WEST BERLIN — With the old year fading fast, West Berlin is gearing up for one of the biggest celebrations in its history.
During 1987 the city promises to be the center of a European entertainment extravaganza, West Berlin's 750th anniversary.
The jubilee year will be devoted to a mixture of the arts and entertainment the likes of which Berlin hasn't experienced since before the war.
An opening concert May 1 by the Berlin Philharmonic will be followed with a performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Andre Previn.
The '87 birthday party will feature a giant fireworks show by the Japanese, transportation displays by the Germans and an exhibition focusing on the history of Berlin.
Crowds will gather for a science show in the rebuilt Congress Hall and 50,000 gymnasts will perform during a major athletic event.
Enormous crowds are expected at a "Rock Salute to Berlin" to be held Aug. 1 at the Reichstag. At the same time, ballet groups and opera stars will invade the city, steam-driven merry-go-rounds will spin and boat owners will join a regatta that promises to draw thousands.
The city's famous Tiergarten will be transformed into an amusement park with all the nostalgia of a turn-of-the-century fairground.
Eleven hundred shops and boutiques along the Kurfurstendam are restocking, discos are installing new recordings and coffeehouses and cabarets throughout Berlin are freshening up for the crowds Berlin is expecting from springtime into next winter.
The jubilee will spotlight the serious side of a divided city as well--focusing on exile and immigration, war and peace. At the same time, each of Berlin's 12 boroughs is preparing its own individual birthday exhibition.
Like Paris and Manhattan, West Berlin never slumbers. Jazz groups play for breakfast crowds. Cabarets remain open from dusk till dawn--and frequently well into the new day. Others never close.
With its museums, theaters, concert halls, art galleries, castles and palaces, Berlin provides culture along with excitement.
With 24,000 hotel rooms, Berlin is prepared to host the anniversary year crowds. For visitors preferring the quiet of the suburbs, my vote goes to Schlosshotel Gehrhus, an old palace hotel in Berlin's Green Forest and one of the few that survived the bombings of World War II. Schlosshotel Gehrhus was built in the early '20s by a colleague of Kaiser Wilhelm II to exhibit an art collection. Ceilings are hand painted and art copies from the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum are displayed throughout the public rooms.
Schlosshotel Gehrhus provides 40 rooms and suites. Rates: $23/$190 per night. Address: Brahmstrasse 4-10.
For the traveler preferring a small, unpretentious hotel in the heart of the city, our recommendation is the little Residenz Berlin, Meinekstrasse 9, just off the Kurfurstendam. Seventy-seven rooms from 106 to 164 marks. For old Berlin appeal, try the choice little Hotel Kronprinz (Kronprinzendamm 1) at the west end of the Kurfurstendam. This turn-of-the-century town house was built in 1894. All rooms decorated differently. Private baths, color TV, mini-bars, a buffet breakfast. Drinks are poured in the hotel's beer garden and lobby, and meals are served in a garden-like restaurant. Bus service at the door. Rates: 85/107 marks per day.
It's hard to get a poor meal in West Berlin. Not with 5,000 restaurants, coffeehouses. Discovered a snug little cafe off the Kurfurstendam called the Grille (opposite the Plaza Hotel). Theatrical types gather regularly in this restaurant with its timbered walls, beamed ceilings, classical music. Good drinks, marvelous soups, meals. Modestly priced.
For a coffeehouse with unusual appeal, try Konditorei Cafe Mohring on the Kurfurstendam across from the Kaiser Wilhelm Cathedral. A feeling of early Berlin here. Marble-top tables, chandeliers. Pick a pastry from the display case, order a cup of coffee and a newspaper and you're set for the afternoon.
You'll also enjoy Hecker's Deele (Grolmanstrasse 35). More Old World atmosphere, an excellent menu, lots of warmth. Appealing anytime, but especially on a chilly winter afternoon.
For the Young Crowd
Ask the local German national tourist office where to pick up a copy of "Berlin for Young People." More than 100 pages devoted to hostels, camping sites, tours, cabarets, ticket offices (for advance theater sales), free theater performances, circuses, cinemas, museums, jazz, rock, breakfast cafes, pubs offering live music. Lists names, address of more than a dozen discos, including the popular Riverboat (31, Hohenzollerndamm 174-177) and the Midnight (15 Lietzenburger Str. 86). Also tips for those wishing to visit East Berlin.