After years of bickering, scandals and cost overruns, Berlin finally has its modern new Main Station (Hauptbahnhof), built from 1993 to 2006 on the site of the old Lehrter Station that had not been used since 1952.
The new station has tracks on two different levels. Upstairs is the traditional East-West line and downstairs in a tunnel is a newly built North-South line. They say that every day about 1800 long-distance, regional and rapid transit trains stop at the fourteen platforms on the two levels.
InterCityExpress (ICE) trains now typically take just over four hours to travel from Frankfurt am Main to Berlin Main Station — a journey that used to take twice as long with stops for elaborate border inspections by the GDR People’s Police.
The old trains, known in the west as the ‘inter-zone trains’, never stopped in the GDR (‘German Democratic Republic’ aka East Germany) at all, so as to prevent easterners from trying to escape to the west. West Germans in those days often referred to the GDR as ‘the zone’, meaning the ‘Soviet Occupation Zone’. I recall a lame joke that nobody laughed at being described, around 1962, as a Zonenwitz mit Lachzwang, meaning a ‘zone joke with obligatory laughter.’
Ironically, the fastest ICE trains today, the ones that go by way of Hildesheim and Braunschweig, also have no stops in the former GDR, since they go non-stop from Wolfsburg, in the former West Germany, to Berlin-Spandau, in the former West Berlin.
My photos in this post are from 2009 and 2016. I revised the text in 2020.