Berlin – Ever Changing, Ever Evolving
They say that there is no other metropolis on earth that went through as many changes as Berlin did. Every time an old era ended and a new one began, Berlin found a way to adapt. Today it is a city where people can find both old and new monuments, as well as a fascinating multicultural flair. Diversity reaches many aspects of life here, which may explain why no two days are exactly the same in Germany’s capital.
Berlin was where the Electors of Brandenburg lived starting with the 15th century, but it was only under Frederick I that the city really began its remarkable ascension during the early 1700s. Frederick II or Frederick the Great continued this legacy of growth, and by the 1800s the city was recognized as a place where people could grow intellectually. Wilhelm I declared it capital of the German Empire in 1871, and it continued to retain this status even during the Nazi Germany era.
In 1945, however, it suffered a strong rupture, when it was divided in two sectors: the Soviet one to the east and the Allied one to the west. Then in 1961 the division became apparently permanent, with a wall having been erected around the western half of the city, thus isolating it from the surrounding Eastern Bloc. Since 1989 the metropolis has been a unified one, and most Berliners believe that even the cultural differences between the two sides have been erased during the past decades.
The city’s history can also be read in its varied architecture and in its many monuments. A walk down the Unten den Linden boulevard will reveal many superb buildings, such as the Alte Bibliothek (Old Library), the Neue Wache (New Guard House), the Staatoper Unter den Linden (Berlin State Opera), and the Zeughaus (Old Arsenal). Another must-see is the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt, a huge square where tourists can also admire the German and French Cathedrals flanking the Konzerthaus (Concert Hall).
The imposing Brandenburg Gate can be found at the end of the Unten den Linden. And since we’re here, we think it would be interesting to mention that the remarkable Quadriga (the horse-drawn chariot driven by the Roman goddess of victory which sits on the top of the monument) was taken by Napoleon to Paris for a short while.
There are so many more things to see in this magnificent city! Charlottenburg is an affluent area with a Parisian-style charm, flaunting wonderful gardens and the Charlottenburg Palace. The Pariser Platz (the square behind the Brandenburg Gate) is connected to the city’s largest park, called Tiergarten, by the famous Strasse des 17 Juni with its Victory Column. Of course, a tourist should also visit at least a few of the many fascinating museums and galleries in Berlin. There are over 170 to choose from, so a vacation here is bound to be a very busy one.
As proof of the city’s power to reinvent itself, the original Reichstag building received a thorough renovation plus a modern glass dome with stunning 360-degree views of the city skyline, courtesy of architect Norman Foster. And the fabled Friederichstrasse, which was once bisected by the Berlin Wall, is once again blooming with numerous shopping and cultural attractions that excite locals and tourists alike. This is why love Berlin. It has proven its power to overcome difficulties, reinvent itself, grow, and evolve, all this without sending its past into oblivion.
- Want to see something interesting? Visit Nikolaiviertel (Nicholas’ Quarter) in the heart of the city. It is like a village inside a metropolis.
- Festival fans will want to come to Berlin in July for the famous Love Parade, or in February for the Berlin International Film Festival.
- Foods and drinks to try here include meatballs, curry sausages, smoked pork chops, and at least a couple of beers.
- Luxury hotels that we recommend are the Soho House Berlin and Park Inn in Alexanderplatz.