Berlin, March 19, 2012
Alfred Döblin devoted a novel to the square, which would with the time become a classic of the contemporary German literature: “Berlin Alexanderplatz“. Despite being rather a “non aesthetic” public space, it is the proper place to start discovering the German capital city. It is not by chance that out Berlín ciutat tour starts in this square in Berlin!
The origins of the present city can be perceived here, in the Alexanderplatz, where the towns of Cölln and old Berlin united mid-13th century to form, one day, the big city we know today. The city wall protecting both towns against possible attacks from the outside did not exist between them, since there was a natural barrier: the Spree river, the same one that tourist boats navigate these days, longing for discovering the city with a different perspective.
Spandauer Tor, Köpenicker Tor… that protecting wall was permeable through a number of piercing gates. With the time, the pression of the expanding city would imply the gradual enlargement of its perimeter, so that the wall reach the nomber of 20 gates. Many of them have survived up to today’s Berlin, but not in a physical way: metro stations like Schlesisches Tor, Kottbusser Tor and Hallesches Tor, of the U1 line, have their names and thus remind of their existence. Mid-19th century, the square was an important place for travellers: from Alexanderplatz, one could travel on horse buses to Potsdamer Platz, at the time located on the opposite side of the wall.
Among the many buildings that can be seen nowadays, St. Mary’s church (Marienkirche) dates back to the 13th century, and refers us back to that “old Berlin” where the current city originated. The rest of the buildings and monuments where constructed in the 19th and 20th centuries: the Rotes Rathaus (the so called red town hall), built in the sixties of the 19th century and, in the eighties, the popular metro and train station. The most characteristic element of the square, nonetheless, was inaugurated in 1969: the television tower (Fernsehturm), the one which the citizens of Berlin once referred to as the “Pope’s revenge”. On that same year, 1969, also the World clock was inaugurated (Weltzeituhr).
A lot of history flows on and around the Alexanderplatz, no question about that. Heart of East Berlin for 40 years, the square witnessed massive demonstrations during the weeks preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall, prelude of the huge changes approaching, which came to a historical surprise to the world.
Popcorn ready, lights out… movie time!
Döblin’s work became a film in 1931, with a movie called “Berlin-Alexanderplatz - Die Geschichte Franz Biberkopfs” (“The story of Franz Biberkopf”). If you fancy the “old time” movies and know enough German, enjoy the film and start breathing Berlin!