Berlin


About Rostock and Berlin

Quantifiable evidence of human settlement in the Rostock-Warnemünde region dates back more than 1,400 years. Although written records are missing, the first inhabitants were probably of a Slavic tribe known as the Kyzzins, who established a fort on the eastern bank of the Warnow River. They called their home roztoc (a fork in the river). Extensively modified during the centuries, the fort burned to the ground during the Crusades when forces arrived from the young Kingdom of Denmark. According to Danish records, the year was 1161. A few years later, German merchants and artisans began to settle in the region near the original site. The village grew into an important trading post, retaining the name Roztoc, and was granted town status a few decades later.

During the next centuries, Rostock controlled access to the sea. The port became one of the first and most powerful cities of the Hanseatic League. More than 12,000 people were living in the metropolis by the end of the 14th century. The Baltic region´s first University was established a century later, but the great mini-empire faded almost as quickly as it had risen. A series of wars and internal disputes led to decline. The final blow was a devastating fire. In the mid-19th century, a new steamship industry began in Rostock and the city grew once again. Grain from the rich Mecklenburg-Vorpommern farmland began to surge out of the port and the town overflowed its medieval walls. As in the rest of Europe, two world wars and a global depression in the 20th century arrested growth, but Warnemünde emerged as a seaside resort, and it remains one of the most pleasant on the Baltic coast.

Just 200 miles south, Berlin is one of Europe´s most interesting cities. Though the infamous Berlin Wall was torn down more than 10 years ago, friendly, but simmering rivalry remains between residents of the formerly divided sections. Today´s struggle focuses less on politics than it does on “old” and “new” ways, but there is still some correlation between former residency and party affiliation. Berlin is Germany´s largest city and the municipal fathers hope to continue building it into a modern metropolis for the 21st-century. Contruction goes so fast, it seems as though it involves the entire city. The German capital was finally physically moved from Bonn to its former Berlin home in spring 1999.

WWII defined the shape of the modern city. Fully 1/7 of all the buildings destroyed in Germany were in Berlin. At the end of the war, French, American, British and Soviet divisions were established according to the terms of the Potsdam Conference and the resulting 1945 Potsdam Agreement. The Allies took the western sections, which fan out from Kurfürstendamm and Tiergarten Park, while the Soviet zone included what remained of the city´s pompous civic buildings, churches, and grand museums. At first, Russia wanted the entire city – they even ran a blockade to claim it, but the devision was finally allowed. On August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall was build in a single night. Authorities on both sides demolished and rebuild, though the old buildings were preserved whenever possible, and even in the pretty, often overly ornate, 19th-cetury structures that remain.

Like other large cities, Berlin´s “soul” emanates from its thriving artistic and underground communities in districts such as Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg. There is a housing crunch, but unemployment is dropping in the eastern districts and the German economy already seems to be on the rise again. Many enclaves have emerged in the districts. The communities are not new, but their true personalities, long subdued have begun to resurface. At the center of the new Berlin is the Mitte district, surrounding the main boulevard Unter den Linden. During the years of a divided Germany, the Mitte was in East Berlin. The Western city was centered around it´s own Kurfürstendamm (Ku´damm), still a center of fashion. It was to this area that Easterners flocked when the Wall came down. Charlottenburg, also a vibrant cosmopolitan district, is popular with young people, while Kreuzberg is a melting pot. Prenzlauer Berg, northeast of the Mitte, is a Haven for alternative lifestyle.

Berlin is rich in both history and culture. There are so many museums it is not possible to visit each one. We mention some of what are considered the most prominent city sights, but this in no way implies that others are less valuable or interesting. To get an idea of the city, you must visit the Ku´damm, but it is essential to escape the district´s bright lights and consumer orgy. Visit the Mitte. The two Berlins have merged into a fascinating city and a brief visit will surely leave you planning to return.


Points of Interest


While we try to include all main highlights, our listing is not exhaustive.


Berlin


Even if you have been to Berlin, don´t miss the opportunity to see one of Europe´s most fascinating cities. As in any historic city, it is not possible to see all of it in a single day. Choose a few sights and save some for your next visit.


The Story of Berlin Museum


The best place to begin a Berlin visit, The Story of Berlin experience begins with the events that led to the 1237 AD founding of the city, and traces its development through the modern age. The multi-media presentation will bring a “wow!” from even the most experienced traveler. Various rooms take you to the 16th-century Reformation, the wild 1920s, the book burning, WWII and the rise of the Third Reich, and into the post war years of recovery. Join the celebration as the wall comes down 1989, and follow Germany´s proud capital into the new century. The recreated Cold War-era exhibits makes clear how close we came to utter annihilation in the insanity of the second half of the 20th century. The museum, at Ku´damm-Karree, opens daily at 10am.


Brandenburg Gate


Brandenburger Tor (gate) is the most recognizable symbol of German reunification. The only surviving gate from the old city walls, the portal was designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans in 1791 and is modeled on the entrance to Athens´Acropolis. The statue representing the Goddess of Victory in a horse-drawn chariot atop the gate was missing for many years after Napoleon took it to Paris, but it was returned in 1814. When the Berlin Wall was build in 1961 to “protect against fascists,” the antique gate was hidden behind an ugly barrier. On November 10, 1989, with television cameras rolling, thousands of people came and demolished the hated wall. The original gate, now visible once more, became the focus of a spontaneous celebration. The best approach is Unter den Linden. During 2001 Brandenburg Gate is under renovation. Scaffolding covers the structure. “Deutsche Telekom” projects images of the monument on the scaffolding during the project The quadriga on top is not covered.
Brandenburg Gate

 

Reichstag

Near Brandenburg Gate, the cumbersome 1894 Reichstag, (Imperial Parliament) was the first permanent headquarters for the German government. The Weimar Republic occupied the interior offices until the building burned down 1933. British architect Sir Norman Foster oversaw restoration for the building, and the Bundestag was moved into it from Bonn in spring 1999. The west wing exhibit, Questions on German History, is troubling diplay about people trying to reconcile their past. Part of the wall that divided the city for 30 years was once displayed, but it was moved to the cathedral at Gendarmenmarkt. The Reichstag opens daily except Monday.

 

Reichstag

 

Tiergarten

Tiergaten, Berlin´s 630-acre park and the central district that surrounds it, has recovered from the scars of the war. The historic district has been the focus of much reconstruction, most notably many of the new German government buildings and the Lehrter Bahnhof, which is the city´s new Central Station. The reserve stretches across the city from Brandenburg Gate to the Zoo and is one of the world´s largest city parks. In the post-WWII years, freezing city residents hat to cut trees from the park for firewood, but the site was replanted in1949. The noted Zoologischer Garten, at the long park´s southwestern end, features the world´s most diverse animal collection. Just beyond the zoo, the burned shell of Kaiser Wilhelm Church tower is all that remains of the landmark. A city symbol, it is a ghostly reminder of war´s horror.

 

Tiergarten


Kulturforum

Though plans for a cultural center have been on the table for many years, building was a long slow process. The dream is finally being realized as various organizations relocate to the new complex. The collections from the Gemäldegalerie and Bodemuseum, Germany´s principal picture galleries, merged and moved to the Kulturforum in 1998. European painters from the 13th through 18th centuries are represented. Kunstgewerbemuseum has a fine collection of decorative arts, and the Kupferstichkabinett owns etchings by Dürer, Rembrandt and Picasso. Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand details the history of the German resistance. At great personal risk, many Germans tried to stop Hitler, and their story is too seldom told. Unfortunatly, exhibits are labeled only in German. Opening hours vary at the complex.

Checkpoint Carlie


The most infamous crossing between East and West Germany was Checkpoint Charlie. More than a decade after reunification, the site remains a source of fascination though the gate is gone (dismantled with the wall in 1989). All that remains is the frame of the watchtower at Friedrichstraße 43. Plaques on either side warn those who approach that they are leaving or entering the American sector, depending upon which direction is approached. Not far away, Haus am Checkpoint Charlie displays cold war photos and exhibit describing ingenious escape attempts. The site opens daily between 9am and 10pm.

Checkpoint Carlie

 

Rathaus Schöneberg

West Berlin was administered from the Rathaus or City Hall. In the belfry a replica of the Liberty Bell was a 1950 US gift. It rings each day at noon. From the terrace, President Kennedy made his noted Ich bin ein Berliner speech in 1963.

 

Rathaus Schöneberg

 

Jewish Berlin

Oranienburgerstrasse was the one of the main centers of Berlin´s sizeable pre-war Jewish community. After the rise of the Nazis, the quarter became run down and neglected. Neue Synagoge, completed in 1866, houses Centrum Judaicum. Recently restored, it still dominates the street. Information on the Jewish community and history is available at the temple. The small corner of the Mitte district is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance. Many of the old buildings lining the street have been restored to house trendy cafés. Follow Tucholskystraße for its old buildings featuring Jewish symbols.
Jewish influence pervades the city. The new Jüdisches Museum, designed by DanielJüdisches Museum Libeskind, has allready opened next to the Berlin Museum at Lindenstraße 14. Even if it is not open when you visit the interesting building can be toured from the outside. Jüdisches Gemeindehaus Fasanenstraße 79 near Ku´damm, offers information and advice to visitors, alone with updates on special Jewish events. Follow Ku´damm to Fasanenstraße and turn right. The center opens 10am to 5pm daily except Saturday and Sunday.

 


Neue Synagoge

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· aktualisiert: 27.11.2004