When visiting Berlin, it’s simply impossible to ignore the many remnants of World War II and the Cold War. It’s quite a powerful experience to walk through Berlin and realize that less than a century ago Nazi soldiers used to walk there, bombs were falling everywhere and one half of the city was completely blocked off from the other half by a concrete wall. Even though it’s now a beautiful, modern city with a fun atmosphere and a great party scene, there are a lot of buildings and objects that will remind you of the hard times this city has gone through in the last century.
This city gate was constructed in 1788, and was modeled on the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. The gate survived World War II and during the Cold War, it was located in the so-called “no man’s land” between the east and west walls, making it a symbol of a divided Berlin. In 1989, after the whole world watched people tear down the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburger Tor became a symbol of peace and unity.
Berlin Wall/East Side Gallery
One of the most notable remnants of Berlin troubled history is the Berlin Wall. A large chunk of it still stands in the east side of the city, and doubles as a tangible, historic object and an art gallery. You can walk for almost a mile along the many works of graffiti art that were created on this part of the wall in 1990. The artwork mostly expresses the euphoria after the fall of the wall and a hope for a better future. The East Side Gallery is one of the largest open air art galleries in the world.
This enormous building was used as the seat of the German parliament from it’s opening in 1894 to 1933, when it was almost completely destroyed in a still mysterious fire. This fire and the resulting damage to the Reichstag led to the Nazi party increasing police action across Berlin and arresting Communists. During the years under Nazi rule, the building wasn’t used and it wasn’t until after the fall of the Berlin Wall that plans were made to rebuild the Reichstag.
In 1999 the building reopened and once again became the seat of the German parliament. A visit to this building and the dome on top is highly recommended because of the great view, as well as its historic significance. If you want to make sure you can visit all the parts of the Reichstag, you should book tickets at least a month in advance.
In 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II, the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe was unveiled in Berlin. It consists of a large site covered with 2,711 concrete blocks which are arranged in a grid pattern. The blocks are 2.38 meters long, 0.95 meters wide and vary in height from 0.2 to 4.7 meters. Underneath the memorial site is a “place of information”, which holds the names of 3 million Holocaust victims.
Even though there are a lot of fun things to do and see in Berlin, it’s definitely worth it to visit some of the aforementioned historic sites of Berlin’s to fully understand the impact of what took place there in the last century. Although the city may look like a free and happy place now, it certainly hasn’t forgotten or hidden its troubled past.
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