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Throughout the centuries, many churches have stood on the location of the current Berliner Dom. The first one was erected in 1465 for the reigning royal family, the Hohenzollern, and was little more than a chapel at that time. In 1747, it was replaced by a Baroque cathedral designed by Johann Boumann, before being transformed once again in 1822 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Today's Dom was built between 1894 and 1905 during King Wilhelm II's reign. Almost completely destroyed in World War II, the Berliner Dom remained a ruin until restoration work finally began in 1973. Some of the cathedral's highlights include the mosaics covering the cupola, the crypt, the altar and the altar windows. The Dom also enshrines over 80 members of the Hohenzollern family. Those visiting must take a look at the Sauer organ within the cathedral, one of the largest in Germany, and take in the views from the roof promenade.
Germany's most recognizable symbol is not as large as many visitors expect, yet its history is rich and fascinating. Built in 1791, the Brandenburg Gate was modeled on the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens. The Quadriga statue on top of the Gate, designed by sculptor Gottfried Schadow, represents Victoria, the Goddess of Peace, riding a four-horse chariot. This was one of Berlin's original 14 city gates, yet the only remaining evidence of the other gates are the names of underground stations such as Kottbusser Tor and Schlesisches Tor. The Brandenburg Gate and Pariser Platz have played center stage to numerous turbulent historical events. The south wing houses a tourist information office.
Constructed between 1884 and 1894, the imposing Reichstag stands witness to Germany's past and present. It was established as a parliamentary house for the German Empire under Otto von Bismarck and has since seen more than a century of European history unfurl. After World War II, the Reichstag was neglected until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, at which time, work began on returning the building to its original purpose. This new attention led to such additions as the iconic glass dome, which was added by British architect Sir Norman Foster. Today, visitors can climb up to the dome and enjoy panoramic views of brilliant Berlin from the terrace.
The erection and fall of the Berlin Wall, which divided East and West Germany from 1961 to 1989, is one of the most significant chapters in German history. The Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer) is a salute to those who lost their lives during this tumultuous era. The Federal Republic of Germany established the memorial in 1998 on Bernauer Strasse, the site of the wall and the hub of the powers that ruled Germany during this period. The memorial comprises of the Monument in Memory of the Divided City, the Chapel of Reconciliation and the Window of Remembrance among other significant sites. The Documentation Center and the Visitor Center are also situated opposite the memorial in what was formerly West Berlin. Visitors can avail of guided tours of the monument and the open-air exhibition, which narrates the turbulent history of the site. The educational programs use innovative teaching methods so that kids and youth are immersed in local history. It also hosts events and film screenings, and has a bookstore and multimedia guides for visitors. This site is open to all visitors free of charge.
Anyone visiting Berlin today would find it hard to imagine that this vibrant and cosmopolitan city was once divided and through its heart ran a wall made of concrete and barbed wire, patrolled by armed guards. Erected on 13 August 1961 to halt the outflow of disaffected East German workers, the Berlin Wall divided Germany. No one will forget the night of 9th November 1989 when it came crashing down. In the months following its fall, it was bulldozed to the ground and the land where it stood auctioned off to the highest bidder. Not much of the original Wall is left today, with only one or two sections saved as a permanent reminder of the past. The longest and most impressive stretch can be seen at the East Side Gallery, while another section, which is full of chisel holes and graffiti, runs along Niederkirchner Straße just south of Potsdamer Platz. Hordes of tourists still flock to Checkpoint Charlie but there is not much left to see except a gripping exhibition at Haus am Checkpoint Charlie. The Wall Memorial on Bernauer Straße is well worth a visit while a more somber moment could be spent contemplating the line of white crosses on Ebertstraße behind the Reichstag.
Familiar to many from Wim Wenders' 1987 film "Wings of Desire," the view from the top of the 69 meter-high (226.37 feet) Victory Column is well worth the 285-step climb! Built in 1873 to commemorate Prussian military victories against Denmark, Austria and France, the Victory Column originally stood in front of the Reichstag, but was moved to its current location in the middle of the Tiergarten by the Third Reich in 1938. The golden statue of the Goddess Victory can be seen from all over the city and is one of Berlin's most eye-catching landmarks.
For decades it bridged the River Havel without ever really connecting one side with the other. This was where West Berlin ended and East Germany started, the impenetrable Iron Curtain drawn through the middle of the bridge. During the Cold War, this was the place where spies were exchanged on foggy November mornings and earned the name "Bridge of Spies." After the unification this majestic construction underwent a sudden change of image and became one of the most potent symbols of reunification since it was a bridge that connected and unified. Situated between Berlin and Potsdam, it now offers visitors a unique view over the River Havel and the surrounding forests where you can spot the occasional castle, church or pavilion.
The Sachsenhausen is a concentration camp that lies twenty minutes north of Berlin, in the town of Oranienburg. It was used as the central command base for all the concentration camps in Germany and the Nazi-occupied territories during World War II. During this time it also witnessed the systematic oppression of the jews and other minorities. It is one of the few concentration camps to have been designed by an architect and while most of the buildings have been demolished and replaced by memorials, the deliberate layout of the camp still recalls the purposefulness of Nazi tyranny. The one thing to remember while visiting this is place is its varying times. Open daily, the Sachsenhausen functions between 8.30a to 6p on March 15th to October 14th and 8.30a to 4.30p on October 15 to March 14.
One of the largest in the city, this romantic Baroque palace was built in 1695 by King Friedrich Wilhelm I as a summer residence for his beloved wife, Queen Sophie Charlotte. One of the most impressive examples of Baroque and Rococo architecture, the palace and its grounds are a spectacular treasure chest of royal monuments. Hidden away in the lush expanse of the Royal Gardens are several smaller buildings of the complex. The ornate Rococo Belvedere tea house, contains an impressive collection of porcelain, while the Schinkel Pavilion which houses drawings, paintings, sculptures, furniture and porcelain by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The neoclassical Mausoleum housing the tombs of Queen Louise, King Friedrich Wilhelm III, Emperor Wilhelm I and Empress Augusta are also a part of the palatial grounds. A sight to behold as the palace is illuminated at night, the Charlottenburg defines opulence and royalty in Berlin.
The Nikolaiviertel not only lies in the very heart of Berlin, it is the place where it all began. The first mention of Berlin in documents from 1251 referred to two settlements which are Berlin and Cölln. These are situated opposite each other on the banks of the River Spree. The settlement known as "Berlin" grew up around the market (now Molkenmarkt in the Nikolaiviertel) and the Nikolaikirche, named after Saint Nicholas, patron saint of merchants and fishermen. Destroyed during the War, many of the historic buildings were reconstructed for Berlin's 750th anniversary celebrations in 1987. The baroque Knoblauchhaus and Ephraim-Palais are two of the most striking edifices in the quarter.
19th-century architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel provided Berlin with many of its greatest buildings, including the magnificent Konzerthaus and the equally striking Altes Museum. The museum, which opened in 1830, was the first to be built on Museum Island. It now houses rotating special exhibitions and is home to part of the Antique Collection, a breathtaking collection of ancient Greek and Roman artifacts that were excavated by the famous German archaeologist Hildesheimer.
Gendarmenmarkt is considered by many to be Berlin's most exquisite square. Flanked by the twin churches of Deutscher Dom and Französischer Dom, the square is crowned by Schinkel's neoclassical masterpiece, the Konzerthaus. The name of the square comes from the 'Soldier King' Frederick William I, who housed his cavalry (gens d'arms) here in the early 18th Century. The Französischer Dom (French cathedral) offered refuge to the French Huguenot community who fled to Prussia to escape persecution in 18th-century France. The ground floor now houses a museum, while the dome offers fantastic panoramic views of the city. Sheltering some of the most spectacular architectural wonders of the city, the square comes alive with gleaming golden lights and the bustle of enthusiastic locals and tourists with the renowned Christmas market.