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For forty years, Berlin was the symbol of the Cold War when the city center was cut into two by the odious Wall. West of the Wall, the city developed as a 'showcase of the capitalist West', while east of the Wall grey communist housing blocks were built. In between, there was a desolate no man's land. After the Wall came down this changed drastically. Berlin became the capital of Germany again and worked hard to make a fresh start. And it succeeded: The city is buzzing like never before and exerts a magical attraction. It has historic sights, world-class museums, countless options for shopping and various neighborhoods with excellent restaurants, cozy bars and trendy discotheques. Berlin is a great destination for a city trip.
The heart of the new city is formed by the Potsdammer Platz. The square itself is a busy traffic junction, but a lively new neighborhood has arisen around the square with theaters, restaurants, bars, casinos and cinemas. Architects were given a free rein in this new city center, with one of the main eye-catchers being the Sony Center. It houses for example the Berlin Film Museum, which holds a large part of Marlene Dietrich's private collection. From the observation deck on the top floor of the Kohllhoff Tower you can see clearly how the new city center is designed.
You also have a good view from the new glass dome on the Reichstag Building. It is one of the most popular attractions so you have to take into account long waiting periods, especially during summer months. Berlin's highest viewing point can be found on the east side of town: The 389-meter-high Fernsehturm near the Alexanderplatz. The viewing platform is located at an altitude of over 200 meters.
Despite its tragedy, Berlin has not forgotten the city's division. You can for example see a line of clinkers that marks the location of the Berlin Wall. At the Mühlenstrasse, part of the wall is still standing, but it is no longer the grey concrete wall that it used to be. Artists from all over the world have decorated the wall with their paintings and so these days it is an open-air art gallery, the East Side Gallery. There is another part of the Wall left on the Bernauer Strasse, including a section of no man's land in order not to forget how it used to be. The Dokumentations Zentrum tells the story of the Wall through hundreds of photos, documents and video footage. The Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie mainly focuses on escape attempts made by East Germans.
Berlin doesn't ignore the other tragedy, World War II, either. The Holocaust Memorial was put up for the Nazi's Jewish victims. It is a controversial monument consisting of over 2700 concrete blocks, which vary in height with narrow paths in between. The designer wanted the design to give a feeling of disorientation and isolation. There is a documentation center underneath the monument.
The Museuminsel is literally an island in the center of Berlin, housing some of the city's major museums, like for example the Egyptian Museum, which contains a wonderful collection of ancient Egyptian art, the Pergamon Museum with objects from the ancient Greek and Islamic times, and the Old National Gallery with nineteenth-century paintings and sculptures.
Although very few medieval buildings are preserved in Berlin, you can still find them in the city of Bernau, twenty kilometers northeast of Berlin. The city has beautiful ancient ramparts and an impressive Gothic church. The Historic Museum is located near the main city gate.
The former Sachsenhausen concentration camp is located approximately fifty kilometers north of Berlin. This camp has been preserved in its original state and in the KZ Sachsenhausen museum you can learn which torture methods the Nazis applied. If you feel the need to relax after visiting this hideous museum, we recommend you go to the nearby Oranienburg Castle. The Baroque castle is surrounded by a beautiful park including a botanical garden.
In Potsdam, 26 kilometers southwest of Berlin, lies the beautiful Sanssouci Palace. The palace has an exuberant Rococo interior and is surrounded by large gardens filled with fountains and marble sculptures. In the eighteenth century, Potsdam was also the home base of Dutch craftsmen. They lived in their own district in typical Dutch-style houses.
From Berlin, you can easily use your rental car to get to the Baltic coast. Usedom has a beautiful, elongated sandy beach. Many beaches on the Baltic coast have reserved part of the beach for nudism.
Berlin offers a wide range of hotels in all price categories. As public transportation in Berlin is excellent, it doesn't really matter in which neighborhood you book a hotel. If you prefer to stay close to the main attractions, we recommend booking a hotel in 'Mitte'>
Contrary to most other major European cities, it is not hard to find a parking space for your rental car in Berlin. There are sufficient possibilities to park your car out on the street but there are also hundreds of parking garages. Outside the city center there are even many streets where you can park your car for free. Thanks to Berlin's excellent public transportation, this is a very valid option. There are parking lots near all U and S-bahn stations in the suburbs where you can leave your rental car for free or at a low rate.
The city center is an 'Umweltzone', where you are only allowed to drive with a special sticker on your windshield.
The Berlin Airport Berlin Schoenefeld Airport (previously: Schönefeld) is located sixteen kilometers southwest of the city. You can easily reach the airport by rental car. The A113 freeway (Autobahn) runs underneath the airport and connects with Berlin's A100 beltway near Neukölln.