Rick Steves: What's new in Germany for 2014

Germany doesn’t take a cultural backseat
By Rick Steves, For The Oklahoman Modified: March 7, 2014 at 7:58 pm •  Published: March 6, 2014
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While Germany sits in the driver’s seat of Europe's economy, it doesn’t take a cultural backseat either. Here are a few of the latest developments for 2014:

In Berlin, a multiyear renovation project continues at Museum Island, filled with some of the city’s most impressive museums. Beginning in the fall and continuing until 2019, the star of the Greek antiquities collection in the Pergamon Museum (www.smb.museum) — the Pergamon Altar — will be closed to visitors. The museum’s north wing (formerly home to other classical antiquities) is already closed. In the meantime, some classical Greek artifacts can be seen at the nearby Altes Museum. In other Museum Island news, reserved timed-entry tickets are no longer required at the Pergamon and Neues museums.

Although Berlin opened its new main train station (Hauptbahnhof) in 2006, construction is likely to begin again in 2014 to extend its roof. Many travelers may be diverted through other stations — such as Bahnhof Zoo and Ostbahnof — for the duration.

Berlin is also trying to finish construction of its new airport: Willy Brandt Berlin-Brandenburg International (www.berlin-airport.de). But the project has been perennially delayed by a faulty fire-safety system, glitches in the baggage-sorting equipment, and other technical problems; even a partial opening in 2014 is not likely.

Each year it seems Berlin has new memorials. Near the Memorial to the Murdered Jews is a memorial dedicated to the homosexual victims of Hitler’s rule, and a new Roma and Sinti memorial. The latter is to remind all who mourn the slaughter of six million Jews during the Holocaust that Hitler aimed to exterminate Europe’s Roma and Sinti (a.k.a. Gypsy) population as well. While Berlin has done what it can to keep the focus off of Hitler himself, the parking lot that sits over the site of Hitler’s bunker is a few minutes’ walk from these other memorials. The site (where he committed suicide just days before the end of World War II in Europe) comes with an information board to explain the significance of the spot.

Hamburg is not your Grandmutter’s port town: The northern metropolis is one of Germany’s wealthiest cities and a major financial, commercial, and media center. As is the case with port cities all over Europe, Germany’s leading port saw its docklands abandoned as freighters needed to be accommodated in a more modern setting outside of town. The run-down (yet central) real estate of the old harbor has been given new life with a massive renewal project: HafenCity (www.hafencity.com). Its shining glory is the new Elbphilharmonie concert hall, which looks like a glass palace resting on top of an old warehouse. However, like Berlin’s airport, the concert hall has hit major snags — it’s over budget and won't be opening until 2017 — about seven years late.



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