Early in this century, Berlin's Potsdamer Platz was among the liveliest squares in Europe. Some 50 years later, it had become a desolate space between East and West Berlin, destroyed in World War II and watched over by armed border guards.
Now, as the turn of a new century is upon us, Potsdamer Platz is again abuzz. New buildings by Daimler-Benz, Sony, and others anchor the rejuvenated plaza, and in the midst of it all is the new Grand Hyatt Berlin. In its interior design, the 325-room hotel is a model of modernity and restraint, its rooms stylishly comfortable. Even tables spread with coffee-break fare look fashionable, the housekeeping carts artfully designed. The Grand Ballroom seats 600 for a banquet; the unique Bibliotek offers an elegant smaller meeting space; and seven additional conference rooms are available.
The city is aiming to increase inbound incentive travel, especially from the U.S. A new airport, planned to open in 2007, should cap years of effort to increase direct flights to Berlin from the U.S.
At press time the German government had begun moving from its former home in Bonn to Berlin, again the country's capital. Visit the city now and catch this fascinating transition, as a massive investment in time, money, and resources is put toward redefining Berlin--not ignoring its bitter past, but focusing clearly on the future. Still, among the most compelling and unnerving experiences in the new Berlin is a visit to the jagged titanium and zinc structure that is the new Jewish Museum. It is not to be missed.
November 9 marks the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. As the second decade of reunification begins, the former East and West move forward together with reflection and exuberance, reconciling their history and their future.