Berlin after the fall: much to see and do in a city eight times the size of Paris

 It’s been 50 years since East Germany (under the direction of the former Soviet Union) constructed the Berlin Wall, an imposing concrete barrier with guard towers and other defenses designed to isolate the city of West Berlin from East Berlin and the rest of surrounding East Germany. The wall stood until 1989, when the East German government announced that its citizens could freely visit West Germany and West Berlin. Euphoric Germans climbed onto the wall, chipping it away in bits and pieces. Soon after, the government used heavy equipment to remove most of the rest. The fall of the wall was an important step toward the reunification of East and West Germany, which was accomplished in 1990.

While the political and cultural motivations for the construction of the wall have faded from many memories, the few remains of the wall attract throngs of visitors to Berlin. While not much is left of the original wall, there are still three long sections to see. One is near the site of the former headquarters of the Gestapo, the secret police of Nazi Germany. A second is along the Spree River near the Oberbaum Bridge. A third, which serves as the centerpiece of a memorial park, is near Bernauer Street. The official 50th anniversary commemoration of the wall was held there in August 2011.

Of course, there is much more to see and do in Berlin, a massive city about eight times the size of Paris. Extensive bombing during World War II left much of the city to be rebuilt from rubble, but some architectural treasures survived.

The Brandenburg Gate, the only remaining gate of 18 that once served as the entry to Berlin, is one of the best-known symbols of the city. Just beyond the gate is the Unter den Linden, an avenue lined with stately linden trees, which used to lead the way to the home of the Prussian monarchs. Charlottenburg Castle is one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture anywhere.

Robbert van Bloemendaal, Blue Ribbon News special contributor and world traveler

Only the shell of the bell tower of the old Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church remains, standing in contrast to some of Berlin’s newer steel-and-glass towers. Some Berliners look at the bell tower as a reminder of difficult and unhappy times; others see it as a symbol of the perseverance and strength of the people of Berlin, where east and west are still coming together after years of separation by the Berlin Wall.

To plan your trip to Berlin, talk with your travel professional.

This travel column was written by special contributor Robbert van Bloemendaal, an experienced world traveler, native of Australia, an Ambassador with the Rowlett Chamber of Commerce, and president of  Travel Leaders of Rowlett.

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