Germany Unveils New Berlin Landmark before World Cup
Germany will take the wraps off its newest attraction on Friday when Berlin's five-storey steel and glass central rail station is finally opened after 10 years and around 10 billion euros -- just in time for the World Cup.
An imposing $13 billion landmark of superlatives that dwarfs the nearby Reichstag and Chancellery, the "Hauptbahnhof" that Berlin always wanted will be Europe's biggest station.
More than 1,100 trains will pass through each day and 300,000 passengers are expected to get on or off at Europe's biggest rail crossing hub, just a few metres west of the no man's land where the Berlin Wall once stood.
Destined to become a symbol of reunited Berlin and modern Germany, the massive station will also showcase the country's best in technology, engineering, infrastructure, efficiency and architecture during the soccer World Cup.
"It's a building for the next century," Deutsche Bahn chief executive Hartmut Mehdorn told journalists recently at the railways' headquarters in a tower 2 km (1.2 miles) south of the new station.
"It's the most beautiful station in the world," he said, pointing to a breathtaking view of the glass-covered hub. "We're delighted and proud. It's built for a growing Berlin, a city on the move."
The station's translucent tubular roof, made up of 9,117 glass panels, rises above the rest of the government quarter and its 46 metre-high (151 ft) twin towers are about 10 metres higher than the Reichstag parliament and Chancellery.
The station, which feels like an airport terminal, has 80 shops on five levels between east-west lines connecting Paris to Moscow, 12 metres above street level, and north-south lines linking Copenhagen to Athens, 15 metres under ground.
"From a distance, it looks like a giant glass spaceship that landed in the middle of Berlin," wrote the Stuttgarter Nachrichten. "But you can tell it will soon give that part of the city a completely new look, a new elegance."
Some 500,000 people are expected to attend a party and fireworks to dedicate the station at a celebratory grand opening on May 26, which will start when Chancellor Angela Merkel rides in on the first train from Leipzig.