I can’t think of any city which has seen more history in the last century than Berlin. There is absolutely no city like Berlin. The east, the west and everything in between — Berlin is a city that leaves an impression on you. Business, industry, art, hipsters, science, sports — an absolute melting pot of cultures, religions and ideas. This city more than merits your undivided attention.. no pun intended :)
Berlin’s most important Protestant church is not strictly a Cathedral as it has never been the seat of a bishop. The first monument at this site next to the Spree goes back to mid 15th century. The current structure was finished in 1904. The Cathedral sustained a lot of damage in the World War II but was later restored.
Located by the River Spree right next to the Berliner Dom, the Museum Island was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The five museums — Pergamon Museum, Bode Museum, Neues Museum, Old National Gallery and Altes Museum — show off the richness and sophistication of the Prussian collections, much of which was accumulated through their victories during the 19th century in places as far as Ancient Egypt and Byzantium.
Built close to Alexanderplatz in the late-1960s, the TV tower was intended as a visible symbol of communist power in East Berlin. It identifies Berlin as much as the Brandenberg Gate or the Berliner Dom. It is the second-highest structure in the European Union and the highest that is open to the public.
Supposed to be Berlin’s equivalent of the Versailles, Charlottenburg Palace was the summer home of the Hohenzollern family. It was first built in 1695, and later expanded and modified by consequent occupants. The Hohenzollern mausoleum is where members of the family are buried. The palace perimeter also holds many museums and gardens
Only fitting that the stadium in Berlin sees its share of history, just like the city it finds itself in. When the Nazis came to power in 1933 they identified the upcoming 1936 Olympics as an opportunity for propaganda, and Werner March was called upon to design a monumental stadium. Ironically, Jesse Owens swept the gold medals, busting any myths about Aryan supremacy. In more recent past the Olympiastadion bears witness to Zinedine Zidane headbutting Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup Final between Italy and France. Usain Bolt also broke the 100 and 200 m records at the 2009 World Athletic Championships.
In the Bundesliga, Hertha BSC calls it their home stadium. More of native Berliners, however, identify themselves with Union Berlin.
The park was laid out in the English style in 1884 and has sprawling lawns, tree groves and a rose garden. Right after the war a memorial and cemetery were built for the 80,000 Soviet soldiers who died in the Battle of Berlin (defeat in which led to Hitler’s suicide).
The Berlin Wall.. or what remains of it
The iconic Berlin Wall divided the city from 1961 to 1989. After WWII Germany was divided among the UK, USA, France and Russia. UK, USA and France set up their rule on the western side, with liberal values and market economy and called it the Federal Republic of Germany. Russia on the eastern side called it the German Democratic Republic, with socialist values. Berlin was entirely in East Germany, but the stipulations of the war agreements were such that Berlin was to have joint administration. UK, USA and France had their enclaves on the western side of Berlin, which had the liberal governance similar to West Germany.
But people crossed from East to West Berlin and then onto Western Germany as they did not like the oppressive Communist regime. West Germany had higher salaries, more consumer goods and freedom. Life in East Germany was heavily regulated under a planned economy.
Around 4 million people (20% of East Germany) migrated to West Germany, especially the young workforce, harming the economy. Faced with this predicament, East Germany decided to close the border, initially with barbed wire and mesh and later with long concrete walls, spike strips, guard dogs and land mines. While this managed to prevent the workforce from leaving, it became a symbol of communist oppression. Even then, about 5000 managed to cross. 138 died in their attempts.
In 1989, a series of revolutions in nearby Eastern Bloc countries, Poland and Hungary in particular, triggered events in East Germany that ultimately resulted in the fall of the Wall. The end of the wall paved the way for the reunification of Germany.
The symbol of the Cold War. This is the point where American and Soviet tanks stood off against each other for six days in October 1961. Things could have turned out very differently…
In 1962, it witnessed the death of Peter Fechter, a teenager who was shot while trying to cross from East to West. The name comes from the phonetic alphabet, as Checkpoint Charlie was the third crossing across the wall.
East Side Gallery
The longest preserved stretch of what used to be the Berlin Wall. Today, the 1.3km long wall celebrates the reunification of Germany and a broader globally significant political change.
Every patch has now been painted on in colourful and thought-provoking imagery, turning this into the world’s longest outdoor gallery. Many are being painted over, but a certain few have come to identify the gallery itself.
Memorial to The Murdered Jews
Designed by the New York architect Peter Eisenman, this memorial is a solemn reminder of the Holocaust. Below this memorial, there is a gallery dedicated to Jewish victims of the holocaust, with biographies and letters of some of the victims.
Close to this memorial is the Topography of Terror, which portrays the events of the Holocaust, stories of the Gestapo and life in Berlin during the Third Reich. The ruins of the former Gestapo headquarters are also nearby.
Probably the most iconic monument from Berlin (and all of Germany?). It has seen over the destruction of the Second World War and the events leading to the Berlin Wall when it stood at the divide. The massive gateway was erected in the 1790s by Prussian King Frederick William II. 12 Doric columns form five passageways.
The Quadriga portraying Victoria on the top has a history of its own. After the 1806 Prussian defeat at the Battle of Jena, Napoleon used the Brandenburg Gate for a triumphal procession and took the Quadriga to Paris. After Napoleon’s defeat in 1814 and the Prussian occupation of Paris by General Ernst von Pfuel, the Quadriga was restored to Berlin.
Yet another landmark building, that stood witness to the city’s very happening recent past. The Reichstag today houses the German Parliament. Built in a Neo-Baroque style in the 1890s, it housed the Diet till being damaged by a massive fire in 1933. After the fall of the Berlin wall, Norman Foster began a restoration project to resurrect the Reichstag as a symbol of a unified Germany.
Though the wall no longer exists, it is hard to miss the contrast between the east and west enclaves of the city. East Berlin still feels rather conservative and is difficult to navigate without knowledge of at least some basic German. West Berlin is now the epitome of a modern city.. vibrant nightlife, people with hair coloured in all shades of the rainbow.. that kind of thing. The history of the past mixes rather eclectically with the modern-day exuberance to create something that I always found surprising, even after calling this city home for about 2 months.