Before the German capital welcomes its darkest days, a festival begins and transforms the city into a world of lights and colors. We are speaking about the Festival of Lights, taking place between the 9th and the 20th of October along the streets of Berlin.
The Television Tower changing colors, Velotaxis glowing everywhere and several street performances decorate the city during one of its most special events. Now in its ninth successful year, it is one of the biggest illumination festivals in Europe, lighting up more than 60 buildings across the city. Throughout the festival period there are 520,000 overnight bookings, more than 1,500,000 visitors and 520 million people following the Festival by television or Internet. Therefore it is not ambitious to compare it with spectacles such as the ones in Lyon, Sydney or San Jose in Costa Rica.
Under the subject “Berlin leuchtet” (Berlin gleams) the festival is organized and led by Birgit Zander, a native German. Every year it has a different theme that the light projections are designed around. This time, it is paying homage to artists such as Andy Warhol, Piet Mondrian and Keith Haring based on the topic of “Rediscovering Modern Art“. The transport possibilities in a city like Berlin make it easy to discover the highlights of the festival by foot, boat, bike tours or even on Segways (even they are covered in fluorescent lights).
As residents in Berlin we went to see the spectacle for ourselves. Starting from the Television Tower at Alexanderplatz and finishing at the Brandenburg Gate, one of the highlights of the festival. This tried and tested route is not the only one however, since the event takes place throughout the whole city. It is recommended that you don’t miss the projections of French paintings that illuminate Charlottenbourg Palace, the lights in the Victory Column, and have a look to the ambitious decoration in Sony Center – where eight meter high blades of grass glow red at night.
Stood in the garden in front of the Cathedral, with Altes Museum to our left, you could see this 19th century neoclassical construction transformed into a 3D poster thanks to some incredible light effects. Sometimes it was a blue garden with white flowers, other times pretty lips kissing the cathedral or even huge musical staves. The most surprising and unique effect was at the Konzerthaus (Opera building), with the columns being transformed into strange, meandering patterns by the light projections. Following on from this, many pink and green squares danced across the Konzerthaus to the sound of the piano notes that filled the air. It was a truly well developed, colorful piece of art.
As expected, the most extravagant and well-prepared show (and the one attracting the most visitors) was created in Paris Platz, better known for being the home of the Brandenburg Gate. There were projections of European monuments into the colors of the rainbow, the word “light” shown in more than 50 languages, and 3D animated presentations with children and balloons that made the gate come to life. A fantastic show created to please people of all ages.
A great time is all but guaranteed, with the unmissable event taking place across twelve days between 7pm and 12pm, in this season where the temperatures haven’t quite reached the kind of levels that will put you off from walking through the city.
During the time of the festival there are also other events that you can visit along your route, such as the outdoor photography exhibition “Diversity destroyed” located in front of Altes Museum. The exhibition looks at those who lived in Berlin around the 1920s – a decade in which Berlin had an incredible diversity of people – and how this all came crashing down with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler in 1933.
Music lovers might want to check out the jazz festival in Ministergärten (€25), and those who love theatre may appreciate the play “History does not pass like smoke” (free). There is also a 3D projection on the Belgian Embassy façade (free), or the photo workshop “Night Photography” offered for different levels (€75). There is something for everyone.
Now, after twelve intense days and with the memory of the lights slowly fading, we say goodbye until next October.