We report on a December visit to once-divided Berlin, a city determined to regain its prewar glory and feverishly rebuilding itself.

Berlin today is a place of unbelievable construction activity, countless building cranes call attention to the more than 80 major projects under way as the city frantically prepares to replace Bonn as the capital of Western Europe's dominant nation. Still, enormous empty spaces from the destruction of World War II pervade its eastern portions.

This is a city built on a colossal scale with infinite possibilities for exploration. It still has two centers; the western part around Zoo Station and Kurfürstendamm, until late 1989 the center of West Berlin, and the eastern section around Unter den Linden, the former capital of communist East Germany and showplace of Eastern Europe. They remain strikingly different.

The modern "K'damm" area bustles with restaurants, department stores and cafés. Three miles away, beyond the Tiergarten, the other Berlin is strung out and scattered, its great wide boulevards studded here and there with rebuilt monuments, blackened buildings and an occasional sparkling new structure like the Hotel Radisson.

Here, in the former center of Hitler's Germany, were the majority of the city's most important edifices: government buildings, museums, theaters, offices and churches. Nearly all remain. Further east, past Alexanderplatz with its towering television antenna, along Karl Marx Allee, are reminders of communist rule - huge monotonous blocks of apartments with ground floor shops.

Built on a grand scale without the density of Paris or other European capitals, Berlin is a city of boulevards, albeit one with a complete public transportation network. Walking distances are long and the town is not easy to see on foot. Taxi travel can be time consuming and expensive. A cab from our hotel on Kurfürstendamm to Lichtenberg Station in the eastern portion took 35 minutes and cost 44 DM ($32).

The eastern sector now sports a growing commercial area amid the rubble and emptiness. Emerging from Potsdamer Platz subway station, one sees nothing but billboards announcing work in progress, though it is only a short walk to the impressive, glass-fronted, Mies Van der Rohe-designed, Museum of Modern Art.

Off the main boulevards, dreary housing flats are in a poor state of repair. In the Jewish quarter, where Berlin's only active synagogue has a perpetual police guard, one is struck by the rundown conditions; broken and peeling walls covered by graffiti and blockaded, torn up streets where underground services were being repaired or replaced. A few of the dark and dirty buildings had seeds of new life inside new shops, galleries and theaters.

There are also changes near Kurfürstendamm. Savigny Platz, a ten-minute walk from Zoo Station, is lively with the businesses of former immigrants who now make Berlin their home: ethnic restaurants (no credit cards), clothing shops, including one with men's vests imported from Italy for 500 DM ($355), displays of modern house wares, windows full of handcraft items, and tiny coffee bars. Space here is precious, merchandise is even displayed in archways beneath the elevated train lines.

In the old days, before the wall came down, Berlin had a sort of on-the-edge vitality, it was a fortified outpost surrounded by the bad guys. These days its energy springs from a determination to regain its stature as not only the capital city of Germany but the first city in all Europe. It remains a unique destination.

Berlin Hotels

Brandenburger Hof

This showplace of Bauhaus design and contemporary sculpture is in an artfully remodeled turn-of-the-century apartment building. With its works of art and halogen lighting, the striking lobby resembles a modern museum. An especially attractive feature is the winter garden, a combination Italian monastery and Japanese garden, filled with sculptures and paintings, where concerts, art exhibitions and auctions are sometimes held. It is also the hotel's breakfast room. The dramatically lit dining room is furnished with chairs designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Guestrooms are equally unique: a mix of contemporary and traditional design with natural oak surfaces, white walls, and cabinets and chairs by Oscar Niemeyer. Bathrooms are of granite and light terra cotta tiles. With heavy soundproofing and silent radiant floor heating, guestrooms are unusually well protected from outside noise.

Although conveniently located in the heart of the western section of Berlin, not far from the Kurfürstendamm, this is a truly lovely, quiet retreat. It continues to merit the rating we gave it in our July, 1992, issue shortly after the hotel had opened. It is one of Berlin's finest.

• Address: Brandenburger Hof Hotel GmbH, Eislebener Strasse 14, D-10789 Berlin
Phone: 030/214050
Fax: 030/21405100
Location: Western Berlin, five minutes walk from Kurfürstendamm
Rooms: Four singles, 83 doubles
Proprietor: Manfred Heissig
Prices: Singles 275-395 DM ($196-$282), doubles 330-445 DM ($235-$317)
Meals: All available
Facilities: Piano Bar, winter garden, conference rooms
Credit Cards: All
Disabled Access: Good but no special rooms
Closed: Never
Parking: 18 spaces in garage under building
Rating: Excellent 16/20 G

Savoy

An exquisite small hotel very close to Zoo Station and center of Kurfürstendamm, yet very quiet given the location. The Savoy's delightful manager, Francis Rabine, says his hotel attracts celebrities from orchestra leaders to film stars. We were charmed by its exquisite bar, large and elegant public rooms, and an intimate library-bar off the lobby.

The art-deco building, built in 1930, served as the Japanese Embassy during World War II, then, from 1949-1953, became British headquarters in the divided Berlin. The present owners took over in 1954.

Large, air-conditioned rooms in pink and beige, some with small balconies, are lavishly furnished with elegant desks, comfortable chairs and love seats. Weekend special rates are sometimes available at 160 DM. ($114) double. Breakfast is 28 DM ($20) extra.

• Address: Hotel Savoy Fasanenstrasse 9-10, D-10623 Berlin-Charlottenburg
Phone: 030/31103-0,
Fax: 030/31103-333
Location: Center of western Berlin, 500 meters from Zoo Station
Rooms: 30 singles, 95 doubles
Proprietor: Francis Rabine
Prices: Singles 254-314 DM ($180-225), doubles 334-394 DM ($240-280). Weekend special: double room 160 DM ($114). Prices do not include breakfast.
Meals: All available
Facilities: Library-bar, restaurant, outdoor terrace, sauna, hot tub, exercise room
Credit Cards: All
Closed: Never
Disabled Access: Yes
Parking: In separate building 100 meters away, 18 DM ($13) per night
Rating: Excellent 16/20 G

Hotel Residenz

Maybe the third time is the charm. Two previous visits to this hotel resulted in a "Not Recommended" review (August, 1988) and one "average" rating (July, 1992). This time was better. The Residenz is an amalgam of five pensions built for government workers around 1902. The result is several long, narrow buildings and seemingly endless halls, all connected around an inner courtyard. It serves as temporary home to movie makers and TV companies - actors, technicians and directors. A movie producer we met over a glass of wine had lived there happily for six months.

The quiet, smallish rooms are furnished with wardrobes, European-style double beds, desks, chairs and small, mostly shower-only, bathrooms. Our room had french doors opening onto a small balcony where we could look out onto the relatively quiet street. The hotel also has some studios and apartments available with kitchens. These attractive accommodations are mostly on the upper floor and have slanting ceilings and skylights.

Both the antique-filled small lobby and the elegant (and expensive) Grand Cru restaurant have a pleasant "Old Berlin" feel.

Service and friendliness of staff are definitely categories in which the Residenz has improved. What was never a problem was the quality and quantity of the breakfast served in the chandeliered Grand Cru. One chooses from an array of fresh, dried and canned fruit; cereals; freshly baked bread; pastry and several varieties of fresh rolls; eggs, scrambled and boiled; two varieties of delicious fresh sausage; bacon; pickled fish and vegetables; yogurt; jam; chocolate; butter; margarine; various cheeses and sliced cold cuts. Unfortunately it is not included in the room price and costs an extra 22 DM ($16).

• Address: Hotel Residenz Berlin, Meinekestrasse 9, D-10719 Berlin (Charlottenburg)
Phone: 030/884430
Fax: 030/88247266
Location: On a quiet street, one block off Kurfürstendamm
Rooms: Two singles, 86 doubles
Proprietor: Herr Schwarz
Prices: Single 198-220 DM ($141-158), doubles 260-310 DM ($185-220)
Meals: All available
Facilities: Restaurant
Credit Cards: All
Disabled Access: One specially equipped room
Closed: Never
Parking: Public garage across street, 20 DM ($14) per night
Rating: Above Average 13/20

Hotel Berliner Hof

A standard-issue, modern city hotel located in the Europa Center shopping and entertainment complex, the very heart of Berlin's western sector. Average-sized rooms are contemporary in design with white walls, blue and green drapes and natural wood Danish-modern furniture.

Same management as the Savoy.

• Address: Hotel Berliner Hof am Europa Center Tauentzienstrasse 8, D-10789 Berlin
Phone: 030/25495-0
Fax: 030/2623065
Location: Central, west
Rooms: Five singles, 60 doubles
Proprietor: Francis Rabine
Prices: Singles 195-225 DM ($140-160), doubles 240-280 DM ($170-200)
Meals: Breakfast only.
Facilities: Breakfast room
Credit Cards: All
Disabled Access: Good
Closed: Never
Parking: Hotel garage, 10 DM ($7)
Rating: Above average 13/20

Berlin Mark

This large, centrally located hotel, just a block off Kurfürstendamm, is in an eight-story modern building constructed in 1968 by the current operators.

The average to large rooms are furnished in contemporary style with light gray and pastel walls. Number 734 is a spacious single with large bath tub and moderate noise from street-side windows. Number 735, with French-style double bed, is available either as a single or double.

• Address: Berlin Mark Hotel Meinekestrasse 18-19, D-10719 Berlin
Phone: 030/8802-0
Fax: 030/8802-804
Location: One block off Kurfürstendamm
Rooms: 14 singles, 206 doubles, 11 apartments
Proprietor: Jürgen Preisse
Prices: Singles 198-295 DM ($140-$210), doubles 260-335 DM ($185-240), apartments (two rooms, max. 3-4 persons) 360-440 DM ($260-315)
Meals: All available
Facilities: Restaurant, outdoor café
Credit Cards: All
Disabled Access: Three rooms specially equipped
Closed: Never
Parking: Nearby public garage 17-20 DM ($12-$14) per night
Rating: Above Average 13/20

Hotel Boulevard

Readers are advised to avoid this modest, centrally-located Best Western hotel. For one thing, with prices ranging from 230 DM ($164) for the least expensive single, to 320 DM ($229) for a double room, it is vastly overpriced. In addition, management seems uninterested in guests from North America. Hotel Boulevard, Am Kurfürstendamm 12, 10719 Berlin.

Radisson Plaza Hotel Berlin

Built in 1979 for officials and guests of the former East German government, this huge, 600-room hotel was brightened and extensively remodeled in 1992. One of the few modern buildings in the area, it stands out in a section of the city scattered with older, blackened structures. The Radisson has all the trappings of a large, commercial hotel: outside terrace, swimming pool, health club, even a TGI Friday's restaurant.

Spacious rooms with big bay windows, natural wood walls and orange or blue drapes, are furnished with contemporary furniture and include breakfast alcoves and fax machines. The special weekend rates of 210 DM ($150) single and 250 DM ($180) double, breakfast included, are a bargain for this class of Berlin hotel.

• Address: Radisson Plaza Hotel Berlin Karl-Liebknecht Strasse 5, D-10178 Berlin
Phone: 030/23828
Fax: 23/827590
Location: Center of eastern section, just off Unter den Linden
Rooms: 300 total: 267 singles, 300 doubles
Prices: Singles 210-450 DM ($150-320), doubles 250-520 DM ($180-370)
Meals: All available
Facilities: Restaurants, swimming pool, health club
Credit Cards: All
Disabled Access: Two rooms specially equipped
Closed: Never
Parking: Garage in building, 22 DM ($16) per night
Rating: Above Average 14/20

Hunting Lodge Near Berlin - Jagdschloss Hubertusstock

A rustic retreat with extensive grounds located an easy drive north of Berlin. The lodge was used for the hunting parties of King Frederick William IV of Prussia in 1847, and later by other members of various German governments, most recently by East German President Honecker. Since 1992 its facilities have been upgraded to modern hotel standards by the management of the Savoy Hotel.

Prices are reasonable for a range of accommodations including rooms and suites. The hotel offers hunting and shooting, horseback riding, hiking, sailing on the nearby Werbellinsee, biking, tennis, and squash.

• Address: Jagdschloss Hubertusstock D-16244 Eichhorst/Kreis Eberswalde
Phone: 033/36350-0
Fax: 033/36350-255
Location: About 50 km (31 miles) north of Berlin via Autobahn #11.
Rooms: 22 doubles
Proprietor: Francis Rabine
Prices: Single (occupying double room) 150 DM ($108), doubles 190 DM ($135)
Meals: All available
Facilities: Conference rooms, restaurant, beer garden
Credit Cards: All
Disabled Access: Limited
Closed: Never
Parking: Abundant on site
Rating: Above Average 13/20

Inexpenisve Berlin Restaurants

KaDeWe, Top Floor

From the array of available choices in this fantastic food market on the top floor of Berlin's largest department store, we chose the cafeteria, a good spot for lunch, especially for those who have trouble with German menus. Main dishes of rare, thinly sliced steak with bearnaise sauce and fried potatoes, and a thick pork steak with French fries and a mixed salad of beets and green beans, were quite good. Including a shared plate of fresh shrimp plus bread, coffee and a glass of white wine the bill came to 57 DM ($40) for two persons.

The store's entire top floor, under its vaulted glass roof, is devoted to a magnificent display of food and drink and is not to be missed.
KaDeWe Department Store Tauentzienstr. 21. Moderate, credit cards accepted.

Gasthaus Krombacher

A few doors from the Residenz Hotel, is the unpretentious, friendly Gasthaus Krombacher. It has quick service and serves good traditional German food as well as some surprisingly elaborate desserts at reasonable prices. Entrées of chicken breast cooked "fricassee" style, veal sausages with onion gravy and potatoes and shared dessert consisting of a folded crêpe with chocolate and vanilla ice cream and whipped cream came to 60 DM ($42) for two including a glass of wine.
Gasthaus Krombacher Meinekestrasse 4, 10719 Berlin, phone 881/8602. Moderate. Credit cards o.k.

Café Kranzler

Famous Berlin hangout with upscale modern decor and central location. An excellent choice for coffee, pastry and/or ice cream. Compared to the desserts the food is rather plain and of secondary interest. A buffet breakfast is served until from 8 a.m until noon.
• Café Kranzler, Charlottenburg, Kurfürstendamm 18-19, open 8 a.m. to midnight daily. Phone 885/7720. Moderate. Credit cards o.k.

Nordsee

For those in search of quick and reasonably-priced seafood, a good bet is Nordsee, a chain of restaurants with locations throughout Berlin. We stopped at one in the eastern section near the busy intersection of Alexanderplatz. The menu offers a wide selection including fried cod, several varieties of herring, fish sandwiches and cold salads, priced from 8 to 24 DM ($6 to $17). The fact that at 1:00 p.m. the shrimp special of the day was sold out shows some care goes into preparation and that dishes are not simply microwaved to order. We found little fault with paella, consisting of saffron flavored rice with chunks of several varieties of seafood and ham, and fried Seeloch (a cod-like ocean fish). Both were priced at 12.50 DM ($9).
Nordsee Alexanderplatz. Inexpensive. No credit cards.

There are many good places to eat cheaply in this large city. For those staying near Kurfürstendamm and seeking inexpensive meals, a productive place to begin a restaurant search is Savigny Platz, a few blocks to the north. In this blossoming area of attractive shops are many ethnic restaurants. Alas, however, few accept credit cards.

Berlin

Population: 3.5 million.
Altitude: 131 feet

Tourist Offices

• Europa Center, entrance Budapester Strasse. Open every day. Phone 262/6031, fax 212/325 20

• Zoo Station, Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Phone 313/9063

• Main Railroad Station. Daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.. Phone 279/5209

Public Transportation

• Buses are a pleasant way to see the city. The #129 is convenient to theaters and East Berlin. The tops of these double deckers provide a nice ride and view. Single-ride tickets cost 3.50 DM ($2.50)

• The S-Bahn (operated by DB, railpasses valid), is an efficient, quick way of going from one end of the city to another.

• The U-Bahn (run by city, railpasses not valid) costs 3.50 DM ($2.50) for two hours. Its lines have closer spaced stops than the S-Bahn as they circle around the city. Neither "U" nor "S" are well marked. There are station maps on trains but not in many stations. Listings of stops are missing in both. Travel can be frustrating, directions of trains are not clear and some stations are torn up.

City Walks

• Old Berlin, Jewish life, meeting artists in their studios, gallery tours. Nollendorfstrasse 3, D-10783 Berlin, phone 030/2159868

• Cultural Berlin, political history, political future, architectural tours, cemetery tours. Kulturburo Berlin, Kirchstrasse 16, D-10557 Berlin, phone 030/3923747

Boat Trips

• Tour of historical Berlin, passing under many bridges. Daily except Monday, departing from Schlossbrücke, Charlottenburger Ufer (approximately 3 1/2 hours), Phone 030/3917070.

• Steamboat trips with historical commentary. Berliner Geschichtswerkstatt, Goltzstrasse 49, Berlin. Phone 030/21454450.

• All day ride (10 hours, food on board). Daily except Monday and Tuesday from Jannowitzbrücke. Phone 030/6173900.

Miscellaneous

The artist Christo will wrap the Reichstag in polypropylene fabric coated with aluminum. June 23 until July 6.

March 1995