Berlin has always been an attraction for tourists from around the world. In the 1930s, no other plaza in Europe experienced as much traffic as Potsdamer Platz. The first traffic lights in continental Europe were installed there, and today replicas have been erected in their original locations. After about four decades of neglect due to the erection of the Berlin Wall, the ‘new’ Potsdamer Platz represents a vision of Berlin for the third millennium. The area reflects the resurrection and transformation of the entire city. Since reunification, Berlin has become the hub and juncture of East and West in Europe.
For almost 30 years, Berlin with its Berlin Wall has held a tragic reputation throughout the world. Today, only small remnants of the structure remain to remind one of this recent history—along the Bernauer Strasse, at the Preussischer Landtag (Prussian Parliament), and in Prenzlauer Berg. Berlin has long since liberated itself from the shadow of the Wall and has redefined itself as an exemplar of unity. New Berlin means dynamism and creativity, a city prepared for the future, with a modern landscape created by internationally renowned architects. The capital city is now even more appealing than ever before.
Both city natives and visitors alike are beguiled by the capital with its great lakes and rivers, its extensive parks and forests. These make up more than a third of the city area. The Müggelsee is the city’s largest lake, covering over 750 hectares. There are more lakes and rivers throughout the city; located on both the Spree and Havel , Berlin has more bridges than Venice . One can reach both the Baltic and the North Sea by boat from Berlin .
Berlin has more cultivated green spaces than any other international city of a similar size. The proverbial “Berlin Air” owes its reputation primarily to the Tiergarten park, the Grunewald forest, and the landscape conservation area around the Great Müggelsee lake.
The grand boulevard Unter den Linden is now almost 360 years old. With historical edifices such as the Humboldt University, the Opera, the Kommandantur, the Neue Wache (New Watchhouse), the Old Museum in the Lustgarten, the Berlin Cathedral, and the Nicolaiviertel near the Red City Hall, it is one of Berlin’s greatest attractions for visitors from around the world. Located behind the Museum Island at the Hackescher Markt, the Scheunenviertel offers a special subculture, which is reflected in a multitude of galleries, stages, variety shows, dance halls, and cafes. The adjacent district, Prenzlauer Berg, also attracts both tourists and international artists.
Together with the Berlin Bear, the Brandenburg Gate, located in the centre of the city, is the symbol of Berlin . The Gate marks the western end of the boulevard Unter den Linden, which stretches all the way to the Museum Island in the Spree River and the Berlin Cathedral. Up until Germany ’s reunification, this was the most pronounced border between East and West Berlin . Not far from the Berlin Cathedral one finds the Deutsche Staatsoper opera house, the French and German Cathedrals at the Gendarmenmarkt, as well as the Humboldt University , which has produced 27 Nobel Prize winners.
The German political headquarters are located in the centre of the city. Not far from the Brandenburg Gate, the German Bundestag assembles in the Reichstag, which was built between 1884 and 1894. Numerous other parliamentary and government buildings can be found dispersed around the districts of Mitte and Tiergarten. Several embassies and German states have set up their representative quarters there, too.
In the midst of the parliamentary and government quarters, Europe ’s largest and most modern train station, the Berliner Hauptbahnhof, was opened in June 2006.
The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was destroyed in World War II and has been preserved in ruins as a reminder of the horrors of war, is located directly on the Kurfürstendamm (short, Ku’damm) avenue. Not far away lies the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), the largest department store in continental Europe.
At Alexanderplatz, the 368m Fernsehturm looms high above the numerous stores and restaurants below. It is the tallest structure in Germany and offers an excellent view of the city.
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