hitchhiking Project. Hitchhiking with a caravan, without(!) a car: the duo traveled Europe, from Utrecht to Istanbul, showing that 'You need others to keep you going'. Their art project had a large international appeal, with national tv reports in 8 European countries. Out of their journey, Peter and Tjerk created and published a book/DVD, which has been published in Dutch, English and German. A new book, a playful photo project on football culture, is on the way.
f2Jeroen van Marle is a geographer and travel writer from the Netherlands, who has lived in Berlin for 5 years. He has lived in 8 countries across the world, writing about dozens of destinations. He's the editor of a Berlin city guide that's published several times per year. A resident of Kreuzberg since 2011, he is fascinated by the varied history of this young district.
f1Madelief ter Braak is architectural historian and freelance writer/journalist. In 2011 she graduated cum laude with a Research Master Art History & Archaeology from the University of Groningen (the Netherlands). Fascinated by urban public space, she focuses on the use and representation of this everchanging aspect of the city in the past, present and future. In her research and writing she’s guided by unconventional sources in art, photography, literature, poetry, films and music. Cross-cultural interests and curiosity have led to several publications in very diverse (online) magazines. For Blauwe Kamer magazine on landscape development and urbanism, she writes the column ‘Standplaats Berlijn’. On her research she’s given lectures at the School of Architecture Groningen, the TU Delft and the Art historian Institute from the University of Groningen. Her masterthesis Flanieren in Berlin is written as a journey across east and west, in times of dictatorship and democracy.
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    For walks within 48 hours, please e-mail a request to: [email protected]
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Not included: You will need to use public transport a few times, since the distances between some key sites would be too far to walk.  If you will not have a few days visitor's transit pass to Berlin already, we suggest that you purchase the day metro pass.  If you cannot purchase it in advance, your guide will help you  purchase it at the first metro station on the tour

 

Groups of over 10 should contact us at [email protected] in order to get a special rate for their party.

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