Berlin, Impressions

Written by Cliff on Saturday 16 August 2008 at 2:29 pm

Berlin, a city of change. Over the short span of 60 years, the capital of the Bundesrepublic has undergone massive change. From being part of the Prussian empire under the leadership of king Friedrich II, it was the centre of both world wars and has witnessed all forms of government.


When Hitler took over the region in 1938, Germany was in a sorry state, having lost World War I and having been forced to pay reparations to the winning factions. Inflation had made the Deutchmark worth less than the paper it was printed on and the people were desperate. Hitler took advantage of the situation, rallying the people with fanatical philosophies. He also restarted the German war machine. aircraft and tanks were built in caves to avoid allied suspicion. With his secret police, he also took down Jews, homosexuals and anyone who opposed him and his powers. Anyhow, despite early victories, several years later, soviet soldiers had his bunker surrounded and Hitler committed suicide.

It wasn’t the end of a dark era. 1945 saw the division of Berlin into east and west. The allies were stuck on an island refuge in a sea of Stalin’s communism. The Berlin Wall was built to prevent anyone from the east escaping into democratic West Berlin. It was only torn down in December 1989. 20 years ago.

It is all over now, but many Germans still find issue with identity, trying to fit into new democratic ideals. And the Jews, what to do with them?

The city centre was 90% bombed out in the second world war. It is now being rebuilt in a modern style with fantastic buildings constructed from concrete and glass. Nuclear bunkers from the cold war still hide under metro stations. An imperial air still hangs on Museum Island where a collection of old buildings remain standing on an artificial island next to the Split River.

Remembering the painful lessons of the past, Germany’s parliament is built on a foundation of transparency. The Parliament Building itself has a glass dome where the public can peer into plenary sessions. The seated members of parliament can be reminded that nothing is hidden from the people. They have a fantastic tourist booklet that describes parliament in detail.

Berlin has a fair share of restaurants, bars and clubs. All at reasonable prices too. About €12-15 for a good dinner. International cuisine is done particularly well compared to the rest of Germany, with authentic ingredients and recipes. Its lavish parks are great for after-meal walks and sources of inspiration for the romantically inclined. Its people are efficient, curt, yet polite enough.

People obey traffic lights. Beer is important.

Suggested itinerary: 3-4 days.

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