Berlin has fascinated the world for a very long time; that in spite of being a comparatively young European city founded a mere 700 years ago. Berlin is best known these days as the epicentre of World War II and for the bitter division between East and West which followed. Ask any person today what they think of when you mention Berlin and they will say “the Wall”. However, Berlin was not always this way. Prior to the rise of the Nazis and even during that time the city was a renowned centre of counterculture with a thriving intellectual scene. Marlene Dietrich was born in Berlin and began her career there and the city had countless cabaret clubs. Berlin was once a huge economic centre of manufacturing. Many of the very first electrical goods were produced there and the city was linked by rail to the port of Stettin (now part of Poland and called Szczecin) where the goods were shipped all over the world.
Today Berlin is the third most visited city in Europe behind Paris and London. It is a city rich in history and culture and is relatively inexpensive compared to other European capitals. Here follows a list of interesting facts about Berlin.
Berlin is home to three million people and is a great place in which to live. Apartments are cheap, public transport is reliable and food prices are reasonable too. Deutsche Bahn does an excellent job connecting people to the rest of Europe via its rail network and budget airlines take care of the rest. Berlin’s flat terrain makes it possible to ride your bicycle virtually anywhere in the city in the clearly marked bicycle lanes.
Berlin now has a big service industry, there are over 700 hotels located in Berlin catering for the millions of tourists who visit the city each year. Berlin is among the top five of Europe’s biggest conference venues.
Workers pay many different taxes in Germany. People who live in what was once considered West Germany have to pay a Solidarity tax of 1% to help rebuild the east and if you belong to a religious congregation an additional 1% of your income will go to your church.
Berlin lost most of its heavy machinery after WWII. The Soviet army took it and shipped it to Russia as war reparations.
The world’s first traffic light was installed at Potsdamer Platz and is still there today.
Berlin has a large Turkish population, many of whom came as guest workers in the 1950s and 1960s.The district of Kreuzberg is home to a huge Turkish community.
Wages are quite low in Berlin compared to the rest of Germany. In 2006 Berlin had 16% unemployment.
Many people have claimed that World War II didn’t properly end for Berlin until 1989 due to the prolonged division and political stalemate.
If visiting Berlin for the first time, you will need a good week to fully appreciate the city. Twelve places you can’t afford to miss during your stay in Berlin are:
1. The Reichstag
2. Unter den Linden and the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate)
3. The Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Straße which contains one of the few remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall
4. Kurfürstendamm (locally referred to as Ku’damm) – Berlin’s largest shopping strip which stretches for over a mile
5. The East Side Gallery – a long stretch of the Berlin Wall which has now become a large outdoor art gallery
6. The Pergamon Museum
7. The Nikolaikirche
8. Alexanderplatz, home of Berlin’s famous Fernsehturm (TV Tower) and World Clock
9. Haus der Wannsee Konferenz, the venue in which details of the Nazis’ “Final Solution” (Endlösung) were finalised
10. The Siegesäule (Victory Monument) located next to Berlin’s large park, the Tiergarten
11. Berlin Zoo, once home to international animal superstars Knut and Paul the Psychic Octopus both of whom are now deceased
12. Checkpoint Charlie in Friedrich Straße