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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 garden Volkspark Friedrichshain lends its name to Friedrichshain and is situated at the northern end of this prominent Berlin neighborhood. Friedrichshain is bordered by other city districts like Lichtenberg, Kreuzberg, Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, and the River Spree in the south. It was initially known for its low real estate prices and attracted numerous youngsters looking for inexpensive accommodation. Today, it has seen a rapid increase in housing rates and is known as one of the trendiest districts in the city. It is the hub of fashionable boutiques, design studios and media houses and its streets are dotted with bars, restaurants and cafés. This borough is especially known for its happening nightlife. Popular tourist attractions in the area include East Side Gallery, Frankfurter Tor and the Molecule Man sculpture.
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.
Prenzlauer Berg is one of the most prominent neighborhoods of Berlin and is the hub of nightlife since the reunification of Germany. It is mostly frequented by a younger crowd for its manifold fashion boutiques and night clubs. The locality also attracts art connoisseurs due to the sheer amount of galleries lining the streets. It has maintained an optimum balance of playgrounds and green spaces, historic buildings, and clean streets flanked by beautiful trees, thus retaining the original charm. Numerous artists, students and immigrants choose to stay here due to the convenient location, close to the city center, and relatively reasonable rents. This area also has a large number of bars, cafés and restaurants with charming patio seating, and a plethora of toy and wine shops. Popular tourist attractions in the district include the Rykestrasse Synagogue, Gethsemane Church, Wasserturm and Jewish Cemetery.
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.
Located near Niederfinow, Niederfinow Boat Lift, also known as the Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow, is the oldest boat lift in Germany. It attracts around 25000 tourists each year and thus acts as a major tourist destination. This lift was established in 1934 on Oder-Havel Canal and since then has undergone several refurbishments to ensure a smoother functioning. The view afforded to visitors is a magnificent one, one which allows them to observe and admire the entire process of lifting and transporting ships as it unfolds before their very eyes. The place also provides tours for which prior reservations are advisable.
Berlin's grandest boulevard stretches east to west for just over a mile between Schlossplatz and the Brandenburg Gate. Originally conceived as a simple riding path between Berliner Schloss palace and the royal hunting ground in Tiergarten, Unter den Linden was transformed into a splendid regal boulevard by the 18th-century Prussian kings. Named after the linden trees which line its median, the road contains many of Berlin's landmark buildings like the Brandenburg Gate, Zeughaus, Kronprinzenpalast, State Opera House and Humboldt University. The Statue of Frederick the Great also sits here; one of Rauch's masterpieces, it depicts the king riding on his favorite horse, Condè, wearing his coronation robes, three-cornered hat, riding boots and holding a stick. Amazingly, the statue took nearly 70 years, 40 artists, and 100 designs to determine the final plan.
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.
When you think of Berlin, the first word that likely comes to mind is the Wall. After being torn down, there is not much of the Berlin Wall which remains intact. The longest section of the Wall to be spared, which is 1.3 kilometers (0.81 miles) runs parallel to the River Spree between Kreuzberg in the West and Friedrichshain in the East. In the months following the fall of the Wall in 1989, 118 artists from all over the world flocked here to pay their tributes. The result is an open-air gallery containing a host of colorful and imaginative images, some satirical, some shocking and others puzzling. An important part of Berlin's cultural heritage, this landmark is one of the largest open-air galleries in the entire world.
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.
Volkspark Friedrichshain is perfect for relaxing after work or for chilling out on the weekend. The park has attractive grounds, a number of lakes, ponds and fountains as well as several different children's playgrounds. The Märchenbrunnen is the park's most original element, with the fountains featuring sculptures of German fairy tale characters. The park is Berlin's oldest, as it was first constructed in 1840.
The pristine flower-beds and gushing fountains which fill historic Pariser Platz lend a touch of rural elegance to the urban jungle. Once known as "the Emperor's reception room", Pariser Platz has been the first stop on visitors' itineries since the 18th century. Located at the end of Berlin's grandiose boulevard, Unter den Linden, wartime destruction left much of Pariser Platz flattened, with only the Brandenburg Gate left standing. Yet money has flooded into Berlin since reunification and the square is being slowly restored to its former splendour. Its original rectangular form has been retained, yet the buildings which now line it to the north and south are a curious mixture of deeply nostalgic and strikingly modern architecture. Hotel Adlon, for example, is an exact copy of the original building, while Frank O.Gehry's DG Bank and the Academy of Arts are eye-catching examples of contemporary design. Just two gaps remain to be filled, and when the American and French embassies are completed, Pariser Platz will be laid with cobble stones and shall once again be a worthy reception room for millions of visitors to the new German capital.