The lime trees, which are known as basswood or linden in North America, are a crucial part of the capital's image. Even Marlene Dietrich once sang, “As long as the old trees blossom on Unter den Linden, nothing can overcome us, Berlin remains Berlin.”
The devastation and privation of World War Two left almost nothing, most trees in the city cut down for fuel or damaged during the fighting. But a replanting effort about 60 years ago included the famous lime trees along Unter den Linden.
Now they are being cut down – 54 of the 304 will be felled this week, all the way along the central promenade stretch of the 1.5 kilometre-long boulevard.
The new metro line, an extension of the U5, will travel the entire length of the boulevard, more than 20 metres below the surface, to connect the Brandenburg Gate to Alexanderplatz. A new station is also to be built at the corner of Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse, with an opening target of 2019.
The city council is being compensated by the construction company, and will spend the money on replacement trees.
Trees have been planted along the route since 1647 when it was a riding path to the Tiergarten park and hunting grounds. In 1820 the six rows were thinned down to just four, while in 1936 the mixed tree species were replaced by uniformly silver limes. Only five of these still remain.