Berlin [1 hr full version]


When I first moved to Germany,
I lived in Berlin for ten years. Another ten years after I left
to live in the country, I decided the time was right
to pay a polite visit and see how the city was getting on without me. It can be frustrating,
because it’s still rebuilding after decades of first war and then division. The water-table is so high in this area that water has to be pumped out
of any hole that’s dug, although some Berliners claim that
half the pipes are pumping beer in. So, in what follows, a lot of the sights
are behind scaffolding. Don’t let that put you off. The oldest part of Berlin itself is,
like so many of Berlin’s historical attractions, mostly a reconstruction. It’s the St Nicholas Quarter,
which was completely destroyed in World War 2 and rebuilt by the East Germans in 1987, in time for the official 750th anniversary
of the founding of the city. With limited resources, many of the houses
were rebuilt using modern materials, but with façades that gave an impression
of how they might have looked. St Nicholas’s Church dates from around 1200, so was in fact more than 750 years old in 1987. The date taken to calculate Berlin’s age, 1237, is the date of the oldest known
official reference to Colonia. The earliest reference to Berlin is 1244, and not until 1307 were the two settlements
combined into one. Not much else is known about
the origins of these settlements, as many historical documents
were lost in a fire in 1380. The area is also home to an inn
called “Zur Rippe”: “The Rib”. The bones that are its sign are,
according to legend, a rib and a shoulder-blade of
the last of the giants that lived here before the humans came. It’s thought they actually come from a whale. Most of the rest of old Berlin, though, is gone. St Mary’s Church is all that remains
of the St Mary’s Quarter. After the war, the ruins of this part
of the city were completely removed to make way for the new, modern East Berlin, the centrepiece of which is the Television Tower. This is the tallest structure in Germany, and currently the fourth tallest
free-standing building in Europe. It was completed in 1969, with a total height of 365 metres. In the 90s the antenna was extended,
giving the tower an additional three metres. Ordinary Berliners, with their
typical brand of cynical wit, soon noticed that when the sun shines on the
sphere, it reflects in the shape of a cross, a slight embarrassment considering the way
East Germany strove to be an atheist state. And so people started calling it
“The Pope’s Revenge”, or “St Walter’s” after the leader of
the GDR at the time, Walter Ulbricht. Excavation work for
the extension of an U-Bahn line recently uncovered some remains of the old city; most excitingly, those of
the original City Hall. The U-Bahn station had to be slightly redesigned
to avoid completely destroying them. The current City Hall was built
in the late 19th century, and still serves as the official office of
the Mayor of Berlin and the City Senate. It’s known as the “Red City Hall”
for its actual colour, not the colour of its politics. A frieze around the outer wall
depicts the history of Berlin from the 12th century to the founding
of the German Empire in 1871. Nearby are the bomb-damaged ruins of
a mediaeval Franciscan monastery: the so-called “Grey Monastery”. It is one of the last surviving examples
of Gothic architecture in the city. Also in the area is “Zur letzten Instanz”, probably one of Berlin’s oldest surviving inns. It was certainly there in 1561,
although under a different name. It was built against the wall: not the famous wall that divided the city in 1961, but an older, mediaeval wall that protected the city
from the 12th century to about the 17th. As the city grew, the old wall was demolished
and new ones built, but a few metres of the original remain. It was Prince Elector Friedrich Wilhelm, who, in the 17th century,
laid the foundations of Berlin’s success. He instituted a policy of
immigration and religious tolerance, inviting refugees to live in Berlin: fifty Jewish families from Austria, political refugees from Bohemia and Poland, and, most importantly,
about 6,000 Huguenots from France. The integration of this last group
is honoured by the Gendarmenmarkt, with the Playhouse,
originally the National Theatre, flanked by the so-called
“German Church” on one side, and the “French Church” on the other. Due to an unfortunate translation error, these churches are sometimes
mistakenly referred to as “cathedrals”, which, of course, they’re not. Over the next few centuries,
Berlin grew into a city fit for a king. The city schloss was demolished after the war to make way for a military parade ground and then the main debating chamber
of the East German government, the Palace of the Republic. This was itself demolished in 2008, and the Humboldt Forum is currently being built. The plan is for its façade to be
a replica of that of the schloss. One small remnant of the original, a single portal, was incorporated into
the East German State Council building. Opposite is the Berlin Cathedral, completed in 1905
to replace an 18th century original. In the crypt are the tombs of many members
of the Royal House of Hohenzollern. Right next door is a collection
of museums and galleries. The Old Museum, with artefacts from Ancient Greece. The New Museum, showcasing Ancient Egypt. The Pergamon Museum, with the Pergamon Altar
and exhibits from Babylon. The Old National Gallery, with paintings
and sculptures from the 19th century. The Bode Museum, with its collection
of coins and Byzantine art. Together with the Pleasure Gardens,
now a public park, this forms what is called “Museum Island”. From here, central Berlin’s
main boulevard, Unter den Linden, leads to what was the royal hunting grounds. Many important buildings
were sited along this road. The 18th century Arsenal once contained
150,000 weapons and trophies. It now houses the German Historical Museum. A modern reconstruction of
the Old Commander’s Office. The New Guard House, now a memorial
to the victims of war and tyranny. The Crown Prince’s Palace. The State Opera House. The Humboldt University was founded in 1809 and originally called
the Friedrich Wilhelm University, and housed in an empty palace. Opposite the main building is the Faculty of Law, but in the 1930s this building housed
the university library. It was here, on 10th May 1933, that books by people the Nazis considered
“degenerate” were burned. A monument in the middle of the plaza
commemorates this event. Unter den Linden eventually leads
to the Brandenburg Gate, which provides access to the Tiergarten. Originally a royal hunting ground, it is now a wooded park
stretching west towards Charlottenburg. By the 1730s, Berlin had grown to cover roughly what is now
the locality of Mitte. A new wall was built,
but not for miltary protection. Instead, it was a customs wall, so the authorities could control
and tax imports and exports. Some of the names of the various gates survive as names of U-Bahn stations,
streets and squares, so it possible to trace
the rough course of this wall. The Brandenburg Gate is
the only one still standing. But it’s not the original,
which was a much more modest affair. King Friedrich Wilhelm II, though, wanted a fitting memorial
to his recently deceased uncle. The new gate was opened in 1791, but not completely finished for another two years. The architect, Carl Gotthard Langhans, was apparently inspired by
the Parthenon in Athens, but he’d only ever seen engravings of it and had mistaken it for a gateway. There is a myth that says
that at some point in its history, the Quadriga was turned around
to face the other way. In fact, it has always faced east, as it represents, depending on who you ask, either peace or victory returning to the city. It was coincidence that, in 1961, the infamous Berlin Wall
happened to follow the course of the 18th century customs wall at this point, leaving the Brandenburg Gate
stranded in No Man’s Land, a potent symbol of the Iron Curtain:
a gate through which none could pass. The buildings around Pariser Platz
are all post-reunification; some of them copies of the originals. The Hotel Adlon was originally built in 1907. The new version opened 90 years later. This is the hotel from where Michael Jackson
famously dangled his son in 2002. If you’re wondering,
a night in the Presidential Suite will probably cost you about €16,000. The famous Jewish artist Max Liebermann
lived in the house that stood here. On the night the Nazis paraded through the Gate,
he is said to have commented that he couldn’t eat
the amount he would like to puke. Berlin continued to grow
throughout the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution took hold, and the railways came,
bringing increased mobility. One of the original stations
was the Anhalt station, the terminus for trains from the south west, opened in 1836. Badly damaged during the war, only two underground S-Bahn platforms
and one small part of the façade remain. In 1871, Berlin was elevated from being
just the capital of Prussia, and became the capital city of a new,
unified, German nation state: the German Empire. This new nation needed a parliament, the Reichstag, and this body met
in the purpose-built Reichstag building, completed in 1894,
and later dedicated to the German nation. The various coats of arms depicted
either side of the main entrance represent the states that had unified
to become one country. The original copper dome was destroyed
in the 1933 fire which the Nazis blamed
on their political opponents. The new dome, to the eternal delight
of German political satirists, helps keep heating costs down by recirculating hot air
from the debating chamber. Although the building is known as “the Reichstag”, the body that meets there now
is called the “Bundestag”. Berlin’s new status provided
more impetus for more growth. The period known as the “Gründerzeit” brought to
Berlin and its neighbouring towns prosperity, and a new middle class; and with it, values such as honour, learning,
civility, politeness and correctness, as well as deference to authority. In 1906, a man called Wilhelm Voigt
became frustrated with Prussian bureaucracy. He had attempted to turn his back
on a life of petty crime, but his previous convictions meant
he couldn’t get permission to live anywhere, or a passport so he could leave. So he bought himself an army captain’s uniform, found some off-duty soldiers, and ordered them to accompany him. Claiming he was unable to requisition a car, he made them come with him
on the train to Köpenick, at the time a town outside of Berlin. He bought them lunch; and then they marched into town, the soldiers not questioning the fact
that his uniform wasn’t quite right: instead of a helmet, he was wearing a cap. They then stormed the town hall,
arrested the mayor, and confiscated the money from the safe. Leaving the soldiers to guard the town hall, Voigt walked back to the station, had a beer, boarded a train and disappeared. It was days before he was arrested, by which time he had become
something of a folk hero. Germans everywhere were laughing. The Kaiser himself enjoyed the story so much, that Voigt was granted a pardon
having served only half his sentence, and was allowed to emigrate to Luxembourg. The Captain of Köpenick is a legend to this day. Köpenick, meanwhile, is quite well preserved, and even has a little schloss, recently renovated and currently in use
by the Museum of Arts and Crafts. By this time, Berlin’s population had reached
two million, and was still growing. Getting around was becoming problematic. A viaduct carrying trains from east to west
across the city had already been built: this is called the “Stadtbahn”, and still forms the backbone
of Berlin’s public transport system. The arches beneath the viaduct
can be used as shops and bars, a fact alluded to by the architect
of at least one modern shopping mall. In 1902, a new idea was put into operation. It was initially conceived as an elevated railway; but the then independent city of Charlottenburg
refused to have such a thing, and so, west of Nollerdorfplatz station,
the line dives below ground level, and the Berlin Underground Railway,
the U-Bahn, was born. Wittenbergplatz station
is almost a museum in its own right: the ads on the walls may look
as if they’re from 1920, but in fact they’re modern ads
designed in keeping with the station. The construction of an eastwards extension
towards Alexanderplatz was complicated by a combination of
local politics, geology and sheer bad luck, which explains why it’s so curvy. But some of the stations on this section
are quite fascinating, although it is likely a myth that Mohrenstraße station is clad
with marble from Hitler’s chancellory. Spittelmarkt station is built into the riverbank. And Klosterstraße station is a small museum
of the history of Berlin’s public transport. Märkisches Museum station was built
much deeper than previous stations, because at this point
the line had to tunnel under the river. In the 1980s, a series of mosaics depicting the
growth of Berlin was installed, but because this was during the Cold War,
the last moasic shows only East Berlin. The museum itself is a short walk away, and had just been built a few years
before the station was opened to document the history of the area. The building is itself something of a museum: different parts of it in different architectural
styles from different periods, except that it was all built in
the first decade of the 20th century. The museum is built next to a park
which contains a bear pit, home to some European brown bears, which, of course, were sleeping when I got there. The bear is the symbol of Berlin, but this has nothing to do
with one of the legendary founders of the city, who was called “Albrecht the Bear”. Instead, it is a play on the city’s name, Berlin, which historians think comes from an old
Slavic word that means “swamp”. The early 20th century saw the rise
of a new elite with money to spend, and department stores began opening up everywhere. The most well-known was opened in 1907 in an area that was being redeveloped
just to the west of Berlin: Kaufhaus des Westens, better known as “KaDeWe”. It is still the largest department store
on continental Europe — Harrod’s is bigger, but is in Britain — and has the second largest grocery department
of any store in the world. KaDeWe is not, as some people think,
on the Ku’damm, but on Tauentzienstraße, which leads to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. This church was heavily damaged during the war, but rather than pull it down or rebuild it, the decision was taken to preserve the ruin
as a monument to the destructive power of war. Berliners started calling it the “hollow tooth”,
due to its appearance. A modern church was built next to it and a bell tower on the other side, an ensemble that reminded Berliners of
a lipstick and powder compact. The Ku’damm — or Kurfürstendamm,
to give it its full name — extends west from here. All this grew up around the early 20th century as Schöneberg, Wilmersdorf,
Tiergarten and Charlottenburg became known as Berlin’s New West. The zoo had opened in 1844 in what, at the time, was open fields. It was the ninth zoo to open in Europe, and today has the most comprehensive
collection of species in the world. The neighbouring aquarium opened in 1913, and exhibits not only fish,
but amphibians, reptiles and insects. Back in the late 17th century, the village of Lietzow was where
the consort of Prince Elector Friedrich III, Sophie Charlotte of Hanover,
built a palace for herself. After she died in 1705, at the age of only 37, the Elector renamed both the palace
and the village in her honour: Charlottenburg. By the 20th century, Charlottenburg had grown from
a place in the country to get away from it all to a city with a population of 300,000. Berlin had had a fairly turbulant history, but its darkest chapters were yet to come. The First World War brought
food shortages, strikes, and, at the end of the war,
the abdication of the Kaiser. This was followed by unrest and revolution, and the creation of the so-called Weimar Republic, Germany’s second attempt at democracy. In 1920, Berlin’s borders were extended to include not just Schöneberg and Charlottenburg, but places further out, including Spandau,
Zehlendorf, and, of course, Köpenick. This was to prove fortunate a few decades later. Despite Berlin’s problems,
the Golden Twenties took hold. Berlin, now the world’s fifth largest city, became a haven for artists,
performers and party-goers. The nightlife is still legendary: even if Berlin does sometimes sleep, it wakes up a two in the afternoon,
ears still ringing. In 1921, a racetrack was built: a simple straight with a loop at either end,
known to everyone as the AVUS. It is now part of the autobahn
between Charlottenburg and Potsdam, but the grandstand is still there. At the northern end of the AVUS, the Radio Tower was built in 1926, for the first International Radio Exhibition. Vaguely based on the Eiffel Tower,
it was soon nicknamed the “Long Beanpole”. The area was already home to
the Berlin Trade Fair, which is still here, although the oldest buildings still existing
date from the 1930s. The original building was located where
the Central Coach Station now stands. Surprisingly for a land-locked city,
a major industry was shipping, as Berlin had easy access to
the Oder and the Elbe rivers making it an important location
for inland navigation. Goods could be offloaded here
and transferred onto trains. For a short while, it looked as if
Berlin was going from strength to strength. But the economic after-effects
of the First World War and the Great Depression
put an end to that in 1929, and people looked for somebody
who could put things right again. The stage was set for the rise
of the National Socialists — the Nazis. The worst excesses of the Nazis are well-known: the concentration camps, the violent anti-semitism, the war-mongering. The Holocaust Memorial commemorates
the near-genocide of the Jews; other victims of the regime
have their memorials as well. The New Synagogue actually survived
the Nazi pogrom of 9th November 1938 when local police officers, in defiance
of the political situation at the time, ordered the mob to disperse. However, the synagogue was later
hit by British bombs; and now only a façade of the original remains. But the effects the Nazis had on Berlin itself
are still very visible. Essentially, the plan was to replace Berlin with a new city to be called “Germania”, a city fit to be the capital of a new,
powerful and invincible empire. Most of the planned work was never begun,
let alone finished, but there is enough to give a taste
of what would have been. The master plan was to have two great roads, an east-west axis and a north-south axis. The east-west axis already partially existed as a long, straight road from the city schloss
all the way to Charlottenburg; but it was to be widened
and lined with impressive buildings. Mostly, they got as far as
installing new street lights. The Victory Column has
pride of place on this axis. It was built in 1873 to commemorate
a few German military victories, but it was moved here from
its original position in front of the Reichstag; not, as some guidebooks claim,
because it annoyed Hitler, but simply to give it more prominence. The figure of the Goddess Victoria is known
to Berliners as “Golden Elsie”; and used to be known to American troops
stationed here as “the chick on the stick”. The north-south axis was never actually built, but near the southern end is a very curious object: the heavy load-bearing body. This was built at the spot planned
for a huge triumphal arch, but it wasn’t known if the wet,
sandy Berlin soil could take it. 12,650 tons of concrete were used to construct an object
that rose 14 metres above ground and reached 18 metres below ground. Inside, measuring instruments were installed to monitor how the object would sink and settle. The results couldn’t be analyzed
until after the war; but in the end it was found that
yes, the arch could have been built, if the ground was first compacted. Since the body is in a residential area, there was no way it could be demolished safely: the original plan was simply to build over it. And so it still stands, open the public as a monument to
the megalomania of the Third Reich. Not far away is Tempelhof Airport. It had in fact been in operation since 1924, but by the Nazi period had reached full capacity
and needed to be replaced. In typical Nazi style, the new terminal building
was intimidatingly huge; and for a couple of short years
until the completion of the Pentagon, it was the world’s largest building. After the war, the US Air Force
continued to use the airport, and in 1985 it re-opened for civilian flights, eventually closing in 2008
to be turned into an urban park. This area had once been a military parade ground; but its connection with air travel
started as early as 1909, when Orville Wright demonstrated
his new flying machine here. Perhaps the most famous Nazi building
is the Olympic Stadium, home to the controversial 1936 Summer Games. This was, for the Nazis, a major propaganda coup, and they were determined to show
Germany at its best. The torch relay, now an essential part
of the opening ceremony, was actually instituted by the Nazis. It’s not true that Hitler fled the stadium in order not to have to present gold medals
to non-German athletes. It is, however, perfectly true that one
black American athlete in particular put to the test the Nazi mythology
of the Master Race. But Europe was heading, once again, for war. This block of flats was built over
a Nazi-era air-raid shelter which survived not only the war,
but subsequent attempts to demolish it. It can still be used as a shelter today,
with spaces for nearly 5,000 people. The war, when it came,
proved devastating to Berlin. In the city centre, about half the buildings
were completely destroyed, the infrastructure demolished. It was the Soviet Red Army
that finally liberated Berlin. But with Hitler ordering what troops
he had left to fight for the last, it was a long and bloody battle in which 80,000 Russians died. The Soviets soon erected a war memorial where the Nazis had planned the north-south axis
to intersect with the east-west axis. The memorial includes tanks and guns
used in the Battle of Berlin, and the unmarked graves of somewhere between
2,000 and 2,500 soldiers. When Berlin was divided, this memorial
ended up in the British sector, but the Red Army was allowed
to maintain a guard of honour here until the troops finally withdrew in 1994. The main Soviet war memorial, though,
is further east, in Treptower Park. Another 7,000 soldiers are buried here. Meanwhile, Germany — what was left of it —
was occupied by the four Allies and divided into zones: American, British, French and Soviet. The city of Berlin was a special case, and was itself divided into four sectors: American, British, French and Soviet. The occupying powers administering Berlin worked together to get
the basic infrastructure working. But the Soviets were
the ideological enemies of the other three, and the alliance based on a common hatred
of the Nazis began to fall apart. In 1948 the Soviet member of
the Allied Kommandantura administering Berlin simply refused to attend. And then the Soviets tried to gain control
over West Berlin’s economy. In June of that year, they blocked
all road and rail connections to the city. The western Allies responded
with the Berlin Airlift: food and supplies were flown in
and manufactured goods flown out during a daring operation that saw planes landing and taking off
at Tempelhof every few minutes. A monument to the Airlift is located
in the square outside the airport; a duplicate can be seen at
the US military airport at Frankfurt. After eleven months of this,
the Soviets called off the blockade. But the Iron Curtain was descending over Europe. Students and lecturers at the Humboldt University,
which was now in the Soviet sector, were being arrested and deported
by the Soviet secret police if they opposed the increasing
communist influence. A group of them started their own
university in Dahlem, a residential area
safely inside the American sector, and probably one of the few places in the world that has a metro station with a thatched roof. Today, the Free University of Berlin
has 35,000 students and is one of Germany’s most prestigious. In the spring of 1949,
the western zones formed a new country, the Federal Republic of Germany. Its constitution named Greater Berlin
as one of its constituent states. Four months later,
the German Democratic Republic was founded, and its constitution stated that
Germany was indivisible, and its capital was Berlin. In 1950, the Berlin Constitution came into force
in the western sectors only, and it stated that Berlin was
a state of the Federal Republic. But the Allies didn’t allow this clause
to come into effect. The situation was tense.
And it was only going to get worse. The two halves of Berlin
set about rebuilding separately; and the dream of a true socialist state
was to be realized in the GDR, symbolized by the construction
of veritable palaces for the workers. “Stalinallee”, this was to be called, only to be renamed after Stalin’s fall from grace. The apartment blocks were actually
well designed and built. But the builders weren’t happy. On 17th June 1953, about sixty workers
staged a demonstration to protest against poor pay and conditions. More and more people, including West Berliners,
joined the demonstration, and even set fire to a police station. The East Berlin authorities responded by
appealing to the Soviet Army for help. In the resulting clashes,
153 demonstrators were killed. Just a few days later, the West Berlin Senate
approved the renaming of part of the east-west axis
in memory of this event. The situation was now dangerous. In 1961, the unthinkable happened. The East Germans built fortifications
around West Berlin, cutting it off not just from East Berlin,
but from East Germany. In their propaganda, they referred to it
as an “anti-fascist protection wall”, to prevent infiltration by
western spies and terrorists. Few people believed that explanation. The construction of the Wall
led to some odd effects. The public transport system, obviously,
was affected: one U-Bahn line was divided into two,
as was the Stadtbahn. But the north-south S-Bahn tunnel and
two U-Bahn lines suffered a curious fate: they lay mostly in West Berlin, but their middle sections ran through East Berlin. The stations along these sections were all closed, and West Berlin trains ran through them
without stopping: these were Berlin’s ghost stations. The exception was Friedrichstraße station, where the two S-Bahn lines
intersected with an U-Bahn line. Westerners could actually change trains here. If they had the appropriate visa,
they could pass through a checkpoint and visit East Berlin for the day. The building that housed the border control point
for people leaving East Berlin became known as the “Palace of Tears” as so many emotional farewells took place here. Westerners had to catch the last train home
before their visas ran out at midnight, while their loved ones had to stay behind. Today, it houses an exhibition on divided Berlin. There were various other crossing points,
each for different categories of visitor. The best known is, of course, Checkpoint Charlie, the crossing point for diplomats and foreigners. The Wall was more than just a wall. To really appreciate the scale of the thing,
you have to visit the memorial on Bernauer Straße. Here, West Berlin is on the right. The metal poles mark
where the familiar Wall itself was. Most of this strip was filled
with defence systems of all kinds: watchtowers, floodlights, and a second wall
to keep East Berliners well away. This was the feared Death Strip. These markings show where
people dug tunnels to escape to the west; these, buildings that were demolished
to make way for the installations. On this spot,
the Church of the Reconciliation stood. Originally it was allowed to remain standing
and the spire used as a watchtower, but it was finally demolished in 1985. Today a modern chapel has been built. Four days a week, a 15-minute meditation is held at which the biography of one of the people who
died trying to cross the Wall is read out. The Wall was built entirely on eastern territory, usually a metre or so from the actual border,
sometimes more, and this could be deadly. Here, at the Oberbaum Bridge, although the
physical Wall was built on the far bank, the entire river was East Berlin territory. In separate incidents, five West Berlin children
drowned after falling in the river, and anyone diving in
to rescue them would have been shot. This, by the way, is the famous East Side Gallery, a segment of the Wall that is now
an open-air art gallery. Berlin — and the world — had to get used to living with the world’s deadliest border
running straight through the middle. West Berlin’s mayor had his office
in the Schöneberg Town Hall. And it was on this balcony that John F Kennedy
lifted West Berliners’ spirits with a now-famous speech.Today, in the world of freedom,the proudest boast is:“Ich bin ein Berliner!”This speech probably ranks
among the greatest ever made, and succeeded in reassuring West Berliners that the western world would never abandon them. Kennedy’s assassination just a few months later shocked West Berliners
almost as much as it did Americans. East Berlin, centred around Alexanderplatz, continued with its program of urban redevelopment. The results were not always beautiful, but in fact, if you managed to stay out of trouble, life in this part of the city
could be quite agreeable. Not luxurious, but comfortable. The DDR-Museum showcases
life in the socialist state, and its restaurant
offers a selection of typical dishes. West Berlin, with the Zoo its new centre,
suffered a bit. A walled-in half-city is not easy to sell
as a nice place to live. Formerly upmarket inner-city areas like Kreuzberg found themselves hard up against the Wall,
and people moved out. But there were always people to replace them, and the area became a haven for students,
artists, university drop-outs, and people seeking an alternative lifestyle. Aided by West Berlin’s policies aimed at
encouraging anyone at all to live there, Kreuzberg became decidedly bohemian. SO36 was its pre-war postal code. It is also the name of a famous nightclub, one of many in Berlin
that pioneered new forms of music: punk, new wave, techno. West Berlin also attracted immigrants,
mostly from Turkey, brought in to make up for
an acute labour shortage. So many of them settled
around the Kottbusser Tor area, that it became known as “Little Istanbul”, and the U-Bahn line as the “Orient Express”. With most of the important cultural venues
beyond the wall in East Berlin, the West had to build some of its own. And so, surrounding St Matthew’s Church,
the Culture Forum was built. The New National Gallery, based on a design
originally for a sugar factory. The State Library, which took
more than ten years to build. The Philharmonie, with the Great Hall
and the Chamber Music Hall. The Portrait Gallery. The Museum of Prints and Drawings. The Museum of Arts and Crafts. And the Museum of Musical Instruments. A short distance away, the Congress Hall,
now the House of World Cultures, was built in what at the time was,
for Germany, a strikingly new form, and immediately became known
as the “pregnant oyster”. It partially collapsed in 1980;
but, contrary to a popular myth, this didn’t supply a local band with its name: “Einstürzende Neubauten”, meaning:
“collapsing new buildings”. The band had already settled on that name:
it was simply a coincidence. Thanks to the incorporation, in 1920,
of so many cities and towns, Berlin has large areas of lake and forest
inside its official border. This meant that when Berlin was divided, West Berliners could still go
for walks in the country, and there was even an artificial bathing beach. At the extreme south-west corner of the city, a bus takes you through the forest
to the Glienicke Bridge, right on the border. The other side of the bridge
is the East German city of Potsdam. This is the famous “bridge of spies”, where, during the Cold War,
a number of spy swaps took place. All in all, the situation was bad,
but not impossible. The Wall eventually came down in 1989, but by mistake. By this time, political reforms in eastern Europe had already allowed borders to open up; only the German Democratic Republic
maintained a hard line. But now, East Germans could escape to the West by travelling through Hungary,
or later Czechoslovakia, to Austria; and from there to West Germany. Meanwhile, in East Germany, peaceful
demonstrations put pressure on the government. On 9th November 1989,
at a press conference in East Berlin, the East German press secretary Günter Schabowski accidentally read out a draft press release
he shouldn’t have. The assembled journalists were quick to realise
what the text actually meant, and within hours TV and radio
were wrongly reporting that the Berlin Wall was open. By nightfall, crowds
of East Berliners had gathered at the Bornholmer Straße border crossing,
taking guards by surprise. They’d had no orders; but because of the crush,
started letting people through. As they did so, they stamped their passports. What the people at the time didn’t know was that their passports had been cancelled, the intention being
not to allow them back in again. But the crowds kept coming, and the guards feared a riot,
which would have had many casualties. Eventually, half an hour before midnight, Oberstleutnant Harald Jäger,
faced with an impossible situation and with no help from his superiors, opened the border completely, allowing everyone to pass at will. By midnight, all the crossing points were open. The Berlin Wall had fallen. November 9th isn’t celebrated, as it also happens to be the date
of the Nazi pogroms against the Jews. Instead, the date of political reunification,
October 3rd, is celebrated as a national holiday. The Wall was gone,
the Second World War officially ended, Germany no longer being occupied
by foreign powers, and the long and difficult
process of rebuilding began. David Bowie’s song “Where Are We Now?”
opens with these lines:Had to get the train from Potsdamer Platz;
You never knew that, that I could do that.
This is a reference to the fact
that when Bowie was in Berlin, Potsdamer Platz station was
one of the ghost stations, located directly under the Death Strip. Now, the station has been re-opened, and the whole Potsdamer Platz and Leipziger Platz
area completely redeveloped, a process only now coming to an end. This was once Berlin’s busiest square, as symbolized by a modern copy
of Germany’s first set of traffic lights. Almost nothing of Potsdamer Platz survived
the war and the building of the Wall. Some small fragments of the Hotel Esplanade, one of Berlin’s most famous hotels
during the Golden Twenties, survived, and are now integrated into
the ultra-modern Sony Center. This wasn’t intended: the architects hadn’t been told
these remains were under a protection order, and assumed they could simply pull them down. When this wasn’t possible,
to avoid having to redesign the new building, they got permission to
physically move the Kaiser’s Hall 75 metres from its original position. With reunification, Berlin regained
its status as Germany’s capital city, and the Bundestag prepared
to move from its seat in Bonn. A new government quarter had to be built: an area just to the north of the Reichstag
had been demolished by the Nazis to make way for
an over-dimensioned People’s Hall, with only the Swiss Embassy remaining. This was the perfect spot
to build new government buildings. They symbolically span the River Spree, where it used to form part of the border
between East and West Berlin. The Chancellory, by the way,
is the official office and residence of the German Chancellor,
who is head of government. As is normal in European countries,
the head of state is a different person: the German President,
whose role is largely ceremonial, works at nearby Schloss Bellevue, a much older building dating from the 1780s. Instead of a number of terminuses being rebuilt, a brand new Central Train Station was built where the main elevated east-west line
crosses the new underground north-south line. With 300,000 passengers a day, it is Germany’s fourth busiest station. One or two aspects of East German life
have survived reunification. The traffic lights, for example: the generic West German stick figures were never
regarded with as much fondness as East Germany’s red and green men, which, by popular demand, continue to be used and even fitted to new traffic lights. They’re also probably the only traffic lights
in the world with their own merchandising. As well as the obvious,
more profound changes are taking place. Rents and property prices are rising. Many of the formerly bohemian areas of Berlin are slowly becoming gentrified, much to the disgust of some residents. But Berlin has always seen
rapid change and upheaval. It’s always had a slightly subversive edge. And as long as that isn’t lost, the future is probably, on balance, good.

100 thoughts on “Berlin [1 hr full version]

  1. Thank you so much for researching, filming, editing and posting this video. It is the closest I will ever get to Berlin. Your video is excellent.

    As a Canadian, I have always lived in peace and security free from bombs, walls and danger. The people of Berlin have lived through destruction and turmoil. It is a pleasure to see them living in freedom.

  2. Thank you so much for making this! I have a report on Berlin that I am doing for a final, and this help out alot! Danke!!

  3. I lived for a vew years in Nicholas' Quarter and it was quit and cozy out of the tourist season, but in the tourist season there was to much hurly-burly.

  4. Thanks for such a great video! I was there last year and hearing to all the stories behind the landmarks have made them far more interesting to me. Great summary of Berlin/Deutschland history too!

  5. Great video…
    'zur rippe' is actually ' to the rib ' & not ' the rib ':
    'to the' has 2 instances: 'zur' (zu der) & 'zum' (zu dem)
    either translating as 'to the'…
    Please make more videos like this one! Cheers.

  6. Seriously a brilliant city documentary—and easily the best out there on Berlin! Thank you so much for putting this together! Quite well polished, scripted, and edited. Appreciate the soundtrack as well.

  7. This is an amazing account of the city. If only I have watched it before I planned my trip here! My knowledge of my home city is like 1% of what u know about Berlin. Great one !

  8. 5:50 See? This is why I hate when neo-nazis and Islamophobes wave the Prussian flag. Prussia was benevolent and tolerant, and you are just a bunch of alienated unemployees.

  9. what a great video, I just came back from Berlin and this video does a great job at filling in all the gaps and the history related to the many sights in the city wish i had found it before hand
    cheers

  10. this is one of the best documentary films about a city that i have ever seen. the fact this video has only about 52,000 views is a shame.

  11. Excellent documentary! i was in Berlin a month ago and i wish i had watched this video before going there. good work! Tchuss!

  12. I loved this video, you 've done great job!
    I 'm travelling to Berlin for the New Year's and I 'am greatful to you for the insights!
    Happy New Year all!

  13. (0:25) Das Grundwasser wird umgepumpt, d.h. um den Grundwasserspiegel in der Umgebung nicht abzusenken, was die darauf befindlichen Bauten gefährdet, wird es in der Umgebung der Baugrube wieder in den Boden gepreßt. Wo es sich sofort in Richtung Baugrube auf den Weg macht…

  14. (44:35) Endlich der in Deutschlands berühmteste Satz J.F. Kennedys richtig zitiert. (Nicht Kennedy ist ein Berliner!) Der erste (nicht gezeigte) Teil lautet: "Früher konnte jemand stolz sein, wenn er sagen konnte: 'Ich bin ein Römer.'".

  15. Watched this again… just because I really liked the history, the editing, the music and pretty much all the labor you put in this

  16. Absolutely fantastic!! Reminds me, if it were necessary, of why I fell in love with Berlin, a totally fabulous city! Thanks!

  17. Thanks for the upload, great work! Berlin is a far cry from the thrill and menace I felt living there in the 80's as a 20 something – before the Disnification…

  18. The wall didn't came down by accident. The only accident was, that Schabowski made the declaration hours too early. Even "came down" is wrong. In fact the people of the GDR tore it down by putting their own lifes at risk.

  19. I live in Berlin since two weeks now. This documentary gave me even more feelings of anticipation. Thank you rewboss! 😀

  20. The background music is sheer torture. The only thing lacking is the victim of such torture who, by now, would be caterwauling and screeching in agony. Just what I feel like doing.

  21. Thank you for this wonderful Documentary. You are a professional!! Looking forward to seeing more about other great German cities 🙂

  22. I've been thinking of a way I can describe how impressed I am by this film… Perhaps it's best to say that it's broadcast quality  and looks like it's been made by a large team of professionals, so I wouldn't have been surprised to see it on television. That is actually high praise for something produced by a lone (but hugely talented) YouTuber.

  23. Interesting but this filmmaker does not compliment Berlin enough. Berlin is an incredible city where you can feel history in every street corner. It's pure magic. Also the comment from Max Liebermann about National Socialism is completely irrelevant. Otherwise good documentary.

  24. WOW ! That was awesome – perfect mix of history, politics, art, and culture. Exactly what I was looking for ! Plus this guy was a local and understood the importance of the local story. When I was 18 I got to go to Europe but not to Berlin — Wall was up. I hope to go — but if I don't make it you have made the city real for me — Thanks Brother ! Oh make more please please please — don't let your gift go away !

  25. FUCK BORDERS! 😀

    P.S.: never saw a documentary about my hometown before and honestly regret that… so much stuff I didn't know, just wow!
    Berlin is a somewhat paralyzing place to live, because it represents the essence of complete freedom in that is neither always beautiful nor always ugly, it is what the people make out of that freedom 🙂
    Resulting in some crazy shit here and there 😀
    Oh and btw Central Station may look like a maze, but at least it is clean, safe and just runs fine… I have been in Hamburg and Frankfurt/Main and their central stations look like shit! …covered with crack addicts and homeless people…

  26. I thoroughly enjoy this and I am only up to the 28th minute. Now I really want to visit there!! This is hell more informative than whatshisname's.

  27. Thank you very much for this wonderful film. Berlin truly is an amazing city with history in every corner and I'm excited to visit next week. Greetings from Vienna!

  28. funny how everyone always demonises the nazis for their "crimes" yet conveniently ignore how israel is now doing those exact same crimes and worse.

  29. Ecc 1:9 Nothing New under the Sun Same as Merlke is doing has done Now allowing Refugees flood the country ( NWO) let them kill each another off less work for them
    ( 5:47 timelinePrince Electer.. Sane old game still works as god today )

  30. wow, danke. mehr kann ich als hier geborener und aufgewachsener berliner nicht sagen. besser als alles andere, was ich bisher gesehen habe.

  31. It's 2018 now and as a born Berliner, i can say that there is probably no other city in the world tha can match berlin's mix of culture, history and modern technology and architecture

  32. Thanks Andrew, this was a fascinating documentary, informative, entertaining and very professionally made. I enjoyed it thoroughly!

  33. No, these trafic light are not the only one with their own merch. I live in Vienna, and we have a shop dedicated to our traffic lights!

  34. I leave Northern California next week to go to Berlin for a two-week visit, my first since 1981. Your video is most helpful indeed and very enjoyable. Absolutely love the music played on the old-fashioned tinny piano beginning at 17:54 to describe the U-Bahn stations. I look forward to searching for some of that flavor of Old Berlin, even though the fact that the city is once again unified and full of new, wondrous things will be an eyeopening treat, too.

  35. This is really good film! I visited first time in Berlin 1987. It was time of DDR/GDR. Two cities was true. I visited also East Berlin. West and East was like a day and night. I visited again in Berlin 2007 – and luckily East Germany had gone about 20 years ago. 🙂 Thank you for a good documentary.

  36. I wonder where the monument to the 2 million Germans that were murdered AFTER WW2 by the Soviets and Allies is? I say they dig up every fucking Russian solider in the city and dump them in Moscow.

  37. Enjoyed very much. My favourite city. If you’re there again, would love to see more on the reconstructed Stadtschloss which has progressed a lot since you shot this. Was in Berlin in 2001 and I love it. Hope to get there from Australia again soon. Well done. One of the best films I have seen on Berlin by a native English speaker….living in Germany….Ganz prima!…

  38. Excellent! Some things have changed/progressed (like the city palace close to completion), but overall it's a fascinating and well executed flash of the city's history. Thanks so much for sharing.

  39. What a tremendous video! It has a really great mix of history and tourist information and has helped me plan my first visit to Berlin, in about 6 weeks' time. Thanks for making and uploading it!

  40. My family and I are planning a trip to the city this summer and of course I had to turn to you to seek expert advice on the city's history and what to do once there. And, as always, you did not disappoint! I am a huge fan of your YouTube work and I compliment you on your style, grace, humor and charm!!

  41. Informativ, lehrreich, historisch und politisch korrekt. Best Video ever!!!!! Thank you so much. Greetings from Heidi.

  42. "Russian liberated Berlin" Incorrect, it was defeating the enemy! The term enemy of humanity is rather in order.

  43. I have really enjoyed the video, but must point out, the red army did not liberate Berlin.! The aim was to make sure that everything was leveled that the British didn’t bombt well enough. Just like Dresden.

  44. R-E-S-P-E-[K|C]-T !
    This is an amazing documentary about Berlin. Worthwile every minute. And to connect the "Schwangere Auster" with Rio Reiser's "Einstürzende Neubauten" made my day :o)

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