Five interesting facts about Berlin.
Berlin as the capital of Germany lays at the heart of the European Continent, it is a very modern European City which had to be rebuilt after the carnage and ruination of the Second World War. Since it's reunification as a City and as the heart of the nation, Berlin has come to represent the spirit and industry of the new Germany.
The City of Berlin lies upon the River Spree and is a City which is young in comparison to it's more established fellow German Cities. It was made the Capital of Germany after the 1871 Franco-Prussian War which finally allowed Germany to form from the numerous German States that had existed since the Dark Ages of European history.
Surprisingly the City of Berlin had no great Historical links to previous great European cultures such as the Roman's or the Viking's. Until the growth of the Prussian State in the Seventeenth Century, Berlin was little more than a relatively average walled City. When the Franco-Prussian War ended, Germany fulfilled it's destiny and became a unified nation. Upon the coming together of the individual German States, Germany needed a capital and Berlin was chosen to represent the new nation.
(1) Capital of Germany
Berlin has been the capital of Germany on two occasions, and has also lost the honour of been Germany's premier City. Upon the creation of the German Empire in 1871, Berlin was the logical choice to be the capital of the reborn Germany. Berlin was the seat of Prussian power and it was the German state of Prussia that wished to create a strong and powerful Germany. Upon the defeat of the German Empire in the Great War and the numerous revolutions. Berlin saw some of it's prestige taken away by the Weimar Republic.
Although Berlin did not lose it's status as Capital it did see a lot of the mechanisms of government shift to the City of Weimar. This combined with the monarchy been abolished damaged the reputation of Germany's glorious first City. The rise to power of the Nazi party in 1933 lead to Berlin reclaiming much of it's prestige back as the National Socialists embraced Berlin's Prussian militaristic heritage.
At the end of the Second World War, Germany and Berlin lay in ruins. Invaded by the Soviet Union and with the majority of its buildings flattened by Allied Bombing raids, Berlin represented how the German nation felt as a whole. By 1949 the Soviet influenced East Germany had made Eastern Berlin the Capital of the German Democratic Republic. The Western powers choose the relatively small City of Bonn as the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany.
With the reunification of Germany in 1990, Berlin was returned to its previous status as capital of a unified Germany. Interestingly Berlin does not possess the level of political buildings and departments you would usually see in a European Capital City. Much of the institutions of the State are spread around the major cities of Germany.
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(2) The Brandenburg Gate
The old City Gate known as the Brandenburg Gate stands to the West of the city centre, the Gate is one of Berlin's most iconic landmarks and has stood in it's current location since it's completion in 1791. The Gate was commissioned by the Prussian King Frederick William II and the Brandenburg Gate was not actually part of the original walled town's defensive structure and was built purely as a symbol of Berlin's dedication to peace.
The Gate soon began to be known more for it's connections with War and conquest, upon the increasingly aggressive policies of the German's the Brandenburg Gate soon became a symbol of German expansionism. Originally the sculptures on the top of the gate centered around the theme of peace but after the Franco-Prussian war the centre piece was replaced with the Cross of Iron, a symbol adopted by the Nazi regime of the Twentieth Century.
The Nazi Regime utilized the imagery and status of the Brandenburg Gate for propaganda and militaristic ceremonies. The whole area around the Gate was part of Hitler and his architects grand plan for a New Berlin, A Berlin that symbolised Germanic power. The Brandenburg Gate by the end of the Second World War had only just survived the carnage of the conflict. It would not be restored to it's former glory until the start of the Twenty First Century, now it is the focal point for National celebrations and gatherings.
(3) City of Culture
Berlin has been a cultural and metropolitan City for hundreds of years, in 1841 Royal decree established Berlin as a bastion of Culture and learning. The City of Berlin has over 150 museums within it's city limits and even has an Island designated as " Museum Island ". For people who do not wish to spend all day looking at dusty books and ancient bones, there is the opportunity to visit buildings which encompass several different styles of building. There are remnants of the Cities Communist past with highly uniform urban planning or there are many new styles of modern ideas under construction, mixed with classic Germanic styles.
(4) Religion in Berlin
Despite Berlin's cosmopolitan and cultural heritage, the City is remarkable atheist in it's attitude towards religion. Berlin is possibly the most non-religious City in Europe in the attitudes of its citizens. In the majority of surveys commissioned into the social diversity of the City, over 60% of the general population has no belief in a higher power. Berlin is a City with a good mixture of faiths within it's boundaries. The remaining citizens of Berlin who are religious are divided into Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist faiths.
(5) The Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was the physical manifestation of the ideological differences that both Super powers clung to, after Hitler's evil regime was finally defeated. For nearly Three decades the bricks and mortar divided the City of Berlin and the German nation. The wall was created to stop the East German's under Soviet rule from passing into the Western Zone. The wall was constructed in 1961 and was finally dismantled in 1989. The first step towards reunification came after the citizens of both East and West Berlin were inspired by a relaxation in Cold War tensions.
Today some of the Wall is still on display as a monument to the German spirit and as a remembrance to those who died trying to link up with their families and friends on the other side. The wall was there to stop the East German's from escaping into the Western side of the City which was more prosperous than the Eastern half. Every desertion to the "Capitalist" side was a blow to the integrity of the Socialist regime of the East.
The Berlin Wall came down because the East German government no longer had the backing of the Soviet Union's Red Army to reinforce their policies. So the people of Berlin took to the streets and the Wall and started to tear down the Cities line of division and exclusion. To the sound of the Scorpion's " Wind of change " the Wall was smashed and the City was made whole.
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