A lot of exciting activities are on the horizon for both Berlin and Vienna in the coming year as each European capital celebrates a milestone in its history.
Fall of The Wall
For over 28 years, East and West Berlin were divided by an almost insurmountable wall, dividing families and friends while bringing much pain and suffering to the city. At least 136 people lost their lives at the Berlin Wall, mostly during attempts to flee from East to West.
The construction of the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961 led to the partitioning of East and West Germany and West Berlin’s encirclement by the Wall. Following an escalation of protests at the end of the 1980’s, the border crossings were opened on November 9, 1989.
Millions celebrated across the city: Berliners from East and West and visitors from around the globe joyously embraced one another. There was much celebration on November 9, 1989, generating a feeling of euphoria as the majority of border posts disappeared after the fall of the Wall.
As the Wall fell on that historic day, photos of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate traveled around the world and became indelible symbols of regained freedom. The peaceful revolution had triumphed and reunited the people of Germany.
Berlin has changed dramatically since the fall of the Wall and German reunification: the two halves of the city have once again merged as one, historic buildings have been restored, and entire new districts and magnificent buildings have emerged.
Created from illuminated balloons, Lichtgrenze will form a highlight of the festivities from November 7 to 9, tracing the former division of the city. Hundreds of thousands of Berliners and city visitors are expected to visit, both to admire and contemplate the huge former city division.
To honour the major anniversary, a series of special events and museum exhibitions are planned throughout the city, focusing on the division of Germany and Berlin, the Cold War, and the peaceful revolution leading to reunification.
Featured highlights include a GPS-guided walking tour on the trail of the Berlin Wall, guided or self-guided bicycle tours on the Wall path, visits to underground Berlin, former watch towers, Wall memorials, The GDR Museum, or a drive into the East of the city in an original GDR Trabant.
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A few major exhibits (and a new Spy Museum!) are part of the cultural agenda:
Berlin Spy Museum
Espionage has been the subject of many movies and books set in Berlin. Now the city is finally getting a museum that focuses on the mysteries of agents, double agents, betrayals, heroes, their stories, and the tools they used. The Berlin Spy Museum will feature approximately 21,500 square feet of exhibition space. One of the more well-known pieces on display will be the famous German coding machine “Enigma” from World War II, used to encipher and decipher secret messages. The exhibition will unveil the mysteries of intelligence services and espionage in the East and the West with a focus on Berlin during WWII and the Cold War.
The Botticelli Renaissance
In Berlin’s Picture Gallery (Gemäldegalerie), a major exhibition dedicated to the Renaissance will explore how Botticelli – like no other artist – inspired the Modernist period and present-day art. Over 100 masterpieces of European art on loan from the world’s great collections have been assembled to chart the process by which original Botticellis have been transformed into “pictures”. The exhibition is curated in cooperation with London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.
Exhibition on History of Homosexuality
In cooperation with Berlin’s Gay Museum (Schwules Museum), the German National History Museum is planning an interdisciplinary exhibition on gay history, politics, culture, and art. The exhibition aims to contribute to a social recognition that goes beyond tolerance. It will also demonstrate what political contributions the homosexual emancipation movement has made toward the development of a democratic civil society in which everyone is accorded equal rights and equal opportunities.
For the first time in its history, the European Maccabi Games, the European Jewish sports competition, will be held in Berlin. The organizers anticipate 2,000 athletes who will compete in 24 disciplines at Berlin’s Olympiapark. The Games were first held in Prague in 1929, the following year in Antwerp. After World War II and the persecution of the Jews, the Games returned to Europe in 1959, held in Copenhagen. The international Maccabi Games are held every four years in Israel.
Vienna Ringstrasse at 150
The city of Vienna was a construction site for decades until May 1, 1865, when Emperor Franz Joseph officially opened Vienna’s Ringstrasse, lined with beautiful buildings and a series of parks and monuments. 150 years later, the Austrian capital will mark the showpiece boulevard’s anniversary with numerous events and exhibitions.
From November 17 to 23, Vienna Art Week will transform the nation’s capital into a meeting point for art fans and experts on the international art scene, with a program featuring exhibition openings, tours of special exhibitions, installations, talks, panel discussions, and performances. Initiated by the Dorotheum auction house and designed by Art Cluster Vienna, this major event is a joint initiative by various art institutions, museums, artists, and collectors.
Visitors to Vienna can pick and choose from over 430 different accommodations (approximately 63,000 beds in total) from upmarket traditional establishments and contemporary design hotels to low-budget B&B’s.
Beginning next month, the ÖBB’s flagship high-speed railjet trains will link the Hauptbahnhof and Prague. This new service cuts travel time by half an hour, to 4 hours 10 minutes. A direct link to Vienna International Airport will also open to passengers in December. All of the platforms and rails are scheduled for completion in December 2015 when the station becomes fully operational and welcomes the first inbound service running along the western mainline.
The new ultra-modern Hauptbahnhof is set to be one of Europe’s key transport hubs with 145,000 passengers and 1,000 trains passing through every day.
Vienna will also host several major art exhibitions, including:
Joan Miró/Albertina/Albertina Museum
Famed for his highly imaginative works, Joan Miró is one of the most popular artists of the 20th century. The Albertina will devote a comprehensive review to the Catalan artist with around 100 paintings, sketches, and other artifacts that shine the light on the celebrated surrealist’s poetic qualities through January 11, 2015.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: The Path to Modernism/Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien
Currently on display through January 25, 2015 is the first full retrospective of the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth. Comprised of works loaned by collections around the globe, the exhibition will cast light on the sheer variety of Toulouse-Lautrec’s work and his extraordinary talent for observation, as seen in his paintings, works on paper, lithographs, and posters.
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