Bahnhof Friedrichstraße (Friedrichstraße Railway Station) – whether you have ever been to Berlin or not, you must have encountered this name. You will find it in novels, in newspapers, in films and in history books.

From the moment it was completed in 1882 and opened as Berlin’s first central railway station (in the presence of Kaiser Wilhelm I), Bahnhof Friedrichstraße, has consequently played a huge role in Berlin’s history. The last chapter was probably the least glorious one: the station famously served as terminus for trains arriving from West Berlin and as a nearly insurmountable barrier for the travellers from the East (whose departures in the direction of the setting sun were strictly controlled and even more strictly regimented).

The postcard shows the station as it was in its original form – today’s looks practically nothing like it after the refurbishment carried out in the 1920s, additional “tweaking” in the 1930s and then, unavoidably, the World-War-Two “adjustments”.

But despite those extensive changes, one thing remained as it always was: the 160-metre long station building stands on a gentle curve and its body had to be constructed along that line. For not only was it erected on quite swampy ground but it also had to fit into the long line of land-plots used for erecting both the viaduct and the stations – a line consisting principally of the city’s own land: filled in canals, old royal wood storage sites, etc. And it had to fit into the gaps between the already erected buildings.

Vollmer Johannes (1845-1920), Bahnhof Friedrichstraße, Berlin. (In: Atlas zur Zeitschrift für Bauwesen, publ. by F. Endell, Jg. 35, 1885): seen from the south. Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin Inv. Nr. ZFB 35,001.

You can see that curve very clearly from the outside, especially if looking at Bahnhof Friedrichstraße from the south: from Georgenstraße and from Dorothea-Schlegel-Platz (one of the those Berlin plaza’s whose name hardly anyone knows and hardly anyone realises that it is a legitimate plaza in the first place; vide Marlene-Dietrich-Platz). But it is upstairs, on the platforms that this curved line becomes most obvious. As it already was in 1882.

Bahnhof Friedrichstraße / Zentralbahnhof in 1882.
Photo by Wilhelm Hermes, Teknik- och industrihistoriska arkivet / Tekniska museet (ARK-K93-G4))

Learn more about Bahnhof Friedrichstraße and the area around it by joining me for my Voicemap.me walking audio-tour of northern section of Friedrichstraße (the audio-tour can also be purchased as a present for your befriended Berlin-fan).

U-Bhf Oranienstraße (now “Görlitzer Bahnhof”) in 1902, the year the line opened.

On February 18, 1902 the first Hochbahn line, now known as U1, opened for public service in Berlin: Berlin’s U-Bahn network, the heart of the BVG (Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe or “Berlin Public Transport Company”) was born. Three days earlier a historic event known as Ministerfahrt (Ministerial Round) took place, marking the official debut of the new transport system.

By now this network stretches over nearly 153 kilometres and covers 174 stations (by the end of 2021 two more are planned to open) placed both under and the over the ground. Siemens & Halske, the company behind the network’s original concept, as well as the great people behind the original Hochbahn/Unterpflasterbahn project (Unterpflaster stands for “sub-pavement”- which explains the name U-Bahn) foresaw this development.

To find out more about the origins and the peculiarities of the original section of this incredible public transport system, take a walking audio-tour of the old eastern Stammstrecke (Core Line) and enjoy “Take The U Train: Berlin’s Oldest Elevated Railway Line Part I” (you can also listen to it at home following the route on Google Streets or on a regular Open Street map).  The audio-tour is available via Voicemaps.

It is a downloadable 120-minute long series of recordings telling the story of the line’s genesis, its designers, engineers as well as critics and supporters, and explaining why its winding viaduct is a marvel of engineering and its stations a thing of beauty even if some of the eastern U1 stops (like “Kottbusser Tor”) might seem uninviting.

Let me take you back in time to the days when none of today’s comforts were obvious and when the arrival of the new city railway line was considered by a blessing by some and by a curse by others. We can safely say that history and time proved the latter group wrong.

You can listen to the audio-tour while walking/driving along today’s U1 line (start at U-Bhf Warschauer Straße and end at U-Bhf “Gleisdreieck”) or you can enjoy it as continuous listening from home or any other location. To download use VoiceMap app (you can listen to the tour while walking with recordings triggered manually or triggering automatically per GPS) or visit their page online.