Berlin [ bɛrˈliːn ] is the national capital of Germany and its largest city, with 3,387,404 inhabitants (as of September 2004); down from 4.5 million before World War II.
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 constitutes a state of its own.
Politics of Berlin
Berlin became an independent state on the day of the German reunification, October 3, 1990, as one of the three city states, together with Hamburg and Bremen that form the present 16 German Bundesländer.
Berlin is governed by the Senat of Berlin which consists of the Regierender Bürgermeister (governing mayor) and up to 8 senators, holding ministerial portfolios. The governing mayor is mayor of the city and representative of the Bundesland (state) at the same time. Presently, this office is held by Klaus Wowereit (SPD); for earlier mayors, see the list of Mayors of Berlin.
The city and state parliament is called the Abgeordnetenhaus or House of Representatives. The current Senat consists of a coalition of the social democrat SPD and the socialist PDS.
Berlin's districts (Bezirke)
Berlin is subdivided into 12 boroughs, called Bezirke, which have been merged from the previously existing 23 boroughs, effective since January 1, 2001.
For a map and a list of the old and new borough names, see Boroughs of Berlin.
Each Bourogh is governed by a so called Bezirksamt consisting of five Stadträte (town councillors) and a mayor. The Bezirksamt is elected by the district_parliament, the so called Bezirksverordnetenversammlung. Though the Boroughs of Berlin are not independent municipalities, the political power of the district_parliaments is quite weak and dependent on the Senat of Berlin.
The district_mayors form the council of mayors, called Rat der Bürgermeister under leadership of the Governing Mayor to advise the Senat.
see also: History of Berlin
At about 720 two Slavic tribes settled in the Berlin region. The Heveller settled at the river Havel with their central settlement in Brennabor which later has bacome the town of Brandenburg. Close to the river Spree in todays borough of Berlin Köpenick the Sprewanen were found.
The Heveller founded another place at the river Havel in about 750. This seems to be the closest settlement to the area which is today known as Berlin and was called Spandow (todays Spandau). Spandau and Köpenick, which had been protected with barriers around 825, had been the major settlements and later towns in the area until the early 11th century.
Berlin and Cölln
Berlin itself is one of Europe's younger cities, with its origin in the 12th century. The city developed out of two settlements, Berlin and Cölln, on both sides of the river Spree, in today's borough Mitte. Cölln is first mentioned on October 28th, 1237 in documents; Berlin in 1244. Unfortunately, the great town center fire of 1830 damaged most written records of those early days.
Both cities formed a trade union in 1307, and participated in the Hanse. Their urban development took place in parallel for 400 years, until Cölln and Berlin were finally unified under the name of Berlin in 1709, including the suburbs Friedrichswerder, Dorotheenstadt, and Friedrichstadt.
Not much is left of these ancient communities, although some remainders can be seen in the Nikolaiviertel near the Rotes Rathaus, and the Klosterkirche, close to today's Alexanderplatz.
Unter den Linden, Humboldt University, and the Fernsehturm, Mitte district, fall 2003
Urban development between the 15th and 17th century
The first City Palace was built on the embankment of the river Spree from 1443 to 1451. At that time Berlin-Cölln numbered about 8,000 inhabitants. In 1576, the bubonic plague killed about 4,000 people in the city.
During the Thirty Years' War (1618_1648), Berlin's population shrank from 10,000 to 6,000.
In 1640 Frederick William took regency in the principality of Brandenburg. During his government Berlin reached 20,000 inhabitants and became significant among the cities in Central Europe for the first time.
A boulevard with six rows of trees was laid down between the park Tiergarten and the Palace in 1647. The boulevard is called Unter den Linden.
Some years later (from 1674 on), the Dorotheenstadt was constructed in a bow of the river Spree northwest of the Spreeinsel (Spree Island), where the Palace was situated. From 1688 on the Friedrichstadt was built and settled.
In January 18, 1701, Frederick III was crowned King Frederick I in Prussia and made Berlin the capital of the new kingdom of Prussia.
In 1709, Berlin-Cölln was joined together with 'Friedrichswerder', the 'Dorotheenstadt' and 'Friedrichstadt' under the name of Berlin, with 60,000 inhabitants.
Weimar Republic and the Third Reich
The overall impression one gets when visiting Berlin today is one of great discontinuity, visibly reflecting the many ruptures of Germany's difficult history in the 20th century. Although it was the residence of the Prussian kings, Berlin's population did not greatly expand until the 19th century, mainly after becoming the capital of the German Empire in 1871. It remained Germany's capital during the Weimar Republic and under the Nazis' Third Reich. During this period, Adolf Hitler had great plans to transform Berlin, because he thought that Berlin was one of the ugliest cities in the world, and he hated it. (Berlin was and is a center of left-wing political activity in Germany, and its residents largely opposed the Nazis' rise to power.) Therefore he and his architect Albert Speer made enormous plans for the new Berlin.
Around the place where the Reichstag lies today, they planned to construct an enormous dome, The Great Hall, 250 meters high and seven times broader than St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. It was supposed to be large enough for 170,000 people, and the sweat and heat produced by those people was predicted to be able to generate clouds and rain inside the dome. From The Great Hall, a southbound avenue was planned, the Avenue of Victory, 23 meters wide and 5.6 km long. At the other end you would have had the new railway station and next to it Tempelhof Airport. Additionally, halfway down the avenue there would have been a huge arch 117 meters high, and so large that the Arc de Triomphe in Paris would fit inside it. It was projected to be a monument commemorating those fallen during World War I and World War II. The project was to finish in 1950, and Berlin was to be re-named "Germania" on that occasion. But the construction never started, as Hitler decided it would be madness to start such a project during a war. Hitler also thought the Allied airstrikes very practical, mostly because it made tearing down the old Berlin so much cheaper.
Today only a few structures bear witness to the large-scale plans of Germania. Hermann Göring's Reichsluftfahrtministerium (National Ministry of Aviation), Tempelhof International Airport, Olympiastadion, and a series of streetlights are all that remain of the Nazi architecture. Hitler's Reich Chancellory was demolished by Soviet occupation authorities, and the rubble was used to create the Soviet War Memorial at Treptower Park in Berlin.
The divided city
By the end of the Second World War, up to 70% of Berlin had been destroyed by concerted Allied air raids and street fighting. The so called "Stunde Null" marked a new beginning for the city. Greater Berlin was divided into four sectors by the Allies under the London Protocol of 1944: one each for
- the United States , consisting of the Boroughs of Neukölln, Kreuzberg, Tempelhof, Schöneberg, Steglitz and United Kingdom , consisting of the Boroughs of Tiergarten, Charlottenburg, Wilmersdorf and Spandau;
- France , consisting of the Boroughs of Wedding and Reinickendorf;
- the Soviet Union , consisting of the Boroughs of Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Pankow, Weissensee, Friedrichshain, Lichtenberg, Treptow and Köpenick.
- The Soviet victors of the Battle of Berlin immediately occupied East Berlin, not handing over the American, British and French sectors (later known as West Berlin) to the American and British Forces until July 1945, leaving the French to occupy their sector a little later. The Soviets used the time from May 1945 to July 1945 to dismantle industry, transport and other facilities in West Berlin, including removing railway tracks as reparations for German war damage in the Soviet Union. This also continued in East Berlin and the Soviet occupation zone after 1945.
Berlin's situation in the middle of the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany made it a natural focal point of the opposing sides in the Cold War. Starting on June 26, 1948, Stalin's "Berlin Blockade" of West Berlin, led the western Allies to supply it through the Berlin Airlift, known by the Berliners as "die Luftbrücke".
The Soviet sector of Berlin, East Berlin, became the capital of East Germany when the country was formed from the Soviet Occupation Zone in October 1949. West Germany, formed on 23 May 1949 from the Amercan, British and French Zones, had its provisional capital in Bonn. On August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall was constructed, separating West Berlin from East Berlin and the rest of East Germany.
In the sixties West Berlin became one of the centers of the European student movement.
The Berlin Wall was breached on November 9, 1989. By the time of German reunification on 3 October 1990, the Wall had been almost completely demolished, with only small sections remaining. The German Parliament, the Bundestag, voted in June 1991 to move the German capital back from Bonn to Berlin. Berlin once more became the capital of a unified Germany. Ministries and Government Offices moved back from Bonn to Berlin in 1997/1998.
Potsdamer Platz in Berlin
Even though Berlin does have a number of impressive buildings from earlier centuries, the city's appearance today is mainly shaped by the key role it played in Germany's history in the 20th century. Each of the national governments which had their seat in Berlin — 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 by bombing raids during World War II, and many of the old buildings that escaped the bombs were eradicated in the 1950s and 1960s in both West and East. Much of this destruction was caused by overambitious architecture programs, especially in order to build new residential or business quarters and main roads. 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. By looking at the architecture it is still possible to tell if one is in the former eastern or western part of the city. In the eastern part, many Plattenbauten can be found, reminders of Eastern Bloc ambitions to create complete residential areas with fixed ratios of shops, kindergartens and schools. Another difference between former east and west is in the design of little red and green men on pedestrian crossing lights (Ampelmännchen in German); the eastern versions received an opt-out during the standardisation of road traffic signs after re-unification, and survived to become a popular icon in tourist products.
Historical sights in the city centre
Cold War & Sightseeing in the former East Berlin
- The Palast der Republik, the old East German parliament building. It is seen by some as ugly, former East Berliners remember with affection restaurants, shops, clubs, and the concerts that took place there in the 1980s. Although it has some significance as a historical tourist attraction, the German Parliament voted for its demolition, which will commence in 2005. The Palast der Republik is built on the site of the Berlin City Palace, which was demolished in 1950 by the Communists. The Palace Square was renamed Marx_Engels_Platz at the same time.
- 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.
- Alexanderplatz, formerly DDR's department store. It is now a thoroughly Westernized shopping center.
- East Side Gallery a memorial for freedom based on the last parts of the Berlin Wall
- Rotes Rathaus(the Red City Hall), historic town hall famous for its distinctive red-brick architecture
- Rathaus Schöneberg with John-F.-Kennedy-Platz, whence John F. Kennedy made his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner!" speech.
- Checkpoint Charlie, remains and a museum about one of the crossing points (albeit restricted to Allied forces) in the Berlin Wall. The museum, which is a private venture, exhibits interesting material about people who devised ingenious plans to leave the East, but is controversial in the city for its propagandistic Cold War didactics and publicity stunts that many consider tasteless.
Sights of modern Berlin
- Potsdamer Platz, an entire quarter built 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.
- 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 centre of Jewish culture before the Nazis.
Panoramic viewing points
The Berlin Television Tower
- Berliner Funkturm— the only observation tower in the world which stands on insulators! Open air observation deck which is ideal for photography!
- Berlin Television Tower  (http://www.berlinerfernsehturm.de/) — 368 metre high television tower, built in 1969 close to Alexanderplatz. The whole of the city can be viewed from its 204-metre high observation platform.
- Grunewaldturm  (http://www.grunewaldturm.de) — this 59-metre high historic tower stands on a hill in the Grunewald forest close to the Wannsee lake.
- Französischer Dom  (http://www.franzoesischer-dom-berlin.de) — located on Gendarmenmarkt in the very heart of the city, the platform of the cathedral offers unique views.
- Bierpinsel — Literally "Beer Stick". 1970s style tower in the Berlin Borough of Steglitz with a café & bar at the top giving views over the south-west of Berlin.
- Berliner Dom  (http://www.berliner-dom.de) — situated next to the Lustgarten and the Berlin Cathedral which has a circular observation platform around the dome.
- Bell Tower at the Olympic Stadium  (http://www.glockenturm.de) — is part of the Reichssportfeld complex, the tower offers a view of the Olympic Stadium and also of the Waldbühne.
- Siegessäule  (http://www.berlin-tourist-information.de/cgi-bin/sehenswertes.pl?id=13353) — the monument at the Großer Stern situated in the middle of the Tiergarten where it was relocated during 1938 / 1939 from its previous position in front of the Reichstag .
- Mueggelturm — A tower giving panoramic views over the Mueggelsee lake.
Further interesting structures (not accessible to public)
- Fernmeldeturm Berlin (Berlin Telephone Tower)
- Richtfunkstelle Berlin-Frohnau
- Transmitter Berlin-Britz
- Radio mast Berlin-Scholzplatz
- Transmitter Berlin-Alley of Stallupone
- Radio mast Berlin-Olympiastadium
- Radar facility Berlin-Teufelsbberg
- TV Tower Berlin-Mueggelberge
- Power station Berlin-Wilmersdorf
- Power station Reutter
Famous streets and boulevards
- Unter den Linden is the street that heads east from the Brandenburg Gate. Many Classical buildings line the street. Part of Humboldt University is located there.
- Friedrichstraße, Berlin's legendary street of the "Golden Twenties" which combines the tradition of the last century with modern architecture of today's Berlin.
- Kurfürstendamm (Ku'damm), with the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church), which lies right at the top end 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, a zoo with the largest number of species.
- The Straße des 17. Juni connects the Brandenburg Gate in the East and Ernst-Reuter-Platz in the West, commemorating the uprisings in East Berlin of June 17, 1953. It features the golden Siegessäule (Statue of Victory), which used to stand in front of the Reichstag.
- The Karl-Marx-Allee, a boulevard lined by monumental landmark buildings designed in the Socialist Classicism of the Stalin era. It is located in Friedrichshain and Mitte.
Education and science
Universities of applied sciences
- Alice-Salomon-Fachhochschule für Sozialarbeit/-pädagogik  (http://www.asfh-berlin.de)
- Evangelische Fachhochschule  (http://www.evfh-berlin.de)
- Katholische Fachhochschule  (http://www.khsb-berlin.de/)
- Fachhochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft  (http://www.fhtw-berlin.de)
- Fachhochschule für Wirtschaft  (http://www.fhw-berlin.de)
- Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler  (http://www.hfm-berlin.de)
- Technische Fachhochschule  (http://www.tfh-berlin.de)
- Zoologischer Garten Berlin, Berlin's eldest zoo located in the city center.
- Tierpark Friedrichsfelde, founded by the GDR in a historic castle park in eastern Berlin.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 many houses in the city center of former East Berlin (today the district Mitte) were partially destroyed. Many had not been rebuilt since World War II. Illegally occupied by young people, they had become a fertile ground for all sorts of underground and counter_culture gatherings. It also was home to many nightclubs, including the world_famous Techno clubs Tresor, WMF, Ufo and E-Werk.
The art scene in Berlin is extremely rich, 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 on the continent.
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 are visited by millions of Berliners each year.* (http://www.berlin_tourist_information.de/english/unterwegs/e-uw-berlinprogramm-gay.html)
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 premeire center of youth and pop culture in German_speaking Europe.
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. Shortly thereafter, German MTV also decided to move its headquarters and main studios from Munich to Berlin. Universal Music opened its European headquarters on the banks of the River Spree in an area known as the mediaspree (http://www.mediaspree.de) which is planned to develop into one of Europe's leading centers of media_related industries.
Berlin War Memorial, West Berlin
- Museum for Post and Telecommunication
- Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery), one of the last buildings by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
- Old National Gallery (Old National Gallery), 19th-century painting and sculpture (http://www.smpk.de/ang/e/s.html)
- Jewish Museum Berlin
- Hamburger Bahnhof (Museum for the Present - Berlin)
- Museum of European Cultures
- Berlin State Gallery  (http://www.berlinischegalerie.de/en/71-1-1_0.htm)
- Bauhaus Museum  (http://www.bauhaus-archiv.de/english/index.htm)
- Broehan Museum <