Avenue des Tilleuls (Unter den Linden) à Berlin (©LabEx EHNE et Lycée Colbert Paris)

Avenue des Tilleuls (Unter den Linden) à Berlin (©LabEx EHNE et Lycée Colbert Paris)

Berlin was initially built on swampland. Then from ashes, those of broken stones. It then transformed from its previous divided self into a new capital – a cultural hub and place of civilised peace.

Unter den Linden – Under the linden trees – is the name given to its famous boulevard, a long and shaded avenue. After German reunification on the 3rd October 1990, this avenue only had its name. No linden trees had survived the poundings of the previous war. Then the avenue on the east side of the city became fringed by embassies and top hotels which it was said were fakes by the State to impress visitors. By the late XVIIth century this avenue with its several thousand trees (including walnut trees) was already deprived of most of its linden trees. They were only replanted in 1820, in four rows. And this is how we see them now today.

The great revamp of the avenue that took place at the end of the Nineties symbolises the city once again as a historical capital, a key political and cultural hub in both Germany and in Europe, a metropolis teeming with universities, museums, think-tanks, art movements as well as intransigent cultural issues: a city as central as it is on the fringes, inhabited by communities that resist and flout the ways of living and thought processes of a consumer society. There is a strong Berlin-style tradition of intervention, coexistence and confrontation of lifestyles, gathering people from all over the place, both geographically and socially speaking. Didn’t the great German romantic poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) write: « Berlin is not a city; it is simply a place that brings a multitude of people together who are intelligent for the most part and who totally take the mickey out of the place where they live »?

Unter den Linden is a prestigious avenue that remains a peaceful gathering place. Its revamp re-established its central avenue, replanted the linden trees and redesigned its original format in a contemporary environment. This long avenue that stretches from Schlossbrücke bridge to the Brandenburg Gate at Pariser Platz, and which is magnet for flocks of Berliners and tourists alike features the prominent characteristic of gathering together noble institutions rather than the commercial buildings favoured by sister cities around the world. Here you will find a university, museum, opera house and embassies as well as numerous monuments and historical buildings.

Berlin, a very large city, a leading metropolis, surprises people by being so serene and for the civility of its inhabitants. Under den Linden may well not represent the diversity of the city but it shows the person strolling along it the majesty of a city of culture and of a future marked by a collective sense that understands how to resist individualistic disintegration.

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