The Place To Be In Berlin: Potsdamer Platz (VIDEO)

11/11/2011 03:53 pm ET | Updated Jan 11, 2012

A traffic junction already in the 18th century, Potsdamer Platz became famous in the Golden 1920s, a metropolitan heart back then, with its grand luxury hotels like the Esplanade and artists' meeting points like Café Josty. It was a subject for painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and journalist and writer Kurt Tucholsky, who had more than one satirical say about the crowded place.

Masses of people crossed its streets in those times, many of them arriving at or departing from the railway station that connected the growing city with destinations near and far. Others came in search of entertainment. In the late 1920s, Haus Vaterland became the hot spot of amusement with its large cinema as well as its many theme restaurants and cafés ranging from a Japanese tea house to Spanish bodega or Italian osteria.

After World War II, the place was nothing more than burned wasteland. It again became famous as a vast empty space after 1961, divided into an Eastern and a Western section by the Berlin Wall. It was here that film maker Wim Wenders shot the famous feature film "Wings of Desire" (Der Himmel über Berlin).

Then came 1989 and with the fall of the wall, Potsdamer Platz again changed its face. Having been a no man's land for many decades, the place returned to the middle of the soon-reunited city. But before the competition for the best rejuvenation plan opened, Potsdamer Platz went down in music history with a gigantic rock concert: Roger Waters' "The Wall" in 1990, still the only concert performed on one stage in two countries as the German reunification took place three months later.

Today, this is all history -- and it's not part of our short film and second contribution to "Berlin 01:30." However, some traces of the past can still be seen among the conglomerate of modern architecture by Renzo Piano, Arata Isozaki and Hans Kollhoff to name but a few of the starchitects that have reshaped Potsdamer Platz. But you have to take a close look not to miss them: some Berlin Wall pieces for example, the old Weinhaus Huth or a new café with the old name Josty.

Yet the most obvious first impression visitors have today is probably the same as they would've had 100 years ago: a busy place filled with shops, restaurants and hotels, crowded with people, cars, bicycles -- and sometimes even with animals, as Husky-drawn tours are offered! There are other options as well, like taking the elevator to the Panoramapunkt on top of the Kollhoff Tower. The building is more than 300 feet high and provides a great view on the urban scenery with the Berlin outskirts far away and the offices in the neighboring towers very close. It's a celebration for the filmmaker and it's a struggle as well: Just imagine carrying heavy tripods, a camera assistant suffering from vertigo and crowds of people sparring for the best vantage point on a platform that is just a small aisle with a tall balustrade.

Down on the ground, it's not about tourists but rather it's about colleagues. While flaneurs from all over the world stop when facing a camera, fellow film makers are not all that tender-footed when meeting each other. The best time of the year to provoke this effect is of course the Berlinale International Film Festival, when stars and starlets grace the place that is home to the event. It's the only season when nearly everyone in the city agrees that Potsdamer Platz is the place to be -- while for the rest of the year, there are controversies about whether it's too cool or not cool enough (or not in the right way), too crowded or to empty, too sober or not sober enough, too exclusive or too cheap.

There's just one way to find out the truth: finding one's own perspective. Ours is the film makers view since we never get tired of finding new angles, moods, seasons and encounters at this, the most urban place in the city, where we can have an espresso break in our favorite coffee shop and wait for the next best moment to catch.

Information about Potsdamer Platz

Shopping: Besides Sony Center with its Sony Store, Potsdamer Platz Arcaden is the place's shopping area, with the usual range of stores for fashion, perfumes, electronics and jewelery. Moreover, construction for a huge new shopping center at the historical Wertheim-area that was once home to the famous Wertheim Kaufhaus at the near-by Leipziger Platz has already begun.

Eating out: There are plenty of opportunities around Potsdamer Platz, from international to local Berlin cuisine. Many cafés and bars can be found as well. A special tip might be the many hotel bars and, for wine lovers, the Weinhaus Huth.

Entertainment and culture: There's mass entertainment and fine culture side by side, for example a casino, four cinemas (ranging from multiplex blockbuster places to the true institution Kino Arsenal), the art gallery Daimler Contemporary and a musical theatre. For cineastes, the place's high time of the year is Berlinale International Film Festival.

Cinemas and places all over the city are involved, but the heart and center is located here, with the Berlinale Festival Palace at Marlene-Dietrich-Platz. Lots of journalists, critics, stars and producers -- in other words, the whole festival crowd -- packs restaurants, cafès and hotel lobbies in the area. Throughout the year, there are other events taking place as well like concerts (some planned and some performed spontaneously) or the Festival of Lights in autumn.

Special tips: Watch out for the team of nice husky dogs for a guided tour. Another attraction is the Panoramapunkt on Kollhoff Tower with a panorama platform. There's a nice café with a great view as well.