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  Home » GERMANY - Berlin, City of Music, Beer, Palaces....and Ideologies..... By Shyam Amladi

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GERMANY - Berlin, City of Music, Beer, Palaces....and Ideologies..... By Shyam Amladi

Brandenburg Gate

HISTORY

Berlin’s recorded history as a city begins in 1183. Its City Guild seal depicting a crown and a bear dates back to 1280. It was founded by traveling merchants as the twin settlement of Berlin and Coelln during the last quarter of the twelfth century. The first historical mention in civic documents was in 1237 for Coelln and in 1244 for Berlin. The origin of the city’s name is the subject of heated discussion even today. Some historians argue that it is a combination of two Slavic words (bar for pine forest and rolina for field). But it does not refer to the Berlin bear that has embellished the city’s coat of arms since 1280. Because of its outstanding strategic location, the twin city soon rose to become the Mark Brandenburg’s  (Brandenburg was the adjoining city, 30 miles to the west) leading commercial and trade center. But Berlin earned its growth at the cost of its civic freedom, first with respect to the Askanier, and from the early fifteenth century with the Hohenzollern.

In the 16th century, following the rise of the monk Martin Luther, Berliners were embroiled in a 30 year war between Catholics and Protestants.

Of course, in modern times, John Kennedy, the American President, adopted Berlin by making his famous statement in his 1963 statement "Ich bin ein Berliner!". Of course, it fell upon Ronald Reagan to tear down the Berlin wall in 1989-90!

THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN BERLIN

Berlin is a clean, refreshing city. Great to walk around, it has cold but temperate climate. As the capital of Germany and also as a capital of the Prussian empire, it boasts elegant buildings of the Victorian era, wide boulevards and urban greenery.

Perhaps the most famous monument in Berlin and arguably the whole of Germany  (not counting the Berlin Wall piece left standing) is the Brandenburg gate. Built in the late 18th century, it is a massive structure consisting of 12 Doric columns and five passageways. On top is a Quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses and Eirene, the goddess of peace.

The Reichstag building

Was first opened in 1894 and was used as the parliament of the unified Germany. It was set on fire a couple of months after the Nazis came to power, bombed during WW2, fought over by the Soviets and left a ruin until the 1960’s. It was rebuilt minus the dome. When the country was reunited it was decided the new capital would once again be Berlin and the building was given a make over with the new glass dome. The building is worth a visit with good views from the roof and walking up the inside of the dome. 

Zeughaus

Checkpoint Charlie and Berlin Wall

Both are stark reminders of the era during which Berlin was divided into eastern and western areas, literally cutting off families and friends.

Berliner Philharmonie

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is without doubt one of the best in the world. Directed by Englishman Sir Simon Rattle, it performs regularly in Berlin, and tours the world extensively as well. The orchestra's home is the striking yellow tent-shaped Philharmonie near Potsdamer Platz. It has one of the highest pedigrees that any orchestra hall would envy. It began in mid-1882 and has had the finest musicians and conductors as hosts and guests---from its first conductor, Hans Van Bulow to such luminaries as Herbert Von Karajan, Claudio Abbado and Sir Simon Rattle. Its interior with seating terraces all around the stage was revolutionary when it opened 50 years ago. Don't miss the free Tuesday lunchtime concerts by upcoming and renowned musicians; arrive 30-45 minutes early and bring something soft to sit on, as the audience sits on the lobby floor! The sound is terrific no matter where you are in the hall.

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Hall?

Sir Simon Rattle conducting with Joyce DiDonato, the American Opera singer

 Beer  Garden

Although our modern interpretations of the historic Biergarten often differ from the traditional guidelines – traditional ‘rules’ included that shade must come from trees not umbrellas, and that no fast food would be served, only solid meals – we still enjoy them on sweltering summer days with as much veracity as our beer swilling ancestors before us.

Berlin has its own proud tradition of brewing and is subsequently host to a decent range of beer gardens, ranging from the classic to the contemporary, where cocktails are served alongside cool draft beers, and beach chairs and wifi are freely available. Here’s my favorite…

Bierhof Rudersdorf

Bierhof Rudersdorf

 Bierhof Rüdersdorf comprises a restaurant, a smattering of pleasant foliage and ample seating for exhausted revelers and afternoon fun seekers. The grilling begins around 6pm serving up a range of barbecue dishes, though the 10 am breakfast is particularly popular – especially for those who enjoy a nice frothy pint along with their bacon and eggs. Servers are beautiful Berlin men and women (mostly women) who juggle huge canters of beer, sometimes holding eight of them

 

EATING OUT

Berlin is truly an epicurean’s delight. It is hard to choose from an array of great restaurants, but try some of the ones below—they frequently appear on “Best of Berlin” lists by different websites. By the way, Berlin does not have a Michelin 3-star restaurants, but some of these are 1 or 2 star restaurants.

REINSTOFF, MUSASHI, CAFÉ BILDERBUCH, FACIL, DIE QUADRIGA, FISCHERS FRITZ, TIM RAUE

HOTELS

Wide choice of hotels, but as to locations, we prefer to stay in one of these neighborhoods:

CHARLOTTENBURG-WILMERSDOR

MITTE

FFRIEDRICHSHAIN

AREA NEAR BRANDENBURG GATE

All in all, Berlin is hip and worth spending 3 days at least. Surround areas of Bavaria, with its spectacular mountains and palaces, is added attraction, but you need a car. 

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