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Introduction


infoBerlin is the capital city of the Federal Republic of Germany and one of the most beautiful, liberal and cosmopolitan cities in the world.

The modern history of the city goes back to the medieval times, and there are mentions of the city in 12th century literature.

There is consensus among historians that the city of Berlin was formed after the unification of a couple of older towns, namely Colln and Fishcherinsel, which were on the banks of River Havel.

Berlin’s rich history is a history of war and conquest over the centuries –

the latest being the cold war – which, for Berlin, ended with the demolition of the Berlin wall. In fact, the demolition of Berlin wall was one of the clearest signals of the impending end of the cold war all over the world.

Before the demolition of the Berlin Wall, the city was divided into 2 separate and different entities, namely, the communist Eastern Berlin and the non-communist Western Berlin. Getting from one ‘Berlin’ to the other was a rather complicated affair, but all that came to an end with the demolition of the wall in 1989.

Berlin is home to over 3 million people, but that rises to more than 5 million when you take into consideration the wider Berlin metropolis. The city’s population of 3 million – spread over an area of about 800 square kilometers – works out to about 4,000 residents per square kilometer, making Berlin quite a densely populated city. Of special note, though, is the diversity of Berlin’s residents. Berlin has long been generally tolerant of immigrants, a trend that can be traced back in history to the reign of Frederick William in the 17th century. William encouraged immigration into Berlin as a measure to build up the city’s population after a long, drawn-out war between early and mid 17th century, which cost the city more than half of its entire population.

In more recent times, the city has been host to many asylum seekers, who need refuge for a variety of reasons. The creation of the European Union led to even more immigration into Berlin. In fact, almost 15% of Berlin’s residents are people holding foreign passports – a remarkable figure for any city. What's more, Berlin has residents from almost every country in the world – with more than 190 countries represented in the city’s (registered) population.

Berlin is also one of the most socially liberal cities in the world – with more than 60% of the city’s population being people without religious affiliation. However, this is not to say that religion is dead in Berlin – the city is home to over 100 big church congregations, almost 80 mosques and even a couple of Buddhist temples. But then again, Berlin is also one of the cities hosting the largest number of atheist groups in the world.

Originally founded as a commercial center at the junction of medieval trade routes, Berlin evolved into a major industrial center during the industrial revolution of the 18th century. During that industrial age, Berlin was not only home to many factories, but also exported machinery to factories all over the world. Like other cities that embraced communism during the cold war, Berlin suffered economically, but recovered remarkably quick compared to its Eastern European neighbors, who had fallen under the communist fist of the Soviet Union. Recently, Berlin has worked – with notable success – to evolve into a service economy (from a predominantly manufacturing economy), as the world has moved to favoring service and knowledge-based economies.

Berlin is also home to some of the world’s best infrastructure – from transport to housing to recreation. Berlin is host to a road network of over 5,000 kilometers, out of which about 70 kilometers are motorways. Surprisingly for a city with such a good and extensive road network, Berlin’s car ownership is at about 4 cars for every 10 people – making it a city with low car ownership rates compared to others in the developed world. Of note though is Berlin’s riding (cycling) culture, as more than 10% of the city’s traffic over the past decade has been cyclist traffic, thanks mostly to the city’s remarkable bike lane system.

Berlin’s liberal and idealist population has taken to heart calls to reduce carbon emissions, by opting for bicycles. Besides a well developed road transport network, Berlin is home to two major international airports, Schonefeld International Airport and Tegel International Airport, making this city accessible from over 150 airport destinations. Berlin is internally served by a well-run bus transport system and a rail system with over 170 stations spread throughout the city. Berlin is also home to the ‘Berlin Strassenbahn,’ one of the world’s oldest tramways, which is now managed by the city’s Berliner Verkerhrsbetriebe.

Berlin’s largely liberal nature has continued to be a great attraction for all sorts of artists from all over Europe, who regard the more conservative auras of their cities as stifling and opt to settle in Berlin for good. Though the city’s cultural aspect suffered from repression during the Cold War years (especially for the part of the city that was under communist control), it has largely healed from the scars of that era. Today, Berlin is home to over 400 art galleries and a number of remarkable music conservatories. As a matter of fact, the city’s Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the world’s most famous orchestras.

The city has over 150 different museums and over 50 performing theaters, which are remarkable numbers by any standards.

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Weather

The climate in Berlin is what you might wait from mainland continental Europe, with what can be greatly cold winters - with temperatures often dipping below zero, and frost and snow common - but equally with hot and sunny summers. In this latter, temperatures can elevate to thirty degrees and tourists may wish to slap on the factor 15 and head out to the lakes and forests in the West of Berlin. Nevertheless have present that summer is also the rainiest season in Berlin, so if you are heading out to Germany in July and August you might wish to back your umbrella too.

Berlin offers attractive, sunny summers when days are long and temperatures can sometimes exceed 86°F (30°C), peculiarly in months of July and August. Nevertheless the summer months are also uncertain and odd days can quickly change from sunshine to cloud. Winter weather in Berlin, by contrariety, is bitterly cold and damp, with copious snow and frosty days when temperatures vacillate at or just below freezing. Rain can stand all year round, but the wettest months are June and August, and the driest on average October and February.

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Berlin Sightseeing

 

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The Berlin Wall

The Berlin wall was built to separate the Eastern part of Berlin, which embraced communism during the cold war, from the Western part of Berlin which did not embrace communism.

The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 was one of the clearest signs of the fall of communism, which was associated with great repression of human rights.
Though much of Berlin wall was demolished to signify the unification of Berlin, Vestiges of the wall are still visible in the city.

A good place to check out the Berlin wall is at the Mauerpark (Wall Park) museum, and Checkpoint Charlie at Friedrichstrasse 43-45 – which at the height of the cold war was an infamous border crossing point between East and West Germany.

Charlottenburg Palace

This is one of the biggest among Berlin's several palaces, with a history stretching back to the 17th century.

Construction of the Charlottenburg palace started in the 1690s, and did not end until the 1790s.

The palace grounds are open to the public every day – except Mondays – between 9 am and 5 pm.

The palace is accessible at Spandauer Damm 10-12.

The palace grounds are also home to a remarkable baroque garden and the palace houses beautiful works of sculpture.

Bode Museum

Even before entering to savor the exhibits at this 19th century museum, you will find the museum itself quite a sight to behold,

with its large dome and remarkable architecture.

The Bode museum is located at the junction of the two arms of the Berlin spree, and the reflection of the museum on the Spree's waters creates a sight worth savoring.

The Bode museum is open everyday between 10 am and 6 pm – except on Thursday, when the closing hours are extended to 10 pm.

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Jeweish Museum

Berlin played quite a significant role in the sad events of WWII, when great atrocities were committed against Jews.

The Jewish museum – which is designed to reflect some somberness - was built to pay homage to that sad part of the city's history.

The Jewish museum is located at Lindenstrasse 9-14 and is open everyday of the week between 10 am and 8pm – except on Monday, when the opening hours are extended to 10 pm.

Children are allowed free entry into the museum, but adults are charged a nominal fee for the museum’s maintenance.

East Side Gallery

The East side gallery happened spontaneously – rather than by design.

During the Cold War, artists on the Eastern side of Berlin – which had fallen to communism – were not allowed to paint.

When the wall of Berlin finally came down in 1990, artists from all over the globe flocked to Berlin and painted a mile-long mural on the wall – and thus the East Side gallery was born.

Although the artists originally painted both the west side and east side of the wall, it is mostly the paintings on the Eastern side which have survived to this day.

The East Side Gallery is located at Muhlenstrasse 1 and since it is an open wall, no entry fees are charged and there are no hour restrictions – talk about the free spirit of art!

Dorotheenstadt Cemetery

This is where the remains of many popular people from the past, who made huge contributions to Berlin and the rest of society, are buried; including Friedrich Hegel (philosophy) and John Hartfield (art), among many other notables.

The cemetery is located at Chauseestrasse 126 and is daily during the summer, between the hours of 8am and 8pm.

The Gendarmenmarkt

Described as one of the Europe’s most beautiful plazas, this is one of the most amazing places you will ever tour; plus, it is home to many of Berlin’s attractions.

Of special note is the plaza’s old churches (a French church and a German church), the plaza’s Schauspielhaus Theater (which was built early in the 19th century and is still in use as a concert hall), and the general architecture in the plaza.

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Legoland Discovery Center

Described as a fun factory, Legoland Discovery Center is abuzz with fun family-oriented activities, especially for people who want to explore their creativity.

For a modest fee of less than 15 Euros, you can have a whole day of fun, including a 4-dimensional cinema show.

For more information on the Legoland Discovery Center, which is located at 4 Potsdamer Platz.

Pergamon Museum

This is the most visited of Berlin’s hundreds of Museums, recording almost a million visits annually.

This museum is home to remarkable collections of Islamic artworks and antiques from near and far.

The museum is open between 10 am and 6 pm daily – except on Thursday, when the closing hour is extended to 10 pm.

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Berlin Transport


Public Transport in Berlin

Getting around Berlin is phenomenally easy and relatively inexpensive. Berlin's integrated public transport system (known as the BVG) is the best way to get about.

An interconnected three-zone system (ABC) which only demands one ticket, permits you to hop from bus to underground (U-Bahn) to surface rail (S-Bahn) and tram with one ticket. Trams are fast and comfortable and small ferries will get you across Berlin's lakes.

Getting Around Berlin By Bike

Berlin is one of the few cities worldwide that have extensive bicycle lane networks – hundreds of kilometers of well-kept pathways entirely dedicated to bicycle users.

Bicycles are truly respected in Berlin, and you are even be allowed to enter the city’s underground trains with your bike!

Take note though, that if you decide to take your bike with you underground, you will have to buy a ticket for it, too.

There are a number of companies that offer conveniently programmed bike hire services, one of which is the Mietredmitte at Linienstrasse 58, 10119 Berlin.

By Train

You could also choose to get around Berlin by train. The city’s trains are neat and clean and relatively punctual, a clear contrast to what many cities around the world have to offer.

The city’s trains are managed by the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe, which is also in charge of the Berlin Underground system.

Tickets are sold at rather reasonable prices and the beauty of Berlin’s transport system lies in its integration, given that the whole transport system is managed by the same company (the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe), therefore allowing a ticket bought for use on the train on the city’s public ferries and buses, as well.

Berlin is also connected to much of the rest of Europe by rail, allowing you to save considerable sums of money on airfare.

By Water

If you decide to get around Berlin by water, you will get an opportunity to utilize the city’s extensive waterways, which are well served by ferries that are managed by the city’s public transport system – the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe.

This means that, as mentioned, the ticket you use to ride the city's buses and trains can also be used to ride the ferries covering the waterways.

Berlin has 6 public ferry lines and three of them (F10, F11 and F12) run throughout the year. F10 operates between Wansee Urban Rail station and Alt Kladow. F11 runs between Oberschoneweide and Baumschulenstrasse. F12 shuttles between Grunau and Wendenscholoss. The other three – F21, F23 and F24 – are seasonal.

Of course, to explore Berlin’s waterways, you don’t have to rely on public means. There are a number of boat services for hire whose services you might consider using.

By Taxi

A precise thing, unless it's New Year's Eve, you will never have problem finding a taxi in Berlin! Most principal streets and hotels offer a taxi rank and all taxis are grouped so there will be no rip offs over the cost.

Taxis in Berlin are affordable. With such an important public transportation network, nevertheless, you'll very likely never require to step in a taxi. If you must, take solace in the fact that you can get from the center of Berlin to Tegel by taxi for less than €20.

TAXIs are numerous and accessible almost all the time. Taxi stands can be located at all main stations and airports in addition to outside KADEWE and hotels. Most Berlin taxi drivers speak English, but don't take it for granted.

By Car

Berlin is presumably easier to drive around than several other big cities in Europe with road works being the biggest hassle. Parking isn't too difficult and is reasonably cheap.

You will soon get the hang of driving in Berlin with its wide, long avenues and main roads and civilized traffic. Right of way is to traffic coming from the right - a diamond shaped yellow sign means you have right of way.

  • Remember that cycling routes are common and a cyclist going straight on has precedence at a right hand turn.
  • In the East trams have the right of way.
  • The ringroad is called the Berliner Ring.

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Location

 

 

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