When you think of Berlin, it’s likely that one of the first things to cross your mind is the Berlin Wall that divided the city between the capitalists and the communists, the Berliners who were saved by Operation Vittles’ supplies from the sky in 1948 and who hold horrific memories of two World Wars embedded in their memory.
But times have changed, and Berlin has been renewed and rejuvenated to become one of the most vibrant, modern and important cities in Continental Europe. Berlin has triumphantly risen from the ashes of World War II into a glistening city of steel and glass. Berliners have not forgotten their past, but they are nevertheless optimistic for the future.
Gritty reminders of the past have been maintained, but now they have largely been transformed into attractions for sightseeing tourists. The ruined bell tower in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church makes an arresting contrast with the reconstructed church to its west, picking up the fond title “lipstick and powderbox”.
Berlin has transformed itself into a social powerhouse, a glitzy hub of wild nightlife with revamped streets, skyscrapers, train tracks and, most prominently, the central district, Mitte. Mitte is home to shopping opportunities galore with luxurious hotels peppered throughout. Restorations, such as Unter den Linden and the famous Hotel Adlon, have been remarkably successful.
Museums and places of worship that were bombed beyond repair by the Allies, such as the Orianienburger Strasse synagogue, Berlin Cathedral and Museum Island, have been restored. Plenty of green space makes Berlin beautiful as well as steeped in history.
Prenzlauer Berg, filled with cafés and cute boutiques has had an easier path to restoration – but this restoration has had its downsides for the natives, with skyrocketing prices and ugly construction sites. But the return of Berlin’s most famous buildings makes it worth it.
If you’re thinking about visiting Berlin, you can find all the information you need at the Berlin Tourist Information Center or on www.visitberlin.de/en.