EXPLORING BERLIN: Encountering the Past & Present of an Historic City
Berlin has risen from the ashes of World War II and thirty years as a divided city in a divided Germany to reclaim its places as a world capital, a magnet for artists, musicians, writers and visitors from all over the world. It is a city of great contrasts – grand old buildings, some of them scarred by bullet holes, next to sleek modern structures, all steel and glass; a city with dozens of memorials to the victims of the Holocaust and is now home to a resurgent Jewish community including tens of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union. Its magnificent museums have been – or are being – restored, its concert halls and opera houses are constantly filled with music and its galleries are showplaces for contemporary, cutting edge art.
We will spend six days exploring Berlin’s past and present with our guide Matthias Hass, a Berliner with a PhD in German history who lived in the US for four years, overseeing a program for young German volunteers. And we will explore the contemporary art surge in unified Berlin by visiting private collections and art galleries as well as some of Berlin’s world famous museums.
Arrival in Berlin *Morning arrival in Berlin at Tegel Airport and taxi ride to the elegant five star Regent Hotel on Charlottenstrasse in the center of the former East Berlin (if you wish to arrive earlier than the 24th please let us know!).
*Lunch (paid on site) followed by a walking tour of the area around the Brandenburg Gate, just a few blocks from our hotel which will include: the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (by American architect Peter Eisenman) and the small but very powerful exhibit beneath the memorial; the whimsical DZ bank designed by American architect Frank Gehry; and many new government buildings constructed since the capital returned to Berlin in 1999.
*Early dinner in a restaurant near the Brandenburg Gate.
Day 2 *Breakfast in the hotel followed by a city bus tour with our guide for an overview of Berlin’s history and the dramatic changes since reunification.
*We will end the bus tour on Unter den Linden and begin a walking tour on that great tree lined avenue through old East Berlin with a stop at the Bebelplatz Book Burning Monument, the National Memorial and the site of the old Berlin palace and the recently dismantled East German Parliament.
*A short walk across Museum Island to the historic Jewish neighborhood in Mitte will take us to lunch (paid on site) at the Hackesche Höfe, a early 20th century complex of eight interconnected courtyards, designed in the Art Nouveau style and now home to an array of fascinating shops.
*Matthias will lead us on a walking tour of the neighborhood along Oranienburgerstrasse and Grosse Hamburgerstrasse featuring the magnificent Neue Synagogue and its rebuilt golden dome as well as other historic sites, memorials and the latest art galleries, including those in a former Jewish girls’ school, the Judische Maedchenshule.
*We’ll ride to Alexander Platz, the center of East Berlin during the GDR with its TV tower visible throughout the city and the nearby St. Mary’s Church (first mentioned in German chronicles in1292) that provides one of the most dramatic historical and aesthetic contrasts imaginable. The Rathaus (Town Hall) and the beautiful Neptune Fountain are also near to Alexander Platz.
Day 3 *Breakfast in the hotel. *Visit to the Reichstag, the home of the German Parliament with the new dome by British architect Sir Norman Foster and the adjacent Tiergarten (Berlin’s Central Park) with its fabulous gardens.
*Following lunch (paid on site) Matthias will be available to guide those who wish to visit the Topography of Terror, one of Berlin’s most interesting Holocaust memorials, established on the site of Gestapo headquarters. During the 1960’s when the city government was demolishing war damaged buildings and planned to remove all traces of this building (formerly a hotel), public protests led to the site being preserved and subsequently transformed to a memorial and museum.
*Dinner is your choice; paid on site.
Day 4 *After breakfast at the hotel we will depart for a full day outside Berlin. Our first stop will be in the lakeside Berlin suburb of Wannsee where we will visit the former summer house of Max Lieberman, a prominent German Jewish artist in the 1920’s and 30’s whose city house was adjacent to the Branderberg Gate. Our next stop will be Potsdam, a UNESCO World Heritage site where we will have a guided walking tour including the Sanssouci palace, the summer residence of Prussia’s King Frederick II with beautifully restored royal gardens. The city has a number of magnificent parks and historic buildings, a delightful 17th century Dutch Quarter and many interesting shops and restaurants.
*We will have lunch in Potsdam (paid on site) and on our way back we will stop at the Gruenwald Memorial which was created along the railroad tracks from which the Jews of Berlin were deported to ghettos and concentration camps during World War.
*Return to Berlin in time for dinner and perhaps a cultural event
Day 5 *Following breakfast at the hotel we will walk a few blocks down Unter den Linden, the stately tree lined Fifth Avenue of East Berlin to Museum Island in the Spree River that boasts some of the world’s most extraordinary museums. Each survived the war albeit with extensive damage that has been the focus of ongoing restoration since reunification. We will visit the Pergamon Museum with its archaeological treasures from the Ancient Near East and the recently re-opened Neues Museum with beautifully displayed treasures including the magnificent bust of Nefertiti, wife of Pharaoh Akhnaten.
*A short walk from Museum Island will take us to two cutting edge art galleries: the private Sammlung Boros Collection in a former bunker and the Me Collection, the most extensive private collection in Europe in a house built by Thomas Olbricht, doctor, passionate art collector and heir to the Wella estate. The collection includes works from the early16th century to recent contemporary art in changing exhibitions. Olbricht offers a “world of discovery” in his house with subject-specific tours through the collection.
*Following lunch (paid on site) we’ll proceed to the renowned Jewish Museum, designed by American architect Daniel Liebeskind. We will also visit the contemporary Berlinishe Gallery just a short walk away.
*Dinner is your choice; paid on site. With an evening at leisure you may want to attend a concert, opera or dance performance that abound in this amazingly culture rich city. Let us know early in the trip and we’ll help you book your tickets!
Day 6 *After breakfast at the hotel we’ll visit the Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse where the largest intact section of the wall has been preserved along with the stories of those who tried to escape. We’ll also visit the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery, a 1.3 km-long section of the wall covered with approximately 106 paintings by artists from all over the world, making it the largest - and most extraordinary - open air gallery in the world.
*From there we go to West Berlin to enjoy modern life today. Shopping opportunities abound in the unique boutiques and in the legendary KaDeWe on West Berlin’s Fifth Avenue – the Kufurstendam (aka the “Kudam”). The largest department store in Continental Europe, the KaDeWe is especially known for its incomparable sixth floor Food Hall, a good place for lunch (paid on site).
*We’ll return to the hotel and enjoy our last Berlin dinner
Total cost: $4000 including hotel, bus, guide, admissions and meals as indicated.