This summer, I visited four cities in Central Europe – Budapest, Vienna, Prague and Berlin. In this way, I experienced the culture of four different countries – Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic and Germany. I also learned a lot about their history, especially during the Second World War (1939-1945) and the Cold War (1947 – 1991).
Here’a a little about Berlin, Germany.
Berlin suffered enormous damage during the Second World War. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party controlled Germany through a dictatorship between 1933 and 1945. As the capital of Nazi Germany, Berlin was subject to 363 air raids during this period. Some 600,000 apartments were destroyed, along with many public buildings. Unlike other European cities which are home to old styles of architecture, most buildings that you see in Berlin were re-constructed post 1948.
One can feel the impact of the Second World War on the city even today. For example, an unexploded American aerial bomb from WWII was recently found at a construction site in central Berlin. And in fact, politicians from countries such as Poland and Greece are still demanding money from Berlin to make amends for Nazi atrocities during the war!
The Berlin Wall: WWII ended as Germany surrendered in 1945. However, the end of the war did not mean the end of terror for Berlin. By 1949, Germany had become two separate countries – West Germany, run by the Allies, and East Germany, run by the Soviet Union. Although Berlin was in East Germany, as the capital it was also shared between Britain, France, America and the Soviet Union. The Berlin Wall was built by the communist government of East Berlin all of a sudden in 1961. The wall separated East Berlin and West Berlin. It was built in order to prevent people from fleeing East Berlin. The Berlin Wall was taken down on November 9, 1989.
Compared to other German cities, Berlin is a poor city as it has a debt of about €60bn and average earnings are less than the rest of the county. According to a study, Berlin is the only capital city in Europe that brings down its country’s economy.
Here are some fun things to do while visiting Berlin:
1) Go on a free walking tour of Berlin and learn about its past.
2) Ride the double-decker city buses and take Route 100 to visit popular sites such as Bradenburg Gate and Alexanderplatz
3) Visit The Reichstag and take a guided tour of the German parliament building
4) Tour Humboldt University – Berlin’s oldest University. Karl Marx studied here, and the Brothers Grimm and Albert Einstein taught at the university
5) Due to Berlin’s divided past, you will find not one, but two zoos within the city. Berlin Zoo is located in West Berlin and Tierpark is located in East Berlin. Check them out!
Written by: Chandni Shah. Chandni is a picture book collector, an educator and founder of Simplifly, a learning venture for children.