Thursday, February 25, 2010

Berlin: History meets modernity

As a political science major, I have always been enchanted by the fall of the Berlin wall and the Soviet Union, which is why Eric and I have decided to take our travels east from Amsterdam to the German city of Berlin.

Berlin has had a history of occupation and reform, including the 1806 Napoleon occupation which lasted three years but also introduced a self-governing, early form of democracy to the city.

The sometimes tumultuous monarchy in Germany was abolished in 1918 with the end of the First World War, which was followed by a period of relative prosperity throughout the 'golden' twenties until the US stock market crash of 1929. There are many historical locations which reflect Germany's monarchy and its legacy.

The cite of many historical events, such as Napolean's entrance in Berlin and the celebratory procession after the rise of Hitler in 1933. In May of 1945 Berlin fell to the Soviets after on April 30th, after being encircled, Hitler killed himself and Eva Braun, his mistress.

Berlin has suffered the brunt of many of the bombings during WWII, with more than half of all buildings and one-third of industry destroyed or damaged. At least 125, 000 Berliners had lost their lives and around one million women and children had been evacuated.

Second World War history is where Eric's interests lie, whereas mine revolve generally around the Berlin Wall, which we expect to visit. Other interesting destinations in Berlin include the Berlin Zoo, the Brandenburg Gate, and the numerous town squares in both east and west Berlin.

We have been warned by a German friend of mine to stick to the tourist parts of Berlin, though I didn't envision us straying from the beaten track while there.

Rick Steves claims that Berliners joke they don't need to go anywhere because their city is always changing, and we hope to catch a snapshot of this year's Berlin.

Facts about Berlin
  • The earliest evidence of settlements in today's Berlin central areas is a wooden beam dated from approximately 1192.
  • Sixty percent of Berlin residents have no registered religious affiliation.
  • The Teufelsberg (Devil's Mountain) is an artificial hill in former West Berlin. It rises about 80 meters above the surrounding Brandenburg plain built by the Allies after WWII from the rubble of Berlin during the following twenty years as the city was rebuilt.

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