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Berlin, now! by Merle wilkening | 31st May, 2024 | Playground

Cosmopolitan, creative, vibrant – yet  mindful of its dark past. Nowhere do history and future  come together more intriguingly than in the rapidly changing German capital.

With almost four million residents, the German capital is the country’s most populous city. In the government district, legislators determine Germany’s future beneath the glass dome of the ­Reichstag Building. Berlin’s checkered history is evident wherever you go; there are places of world-historical importance at every turn. During the cold war, world powers faced off at Checkpoint Charlie and a wall divided Berlin, East and West, for 28 years. The remains of the border crossing bear testament to those years of separation and Brandenburg Gate is symbolic of Germany’s reunification.

In 2023, 12 million people visited Berlin. This year, the number will likely increase because the German capital is celebrating several important events. November 9 marks the 35th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. This summer, some 2.5 million soccer fans are expected to converge on the city for the European Championship, during which the Straße des 17. Juni, the street whose name commemorates the East German uprising in the GDR in 1953, will be transformed into the world’s longest fan mile. And finally, the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz, a popular postcard motif, will be celebrating its 55th anniversary in the fall.

Berlin’s past is inextricably tied up with Jewish history. A site consisting of 2,711 concrete steles serves as a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe. It is Germany’s main Holocaust memorial. Today Berlin identifies as a cosmopolitan city that celebrates diversity on a daily basis and where people from 191 different nations live together in 12 districts. Every year, Kreuzberg celebrates a four-day, intercultural street festival called the Carnival of Cultures. The Turkish specialties at the May-bachufer farmers’ markets in Neukölln recall an ­oriental ­bazaar; Kantstraße is lined with Asian shops and eateries. In addition to traditional streetfood like kebabs and curry sausages, for which the city is famous, it has established itself in recent years as a foodie hotspot for innovative, Michelin-starred cuisine. Chef Marco Müller’s Rutz is the city’s first three-star restaurant.

Berlin’s rich array of cultural events and vibrant arts and party scene draws young people in particular. Techno fans line up in front of the famous Berghain club day and night, hoping to pass through Berlin’s most indomitable doors. But it’s not just the legendary nightlife that draws people from around the world. With 4,500 startups, Berlin has developed into one of Europe’s main tech hubs.

During the summer months, residents escape the heat in the surrounding countryside with its many lakes. Popular activities include concerts at Waldbühne, a beautiful open-air, amphitheather-like venue in the middle of the woods, or sailing on Wannsee lake. Those who have the chance enjoy nothing better than to spend the weekend at their summer cottage in Brandenburg. The sparsely populated Uckermark region is particularly popular with Berliners.

IssueGG Magazine 03/24
City/CountryBerlin, Germany