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.
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 (thus the architectural counterpart to West Berlin’s Hansaviertel), Karl-Marx-Allee arose from the rubble in the early 1950s.
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 no matter day or night. 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.