To say that Berlin has with a turbulent recent history would be a massive understatement. Just over two decades ago the city was divided by a heavily guarded impenetrable wall, and forty years before that it was being flattened by the Allies. Yet Berlin today is a vibrant, multicultural urban centre with rising living standards and a world-famous nightlife. The once poor and neglected East is now the most up-and coming area.
However, the city does not hide from the past. The Brandenburg Gate (above), now an icon of the reunification of Germany, is also a stark reminder of the harsh realities of a country divided. In 1989, hundreds of thousands of German passed through this gate as the wall was torn down. We started our tour here, and checked out the renovated Bundestag building, the seat of German government.
Berlin also has a fine collection of museums, most of them concentrated around the Museumsinsel (Museum Island) district. We spent the afternoon in the Pergamon Museum, which houses an extraordinary collection of artifacts looted from the middle and far east. Stolen goods, as I called them.
Later, we tried to find a remnant of the Wall. Parts do still exist, but we couldn’t find any. Mostly all that remains are a line of cobbles in the road and a plaque, or in the case of Checkpoint Charlie, one of the only crossing points for foreign diplomats and military personnel, a tacky tourist trap.
This is the only authentic reminder of Checkpoint Charlie: an ominous sign at the border control.
All in all, Berlin combines a a lot of history with plenty of attractions and nightlife, and stands up to its reputation as a city worth visiting.