Berlin

Berlin by CC user Mike Steele on FlickrIntroduction Berlin has been the capital of Germany since its the formation of its current form in the 19th century, but its role as a symbol of the slow burn that was the Cold War endures in the minds of many. After the two sides repatriated in the late 1980’s as Communism began to crumble, Berlin has taken on a new identity as a centre of culture and cool. Artists flourish here, as a low cost of living and the open minded nature of people here has allowed them set down roots and build a sense of being that is leading Berlin and Germany confidently into the heart of the 21st century. Berlin Wall by CC user carolynconner on Flickr

Cultural Experiences

While it was mostly demolished a couple years after that fateful day in 1989 when the gates of the Berlin Wall were ordered open so that citizens of both sides could finally be reunited, there are still monuments along its former length that mark the almost 30 years of separation from each other.

The largest remaining intact portion of the wall has been converted to the East Side Gallery, which is 1.2 kilometres worth of murals and street art that lines its entire length, include the famous kiss mural featuring Brezhnev and Honecker, the two leaders of Russia and East Germany in the late 1970’s.

The Topography of Terror is a museum on the site of the former SS and Gestapo headquarters, which was covered over by the Berlin Wall a mere 15 years its ruins were removed after the Second World War.

The intact cellar, where many prisoners were interrogated, tortured and executed, was uncovered after the fall of the Wall, and subsequently made into a museum that no war history buff should miss.

Finally, the Mauerpark, a space that used to constitute the deadly No Man’s Land that divided the wall on the Western and Eastern sides, is now a massive recreation space that is well used by city residents.

Highlights of this attractions include the Bearpit Karaoke, where uninhibited people belt out their favorite songs on Sunday afternoons, and the flea market, where a massive array of gently used goods (many of them being vintage gems) are on sale for a very reasonable price.

Those looking for a distinctive church in this city will be pleased with what they find at the Berliner Dom, which is an 115 metre high Neo Renaissance structure that will awe those used to more humble architecture back home.

While it isn’t a cathedral in the literal sense (it is a Protestant church, and is not the seat of a major religious official in the United church), it’s intricate facade makes its front lawn an attractive place for a picnic, and the scale of its pillars, organ and the interior portion of its dome make the Berliner Dom well worth seeing.

The Berliner Dom is located on Museumsinsel, or Museum Island. True to its moniker, this place is filled with a great number of cultural institutions that will keep learners busy all day long.

Inscribed onto the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1999 for their collective architecture as well as their contents that chronicle the art, history, and scientific discoveries that humankind has made over the course of organized civilization.

Brandenburg Gate by CC user 127437870@N08 on FlickrOther Attractions If there is one landmark you should check out in Berlin before moving along on your journey through Germany and Europe, make sure that it is the Brandenburg Gate. This neoclassical arch was erected in the 18th century by King William II to symbolize the establishment of peace in the region, and was a poignant symbol of reunification during the fall of the Berlin Wall, as its position right next to its construction had rendered it off limits for almost thirty years. Today, it is a pedestrian only zone, and a preferred venue for en mass public celebrations and gatherings. Formerly one of its main airports, the former lands where Tempelhof once welcomed travelers from across the globe is now a massive park, which attracts a wide cross section of Berlin’s populace on a bright sunny day. While 80% of the outfield is home to threatened species and has its access restricted, the other 20% allows Berliners to play sports, fly kites and have picnics. The buildings have hosted events since its closure, ranging from fashion festivals to flea markets, so inquire on what is going on during your visit … you might be pleasantly surprised! If the heat of a Central European summer is getting to you, cool off in style by heading down to the Badeschiff. Translating to “bathing ship” in English, this hipster friendly swimming pool was fashioned from the hull of a former boat in 2004 as an art project, but has remained open since due to its immense popularity. With the water being heated and saunas being open in winter, this attraction is open year round, and there is a bar on site … just don’t bring in any outside drinks, or they will be confiscated.