It is completely impossible to write a blog about any German city, let alone the shimmering metropolis and capital Berlin, and do it full justice. All I can hope for is to provide you with a few snap shots of what this city has to offer.
The cities tallest structure visible from almost any point in Berlin is the 368 meter tall TV tower in the former East Berlin at Alexander Platz. Locals call this tower built in 1969 “Telespargel” (TV asparagus) or “Zahnstocher” (tooth pick). The viewing platform is 203 meters above the ground and provides a stunning view of Berlin. The revolving restaurant takes a ½ hour for a full rotation. If you are planning to visit the TV tower or even have a cup of coffee in the restaurant it is advisable to book ahead as the waiting times are very long otherwise. You can get tickets at http://www.tv-turm.de/en/index.php
The Brandenburg Gate in the Western part of the city is one of the most known landmarks of Germany and the symbol for Berlin. The gate is an 18th century neoclassical arch with scenes from Greek mythology on its six columns. The Quadriga on top of Brandenburg Gate is a chariot drawn by four horses. The goddess is Eirene, the goddess of peace.
From 1945 to 1989, during the division of Germany and Berlin into East (German Democratic Republic) and West (Federal Republic of Germany), the gate was isolated and inaccessible immediately next to the Berlin Wall.
In 1945 as part of the post war peace agreements Berlin was divided into 4 zones: The Soviet Zone (East), the American Zone (South-West), the British Zone (West) and the French Zone (North-West). In June 1948 the Soviets blockaded West Berlin to bring the area under their control. For a year allied planes delivered supplies to the population of West Berlin until the blockade ended. This air lift is known as Berliner Luftbrücke literally “Berlin Air Bridge”.
By the 1950s, economic problems in the East were leading to a mass exodus to West-Berlin. In 1961 the East German government build the infamous Wall (die Mauer) to contain the citizens. Until the fall of the Mauer in 1989 many people tried unsuccessfully to cross the wall and more than 180 were shot attempting to flee East Germany.
Reminders of the Divided City can be found in different spots over the city for example near Checkpoint Charlie (former boarder crossing between the American and the Soviet Sector of the city), or remaining sections of the Berlin Wall. In souvenir stores you can still buy coloured pieces of rock which supposedly are from the Berlin wall.
They are all over Berlin, wherever we went, colourful cheerful bears with their arms stretched up high. They are called Buddy Bears and have become Berlin’s symbol for tolerance and “Weltoffenheit” (world openness). The raised arms of the upright Buddy Bears communicated a friendly attitude and optimism.
Everything started in Berlin in June 2001. The initiators of the Buddy Bears, Klaus und Eva Herlitz, decided to start a street art project in Berlin. Over the following weeks, more than 100 bears were created. In front of the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens, a huge famous department store) the “Buddy Bear Berlin Show“ was launched. The project was a great success mainly due to the fantastic artists who gave each individual bear a unique identity.
People, especially the visiting tourists, enjoyed the painted bear sculptures that the authorities suggested and authorised an extension of the street exhibition until the end of 2002. At the same time, many companies and private individuals bought Buddy Bears for their home country or hometown, which increasingly turned the Buddy Bears into global ambassadors of Berlin. The exhibition has been travelling around the world to make the German capital Berlin famous.
The palace in Charlottenburg, in the Western part of Berlin, was once the summer home for Sophie Charolotte, the wife of Friedrich III. It was build in 1695 and enlarged between 1701 and 1713. In 1740 and 1746 Friedrich der Große (Fredrick the Great) added further extensions. The park surrounding the former summer residence is picturesque and invites to scroll around.
With this last snap shot of Berlin we are returning to the area near the Fernsehturm and an area which has become a bit of a cult spot. Hackersche Höfe is a huge early 20th century complex of nine interconnecting courtyards (Höfe means yards) surrounded by tall buildings. The first courtyard is especially beautiful featuring interestingly decorated architecture and housing restaurants, shops, art galleries, a movie theatre and the cabaret “Chamaelon”. Another courtyard displays murals by different artists which create a different atmosphere with each image.