Berlin, the capital of Germany, offers lots of interesting places, historical sites and monuments, a wide range of museums and many more attractions. The Wall divided the city into East and West for 28 years and was a symbol for the Cold War. German history can be noticed all over the city.
II. Sights of Berlin
This palace was built around 1700 as a court for art. The building and the interior was
highly influenced by Sophie Charlotte of Hanover, the first Queen of Prussia. She
used the palace as a summer domicile. She was well-educated and had a good
sense for art. She invited the philosopher Leibniz from Hanover to the palace. There,
he invented the binary system which was the basis for digitalization.
In 1740, Charlottenburg Palace became the residence of Frederick the Great, the
grandson of Sophie Charlotte.
Bellevue Palace is the official residence of the German president. Mrs Merkel is the
Chancellor of Germany, but the president is Joachim Gauck. This palace was once
built for the youngest brother of Frederick the Great. It was used as a summer
domicile for the Prussian aristocracy for a long time.
Tiergarten is a huge park in Berlin. Originally, there were 35.000 trees and it was a
hunting area for the Prussian elector. In the cold winter after the Second World War,
the population of Berlin burnt 20.000 trees for heating their homes. Later, new trees
In the middle of Tiergarten, there is the Victory Column. At the top of the column,
there is a statue of Victory – a symbol for victorious wars. This monument was
installed to recall the Prussian victories over Denmark, Austria and France in 1864.
The figure on top of the column is 8.32 metres high and contains a kilogramme of
pure gold. By the population, the statue is called the ‘Golden Else’. There are 285
steps to climb to the top where you have a fantastic view of the largest park in Berlin.
The Brandenburg Gate is Berlin’s most famous landmark. It is over 200 years old and
was modeled after the Propylaeum in Athens. It was the first significant building of
classicism in Berlin. On top of the gate, there is the Quadriga, a chariot with four
horses. Quadriga is the goddess of peace. After the defeat of Napoleon, the iron
cross was added which turned the goddess of peace into a goddess of victory. The
Brandenburg Gate has always been an important historical symbol. Princess Luise
was the first person who passed the gate. Napoleon stole the Quadriga when he
occupied Berlin. The Nazis had their torchlight processions here. East Germany built
the wall and made the gate a symbol for separation. During the separation of East
and West Berlin, there were barricades around the whole area around Brandenburg
Gate. Nobody could come near the gate. It stood alone in no-man’s land of the East
German border. It was a symbol of the division of Berlin and of Germany until 1989.
After the peaceful revolution and the fall of the wall, the Brandenburg Gate became a
symbol of unity.
Unter den Linden
Unter den Linden has always been the grandest boulevard in Berlin. Here, the first
street lights in Germany were installed. The great electors rode along this boulevard
to hunt in the Tiergarten, Frederick the Great travelled to Sanssouci in Potsdam by
carriage and Kaiser Wilhelm I and his wife strolled along that boulevard. It was
created in 1647 as an avenue of lime and walnut trees. The city’s oldest promenade
stretches from the Brandenburg Gate to the Palace Bridge where the former City
The statue of Frederick the Great
In the middle of the sixty meter wide avenue, there is a statue of King Frederick the
Great, one of the most important personalities of this area. He was king and came to
the thrown in 1740. He led the people follow their own beliefs as long as they paid
taxes. He abolished torture and introduced the freedom of the press. He had the first
opera built.He was a philosopher, a composer and he played the flute, even when he
was in a war. He gave the city international stature. Frederick surrounded himself
with European intellectuals and was a close friend of the French philosopher Voltaire.
Lustgarten – Pleasure Garden
This area once belonged to the Berlin City Palace which is going to be reconstructed
across the street. This place connected the state, represented by the castle, the
church, represented by the cathedral, the military represented by the Zeughaus with
all the weapons and the art, represented by the first Prussian museum. The City
Palace was the centre of Berlin for 500 years. It was pulled down in 1950 because
the East German government wanted to delete all the symbols of feudalism. The new
building which you can see over there, is the so-called Humboldt Box. It contains the
palace exhibition and will be removed when the City Palace has been rebuilt.
This area comprises five different museums in one place. It belongs to the World
Cultural Heritage and it one of the most superb museum complexes in Europe:
The Old Museum – a masterpiece of classical architecture
The New Museum which contains the Egyptian Museum with the famous bust
The Old National Gallery which looks like an antique temple. It contains
paintings and sculptures of the 19th
The Bode Museum which contains paintings and sculptures from the 18th
The Pergamon Museum which contains the archeological findings from the
Near East. The most famous one is the reconstructed Pergamon Altar
The Berlin Cathedral is the largest Protestant church in Germany. It was built from
1894-1905 and was the main Prussian Protestant church and the court church of the
Hohenzollerns. The House of Hohenzollern reigned over Berlin for more than 500
years until Germany became a democracy after the First World War. Inside, there is
the Hohenzollern Crypt with over 100 graves where many Hohenzollern were buried.
The church is richly decorated inside and outside which is more typical for a Catholic
church but normally not for a Protestant church. During the war, the cathedral was
This bridge with 8 decorative figures created by Schinkel once belonged to the City
Palace complex. The figures illustrate the life of a young hero who was sent to war by
the goddess of victory. The last figure shows the scene where the young hero is lying
dying in the arms of the goddess. First, the ministry of art and education wanted to
remove the figures because they are naked. They thought it could be a danger for
the population. But they remained.
German Historical Museum
This is the oldest building at the boulevard ‘Unter den Linden’. It’s a Baroque
building which was used for guarding the weapons of the state. Today, it contains the
most important exhibition about the German history in Berlin.
The New Guardhouse
This building was created by Schinkel in 1850 and resembles to a Roman Fortress.
It’s a National Memorial for all those who died as a result of war. Inside, you can see
the sculpture ‘Mother with Dead Son’ by Käthe Kollwitz. The mother is holding her
death son in her arms.
This university was founded by Wilhelm von Humboldt, who stood for a universal
education instead of pure expert knowledge.
August Bebel was an important Social Democrat. There is the State Opera, the Book
Burning Memorial and the St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, a Catholic church which was
modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. The place is the setting for cultural events. In
1933, the Nazis burnt piles of books here written by the Left, the Jews or other
unloved persons. The underground memorial commemorates that today.
The Gendarmenmarkt is one of the loveliest plazas in Europe. With the classical
construction, the ensemble looks like a square in Rome. King Frederick the Great
wanted to have here very impressive buildings so that Berlin could match up to other
older European capitals. The place comprises the German Cathedral, the French
Cathedral and the Concert Hall which was a playhouse in the past. The French
Cathedral was built for the 17,000 French Huguenot religious refugees who came to
Berlin because they were prosecuted in their home country. In front of the Concert
Hall, there is a Schiller Monument. On the great open steps of the Concert Hall,
award ceremonies are often staged. The place is also often used as a backdrop for
Hollywood films because the square gives the typical appearance of the 18th
century. There are elegant restaurants all along the plaza.
This is Berlin’s newest shopping mile. It stretches over 3 kilometers long and the
biggest part belonged to the former East Germany. After the fall of the Wall, investors
built the Friedrichstadt Shopping Arcade which includes the Galleries Lafayette, the
exclusive elegant boutiques of the Quartier 206 and 205 at Mohrenstraße.
During the time of the Wall, the East German Leadership cleared the area in order to
have clear lines of fire. It was a huge area of no-man’s land. After the fall of the wall,
this part of the city developed to the New Berlin with many modern and attractive
buildings, one of them the Sony Center with the high glass cupola and the piazza.
Other highlights include the casino, the musical theatre or the famous film festival
The city of Berlin served as the headquarters of the National socialist terror regime
from 1933 to 1945. During this period, six million Jews were murdered. The
Holocaust Memorial created by Peter Eisenman commemorates the horrible mass
murder of this time. It consists of 2711 concrete steles of different heights which look
like gravestones. Over 2000 visitors daily walk through the uneven and confusing
narrow passageways. Under the field of Stelae, there is an impressive museum with
the names of the murdered Jews and the stories of their families. Their biographical
dates are projected on the wall as their names are read over a loudspeaker.
The banks of the Spree River provide one of the city’s most delightful panoramic
views. In the past, the Spree River was part of the inner German border and the
white crosses along the river commemorate those who tried to escape from the East
and died here. A highly modern parliament quarter developed here with many
Reichstag: The building was damaged in the Reichstag fire of February 1933
and severely destroyed after the Second World War. Today, it is the symbol of
the new Berlin capital. The German Bundestag meets in the modernized
Reichstag building. A tourist attraction is the new glass cupola on the roof of
the Reichstag. Two traversing spiral ramps lead up to a forty meter high
viewing platform. The cupola was planned by the British architect Norman
Foster. In the middle of the cupola, there is a huge reflecting cylinder to funnel
light into the plenary chamber below.
Chancellery: It is eight times larger than the White House in Washington D.C.
It contains the representatives’ offices, the library and the committee
conference rooms. Here, the day-to-day business of parliament takes place.
The building is an exemplary green Chancellery. The roof is decked with solar
modules and additional power comes from hydropower, biomass and solar
The Border Crossing Checkpoint Charlie
After the construction of the Wall, Soviet and American tanks confronted each other
at Checkpoint Charlie. The people of Berlin feared a Third World War. The event at
Checkpoint Charlie, a famous border crossing for the Allies, was the beginning of the
Cold War between the East and the West. The House at Checkpoint Charlie
documents the various escapes from the east part of Berlin to the West.
At the end of the Second World War in 1945, the Allies took over Berlin and divided
the city into four sectors: The American, the French, the British and the Soviet sector.
The city was totally destroyed and the population suffered from hunger and tried hard
to survive. While the American, the French and the British allies helped to build up
democracy in their sectors, the Soviets wanted to install the worker and peasant state
after the Socialist model of the Soviet Union. As the population in the eastern part
had to pay high reparations to the USSR, there was less to eat than during the war.
The prosperity gap with the West grew. Besides, people were not convinced of the
advantage of socialism.
Especially the young people felt they had no future in their country. The consequence
was that from 1949 to 1960, more than 2.4 million people fled to the West. This was
the reason why East Germany built the Wall. Officially, it was called an ‘Anti-fascist
Protective Wall’ to protect the own population from the dangers of the West. In reality,
the East German leadership built the Wall to stop the flow of refugees because they
feared that the eastern part could bleed to death.
The construction of the Berlin Wall on a Sunday morning came as a surprise. The
West Berliners suspected nothing. Armed border police officers stopped all traffic to
and from the Soviet sector. The subway lines were cut and the stations closed. East
German construction workers first put up barbed wire and, in the days following, a
wall made of large concrete blocks. From one moment to the other, the population of
East Berlin could no longer enter the area of West Berlin. Families and friends were
separated, the people couldn’t go to their jobs in the other part of the city. The
population of East Berlin was walled in. The border between West and East Berlin
consisted of about 12 kilometers of concrete wall, the border around Berlin had a
total length of 155 kilometres.
‘No one has the intention of building a wall’.
These were the words of Walter Ulbricht, the Chairman of East Germany on 15th
June 1961. On Sunday, 13th
August, the wall was built. More than 10,000 armed
policemen, 7,000 soldiers with several hundred tanks prevented the people from
crossing the border. In the first days, many people used the opportunity to jump out
of their windows or lower themselves on ropes from their apartments to get into the
West. These apartments were soon evacuated and the entrances and windows were
bricked up so that nobody could escape to the West. The Wall was a human tragedy
for the population.
The Wall was constructed of the following elements:
1. Concrete wall up to 4.20 meters tall with a concrete pipe on top
2. Control strip – 6 to 15 meters wide strip for tracking
3. Vehicle obstacles and spikes
4. Floodlights – 5 meter tall lamp-posts
5. Guard road for motorized patrols
6. Sensor fence – 2 meter tall fence with sensors that activated visual or acoustic
alarm when it was touched
7. Rear fence
8. Guard towers and bunkers with border patrols who permanently watched the
9. Dog runs
10. Signaling apparatus between the guard road and rear fence
The border around Berlin and between East and West Germany throughout the
country was additionally equipped with landmines.
East German border guards were ordered to open fire in case of any escape. 265
people were killed in connection with escapes on the border throughout Germany,
including over 100 deaths at the Wall in Berlin. But 5075 people could escape to the
West. They escaped in specially prepared cars, crossed the Spree or Elbe by
swimming, built mini-submarines or crossed the border in home-made hot-air
balloons. A spectacular escape of 57 people took place in 1962. They dug a 145
meter long tunnel, 12 meters under the Wall.
In 1989, the population of East Germany started regular protest marches against the
dictatorship in their country chorusing ‘We are the people’. Finally, there were
500,000 people taking part in these protest marches. On the evening of the 9th
November 1989, the head of the government announced that the citizen could leave
the country and cross the border. Many couldn’t believe it but they were allowed to
pass freely into West Berlin after 28 years of separation. The Berlin Wall had fallen.
On October 3rd
1990, East and West Germany were unified again.