Germany Inside Out - Berlin - Walls came tumbling down

Walls came tumbling down

Berlin Few capital cities have endured such a turbulent history as Berlin. The cosmopolitan capital of the 1920's, it went on to experience extreme economic inflation, the Nazi regime and allied occupation - all within 25 years.

In 1961, the city was split into two by the Berlin Wall. Two new Germanys were created and run by opposing political doctrines. Families living either side of the wall were also separated and forced to live entirely different lives from each other as "Ossies" or "Wessies" - East or West Germans.

West Berlin soon developed a rebellious spirit, liberal attitudes, high-class shopping outlets and a well-funded infrastructure. Life was far less glamorous for East Berliners living in Moscow-run East Germany, officially titled German Democratic Republic. The GDR provided all East Berliners with some form of work under Communist rule. However, the vast majority of the public were unable to obtain any imported luxuries, such as bananas, coffee or silk. The most brutal reminder of the division of the two Germanies was the sentry guards, who shot more than 40 people who attempted to escape to the West.

Brandenburger Tor Today, the two Germanys have been reunited into one Federal Republic, following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Former East Berlin has received a huge cash injection. Now trees line the formerly gloomy streets, and many of the concrete buildings of Socialist architecture have been converted into trendy restaurants, bistros and wine bars.

Many East Berlin districts have become popular with students, bohemians and artists. The spirit of tolerance prevails, combined with a love of all that's quirky. The city now has one of the best club scenes in Europe, and every year. Also here started the famous "Love Parade", a music festival which in its heyday attracted over a million people from both Germany and abroad.

Berlin is also home to a large Turkish community. 200,000 Turks or Berliners of Turkish origin live in the Kreuzberg district alone. The Turkish community are represented by Green Party member Cem Özdemir - the first Turk to enter German politics.

ReichstagTransparency is the main new theme in German politics and is best displayed in the parliament building, the "Reichstag". British architect Norman Foster has built a glass dome on the "Neuer Reichstag", the New Reichstag. So that the public can peer down through the glass onto the politicians debating below.

Links:

Berlin.de
Official Berlin website, covering all aspects of life in Berlin: politics, commerce, tourism, entertainment and leisure. In English and German.

Iron Curtain Kid
Very personal impressions of life behind the iron curtain, funny and touching. In English.

Goethe Institute: Berlin
Articles about Berlin in German and English from the German cultural institute.

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