Berlin Germany Virtual Tour and Travel Guide
|The virtual tour is
best viewed using DSL
or a Cable Broadband modem
To view the Virtual Tour, download the following:
We start our virtual journey by viewing this Berlin TV video
Berlin is the largest city in Germany. It is also the country's capital and seat of Government. The recently renovated German Parliament (Reichstag), designed by British architect Norman Foster, testifies to the construction boom currently taking place in the German capital.
Since November 1989 when the Wall came down, nearly 100 streets have been reconnected, disused 'ghost' railway stations have sprung back to life and the watchtowers, dogs and barbed wire that divided the city, the country and indeed the continent for 28 years have virtually disappeared. Nevertheless there is often stark contrast between the two parts of the city, partly due to economic contrasts between East and West, but also because they have never been of a uniform character.
The east contains the densely populated working class quarters of Mitte, Pankow, Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain which inspired the theatre of Erwin Piscator and Bertolt Brecht. West Berlin also had its poorer areas like Wedding, Neukln and Kreuzberg (the latter known for its pubs and the high proportion of Turkish-owned shops in its streets).
In comparison, the green and leafy areas of Charlottenburg and Zehlendorf have a more affluent atmosphere. After the city was occupied by the four post-war victorious powers, the two halves diverged even more as West Berliners broke away from their past and embraced the idea of a new, intensely Western, Americanized city.
At the same time their eastern counterparts chose instead to retain what remained of the old Berlin. This is why the eastern half of the city probably gives a more accurate image of what Berlin was like in the 1920s and 30s. To find areas retaining the pre-war atmosphere, visitors must move away from the city centre. Alexanderplatz, was one of the main centres of 1920s Berlin as well as of post-war East Berlin. It is now re-emerging as an important focal point in the newly united city. Relentless modernisation, however, has changed the character of the Alexanderplatz, which is now a bustling if faceless area of caf?s, hotels and the 365m-high (1190ft) Television Tower (Fernsehturm) which dominates the skyline of the city. The oldest church in Berlin, the Nikolai Church (13th century) lent its name to the surrounding district, the Nikolaiviertel. This part of the city suffered tremendously during the war. Rebuilding consists partly of historic details, partly of modern fascim.
City Description (continued)
Sweeping westwards away from Alexanderplatz is Unter den Linden, which Frederick the Great saw as the centrepiece of his royal capital and which changed from one of the premier thoroughfares of the old unified city to the showpiece of the German Democratic Republic. Restored monumental buildings, and diplomatic missions to the former GDR capital now line it. However, for nearly 30 years it was a dead-end, cut off by the Wall. At its western end, the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) has been the supreme symbol of the city of Berlin since it was built in 1791. The Wall once partly obscured the view of the Gate from the West, so it became a potent symbol of European divisionThe Berlin Wall has all but gone and walkers and cyclists now roam along what was once nicknamed 'Todesstreifen' or Death Strip. Quite a few tourists bought their 'own' piece of the Wall - museums also displa pieces. There is a Berlin Wall Museum situated at the former Checkpoint Charlie in Friedrichstrasse.
Berlin is not just an industrial city but also a cultural and scientific capital with several universities. It houses three opera houses, 53 theatres, more than 100 cinemas, and no less than 170 museums and galleries. It is worth noting that in Germany most foreign films are dubbed into German; look for the 'O.m.U.' indicator for the original language versions shown with German subtitles.
East Berlin has a rich array of museums, most of which can be found on Museumsinsel (Museum Island) in a fork of the River Spree. The most famous is the Pergamon Museum which houses works of classical antiquity such as the Pergamon Altar and art of the Near East, Islam and the Orient. Among the many museums in the west are the Egyptisches Museum (Egyptian Museum) in Charlottenburg, which contains the world-famous bust of Queen Nefertiti; the museums at Dahlem housing the major part of the Prussian State art collections; and the Berlin Museum in the old Supreme Court Building in Kreuzberg.
The restored Martin-Gropius-Bau houses changing art exhibitions and the Berlin Gallery, with exhibits of the Jewish collection of the Berlin Museum and 20th-century paintings. Nearby is the Prinz Albrecht area where the Gestapo headquarters, later the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, stood. The Topography of Terror exhibition documents this part of its history.
The Kulturforum Art Gallery (opened in 1998) stands alongside the National Gallery, the Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Hall and other museums, and serves as a new cultural centre for the city. The Hamburger Bahnhof, Invalidenstrasse, a restored railway station, contains a collection of modern art. Potsdamerplatz is presently under development as another recreational centre with shops and an IMAX cinema.
One of the main cultural attractions of the eastern part of Berlin is the Deutsche Staatsoper (German State Opera) staging performances in a refurbished classical setting. Three times a day, visitors can enjoy the carillon of the French Cathedral bell-tower. The German Cathedral on Gendarmenmarkt now contains an exhibition called Fragen an die Deutsche Geschichte (Questioning German History).
The heart of West Berlin is the KurfŸrstendamm, popularly referred to as the 'Ku'damm'. As with so many features of this once divided city it is all too easy to attribute symbolic significance to the 'Ku'damm', for in a sense it is the embodiment of the glitzy materialistic West. Pulsating with traffic and people 24 hours a day and lined with caf?s and shops, despite unification it still seems a thousand miles away from the bleak Alexanderplatz in the other half of the city. Strolling eastwards along the Ku'damm one will come to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedchtniskirche. Preserved as a ruin after World Wa II, it is a stark reminder of the city's wartime bombardment. Not far from here is the Europa Center, containing shops, nightlife and a rooftop caf? with a splendid view of the whole city and the KaDeWe (short for Kaufhaus des Westens) department store.
Other attractions in the western half of the city include: the Siegessule (Victory Column), built at the order of Kaiser Wilhelm I two years after victory in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871; and the Tiergarten (biking), an English-style park in the heart of the city. Schloss Charlottenburg, the splendid Baroque and Rococo palace of Frederick the Great, was the former summer home of the king outside Berlin. The Palace Park is ideal for long walks. The Gedenkst?tte Pl?tzensee is a memorial to more than 2500 members of the Resistance who were executed here and generally to German resistance during the Nazi regime. It is easy to find diversion from city life, as the city boundaries include numerous recreational areas, such as the Pfaueninsel (peacock island), now a nature reserve, the Spandau and Tegel Forests and th GrŸnewald. The People's Park Friederichshain in the eastern part of the city is the largest and oldest park in east Berlin.
Official City Site