On our recent visit to Berlin, I came across this picture of a young woman fleeing to the west as the Berlin wall went up. The image captured me. I wanted to meet her, to know what happened next. The aspiring writer in me wants to craft her story. The image is part of the exhibition you’ll find at the Panoramapunkt on Berlins crazy-busy Potsdamer Platz. If you want to explore Berlins journey from a buzzing, social city to one divided and back again, this is the place to do it.
Potsdamer Platz was once quite the place to be. In the Roaring Twenties everyone who wanted to be someone came here to see and be seen. Potsdamer Platz was the pulse of Berlin. Decadent days and fast nights were in style, and luxury hotels and venues were built to accommodate this. My overactive imagination led me to imagine what life might have been like in this golden, interwar era. Cue the Great-Gatsbyesque daydreams.
My imaginings were fuelled by small piece of one of the former hotels, The Grand, restored and preserved in the Sony Centre. It’s quite at odds with the modern bustle that surrounds it, buts amazing to see a slice of such decadent history. Especially considering that WW2 put an end to the fun and games, and the Platz was almost completely destroyed.
When the Iron Curtain was drawn it swept right across this area.The streets that now throng with tourists were once part of the No Mans Land around the Berlin Wall. There is still a section of wall from the area on display and, of course, the route of the wall can be followed via the ground markings. It was very difficult to explain to the children how the city used to be divided. The idea of it is utterly alien to them…but then isn’t that how it should be?
Potsdamer Platz is an amazing, creative, social area to explore even if you don’t want to dive too deeply into the area’s history. We enjoyed strolling the Boulevard of Stars, took our first foray into Dunkin Donuts and mentally spent a months income (and the rest!) in the Sony shop. But if you do want to learn more about the events that shaped the area then I highly recommend the Panoramapunkt exhibition. Its located on the 24th floor (via Europe’s fastest lift, nonetheless) so as well as the exhibition you’ll find some amazing 365 degree views across the city. Its fun to get two views of the iconic canopy of the Sony Centre, one from above and one from the ground. Alas, no pictures as we timed our visit badly and were up there in the middle of a snowstorm. Berlin in the Springtime, they said. Sunshine and strolling under the Linden Trees, they said. Ah, well!
As for the lady in the picture, I wonder what became of her. I hope she was happy, however her story played out. I wonder what she would make of modern-day Potsdamer Platz. I hope she would approve of what Berlin has done with the place, and consider it a victory that somewhere that once represented division now attracts people from all over the world and brings them together.
If you enjoyed reading this, you may also enjoy Hallo from Berlin! and I would really enjoy hearing from you so do chat to me in the comments.