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Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is a world city of culture, politics, media, and science. It is the largest city in Germany, with a population of 3.5 million. It is located in north eastern Germany on the banks of River Spree and has a temperate seasonal climate. The city is never short of green spaces, with about a third of it's area covered by forests, parks, gardens, and water.

Originally, it developed as a capital city of different political areas over many years (of Margraviate of Brandenburg (1417-1701), the Kingdom of Prussia (1701–1918), the German Empire (1871–1918), the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) and the Third Reich (1933–1945). During World War II, large parts of the city were destroyed in the 1943-45 air raids resulting in extensive volumes of rubble (see here). After World War II, the city was divided into East Berlin, which became the capital city of East Germany and West Berlin which became an exclave of West Germany (the de facto capital of West Germany being the city of Bonn from 1949). Berlin was divided by the infamous Berlin Wall, which was over 87 miles in length. In 1989 a series of radical political changes took place in Eastern Europe, culminating in the iconic scenes seen in 9 November 1989, where the announcement was made that East German citizens could enter West Germany and so the people from both sides of the city came together, climbing on and pulling apart the wall as they celebrated. The wall actually took a few more years to be dismantled. However, following German reunification, which was formally concluded on 3 October 1990, Berlin once again became the capital city of all Germany.

Since 1990, the city has been undergoing considerable redevelopment and is more popular than ever before as a tourist destination (tourism figures having more than doubled within ten years (2005-2014). It attracts not only those interested in the multitude of sightseeing opportunities including the many museums and vast array of art and architectural delights, but those seeking to experience its modern, fashionable and vibrant nightlife.

A fuller description that would do this European highlight justice goes far beyond the scope of this webpage. Further information and a good starting point to anyone interested in visiting may be found here. In addition, a timeline of the history of the city may be found here. Some brief descriptions along with my photos follow. My photos are from two visits to the city, some years ago, in 1994 and 1998. Much has changed since then, and so I am sure there is every reason to go back someday.

Brandenburg Gate [above]. An 18th-century neoclassical triumphal arch that is one of Berlin’s most important monuments, and one of Germany's most famous landmarks. During the post-war partition of Germany (and Berlin), the gate was isolated and inaccessible due to its position next to the Berlin Wall. It was next to here that on June 12, 1987, Ronald Regan famously exclaimed "Mr. Gorbachov – tear down this wall!".

Berlin Cathedral [above, left]. This is the largest church in the city, and it serves as a vital centre for the Protestant church of Germany. The building standing today was completed in 1905.

The Rotes Rathaus [above]. Located near Alexanderplatz, this is the Town Hall of Berlin and was built between 1861 and 1869 in the style of the north Italian High Renaissance. The facade is constructed with red clinker bricks, hence the building's name.

The Fernsehturm (Berlin TV Tower) [above]. See my webpage here for further information and photos.

Checkpoint Charlie Museum [above]. I spent quite a while in here. Dating from 1963, The museum is located on the former border crossing, Checkpoint Charlie. The museum gives a fascinating insight of the history of the Berlin Wall. The various items and exhibits on display give a fascinating insight into the various ways people tried to escape from East Berlin to the West over (or under) the wall. They also provide information on some of the great heroes of the early period who fought selflessly with means of non-violence. My favourite exhibit came in the form of a Trabant (the iconic small East German car). It was stripped in a number of ways, including a reduction in fuel tank capacity, so as to accommodate a person hidden under the bonnet. The vehicle on display was used to transport people outside of East Berlin. Alas, during one crossing of the border, the person hidden in the vehicle sneezed and was overheard by the officials. Not his best day.

Checkpoint Charlie [above]. This was the border checkpoint on Friedrichstrasse. Only military from the western powers, foreign tourists, and diplomats were allowed through the checkpoint prior to the fall of the wall. The sign remains and due to its infamy, is popular with tourists. In 1994, I paid an entrepreneurial old lady one Deutschemark to stamp my passport (which was valid in 1989) with a backdated East German stamp.

Siegessäule - Victory Column [above]. This was constructed to commemorate  the Prussian military victory in the Danish-Prussian War in the 19th century. At 67m high, It is a popular landmark and stands on a roundabout in the Tiergarten, Berlin's large central park. More recently, Barack Obama chose it as the alternative spot to the Brandenburg Gate for his speech to 200,000 Berliners on July 24, 2008.

Olympic Stadium [above]. This was originally built for the 1936 Summer Olympics and designed by the architect Werner March. When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, they decided to use the 1936 Olympics for propaganda purposes. One of the most famous events that took place (and counteracted the propaganda) during the competition was the performance of the African-American track and field athlete Jesse Owens who remarkably won gold medals in the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4 x 100 relay. The stadium was constructed to hold 110,000 spectators at the time with a special stand for Adolf Hitler and his political associates. Today, that number is just under 75,000. The stadium held the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final between Italy and France and has also hosted a plethora of other sporting events as well as rock and pop music concerts from some of the world's biggest names. Personally, I found the stadium impressively deceptive in terms of size and underestimated the time it would take to circumnavigate its perimeter on foot after entry (entry was free at the time of my visit as there was no event on).

Ernst Reuter Jugendherberge (Ernst Reuter Youth Hostel) [above]. Not a tourist site, but one of many in the city. This hostel is situated in north Berlin, in the district of Reinickendorf. I stayed here on my first visit whilst backpacking around Europe. On my second visit to the city, I stayed at the Park Inn Berlin hotel on Alexanderplatz and some views from the hotel room are shown below.


Berlin Wall [Above]. Today, there are still some (relatively small) preserved segments of the wall and details of where to see them may be found here. For some history of the wall itself, Click here.

Gendarmenmarkt [above]. Site of the Konzerthaus and the French and German Cathedrals.

Reichstag Building [above]. This is located one block to the north of the Brandenburg Gate and is the building where the German Parliaments met from 1894 to 1933 and again since 1999. One of the most famous sites in Berlin, it was originally constructed in 1894. After World War II, the building became disused. A partial restoration took place from 1961-64. However, after the reunification of Germany in 1990, the building underwent a full reconstruction some years later. This was led by the architect Sir Norman Foster with the project completed in 1999, with the parliament (Bundestag) officially sitting here from April of that year. The photo above was taken in 1998, hence the scaffolding. Above the scaffolding, it is possible to see a large glass dome at the very top of the building.  Today, the glass dome is open to visitors and has a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. The Reichstag Building is now the second most visited landmark in Germany, after Cologne Cathedral.

View down Straße des 17. Juni [above]. This was named to commemorate the uprising of the East Berliner workers on 17 June 1953. It is a western continuation of Unter den Linden (see below) and runs through one of the city's most popular parks, the Tiergarten. At the eastern end of Straße des 17. Juni stands the Brandenburg Gate and further down the Soviet War Memorial and Siegessäule (Victory Column) may be found.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church [above]. The Protestant Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is located on the Kurfürstendamm (one of Berlin's most famous avenues) in the centre of the Breitscheidplatz in what was West Berlin. The original church on this site was constructed from 1891-1895. It was damaged during World War II in a bombing raid (December 1943) and then completely destroyed by the allied air raids in April 1943. A new church was built on the site from 1959-1960 and it was consecrated in 1961. The church we see today has an attached foyer (1963) and a separate chapel with a belfry attached to it.

Unter den Linden [above]. Whilst the aforementioned Kurfürstendamm was the main avenue/boulevard in West Berlin, Unter den Linden was known as East Berlin's counterpart. The name means 'under the linden (lime) trees' and was named for they line the boulevard's central pedestrianised strip. It runs eastwards from the Brandenburg Gate, crossing the river Spree where Berlin Cathedral is to be found. It started its life off as a bridle path in the 16th century and was replaced by a boulevard of linden trees planted in 1647. In the 19th century as the city developed, it became the grandest and most famous street in the city. By the end of World War II, the trees had been destroyed. However, replanting in the 1950's ensured today the boulevard still can live up to its name. A walk along this attractive thoroughfare will take you past many important institutions such as the Humboldt University and the State Opera and the not-to-be-missed Museum Island, a complex of five internationally significant museums, which In 1999 was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

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