Berlin… a center of (re)invention
November 9th, 1989 marked the beginning of a new chapter in Berlin’s history. The eyes of the world watched its residents level the wall that had outraged so many. Shortly afterwards, for the first time in over 28 years, East and West mingled via the Brandenburg Gate, setting the foundation for a new self-understanding. Over the last 20 years, much has changed. Germany’s government moved to Berlin in 2001; its institutions, embassies, media, leading corporations, lobby groups and artists, drawn by Berlin’s long cultural tradition and its newly emerging hopes and tensions, followed.
A previous no-man’s zone that had, along with the wall, epitomized the breach between the two German republics, Potsdamer Platz has been completely rebuilt and rehabilitated to its former position as the city’s governmental and commercial center. Many iconic buildings pepper the area, including the “Bundeskanzleramt”, presently home to Chancellor Angela Merkel, and a new central railway station, Europe’s largest crossing station. Germany’s parliament, the Reichstag, was restored and the inclusion of its famous glass dome, designed by Sir Norman Foster, was considered by some as intended to signal a new era of social and governmental transparency. While the number of new buildings to house political and diplomatic institutions has grown massively, construction is by no means complete. The city remains sprinkled with building sites, and indeed, in this city that has more bridges than Venice, some might argue, always will be.
Germany’s “salad bowl”
Over 3.4 million people live in Berlin; the majority in single-person households. Berlin is Germany’s, if not melting pot, then salad bowl of cultures, religions and life styles. Berlin counts as its own residents from more than 150 nations, and is home to the largest Turkish community outside Turkey, which has led to the Kreuzberg district’s nickname “Little Istanbul”. Each spring, new and old Berliners from around the world celebrate their cultural backgrounds at “Carnival of Cultures”, which is attended by more than half a million merry-makers. Take a walk around the 12 districts to get the size of this multicultural city, or do like the locals and hop on a bicycle – Berlin is arguably second only to Amsterdam as Europe’s cycling capital.
All things cultural
Berlin is one of the world’s most exciting cities. Opera or performance art, antique sculpture or random street art, traditional or contemporary – the city caters to all tastes. With three opera houses, its Museumsinsel (literally, island of museums; a UNESCO World Heritage Site), tourists are kept on the go. Visit the Jewish Museum for an interesting overview of more than 2000 years of Jewish life or the Museum of Technology for a fascinating look at the history of aeroplanes, ships and computers. For fans of obscuria, Kreuzberg’s Museum der Dinge (Museum of Objects) offers a lively, eclectic history of everyday items.
Berlin’s inner-city districts of Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and north Neukölln are home to the city’s young and innovative arts scene. Temporary galleries, start-up boutiques, and all variety of musicians abound. These are also among the city’s main party zones, with a large variety of clubs, bars, restaurants open around the clock.
Despite the cutting-edge urban experience Berlin offers, nature is never far away, as forests and lakes surround the city. Take a boat down the Spree river, go canoeing in the Spreewald, hiking in Grünewald, cycle part of the new bike path Mauerweg (wall trail), or take in some history at the beautiful Sanssouci palace and park in Potsdam.
City of science
Berlin has four universities with more than 140,000 students. The city is also home to many applied and basic research institutes, including the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft and two technology parks, making it the perfect location for SPI 2015!
The Dahlem Cube is situated in Dahlem, a 20-minute-underground ride from the historic center and the Brandenburg Gate, the boulevard “Unter den Linden”, and the Museumsinsel. Berlin’s widely praised public transport system and bike-friendliness ensures longer excursions are easily undertaken.
For more detailed information about Berlin please visit www.touristeninformation-berlin.de