Berlin in the early hours is divine. Experiencing this serenity when the city wakes up can be the best chill-out effect after dancing the night away. Recently, I took a walk home along Karl-Marx-Allee, in my eyes Berlin’s most impressive and most scenic grand boulevard.
The history of the Karl-Marx-Allee
After the end of WW2, the majority of Berlin was in ruins. As part of Germany’s reconstruction program – and to demonstrate the power and ingenuity of East German engineering – Karl-Marx-Allee arose from the rubble in the early 1950s. It is the counterpart to Westberlins modernist neighborhood Hansaviertel.
Conceived as the center of a socialist residential district, the 2.3 km long boulevard stretches from Alexanderplatz to Frankfurter Tor and was originally called Stalinallee until 1961.
Due to its dead-straight shape and width of up to 90m, it was also designed to stage parades and other demonstrations of East Germany’s socialist republic.
The so-called wedding-cake style of the eye-catching apartment buildings blends monumental Soviet architecture with decorative neoclassical elements. Particularly striking are the shiny ceramic tiles covering the facades of the “Workers’ Palaces”, which unfortunately – after poor renovation works – start to fall off some buildings.
From a passer-by’s perspective, Karl-Marx Allee always looks like a beautiful sleeping giant.
Shops come and go and there is probably no other boulevard in the world with such high turnover and vacancy rates. Only time and the implications of a potential UNESCO world heritage listing will tell if Karl-Marx Allee ever becomes the beating heart of a neighborhood it was once designed for.
I can only highly recommend reading (German only) and seeing this extensive and interactive article on ZEITOnline about Stalinallee: its history, the utopian architecture, life after the rubbles, and what it meant to the people in the Cold War era.