View Berlin 2013 in a larger map
I will begin my journey by exploring Germany’s present while also taking in its past, both beautiful and troubling. The juxtaposition of Berlin’s Kulturforum, with it’s top collection of traditional European painting, and it's thriving contemporary arts scene stands in stark contrast to Germany's Nazi history and their censorship of "degenerate art".
Peter Eisenman's unsettling Holocaust Memorial as well as Käthe Kollwitz's artwork will serve as poignant examples of artistic reactions to political events.
Lastly, visits to the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag will highlight architecture and the changing role of politics in German culture over time.
Infamously gutted by fire on 17 February 1933 - an event the Nazis used as an excuse to suspend basic freedoms - the Reichstag is today home to the Bundestag, the Federal German Parliament. The celebrated renovation by Lord Foster was conceived as a 'dialogue between old and new' and resulted in a cupola that is open to the general public. A trip to the top is a must, but expect airport-style security and long queues. At the centre of the dome is a funnel of mirrors, angled so as to shed light on the workings of democracy below but also lending an almost funhouse effect to it all.
Prior to it's renovation, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, famously wrapped the Reichstag in 1995.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
One of the most evocative and controversial monuments to the Holocaust, was designed by the American architect Peter Eisenmann and is located in the center of Berlin. The centerpiece of the Holocaust memorial is the “Field of Stelae”, covered with more than 2,500 geometrically arranged concrete pillars.
You can enter and walk through the unevenly sloping field from all four sides. The strong columns, all slightly different in size, evoke a disorienting, wave-like feeling that you can only experience when you make your way through this gray forest of concrete.
Topography of Terror
Since 1987 a permanent exhibition at the site where the headquarters of the Secret State Police, the SS and the Reich Security Main Office were located during the “Third Reich” has been providing information to the public about the most important institutions of National Socialist persecution and terror. The documentary exhibition conveys the European dimensions of the Nazi reign of terror.
- Cölln and Berlin affiliated in 1307 for a union.
- In 1701, after elector Friedrich III had coronated himself as king Friedrich I in Prussia, Berlin rose to a Royal Capital and Residence Town.
- 1806–08 Napoleon's troops occupied the city
- 1871 the city becomes the capital of the 'Deutsches Reich' the construction and economy boom even grew in the Gründerzeit ("founding era"), Berlin's population exceeded one million. The heavy defeat of World War I as well as revolutionary riots caused a deep crisis of the Reich and its capital.
- Art and culture flourished during the twenties; theatre productions, film premieres, vaudevilles and an vivid nightlife made Berlin the centre of the "Golden Twenties".
- 1933 Hitler's takeover marked the beginning of the persecution of Jews, Communists, Homosexuals, and many more.
- 1945 After the end of World War II the city was divided in four parts: the East was administered by the Soviet Union, the Southwest by the USA, the West by Great Britain and the Northwest by France.
- 1948 The "Berlin-Blockade" where the city became object of the Soviet-American conflict; Americans and British supplied the three West sectors via "Luftbrücke" with "Candy Bombers".
- Aug 13, 1961 The construction of the Berlin Wall begins
- Nov 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall is torn down
- 1990 German reunification - Berlin became residence of the Federal Government
- Apr 19, 1999 First plenary session of the new Federal Government in the redesigned Reichstag
Points of interest and timeline information excerpted from Wikipedia, TripAdvisor, and LonelyPlanet.