The main boulevard through Berlin, Unter den Linden, is steeped in history. The grand buildings on either side, the lime trees lining the street, the statues and the shops make walking on Unter den Linden more than just a way of getting from the museums to the park, but an experience in itself.
Magnificent trees in the center of Unter den Linden. Image ksfoto, via Flickr
In the 1600s, Duke Friedrich had lime trees (also called linden trees) planted on the way out of his palace, to have shade as he rode out of his palace to hunt in the Tiergarten. The trees became an iconic feature of the city, and even when Hitler tried to replace them with swastika flags, he was forced to replace some of them by popular demand. In the last days of the war, most of the trees were cut down for firewood, and they were replanted in the 1950s. The street was the grandest in East Berlin, and after reunification became an integral part of the united city.
Unter den Linden runs from Brandenburg Gate in the west to Schlossbrucke and the Museum Island in the east. The wide street has a grassy center with the famous trees, and on either side there are grand building, embassies, museums and palaces. An interesting sight along the way is the statue of Frederick the Great on a horse, one of the most ornate statues in the city. The artist spent 20 years working on the details of this one statue. Near the statue are the State Opera building, St. Hedwig’s Church and Humboldt University. The university has some famous alumni, including Einstein, Hegel, Marx and Engels.
There are a few museums and memorials to mark the street’s place in history. The Neue Wache, an old guardhouse near Frederick’s statue, has become a universal memorial to the victims of war and tyranny. Nearby is the German Historical Museum, which displays local history as well as marking the entrance to the area known as ‘Museum Island’. On the other side of Unter den Linden, there is the famous Holocaust Memorial and the Brandenburg Gate, with its quiet room to ponder its historical significance.
Today’s Unter den Linden is a great place to walk, relax, shop and eat. Unfortunately, long-term construction work towards the western side of the street has marred the landscape slightly, moving much of the shopping and cultural life to nearby Kurfurstendamm. However, soon the street will regain its former glory, and continue being a central part of life in Berlin.