Since its earliest recorded reference in 1244, one might agree that Berlin has been at the epicenter of European history. As such, while one may speak of a succession of rulers – Margrave, Elector: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rulers_of_Brandenburg, King: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_German_monarchs, Kaiser: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaiser, House of Hohenzollern: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Hohenzollern , Chancellor: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chancellor_of_Germany – and political entities – Hanseatic League: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanseatic_League, Brandenburg: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenburg, Prussia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prussia, German Empire: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Empire, Weimar Republic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar_Republic, Third Reich: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_Germany, divided Berlin: http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/berlin-wall, Federal Parliamentary Republic of Germany: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Germany – Berlin is nonetheless capital of a country that birthed the Reformation and the Nobel Laureates Albert Einstein, Carl Bosch, and Werner Heisenberg.
During our time in Berlin, we met two eyewitnesses to the events of October and November 1989 – the time when Soviet occupation collapsed.
One of our local guides related her experience in October of 1989 when over 100,000 people gathered to protest the ruling party. She spoke of a priest whom she knew delivering a speech advocating non violence, and that while she expected to be arrested by the police, no arrests were made and the entire event went off without violence.
Another eyewitness was Amy’s cousin and her husband Ulrich who was an active duty soldier for the East German Army stationed in Berlin. Over a supper of delicious Wienersnitzel and beer, Uli told me that his company had disobeyed orders to resist and fire upon their fellow Germans should there be an insurrection. That evening in October, he and some buddies had signed off duty and had gone to a gasthaus for supper. Upon leaving the restaurant, they saw masses of people streaming to a demonstration which, inexplicably, was entirely peaceful – the same demonstration, I think, that our guide spoke of.
This heralded the collapse of the German Democratic Republic as the occupation forces could no longer control the populace. On November 9, 1989, sections of the wall came down, and October 3, 1990, Germany was reunified as the Federal Republic of Germany. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Germany
The subsequent two and a half decades saw a flourishing of architecture, music, and theater in this center of lively cultural life despite the ravages and destruction of war. Today, one might agree that Germany’s strong economy serves as an engine powering the Eurozone.
It is with this backdrop that I want to share some pictures that may give a glimpse of present-day Berlin, much of which has been reconstructed following WWII.
There are places where one can see the remnants of war, left as a reminder of its cost.
One can see parts of the wall which divided Berlin, leaving families separated for decades. Graffiti covers this stretch.
This is Gedachtnes Kirche left after the bombing, next to which is a new tower in construction. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaiser_Wilhelm_Memorial_Church
This spoof on Checkpoint Charlie is said to bear little to no resemblance to the original. These are actors in uniform posing with tourists.
To the right one sees another section of wall and adjoining open air museum. The Stasi (secret police) were located to the left.
German Finance Ministry building built in 1935; home of the Ministry of Aviation headed by Herman Goering during Nazi time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus
This airplane was donated to commemorate the Berlin airlift of 1948 – 1949, when, to overcome Soviet blockade of transport by land, the Allies airlifted food, fuel, and supplies to West Berlin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Blockade
The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, a short walk from the Brandenburg Gate. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_to_the_Murdered_Jews_of_Europe
A monument commemorating the Reunification of Germany.
These blue pipes carry ground water from the high water table to enable construction. Ground water is dumped into existing bodies of water.
The Berlin Wall required demolition of some buildings. These double stone lines mark the path of the wall into a reconstructed building,
and out the side of another building.
Konzerthaus Berlin, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konzerthaus_Berlin , built between 1818 – 1821, was restored to its pre war appearance. A white marble statue of Friedrich Schiller stands in front.
The Berliner Dom, built built in 1893, partially destroyed by Allied bombing in 1940, and was restored between 1967 – 1975. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Cathedral
This synagogue was built in the Moorish style in 1859-1866. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Synagogue,_Berlin
This the largest department store in Continental Europe, situated in former West Berlin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaufhaus_des_Westens
Here at Leipziger Platz, in former East Berlin, is a new department store on several floors. http://www.mallofberlin.de/en/stores/alleshops
Schloss Bellevue https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bellevue_Palace_(Germany) , is the official residence of the President of The Federal Republic of Germany. The President’s duties can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President_of_Germany .
But here is where the real power lies, and has an apartment: The German Chancellery. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Chancellery Presently Angela Merkel is Chancelorin: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel
This is the Hauptbahnhof, or main rail station. It was completed in 2006 and has a glass roof 279 by 390 feet containing photovoltaic cells. It consists of 4 levels of track and a variety of stores. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Hauptbahnhof
German Parliament or Bundestag. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bundestag This body consists of directly elected officials who’s legislative work is done by standing committees, e.g. defense, agriculture, labor, etc. This body succeeds the earlier Reichstag and meets in the former Reichstag building with a newly designed dome.
Below is the Bundesrat building where legislators function along the lines of the U.S. Senate, although the German constitution does not establish a bicameral form of government. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bundesrat_of_Germany
The next eight pictures are of the Jewish Museum https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Museum,_Berlin housed in a building designed by Daniel Liebeskind https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Libeskind, one of our fellow travelers around the world with National Geographic in 2011-2012.
The Sony Center peeks out between these two buildings. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Center . Potsdamer Platz has been completely renovated since German Reunification : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potsdamer_Platz . Above you saw Amy standing next to bricks in the sidewalk designating the course of the dividing wall which ran through Potsdamer Platz.
Brandenburg Gate from the East German side. This shot is focused upon the quadrigia, a chariot drawn by four horses. The gate construction was started in 1788. Read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenburg_Gate
Brandenburg Gate from the West German side. A concert was in progress as we visited this site.
Only a ten minutes walk from our hotel, the Spree River is joined by a canal at Humboldthafen.
Victoria on top of the Victory Column, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Victory_Column , dubbed “Golden Lizzy” by Berliners.