Each city on this planet is a masterpiece of cultural, social and economic achievement. Without a doubt they all reflect a nation’s traditions, its values and convictions, yet most of all, a city offers to any open-minded visitor an insight into its history, its political troubles, its financial problems, and its people’s contribution for future generations. With this in mind, Berlin is Germany’s largest city and its capital, worldwide known as the birthplace of the Nazi Party and the terrifying stories accompanying this slice of German history. Most traveling folks choosing Berlin as a destination are eager to see the Berlin Wall, or at least what is left of it, Hitler’s bunker (or better yet the small park where it used to be), the Jews’ Memorial, and are generally keen on finding out as much as they can about WWII Germany, concentration camps and Hitler’s ruthless political personality. However, in many ways Berlin is a modern city that has many other fascinating destinations for the traveller interested in rediscovering the city as it is today, and not as history portrays it.
1. The Reichstag
The Reichstag building welcomes its visitors with an unexpected dedication written on the main facade right at the entrance: “Dem Deutschen Volke”, meaning “To/For the German People”. Its imposing structure hosts high ceiling and large inside halls, conference rooms for parliamentary sessions, and government meeting cabinets. During the Cold War this building was on the western side of Berlin, but just a few metres from the border with the east side where the Berlin Wall stood. On the 27th of February, 1933, under unknown circumstances the building caught fire only to be completely rebuilt 66 years later. The main attraction is the large glass dome at the top of the building which offers a 360-degree view of Berlin and an audio-guided tour for every visitor.
2. The Charlottenburg Palace
Another destination one should not miss when in Berlin is the Charlottenburg Palace. This exquisite architectural masterpiece was built for and named after Sophia Charlotte of Hanover who was the wife of the respected Dutch of Prussia and Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg. After Sophia Charlotte’s death, many other generations of high political figures preferred using this palace for celebrations, gatherings, generally functioning as a summer residence. Today, this is the largest palace in Berlin, having royally constructed and ornamented rooms such as the Oak Gallery, the Porcelain Gallery, the Golden Gallery, and many more. A tour of this palace will convince you of just how wealthy its owners were, how lavishly they lived their lives and how generously they exhibited that with every oil painting, Chinese porcelain, mirror, and interior design found in the palace.
3. The Fernsehturm – TV Tower
The Fernsehturm, also known as the television tower, is located right at the heart of Berlin, close to Alexanderplatz and the famous Neptune Fountain. With a height of 368 meters, this tower is Berlin’s tallest landmark, offering a 360-degree view of Berlin to its visitors. It was built during the existence of the German Democratic Republic, between 1965 and 1969, and it is made of concrete and steel, including the sphere which has seven floors, all open to the public.
4. Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie was one of the most popular Berlin Wall crossing points during the Cold War. This crossing point was officially designated to function exclusively for foreigners or members of the Allied Forces, thus, strict and meticulous searches and passport checking were done before anyone could step on either side of the wall. Its name comes from the letter C in the NATO phonetic alphabet, just as other crossing points were known as Alpha and Bravo, for example. Given that at the beginning Checkpoint Charlie’s only security gate did not exactly prevent the German people from crossing over, the East Germans finally had to lower barriers and add reinforcements. Today, visitors can see what is left of that historical checkpoint and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum close by where the passports of many famous people who passed through there are displayed for everyone to see.
5. Museum Island
A call to all art lovers – Museum Island is an oasis of pleasure for the visitor who enjoys going to the museum and walking for hours on end from one exhibition room to another, while admiring some of the most famous art pieces that mankind has ever created: from the bust of Queen Nefertiti and Egyptian burial chambers or papyruses, to paintings of world renowned artists and historical collections of coins. This island located on the river Spree in the Mitte district of Berlin, and hosts a complex of five museums: Altes, Neues, Bode, Pergamon and Alte Nationgalerie.