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Cities in germany - Berlin

Berlin (formerly Berolina) is the national capital of Germany and its largest city, with 3,389,450 inhabitants (as of 2002; down from 4.5 million before World War II, and generally on the decline since German reunification in 1990). In 2002 the city's population increased slightly (the first increase since 1993).

Berlin is located on the rivers Spree and Havel in the northeast of Germany. It is enclosed by the German state (Bundesland) of Brandenburg, and it constitutes a state of its own.

Politics of Berlin

Formerly a part of Mark Brandenburg, Berlin has been a separate state since 1920, making it one of the three city states among today's 16 German Bundesländer.

Berlin is governed by a Regierender Bürgermeister ("governing mayor"), who is mayor of the city and head of the Bundesland at the same time. Presently, this office is currently held by Klaus Wowereit; for earlier mayors, see the list of Mayors of Berlin. The city and state parliament is called the Abgeordnetenhaus or House of Representatives, while the executive branch is the Senat or Senate, with Senators holding ministerial portfolios. The current government consists of a coalition of the social democrat SPD and the socialist PDS.

Berlin is subdivided into 12 boroughs called Bezirke, which have been merged of the previously existing 23 boroughs with effect from January 1, 2001. For a map and a list of the old and new borough names, see Boroughs of Berlin.

History

Berlin was founded around 1200 as two cities, Berlin and Cölln, which only united in 1307. Berlin is therefore quite old; however, not much is left of these ancient communities, although some remainders can be seen in the Nikolaiviertel near the city hall. Instead, the impression one gets visiting Berlin today is one of great discontinuity, visibly reflecting mainly the many ruptures in Germany's difficult history in the 20th century.

After having been the residence of the Prussian kings, Berlin didn't grow large until the 19th century, especially after becoming the capital of the 1871 German Empire. It remained Germany's capital in the Weimar Republic and under the Nazis; it was therefore a primary target in the air raids of World War II.

After the city's separation in two, East Berlin was the capital of the GDR (East Germany), while the FRG (West Germany), had its capital in Bonn. An island of the western world in the territory of the east, West Berlin was the natural focal point of the two blocks of the Cold War. Beginning June 26th 1948, the "Berlin Blockade" led to the Berlin Airlift. On August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall was constructed between East Berlin and West Berlin.

The wall fell on November 9, 1989. By the time of the German reunification in 1990, the Wall was gone completely (although some ruins of the wall remain) and Berlin was made the capital of all of Germany again.

Berlin tourist attractions

Even though Berlin does have a number of impressive buildings from earlier centuries, the city today is mainly stamped by the key role it played in Germany's history in the 20th century. Each of the governments which had their respective seat in Berlin namely the 1871 German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, the GDR, and now the reunified Germany initiated ambitious construction programs, each with its own distinctive character. Berlin was devastated in the bombardments during World War II, and many of the old buildings that were left were eradicated in the 1950s and 1960s in both the West and the East in overambitious architecture programs, especially in order to build new living or business quarters. It would not be an exaggeration to say that no other city in the world offers Berlin's unusual mix of architecture, especially 20th century architecture. The city's tense and unique recent history has left it with a distinctive array of sights.

Not much is left of the actual Berlin Wall. The East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain, near the Oberbaumbrücke over the Spree, preserves a portion of the Wall. One can usually still tell by the architecture if one is in the former eastern or western part. In the eastern part a lot of Plattenbauten can be found, thanks to Eastern ambitions to create complete residential areas, with fixed ratios of shops, kindergartens and schools per block.

West Berlin

Kurfürstendamm (Ku'damm), with the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church), which lies at the very beginning of Kurfürstendamm, on Breitscheidplatz (underground station Kurfürstendamm). The church was bombed out in World War II and its ruins have been preserved in their damaged state. Also nearby is the Zoologischer Garten. Tiergarten is Berlin's largest park and a masterpiece of classic park building. The Tiergarten was largely deforested by 1948 because it served as a source of firewood for the devastated city. Tegel, and Grunewald Forests. Kreuzberg, both the borough -- center to Berlin's large Turkish population, and the leftist political culture -- and the hill, which is a natural elevation. Insulaner and Teufelsberg, two large hills made of WWII debris. Rathaus Schöneberg with John-F.-Kennedy-Platz, whence John F. Kennedy made his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner!" speech. Straße des 17. Juni, connecting the Brandenburg Gate in the East and Ernst-Reuter-Platz in the West, commemorating the uprisings in East Berlin of June 17, 1953. Features the golden Siegessäule (Statue of Victory), which used to stand in front of the Reichstag.

Mitte (historic and modern center)

The Fernsehturm, the TV tower, the highest building in the city at 368 m (1207 ft), and the second largest structure in Europe (after Moscow's Ostankino Tower). The Fernsehturm is easily visible throughout most of the central districts of Berlin. The Brandenburg Gate and Unter den Linden, symbols of Berlin, Prussia, and now Germany. The Brandenburg Gate appears on German Euro coins. Alexanderplatz, formerly East Berlin's major shopping center, and home to the Centrum-Warenhaus, which was the DDR's department store. It is now a thoroughly westernized shopping center. The Berliner Dom, a historic cathedral. A large crypt is home to the bodies of the Prussian royal family. Cathedral of St. Hedwig (St.-Hedwigs-Kathedrale) Checkpoint Charlie, remains and a museum about one of the crossing points (albeit restricted to Allied forces) in the Berlin Wall. The museum exhibits interesting material about people who devised ingenious plans to leave the East. Gendarmenmarkt, arguably the most beautiful square in Berlin Nikolaiviertel, with the Nicolaikirche The Neptunbrunnen, a famous fountain The Palast der Republik, the old East German parliament building. It is seen by some as ugly, but it does have its history and positive connotations - in addition to functioning as the government center, there were restaurants, shops, clubs, and concerts took place there in the 1980s. The Palast der Republik is built on the site of the Berlin City Palace, which was demolished by the Communists. Potsdamer Platz, an entire quarter constructed from scratch after 1995. The historic Potsdamer Platz was not rebuilt as it was divided by the Wall. A must-see for people who like modern city planning. Reichstag building, the old and new seat of the German parliament, renovated by Sir Norman Foster. Features a glass dome in which you can walk around and watch the parlamentarians from above. Rotes Rathaus(the Red City Hall), historic town hall famous for its distinctive red-brick architecture Hackescher Markt, Spandauer Vorstadt and Scheunenviertel, the home to fashionable culture, with countless small clothing shops, clubs, bars, and galleries. This includes the New Synagogue area in Oranienburger Straße (originally built in the 1860s in Moorish style with a large golden dome, and reconstructed in 1993), and the Hackesche Höfe, a conglomeration of several buildings around several courtyards, nicely reconstructed after 1996. This area was a center of Jewish culture before the Nazis. Unter den Linden is the street that heads east from the Brandenburg Gate. Many classicistic buildings are lined up on both sides of the street. Humboldt University is partly located there.

Museums

  • Museum Island with the Altes Museum, Pergamon Museum and Alte Nationalgalerie
  • German Museum of Technology in Kreuzberg, located at the site of an old freight train hub
  • Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery), one of the last buildings by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
  • Jewish Museum Berlin
  • Hamburger Bahnhof (Museum for the Present - Berlin)
  • Museum of European Cultures
  • Museum of Natural History

Theaters

  • Schaubühne
  • Volksbühne
  • Deutsches Theater
  • Berliner Ensemble
  • Theater des Westens
  • Grips-Theater
  • Maxim Gorki Theater
  • Renaissance Theater

Opera Houses

  • Deutsche Oper
  • Staatsoper Unter den Linden
  • Komische Oper

Public Transport

  • U-Bahn, mostly underground
  • S-Bahn, mostly above ground
  • Straßenbahn
  • Bus

Airports

  • Schönefeld International Airport, to be renamed Berlin Brandenburg International Airport in 2007
  • Tegel International Airport, to close after BBI starts operations (in 2007)
  • Tempelhof International Airport, to close after BBI starts construction (in 2004)

Culture

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, many houses partially destroyed in World War II and not yet rebuilt were situated in the city center (formerly the western part of East Berlin). They became a fertile ground for all sorts of underground and counter-culture gatherings as well as many nightclubs, including the world-famous Techno club Tresor. Berlin has a rich art scene and the city offers one of the most diverse and vibrant nightlife scenes in Europe. Most Berliners take great pride in their city's reputation as one of the most socially progressive cities in Germany and Europe. Berlin's annual Carnival of Cultures, a multi-ethnic street parade, and Chistopher Street Day celebrations (Central Europe's largest gay-lesbian pride event) are openly supported by the city's government and visited by millions of Berliners each year. Despite the city's declining overall population and relatively high unemployment levels, a significant number of young Germans and artists continue to settle in the city, and Berlin has established itself as the youth/pop culture capital of Germany. Two significant signs of this expanding role were the 2003 announcement that the annual Popkomm, the world's largest music industry convention, would move to Berlin after 15 years in Cologne and shortly thereafter the decision of German MTV to move its headquarters and main studios from Munich to Berlin.

Berlin hosted the 1936 Summer Olympics.