Shortly before 10 am, Holger our guide for the tour “Soviet Berlin II – Through the Red Metropolis” of Berlins Taiga was already waiting for us at the main station. With him, we should go on a discovery tour through Berlin in the next 4 hours and immerse ourselves in the time of the end of the war and the Soviet occupation.
Our route first took us through the government district to the Reichstag in Berlin. Here we learned details about the storming of the building by the Soviet army at the end of World War II. Did you know that the photo of a Soviet soldier placing the flag on the Reichstag is a “fake photo”? When the flag was put up, it was dark and only later was this scene reenacted in daylight for media effect. They also took care to show a destroyed Berlin in the background and additionally retouched smoke into the picture.
Monument to the Soviet soldiers
The tour of Soviet Berlin continued to the Monument to Soviet Soldiers on the Straße des 17.Juni. In 1945, the monument was erected in memory of the soldiers of the Red Army who died in World War II. There is also a military cemetery located behind the monument. About 2000 to 2500 soldiers are said to be buried under a lawn. There are no tombstones, only on the columns of the memorial there are names of fallen soldiers.
The memorial was located in the British sector at the time of the occupation. Soviet soldiers were nevertheless allowed to guard it due to the provisions of the Four Power Status. After the withdrawal of the troops, the site was handed over to the city of Berlin, which is obligated by bilateral agreement to maintain the war gravesite.
I find the monument impressive, even if I miss, due to the location and the tourists streaming past, somewhat the place of remembrance for the fallen soldiers.
Berlin TV Tower
Our way led us further through the Brandenburg Gate, past the Soviet Embassy to Alexanderplatz. From here we could not only take a look at the imposing skyscraper of the Park Inn by Radisson Berlin Alexanderplatz Hotel, but also at the Berlin TV Tower.
Today’s Park Inn by Radisson Hotel was opened in 1970 on the 21st anniversary of the GDR. It consists of a 39-story high-rise building and a three-story low-rise building. In GDR times, there was already a hotel here, in which the delegations of the Warsaw Pact were preferably accommodated. The then Interhotel had 1982 beds in 1006 rooms and offered its guests a hairdresser and other service facilities, as well as a car service with a workshop and car wash. It was one of the showpiece hotels of the GDR.
The Berlin TV Tower is one of the landmarks of the capital. It is 368 meters high, making it the tallest structure in Germany and the fourth tallest free-standing structure in Europe. The TV tower was built in 1969 by the Deutsche Post of the GDR. In addition to its main function as a broadcasting station for radio and television, the TV tower is also an observation tower with a revolving restaurant. It has been a listed building since 1979.
The Berlin TV tower differs from other TV towers by its spherical tower head. The Soviet satellite Sputnik was used here as a source of ideas for GDR architecture. In this way, the GDR picked up on the successes of the Soviet space program.
While I am looking at the TV tower, it occurs to me that it is high time to take a trip into the sphere in good visibility. My last visit was so long ago that with the rapid construction activity in our city, a completely new skyline has surely developed.
House of the teacher
On Karl-Marx-Allee, the former Stalinallee, Holger led us further through Soviet Berlin. At the house of the teacher, today there are offices here, we could take a look at the impressive mosaics. In 1964, the building was inaugurated. In the area of the third and fourth floors, a frieze of 800,000 mosaic tiles runs around the house. Walter Womacka depicted “Our Life” here in imitation of Mexican murals. In typical scenes he shows the social life of the GDR.
Scenes from science and research: you can see a doctor, a chemist and an engineer, antenna mast and parabolic reflector – the world of technology.
The East Frieze is characterized by the theme of friendship between peoples. People of different ethics are depicted, which corresponded to the humanistic and anti-fascist ideals of the SED state.
On the west side of the building scenes of life in the GDR are depicted.
I like the depictions. Apart from the technique necessary to create such a mosaic, the motifs are so varied that you can always see new details.
Since about 1990, the building has been listed as a historic monument and will thus fortunately continue to delight many visitors for a long time to come.
Cafe Moscow and Cinema International
The next stop was at Cafe Moscow and at the Kino International, which was directly across the street.
I had already heard about Cafe Moscow. Here was the noble restaurant in GDR times. Who could get a place here, was allowed to eat expensive. Westerners and the soldiers of the Western Allies were served here most gladly, they brought foreign currency into the country.
Cafe Moscow was one of 7 nationality restaurants that were established in socialist Berlin. As a sign of fraternity between the GDR and the Soviet Union, the citizens of the GDR were to get an insight into the culinary and cultural customs of the Soviet Union here. The house was opened in 1964, and in addition to the restaurant, there was a dance café, a night bar, and the arts and crafts outlet “Natasha. The house was a meeting place for black market activities and spy work.
On the roof of the house there is the replica of the Sputnik, a gift from the embassy of the USSR.
Since 1989, the house has been listed as a historical monument.
I especially like the facade of the Cafe Moscow. Here you can see a mosaic created by Bert Heller. The mosaic is called “From the life of the peoples of the Soviet Union” and shows many small scenes – from reindeer to sputnik, which I associate with the Soviet Union.
On the opposite side of the street is the Kino International. Until 1989, this cinema was used as a GDR premiere cinema and has been a listed building since the beginning of the 21st century. The cinema was opened in 1963 in the presence of the Chairman of the Council of State Walter Ulbricht with the Soviet film “Optimistic Tragedies”. In a representative room of the house, members of the state and party leadership met before and after the screenings.
On the night the Wall was opened, the cinema showed for the first time the film “Cooming Out,” a DEFA film with a central gay theme.
Discoveries on Karl-Marx-Allee
During our city tour of Soviet Berlin, we passed so many interesting points on Karl-Marx-Allee. If you look carefully, you can still discover remnants of the GDR era here and there, which tell of the past.
For example, the advertising on the houses:
Or the impressive buildings around Straußberger Platz, which were built in the course of new construction after World War II and are considered emblematic of Soviet-influenced architecture:
All the way to the bust of Karl Marx. This had just birthday on the day of the tour. An elderly woman lovingly laid the flowers in his honor there as we walked by.
After a lot of impressions we went by subway and S-Bahn to Treptower Park.
Soviet Berlin Final stop of the city tour: Memorial in Treptow Park
After almost 4 hours we arrived at the final point of the city tour through Soviet Berlin. The Soviet Memorial in Treptower Park with its impressive backdrop offers, I think, the highlight and crowning conclusion. A really huge and bombastically large memorial and cemetery for the fallen Soviet soldiers of the Second World War.
A really impressive place, which could now be explored by me alone in peace.
I liked the tour of Soviet Berlin. I looked at familiar places from a new point of view and discovered new places in Berlin. I will definitely go in search of traces again.
If you would like to join one of Berlins Taiga’s themed city tours, you can find all the dates and further information on the provider’s website.
Disclosure: Participation in the city tour was made possible for me by Berlins Taiga. My personal impressions about the city tour are summarized in this report