If Rome is called an ‘open-air museum’, then Berlin is at least a powerfully gripping history lesson. Within half a day of walking around this edgy city, you can see some of the most important landmarks from the last century.
In 1871, Berlin became the capital of reunified Germany. After two horrific wars, the city was divided into East and West Berlin and became the battling grounds for ideological struggles of the Cold War era. Even though modern-day Berlin is precisely as old as I am, the city boasts of so much history, art and culture to make any traveller burst with enthusiasm.
I did a free walking tour with Sandemans (which I would highly recommend), but if you would rather grab a map and explore Berlin on your own, here are some of the must-visit sites to reflect on recent history.
This iconic German symbol is located in the pedestrian-friendly Pariser Platz. Now a bustling tourist hub, it was the site of many important historical events including Hitler’s selection as German chancellor and Kennedy’s ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech.
The Berlin Wall was a physical reinforcer of ideological differences during the Cold War. It completely cut off West Berlin from East Germany and East Berlin. It was constructed in 1961 and taken down in 1989.
Checkpoint C along the Berlin wall is popularly known as Checkpoint Charlie (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie…). It was the site of many standoffs between the Soviet army and the allied forces. These days, it’s a busy intersection that the Berliners call Disneyland.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Often called the Holocaust Memorial, this site was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold as a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The memorial is covered in 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern. The interpretation of the site is left to the viewer: initially I thought that the slabs represented coffins, but now I think they may also represent army formations of Nazi soldiers.
The Berlin TV Tower was constructed in East Berlin by the Socialist Unity Party to be a symbol of the advancement and strength of the German Democratic Republic. Located in Alexanderplatz, it’s the fourth tallest freestanding structure in Europe.
To learn more about the Third Reich period and the subsequent Cold War era, other important sites to check out in Berlin are the Jewish Museum, the Allied Museum and the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp located on the outskirts of the city.