I am usually pretty good at managing my travel schedule, and I highly suggest you take time of year and season into your travel considerations. However there are times that I simply don’t listen to my own advice, ok there are a lot of times I don’t listen to my own advice. I am sure there is a lesson there to learn, but I still haven’t. What I am talking about is understanding the environment that your going into. I am the type of traveler that wants sun, fun, beautiful locations, cultural experience, exceptional architecture.
But hey, weather sure plays a role in turning your trip from an awesome experience to regret. Being in the Caribbean during a hurricane, not my idea of a fun vacation. Visiting Berlin, Germany for the first time in the dead of winter, thats right 18 degrees cold, not so much fun, at least thats what I thought.
PLEASE BOOKMARK THIS PAGE, ADMISSION AHEAD…………..
I was wrong, thats right you heard me, I said it, it’s even in writing, I truly have grown! From time to time, I find myself taking trips strictly for business, that was the reason for this trip to Berlin in February. I was visiting the Worlds largest Fresh Foods Show called, Fruit Logistica. It is held every year in early February in Berlin. Now you would think they could find a warmer climate to hold this show in. Although I knew it was going to cold, I don’t think I really understood how cold, see I live in the desert, where a cold temperature is 40 degrees fahrenheit. So arriving to beautiful Berlin when it is snowing and 18 degrees fahrenheit, it’s an awakening experience. I honestly believed the city would be bundled up and unfriendly.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. This city was bustling, friendly and absolutely beautiful in the winter. This is a place worth a visit, anytime of the year. I for one had a preconceived idea of what Berlin is, or was, it was none of what I thought. Oh yes, there is significant world history in this city and it surrounds you everywhere you go and can’t be dismissed, in fact it should be embraced and appreciated. The history of this city, of Germany is key to the World today. Alright, I am getting off topic, back on track Scott.
As a first timer with a limited amount of time on my hands, but a desire to experience all that this city has to offer, I set out to see the highlights, Check Point Charlie, The Wall, Brandenburg Gate among a lot of other worthwhile sights.
Founded in the 13th century, Berlin has had an eventful history. Excavations from 2008 suggest that the city may be even older than was previously assumed: state archaeologists have discovered an oak beam that probably dates back to 1183.
Almost no other metropolis has experienced such frequent, radical change transforming the face of the city. Although Berlin saw steady growth in its importance, dazzling epochs alternated with darker eras. Nevertheless, the formerly divided city has succeeded in becoming a vibrant metropolis in the heart of Europe. The City came to being in the early 1200’s as a merger of two settlements, Colln and Berlin. By the 1400’s Berlin was the largest Trading center in Europe. Berlin and Cölln had roughly 8,500 inhabitants and 1,100 buildings. Between them, the twin cities have three town halls, three hospitals, churches, and monasteries with residences for the clergy and the court of the margrave. In 1432 Berlin and Cölln merge to form a single municipality. Up to this point they operated under regional authority, with separate budgeting and governance. The elector Friedrich II puts an end to this joint administration in 1442 in the interest of expanding his own powers.
Between 1400 -1700 the City saws its greatest expansion not only in population but in area, buildings it is becoming the center of Europe. In 1671 Berlin’s Jewish community is founded. By 1700 it has grown to a total of more than a thousand people and 114 families. One year later, the Huguenot community is founded with an initial 100 members. By 1677, the community numbers more than 700.
In 1701, On 18 January 1701 in Königsberg, the elector Friedrich III has himself crowned Friedrich I, King in Prussia. Berlin becomes the royal residence. Starting in 1740, Berlin develops into a center of the Enlightenment and of constant construction under Friedrich the Great. The large representative buildings put up in this era still dominate the cityscape around Unter den Linden: the Armory (Zeughaus, completed already in 1707 – photo), the Palace of the Crown Prince (Kronprinzenpalais, 1732), the Opera Palace (Opernpalais, 1737), the Staatsoper opera house (1742), the Prince Heinrich Palace (Prinz-Heinrich-Palais, 1756, now Humboldt University), St. Hedwig’s Cathedral (1773), and the Old Library (Alte Bibliothek, 1780).
|Brandenburg GateIn 1791, Brandenburg Gate, under construction by Carl Gotthard Langhans since 1788, is officially opened. The Gate is crowned with Johann Gottfried Schadow’s quadriga in 1793. Over the next century Berlin continues to grow and struggles with Political changes. By 1871, Berlin has 826,815 inhabitants within the city boundaries and 105,169 in its suburbs.|
In 1791, Brandenburg Gate, under construction by Carl Gotthard Langhans since 1788, is officially opened. The Gate is crowned with Johann Gottfried Schadow’s quadriga in 1793. Over the next century Berlin continues to grow and struggles with Political changes. By 1871, Berlin has 826,815 inhabitants within the city boundaries and 105,169 in its suburbs.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler’s rise to power leads to the National Socialist takeover and the end of democracy in Germany and Berlin.
On March 14, the Prussian minister of the interior and prime minister Hermann Göring (NSDAP) designates a “state commissioner for the capital city” to assist Heinrich Sahm, the elected lord mayor; the commissioner takes over as the real authority in Berlin.
On March 21, the first concentration camp in the Berlin area is opened just outside the city in Sachsenhausen near Oranienburg for regime opponents who have been arrested.
The first organized boycotts of Jewish businesses, doctors, and lawyers take place on April 1. On May 10 the National Socialists stage a book-burning on the square (now called Bebelplatz) outside the Alte Bibliothek, or Old Library, as part of a campaign against a so-called “un-German spirit.” A memorial at the site now recalls the events of that day.
In 1934/35, All of the city’s elected bodies are disbanded, and the city administration is “forced into line”: around 1,300 civil servants, one out of three salaried employees, and one out of ten wage earners are fired. In December 1935, Heinrich Sahm, now lord mayor in name only, resigns.
In 1938, The annexation of Austria on March 12 makes Berlin the capital of the “Greater German Reich.”
|Check Point Charlie|
On November 9, during the pogrom known as the “Night of Broken Glass” (“Kristallnacht”), members of the SA and the SS set fire to nine of the twelve synagogues in Berlin, loot Jewish-owned shops, and terrorize Jewish citizens, arresting 1,200 of them. Most of those arrested are taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
Of the 160,000 Jews living in Berlin in 1933, roughly 90,000 were able to emigrate before 1941, while more than 60,000 were killed or died in National Socialist concentration camps by the end of the war. Around 1,400 Jews survived by living in hiding with the help of Berliners, the “unsung heroes.”
1939-The Second World War starts in Berlin when war is declared against Poland on September
1945, The Berlin garrison capitulates on May 2, six days before the end of the Second World War in Europe. After the war ends on 8 May 1945, much of Berlin is nothing but rubble: 600,000 apartments have been destroyed, and only 2.8 million of the city’s original population of 4.3 million still live in the city. In accordance with an agreement signed by the Allies, the city is divided into four sectors and administered jointly by the occupying powers, the United States of America, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union.
From 1946-1049, Growing conflicts of interest between the victorious powers with regard to the postwar order in Europe in general and Germany in particular put an end to the Allies’ joint administration of the city. Berlin becomes a Cold War hotspot.
In 1946, The unification in April in the Soviet occupied zone and East Berlin of the KPD and the SPD to form the Socialist Unity Party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands – SED), pushed through by the Soviet military administration and the KPD, leads to severe conflicts between the Allies and between local party organizations.
On October 20, with voter turnout of 92.3 percent, Berlin elects its first city assembly since the end of the war. The SPD receives 48.7 percent of the vote, the CDU 22.2 percent, the SED 19.8 percent, and the LDP 9.3 percent. During this century significant changes in politics and the separation of East and West Berlin continue.
In 1990, The first and only free elections to the East German parliament are held on March 18, followed in May by the first free elections to the East Berlin city assembly since 1946. The Second World War’s victorious powers and the two German states sign the “Two Plus Four” Treaty in Moscow on September 12, arranging for unification under international law. Germany is given full sovereignty, and Berlin’s Four-Power status expires. The unification of Germany enters into force on October 3 with a state ceremony in Berlin, after which the Berlin House of Representatives and the German Bundestag hold new elections. We all remember the speech from President Ronald Reagan to Gorbechev, “Tear down this Wall”, and it came down. So you think. In fact the wall is still up in many places, and down in others. But this part of their history is well preserved. In fact where the wall was taken down, Bricks were laid in it’s path as a memorial to the Wall, so that the world never forgets.
|Path of The Wall|
Berlin today is a huge metropolis. Rebuilding efforts for the last 20 years has produced one of the fastest growing, Cities in Europe. Construction has been non stop since 1990, not only on New State of the art Buildings, but also restoration of historical buildings that were heavily damaged during the war some 60 years earlier. Berlin today is the reunification of two Berlin’s, East and West.
When I visited, I was so excited to see the architecture, I had it in my head that there would be significant difference between those buildings in East and West. And frankly, there is. Many of the Government buildings that were in East Berlin, look cold, evil even, stark lines, very inorganic in shape and feel. While in Western Berlin, you have buildings with flare, almost french in nature.
During my visit, although I had limited time, I had the opportunity to tour the city, I have never bothered with a Bus tour before, which are available just about in any city in the world. But here, it was necessary. So I boarded my bus, by myself. What was suppose to be about a 2 hour excursion, turned into 6 hours for me. When the bus would stop at some significant point, I couldn’t help myself but to depart and venture out on my own. You can board these buses anytime of the day and continue with your tour.
What struck me here in Berlin, was it’s people. They know their history well, they are friendly and willing to talk about the history of Berlin, even the times when they are not proud of, they are open, friendly, beautiful and helpful. One gets a sense that the people of Berlin know their place in history an have embraced it, while at the same time collectively pushing in a new direction for their future. From the perspective of a U.S. Citizen, this is one place you should visit, the history helps to put into perspective the scope of influence this country and city had and still has in the world today.
Although the City was cold, it was warm at heart. There are so many contrasts in this city, that is how I view it, a city of contrasts. In some respects it is an infant looking for a path forward and in others it is a old man, reminiscing.
In May 2005 the Holocaust Museum, officially named the Monument to the Murdered Jews in Europe, opened, it is just down the road from the Brandenburg Gate. The slabs undulate in a wave-like pattern. Each is a five-sided monolith, individually unique in shape and size. Some are only ankle high while others tower over visitors. The paths that are shaped between the slabs undulate as well. The hope was to create a feeling of groundlessness and instability; a sense of disorientation. Most will agree that they succeeded.
In the summer time the Museum takes on an interesting look, but in the winter time, it has a stark coldness, a sense of loss. When walking through it one feels the pain and loss, there is a deafening silence that surrounds you, it is absolutely striking in the winter.
I hope that you enjoyed my recollection, I am only sorry that I did not have more time there, I will be going back. I would like to thank Berlin.de for the history lesson.