Culture in Berlin
Above: Contemporary sculptures speckle the city
Left: the beautiful Pergamon Altar
Below: Active art - throw shapes in countless cool clubs
Re-emerging from the aftermath of WWII and the Cold War, Berlin has since firmly established itself as one of Europe's brightest centres of culture. Perhaps it's the stunning landscape with its sparkling waterways, vast lakes, and endless stretches of forest and parkland that inspires artists to work; possibly it's the city's dark and turbulent history which provides them with so much evocative material; or maybe it's Berlin's liberal sense of hedonism that contributes most to its status as a creative hot-spot.
Whatever the circumstances that forged ‘New Berlin’, the fact remains that, more than any other capital city you care to mention, it is a place ruled by bohemian values and saturated with art in all its forms - from majestic opera to base graffiti. Wander around the central district of Mitte you will find almost as many art galleries as shops, and shops that you could easily confuse for art galleries anyway. Go to any nightspot and you're as likely to hear a poetry reading or nu-jazz performance, as a storming techno set - check out Kaffee Burger and KingKongKlub if that sounds like your bag, ‘baby’.
In addition to contemporary and counter-culture goings-on, Berlin also offers a formidable programme of more traditional art forms. The city's ballet companies may have diminished from three to one due to lack of funding, but it's three prestigious opera houses have miraculously eluded closure despite the dry coffers: the Berlin Opera Foundation now administers the trio from a central fund. The German capital also boasts no less than six renowned orchestras, including the Berliner Philharmoniker; masterfully presided over by Sir Simon Rattle, it is considered by many to be the finest in the world. In addition to these illustrious feathers, Berlin has a number of traditional, fringe and English language theatres in it's cultural cap and is also forging a formidable reputation in the field of dance.
Those who prefer musuems to the performance arts will be hard pressed to find a greater concentration of treasure anywhere in the world than on Museuminsel (Museum Island). The Pergamon has a breath-taking collections of ancient artefacts, including the Pergamon Altar with its Gods vs Titans frieze. The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) has an impressive permanent display of 19th German art, as well as work by the impressionists, and also holds highly-popular temporary exhibitions. The Altes Museum (Old Museum) now hosts a large Egyptian collection on top of its Prussian antiques, and the Bode and Neue boast their fair share of treasurs too. On top of this the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) is a must-see, not least for the superb panoramas it affords from atop its cupola.
Finally a number of very special events put the cherry on the cake of Berlin’s cultural programme. Techno-heads rejoiced in 2006 with the return of the Love Parade; whilst movie buffs continue to be entertained by the Berlin Film Festival – reckoned now to be as prestigious as Cannes and Venice; and live-music fans can celebrate the successful theft of Popkomm, a gigantic week-long industry extravaganza, from the city of Cologne.