We found a great deal at the ABACUS Tierpark Hotel for this trip – fairly deep into the former East Berlin but easily accessible by U-Bahn (subway) on the U5 line. The hotel was jut a 5-minute walk from the Tierpark Station, about 15-20 minutes from Alexanderplatz.
The station is adjacent to Tierpark Berlin, the largest zoological garden in Europe (and not to be confused with the Berlin Zoo at the Zoologischer Garten station).
The U5 line is the only U-Bahn line completely within former East Berlin – it starts at Alexanderplatz, the sort of downtown/hub of East Berlin, and runs for about 11.5 miles to the east. Alexanderplatz is the line’s only connection to the rest of the U-Bahn network (lines U2 and U8), and there are also connections there for the S-Bahn and regional trains. In this sense, the line is somewhat isolated and has some similiarities to the 7 or L lines in New York. The U5 line’s initial segment opened in 1930 from Alexanderplatz with 9 stations to the east, in a fairly attractive but simple, streamlined style, with a variety of bright colours. Since it is entirely in East Berlin, it ran unimpeded during the Cold War.
In 1973 a short one-station extension opened to Tierpark, which was our home station for the week. This was effectively the only U-Bahn construction/expansion completed under the GDR government. Officially, the further eastward extensions to the U5 opened in late 1988 and 1989 to the current terminus of Honow, but that was virtually at the end of the Cold War and entirely above ground as well. We think the station has a clear Soviet type of feel!
The entrance is a little stark, and the whole station has a simple, unadorned look.
One distinctive characteristic of the Berlin transport system is that there are no barriers, fare gates or turnstiles of any kind. Instead, the whole system is “proof-of-payment” – you must have a valid ticket and be able to show it to an inspector at any time. So, the only barriers at this station are these imposing gates that are used to close the station overnight.
The piece de resistance - can't you just see the GDR guards watching everything from here?
The station’s defining feature is this elevated and glassed-in control room in the center of the platform. While many stations have some sort of control room on the platforms (especially since there is no booth or office at the entrances to go along with fare control), this is the most imposing one we saw by far (although other East Berlin stations on the U5 had interesting ones with mirrored glass on the outside – so you don’t know if you’re being watched or not!).
Otherwise the station is fairly spartan, as you might expect, although well-engineered and in good repair.
The station was interesting and convenient – and we rarely saw anybody stationed in the booth!
They are watching you!