Berlin stands upon the vast European Plain
in Northeastern Germany, on the banks of the River Spree. Berlin’s history has been one of triumph
and tragedy, tyranny and transformation. Brought to her knees by two World Wars, and
then divided throughout much of The Cold War, Berlin has reemerged, blossoming into one
of the world’s economic and creative powerhouses. With a population of only three-and-a-half
million, Berlin enjoys an air of spaciousness not found in many other European capitals.
Berlin is an incredibly green city, both physically
and politically. At times it feels like the city was built just to fill in the gaps between
its many parks, forests, and lakes. With hundreds of miles of bike paths, stringent
traffic regulations, and an absence of hills, Berlin is the perfect city to explore on foot
or by bicycle. A legacy of Berlin’s checkered history is
a cityscape of every imaginable architectural style; from the gothic to the baroque, from
the socialist to the futuristic.
Yet somehow it all works ~ magnificently! The Brandenburg Gate rose in the 18th century
as a symbol of peace. It was battered in the Second World War, then
isolated by the division of Berlin, before becoming the rallying point during the joyous
days of the reunification. A block to the north, The Reichstag is also
a symbol of a Berlin reborn. Gutted by fire in 1933 and reduced to rubble
during the fall of Berlin, today visitors can climb the Reichstag’s transparent dome
for a bird’s-eye view of the city.
Occupying an entire city block is the Holocaust
Memorial – an unsettling reminder of the consequences of letting the roots of intolerance take hold. Rolling out before the Brandenburg Gate, is
The Tiergarten, a 500 acre tapestry of forests, woodlands, and canals. The Tiergarten is also home to the Victory
Column, the Soviet War Memorial and Bellevue Palace ~ the official residence of the German
President. But her most famous resident of all, is the
Featuring over 1500 species, and enclosures
that look more like natural habitats, The Berlin Zoo is one of the most visited zoological
gardens in Europe. Berlin is a city of churches. Retaining its war-damaged spire, The Kaiser
Wilhelm Memorial Church is a shining example of Berlin’s ability to honor its past, while
forging a bold architectural future. But perhaps Berlin’s most striking place
of worship, is The Chapel of Reconciliation, the spiritual heart of the Berlin Wall Memorial.
Near the center of Berlin, another section
of the infamous wall has become a memorial ~ of a more colorful kind. Featuring the work of 100 international artists,
the East Side Gallery is one of the largest outdoor art exhibits in the world. And the theme? Freedom, of course. Featured in countless spy novels and films,
Checkpoint Charlie was the Cold War’s most famous border crossing.
The adjacent museum explores the history of
the checkpoint and the ingenious ways in which Berliners defected from East to West. The Cold War years remain an endless source
of fascination for Berliners and visitors alike. At the DDR Museum, visitors are invited to
rummage through the drawers and cupboards of its exhibits, which recreate life in East
Germany during Socialist rule. Directly opposite the DDR Museum, is Museum
Island, a chance to step even further back in time.
Now an internationally protected heritage
site, the island is home to five museums, each one specializing in different periods
of the arts and sciences. The Berlin Cathedral also stands on Museum
Island. Once inside, climb the wide 270 step staircase
to the observation deck and breathe in the colors of the city below. Berlin is also a city of great civic squares.
The Bebelplatz, is home of the Humboldt University. Alexanderplatz became a showcase for Soviet
architecture throughout the Cold War. The Fernsehturm, a futuristic 1960s TV Tower,
still evokes mankind’s eternal quest to reach for the stars. Potsdamer Platz was once known as the Times
Square of Berlin.
Since reunification the area has regenerated
into a visionary space where all Berliners can celebrate their city ~ together, as one. Welcome to the Berlin of the 21st century,
a city proving to the world that tolerance, creativity and passion can bear the most incredible