Make a beeline for Berlin and see where history has been made.
A TALE OF TWO CITIES.
After the Allies won the Second World War Berlin was carved up as the Iron Curtain split Europe into the capitalist west and communist east. Berlin, although deep inside East Germany geographically, was still divided into two. West Berlin was only accessible to the rest of Western Germany by the air, rail and road 'corridors' through East Germany.
The wall is long gone, but the contrasts in Soviet and western architecture are still visible, as the two sides took different approaches to rebuilding Berlin after the Second World War.
A great way to see this is from the Fernsehturm, Alexanderplatz's huge TV tower. It was built by the East Germans as a symbol of socialism - which could be seen from across the Wall in West Berlin.
Since reunification, it has been adopted as a symbol by the entire city.
You can go up to the tower's viewing platform. It is recommended to buy tickets in advance, and they include options to dine in its revolving restaurant. Visit https://tv-turm.de/en/homepage/ to book.
Checkpoint Charlie When the East Germans built the Berlin Wall in 1961, Checkpoint Charlie became the only gateway which foreign tourists, allied diplomats and military personnel could pass into Berlin's Soviet side.
It is the site of a few fiery incidents. In one, an American diplomat was denied entry to East Berlin, where he wanted to watch the opera. He returned with a band of US soldiers and jeeps, and the Americans moved some tanks close to the checkpoint. The Soviets did the same, and a stand-off followed until common sense eventually prevailed.
It is also the site of some daring escapes by East Germans who fled to the west, and was sometimes used as a location for prisoner swaps.
Situated on Friedrichstrasse - one of Berlin's major shopping streets - it is a bit of a tourist trap, but worth seeing and is a reminder of how far Germany has come.
THE EAST SIDE GALLERY Most of the Berlin wall is, thankfully, no longer standing. But some was preserved, including this 1Km section in Muhlenstrasse, in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district.
After the wall fell in 1989, artists painted over this section with over 100 different works which commemorated the recent political events. A special place.
the Reichstag BUILDING This 19th century building housed the German Diet, or parliament, after the country's birth. When the nation divided after the Second World War, the East Germans moved theirs to Palast der Republik in East Berlin, while the West German parliament went to Bonn.
In 1933 the Reichstag became engulfed in a fire allegedly started by a Dutch communist. This gave Hitler an opportunity to suspend the rights guaranteed by the post First World War's Weimar Constitution. The Nazis' rivals were arrested, and the fascists took a majority in parliament. You know the rest.
When the Red Army took Berlin in 1945, the Reichstag was an important symbol for them to show off their victory. Their graffiti can still be seen on its walls.
Situated just inside West Berlin, it fell into disrepair, but was renovated in the 1990s - with the architects purposefully leaving some of the historical scars on the building. Germany's Bundstag parliament now meets there.
It is free to visit and it is best to apply online in advance at https:// visite.bundestag.de/.
MUSEUM ISLAND Five museums in one place - this is a UNESCO World Heritage site which houses a host of art and historical artefacts.
Take advantage of the Berlin Museum Pass, which costs [euro]24,00 and gives unlimited access to more than 50 sites across the city for three days.
Sitting on an island in the River Spree, in Mitte, it's an impressive place to take a leisurely stroll too.
OLYMPIASTADION The Nazis built this stadium for the 1936 Olympics but their warped vision of racial superiority was shown up by African American athlete Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals.
It is also the site of Zinedine Zidane's infamous last game, where he was sent off for headbutting Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup Final. You can take a tour of the stadium and walk around its grounds.
They include an outdoor Olympic Park, and you can also take a dip in the Olympic swimming pool.
If you want to sample German football, Hertha play at the Olympiastadion, although it rarely fills due to its colossal size.
FC Union Berlin, in the second division, play at the Stadion An der Alten Forsterei, which is better known for its atmosphere and authentic German football experience.
MEMORIAL TO THE MURDERED JEWS OF EUROPE Germany does not try to hide from its hideous past, and its memorial to those brutally killed in the Holocaust is breathtaking. It consists of 2,711 slabs built in a grid. An underground museum holds the names of the 3m Jewish victims of Hitler's holocaust. You can walk among the slabs and get lost in them - which gives you plenty of opportunity to reflect on those murdered by the brutal regime.
BRANDENBURG GATE This 18th century monument has survived the Second World War, the Cold War and one hell of a party when the wall fell in 1989.
For nearly 40 years, neither East nor West Germans could visit the Gate, due to its position next to the Berlin Wall - ironic as it was first built as a symbol of peace.
Thankfully, it is now fully open and has become an image of a united, forward thinking city.
GOING OUT Berliners can party all night long, and it is not uncommon for clubs to be open for an entire weekend. Day and night.
A selection of clubs and bars can be found in Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain but really, night life is everywhere. Dress down, and head out to clubs after 1am.
Berghain is probably the most famous venue in the world for techno and house. Be warned, they turn a lot of people away for what may seem no apparent reason, and if you do get in (I'm told!) keep a very open mind and do not try to take any pictures.
If you prefer frosty beer to thumping bass, then there are traditional Kneipes, which are small Berlin pubs. Try Bei Schlawinchen off Kottbusser Damm. They take pride in being open 24 hours a day, and say they haven't shut in 30 years. Say 'bitte' after you order and enjoy cheap beer while you play table football.
Another option is Home World Beer Bar in Friedrichshain, which has more than 80 brews on tap. A nice place to take a seat and relax for a few hours.
If you want something completely different to anything you will find... well, anywhere, take a visit to Dr Pong in Eberswalder Strasse. It's an unassuming room, through a slightly dodgy-looking door, which contains a ping pong table and a bar. Everyone get a bat and about 20 people play at once as you rotate anti-clockwise around a table. If you miss your shot, you're out, and players leave the game until two are left, they then play each other at table tennis to determine a winner. It's bizarre, but kind of makes sense, and is a lot of fun. Berlin in a nutshell.
If you get hungry through all that drinking and walking around, Berlin has the perfect snacks for you. Currywurst is their twist on German sausage. It's sliced up, covered in a sort of spiced ketchup and served in a card tray. Curry 36 close to Mehringdamm is the famous place to go, but there are many stands dotted around the city.
Kebabs, or Doners, are also excellent in the German capital, thanks to its large Turkish population. Try Hasir, which has a few outlets dotted over the city, but there are countless options around Berlin.
The broadcast tower at Alexanderplatz looms over the city centre at sunset in Berlin, Germany
The allied border point Checkpoint Charlie
Flowers at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin
East Side Gallery, Berlin, part of what remains of the Berlin Wall
Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
The skyline from the Reichstag
Jesse Owens competes in one the heats of the 200m run at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin
A giant currywurst mascot at the Deutsches Currywurst Museum in Berlin
Ping pong is big in Berlin
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|Publication:||Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||Jul 7, 2016|
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