David Bowie once called Berlin “the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine.” Faze had a wonderful opportunity to experience this on a recent European visit courtesy of Eurail. It truly was one of the best cities we’ve ever visited. We only had a day to look around so here is a quick sampling of what Berlin has to offer.
BERLIN STATS & QUICK FACTS
Population: 3.4 million.
The Reichstag building is the traditional seat of the German Parliament, renovated in the 1950s after severe World War II damage. Politics of Germany takes place in a framework of a federal parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Federal Chancellor is the head of government, and of a plurality multi-party system.
Berlin has a thriving backpacker and hostel scene. Starting at 13 Euros (approx. $20 Canadian) per night, you can stay at one of the best hostels in the world! EastSeven has been voted “Top 10 Hostel” worldwide for the past four years! www.eastseven.de
Although not widely known for their fine cuisine, Berlin has an amazing offering of German and International restaurants for all budgets. Of course, you must partake in the cultural favourites of bratwurst, sauerkraut and apple strudel. We were most surprised by the popularity of an Indian-German hybrid currywurst, which seemed to be everywhere.
Cruisin’ in my Trabant! The “Trabi” was East Germany’s answer to the VW Beetle and once ruled the roads, maxing out at an ear-splitting 18hp. These days Germany (including former East Germany) has a booming automotive sector and are proud manufacturers of BMW, Porsche, Audi and others.
Two of the country’s most famous exports are supermodels Heidi Klum and Claudia Schiffer.
Faze founder, Lorraine, tries to break down what’s left of the infamous Berlin wall.
The Berlin Wall
After the defeat of Hitler and the end of World War II, Germany was divided among the victors. The French, English and Americans decided to merge their allotted land to form West Germany—a democratic nation. The Soviets, who owned the rest of the land, retaliated by forming East Germany and began controlling it with a communist government.
The millions of East German citizens were less than thrilled with this arrangement. Many of them left to live in the democratic half of Germany. In August 1961, the communist government built a wall separating East and West Berlin. Though they said it was to keep capitalism out, it was obvious that the Berlin Wall was meant to keep people in. Over 100 people died trying to escape over the Wall.
Many world leaders spoke out against the East Germans. In 1989, Hungary opened its borders to help people escape; those who managed to emigrate held mass protests, once they were beyond the border. The East German Government finally relented, allowing small part of the border to be opened for travellers. Hundreds of Germans took this tiny victory and ran with it, flocking to the Wall and starting to chip it down. Within the next year, East and West Germany formed an official and peaceful union and the Berlin Wall came down for good.
The Wall is a huge part of German history and quite a few portions have been sold as souvenirs and donated to museums all over the world.
MORE BERLIN STATS & QUICK FACTS
• The city of Berlin emerged in the late 12th century from two merchant settlements on either side of the Spree River. It is the capital of Germany, as well as the capital of the city state of Berlin.
• Berlin is a significant source of culture, and a major centre of European media, politics and science.
• Along with Buenos Aires and Montreal, UNESCO has appointed Berlin a City of Design—an honourable title reflecting a strong contemporary art scene, interesting architecture and an established design industry.