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BER Reichstag

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Reichstag Building

 

 

Berlin

As Germany’s capital and the country’s largest city, Berlin is not only the political center of Germany, but it has also grown to be one of the most-visited destinations of Central Europe and it has become the epicenter of a large, creative and versatile cultural scene. Berlin has evolved from being an isolated island into an energetic, confident capital that lives up to large expectations. As the city has joined the ranks of Paris and London among Europe’s metropolises, it has become more and more fascinating to visit and a Berlin experience can easily go far beyond seeing the sights.

Berlin has a population of almost 3.5 million, nearly twice as much as Germany’s second-largest city, Hamburg. It is also, after London, number two in the list of the most populous cities of the European Union and number five on the continent. With a size of almost 900 square kilometers it also is the German city occupying the largest area. At the same time, Berlin is one of the sixteen German states, while the metropolitan area clearly expands beyond the state’s borders into neighboring Brandenburg. The city is subdivided into twelve districts, each of which has a distinct atmosphere based on history and in no small part on the structure of its population.

Germany’s capital is a very international and multicultural city, hosting a large number of international enterprises and no less than 147 foreign embassies and there are individuals from 190 countries living in the city. While the more exotic of these cannot be easily spotted, visitors will quickly grasp a strong influence of Middle Eastern immigrants, mostly Turks, of which there are a quarter million in Berlin alone. Also, since the strongest immigration waves into Germany took place in the 1960s and 1970s, today a large number of Germans has a migrant family background.

In Berlin, some 30% of Germans registered in the city have their family history rooted in another country than Germany. Next to Turks and Arabs, Berlin is home to large numbers of people from former Soviet Union countries as well as sizable communities of people from Eastern and Southeastern European countries. In addition, the city has been a magnet for young professionals from other European Union- countries lately, many of whom estimate their career chances to be higher here than in their native countries.

First settled late in the 12th century, Berlin has historically been the capital of Germany. It has been so from 1871 to 1918 and again from 1919 to 1945, the last twelve years of the latter playing the infamous role of capital of the Third Reich. After WWII, the city was divided into an Eastern part, which became capital of the GDR and the Western part, which belonged to West Germany but was completely surrounded by the communist East Germany. The wall running through the city, sometimes dividing streets and even houses into a Western and an Eastern part was finally torn down in 1989, its remnants becoming major tourist attractions bearing nothing of the menacing threat the Berlin Wall once stood for. Upon reunification of Germany, Berlin once again became capital.  

Among Berlin’s sights, visitors will find a former royal palace, the damaged remainder of a church, exclusive shopping, the historic Reichstag building today housing the German parliament, several world-class museums and a completely new city center, built after the Wall came down. Also since that time, the economy of the city once stricken by its isolation, has rebounded somewhat, although Berlin still has a comparatively high unemployment rate. Many people work in creative industries and tourism has also become an important economic factor. The new Berlin airport which is supposed to become a major air hub, is scheduled to open in a few years. Within the city, a network of buses and subways covering wide areas of the town is available.