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Wall or no wall, during your visit to Berlin you'll soon see that a division between east and west still exists. There are actually two cities that are being reunited with might and main. Berlin is therefore building at a steady pace. Everywhere you turn you'll see cranes, excavations and new buildings. Great efforts are being made to reverse the 30 year division.

Berlin's historic heart lies around the broad Unter der Linden, with its elegant neoclassical and baroque buildings. You can dine well, go out and shop in this city with ease. You can visit big department stores like KaDeWe or the beguiling French galleries Lafayette on the Friedrichstraase. Eating well in Berlin also presents no problem. You'll soon discover that German cuisine consists of much more than just Bratkartoffeln, Speck, Zwiebeln und Sauerkraut! Berlin has much to offer on a culinary level as well.

In terms of area, Berlin is one of Europe's biggest cities. To give you an idea, the German capital is nine times bigger than the centre of Paris. That's because Berlin is actually an agglomeration of a series of various small towns like Schoneberg, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg. It also boasts numerous parks, lakes and, of course, the River Spree.

Berlin has never had a fixed identity. It's a city in perpetual motion. The city's notorious history is still very much in evidence. Although the city endured hard times during WWII, plenty of authentic and historic places remain, like the baroque grandeur of the Gendarmen Market, the rustic rococo of the Nikolaiviertel, the Prussian ostentation of Unter der Linden and the Museum Island. The city's post WWII history is also worth looking into. Take, for example, two direct opposites like the Kurfurstendamm and Alexanderplatz. Remnants of an ideological conflict that's luckily now consigned to history.

If you feel like a weekend out in a very pleasant city, then make your way quickly to Berlin!

History

Slav tribes settled in the neighbourhood of what is now Berlin in the 7th century. The name Berlin probably derives from the Slav word 'Berl', meaning marsh. The two small city districts of Collm and Berlin merged to form a city at the beginning of the 15th century. When Prince Frederick II had his palace built in Colln, the city began to flourish.

During the Thirty Year War (1618-1648), much of the city was decimated. The Prussian King, Frederick I, named Berlin as the capital of his kingdom in 1701. In the 18th century, Berlin developed into a world power. The end of the 19th century marked a period of industrialization and urban development, and the city grew rapidly. In 1808 Berlin achieved self-government.

In the 1920s, in the aftermath of WWI (1914-1918), Berlin enjoyed an extensive nightlife, especially in theatre and film. The National Socialists came to power under Hitler's leadership in 1933 and a few years later WWII broke out. Plans were made whereby Berlin would be completely rebuilt as the capital of the world.

By the end of WWII, Berlin had been almost completely destroyed. The city was divided by the Allied Forces: France, America and the United Kingdom in the West and the Soviet army in the East. This was to have far-reaching consequences, and the Federal Republic of Germany and the DDR were established in 1949. Increasingly more people fled from the east to the free west and in 1961 a wall was built around West Berlin.

Political changes saw the decline of the DDR regime. In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, heralding the beginning of change in East Berlin. In 1990 Berlin became the capital of the united Germany.