The current weather situation in Berlin is a never ending peek-a-boo playing with my nerves, with one day nurturing lots of hope for the installment of an early spring, followed by a couple of cold snowy icy days putting on hold indefinitely any plans for the much awaited outdoor weekends. Unless you discover some museums not visited yet or some spectacular exhibitions taking place, you survive hard such a stressful time. If you are visiting Berlin this time of the year, if not provided with the right information, you might be easily disappointed and suffer for taking the decision of coming here in the first place.
However, if you are curious and optimistic enough, there are enough reasons to go out of the house or hotel room, even only underground. Take, for instance, some of the metro stations. Although Berlin doesn't have spectacular constructions as in Stockholm, at least some of them do have their special charm that at least will encourage your camera to take a picture or more of the colours or creative spaces. It is much better than in Paris, for instance.
To those looking for unique Berlin memories, I have the pleasure to offer my choice of the most beautiful metro stations.
As a side note, not all of them do have elevator or offer transportation facilities for people with disabilities. If interested where you can find such possibilities, you should check on the underground map which station is associated with the small symbol of the elevator.
The construction of the Berlin metro started in the second half of the 19th century, with the first stretch finalized in 1896. The transportation network of the city went through dramatic historical challenges: the bombings during WWII, the separation of the city and the construction of the Wall, the recent reunification of the city. Thus, some stations although share the same name, do have different look because built at different periods of time. For instance, Fehrbelliner Platz - part of the U7 line - do have one stop which reminds of the pop-art of the 1970s. From outside, the station was designed as an 'oil rig', a decision widely controversial at the time.
The other half with the same name - part of the U3 Dahlemdorf line, one of my favorite because as it connects the city to the Free University area, you will find a high concentration of people reading books - is part of an old network built between 1909-1913. This area is the only one served by old style trains. The old style was maintained also in the case of this station, with large black-and-white pictures featuring old corners of Berlin. While waiting the train to go at Fehrbelliner Platz, for instance, one can learn about different looks of the city, from the works of the German illustrator and photographer Heinrich Zille. A small museum dedicated to his works is situated in the historical area of Nikolaiviertel. For those curious, Fehrbellin was a locality where in 1675 took place a battle between Sweden and the Kingdom of Brandenburg-Prussia.
Part of the same stretch - U3, direction Nollendorfplatz - and designed by the same architect - Wilhelm Leitgebel - is Hohenzollernplatz station. Here you can find pictures of old castles belonging to the Hohenzollern family.
All the previous stations do have large arches that reminds you of sumptuous entrances, but no one compares to Heidelberger Platz. Here, each column has at its corner different sculptures of animals, work of the German sculptor Martin Meyer-Pyritz.
The elegance of the arches is completed by spectacular light effects, turning your waiting for the train into an ennobling experience.
More modest, Rudesheimer Platz combines in a pure Berlin style the seriousness with ironic street art insertions. This station is open at both ends leading directly to the street.
Up on the ceilings, fine mosaiques remind the passenger of some forgotten Roman art and the lost art of conversation around a good glass of wine.
Many metro stations offer to the short-time visitor more than a space of waiting, but aims to educate and remember. Many stops at the end of U7 - direction Rudow - are ugly, as I noticed while documenting my post about Gropius Stadt. However, at Wutzkyallee you have the chance to get acquainted with some stages of this impressive urban project by watching some of the pictures from the beginning of the construction. And the blue tiles aren't that bad at all, isn't it?
Back on the U7 line - direction Rathaus Spandau - you should remain open to any visual surprises. Konstanzer Strasse keeps up with the pop-art style of the new Fehrbelliner Platz station. It was inaugurated for the public at the end of the 1970s, and bears the name of a long street which separates the neighbourhood, named after the Southern Germany city of Konstanz.
The most spectacular - and one of my favorite, so far - is Paulsternstraße. An explosion of colours and flowers made of colourful tiles warms your eyes regardless of how low the outside temperatures are. If you are curious to know who Paul Stern was, I will share you the secret: he was a pub owner who gave the name of a neighbourhood in the area.
At Rohrdamm station, the science is translated into the colourful geometry of art. Its name in German means 'pipe dam' as it was situated on a street along such a pipe. As most of the following stations on the U-7 line direction Rathaus Spandau, it was designed by the architect R. Rümmler, whose name will be often mentioned in the next paragraphs.
Science lovers are invited to stop next at Siemensdamm. I loved the pastel colors chosen for the general ambiance, but also the smart insertions featuring various industries and engineering techniques from Siemens factory. The station opened in 1980 served a secondary purpose to transportation of passengers: it was aimed as a NBC shelter, a protection area in case of radio-active attack. It has a capacity of hosting 4,332 people for 14 days.
Jungfernheide is also a S-Bahn station - S-Bahn comes from 'Stadtschnellbahn', or the city rapid railway, operating in the city since the 1930s - but all those stations are grey and anonymous and easy to forget. Instead, the corresponding metro station is bubbling with colourful tiles. It seems that the architects really had a lot of fun playing with various lines and creating ingenious angles.
More uniform in terms of colours, Mierendorffplatz still has some creative angles featuring the letter M in red tiles. The entire station, named after the German Resistance fighter Carlo Mierendorff, seems to be the work of a team admiring primitive art. Besides considerations of style, the different visual looks of the metro stations in Berlin is aimed at offering help for easy recognition of the stations for visually impaired people.
If you are an opera lover - particularly a Wagner fan - at the station bearing the name of the controversial composer one can admire old black-and-white pictures from various representations of opera shows. De gustibus, indeed, but the idea of such a highly cultural immersion at a metro station deserves to be mentioned.
Rathaus Spandau train station is one of my favorites too, for its fine architectural presence. The row of columns doubles the jewel-like row of the 64 lamps. A very elegant apparition, indeed, that can be observed in its full splendor from the platform over-viewing the entire station. From afar, you can take it as a ball hall.
But you don't have to be necessarily exuberant or extravagant in order to get noticed. On the U1 line, Kurfürstenstraße station, functional since 1926, is one of the most discrete. Well balanced and delicate in terms of colours and play of lines, it makes you feel good while waiting your train.
Even simpler, Rosenthaler Platz on the U8 line offers a multiplied effect of orange, through various shades of the tiles. This is the original design since its opening, in 1930, work of the architect A. Grenander. During the Berlin Wall separation, between 1961 and 1989, this station was one of the many 'ghost stations' - 'Geisterbahnhöfe', that were kept closed for security reasons. After the fall of the Wall, for a short time, it was used as a temporary border between the two countries before the reunification of Berlin and Germany.
Osloer Straße station, situated at the two-level U8 and U9 line is honoring the beautiful city of Oslo, is featuring the flag of Norway. It was opened in 1976-1977 and keeps the vivid spirit of those times.
The next station does not exactly belong to the category of underground. It belongs to the S-Bahn train network and it's probably the most colourful of them all - S-Bahn stations are grey, impersonal and completely unappealing. Hence, my decision to include S-Bahn Schöneberg station - part of the Ring S41/42 network among my collection of beauties.
The station got a redo recently and right now is decorated with computergame childish figures, from the very beginning of the industry. The figures are more visibles on the entry/exit hall, leading in and out to and from a very classical red-bricked building.
Part of the U2 red line, Klosterstraße U-Bahn is not such a high traffic station. You may stop there on the way to the Märkisches Museum or to some low profile coffee places around, or if you live there, but otherwise you simply ignore it. Which is a pity, because from the very moment you step inside, you are entering you may think you descended into a Babylonian Palace. Which is partially true, as the tiles-composition representing Babylonian palms are aimed at reproducing details from the palace of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II. The representations are based on the reconstruction of the king's palace from the Pergamon Museum.
The station was designed by the Swedish architect Alfred Grenader. Inside the station, big billboards tracing the history of public transportation in Berlin are exhibited. The metal columns dividing the waiting area are having on top simplified reproductions of the same palms.
Berlin has 173 metro stations, and I proudly visited almost all of them. However, I've never been in this part of the U8 line, covering the Reinickendorf area, until I had to finish the documentation for this article. The design style was familiar, as it was the work of the same Rümmler which created the colourful stations on the U7 line direction Rathaus Spandau. Lindauer Allee - Lime Alley, for instance - is a colourful stop full of life and tiles disposed in a playful way. As in the case of Rathaus Spandau, it has a platform from where the entire beauty of the station can be admired.
The same architect was more restrained in the case of Paracelsus Bad station. Between black and white tiles on the wall and on the columns, there are intercalated images featuring the bathing culture of the Roman times. The lightning solution enlarges the space and creates interesting games of perspective.
When opened in 1987, the costs for creating this station were considered quite high for the time. In this case, Rümmler let his imagination fly wildly again. The station is aimed to honor the memory of the Stadtschloss - city castle - through the maps created on the walls, the exuberant colourful columns and the complex patterns of the floor. A really interesting work that you hardly expect in the case of a metro station.
Last but not least on my journey to discover the most interesting and beautiful metro stations of Berlin is Franz Neumann Platz. Initially called only Am Schäfersee, for the nearby lake, it was added the name of a social-democrat politician. The heavy trees do fit better the nature expected around the water or a promenade. I not necessarily liked the way in which the floor matches the walls, but the entire design is an invitation to go out to the ground and visit the area. Something I will do for sure in the next days, even if the spring still seems to be so far away.
Until the next travel adventure, I still have a lot to think about the last lessons. This tour of Berlin through its most beautiful metro stations taught me a lot about art, architecture and the history of the city.