Spot the difference: Photos show how Berlin has changed since 1990

What a difference 22 years makes…

I had the pleasure of living and working in Berlin from 1990-92 and have been back many times since. I was rummaging around in my box of old (printed) photos from those days and took a few of them with me when I was in the German capital a few years back. The idea was to take some comparable pictures in 2012 to document the differences – and it turned out to be quite fascinating.

The quality of the originals isn’t that great but the dramatic changes that have taken place in the intervening years can be clearly seen…

Schönefeld Airport in 1990. Note the general lack of colour (a prominent feature of the DDR era) and the fact that the signs are in German, Russian and English…

Well it’s looking a bit fresher in 2012, but still feels a little tired. The new super-modern airport which will take over eventually – it’s been delayed for years now in very non-German fashion – ought to be an altogether different experience.

Back in 1990 most of the flights were to/from the DDR’s friends in the East…

More choice these days…

Exterior view in 1990, with mostly Trabis and Wartburgs in the car park

Modern cars now, but not much change to the structure

The final border post hut at Checkpoint Charlie (which was later removed, along with the sign, and is now on show at the Allied Museum)

The copies of the sign and hut. Mercifully the actors dressed as border guards were absent when this shot was taken

View from a long-gone observation tower at Checkpoint Charlie looking into the East (note the huge border control structure where vehicles and pedestrians were searched)…

…all of which is long gone today (here you can see the actors – tacky doesn’t even begin to cover it)

Image above obtained from under Creative Commons License (c) icklekitty 

The Russian War Memorial in 1990. Actually located in West Berlin – right by the Brandenburg Gate – the memorial was the scene of much East-West tension during the Cold War and was guarded round the clock by Russian soldiers, seen goose-stepping here. This was strictly off-limits to tourists back then…

Now the guards have departed you are free to take a closer look

Finally this is where I lived for several months, Lottumstrasse in Prenzlauer Berg. Now one of the city’s most desirable and expensive areas to live, it was a drab place 22 years ago before gentrification with the constant smell of the brown coal used for heating in the air

A new class of resident rules the cobbled streets of Prenzlauer Berg, as the radically different vehicles attest

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

Articles: 1288


  1. Can only agree! I first visit Berlin on a short one day trip from Lübeck in 1995 with Potsdamer Platz still been a huge working project, its so a different city and for me country.

  2. Nice to be reminded how the city and also Germany in general changed. Now I also want to see other regions. 😉

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