This coming weekend marks the 25 year anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s breach and subsequent demolition. The iconic moment in history marked the finish to a city’s division and occupation and signified the first steps into the development and reconstruction of a city and a nation. 25 years on, Berlin has become a metropolis of culture, business and expressive freedom.
Created in 1961, the Berlin Wall ran the length of the city, separating East Soviet occupied Berlin and the Germany allied West Berlin. After 27 years of separation and division, the world watched on as the first Berliners crossed the boundary into West Berlin on November 9 1989, relishing in the freedom and relief the moment provided. Berlin was gripped by celebration while reunions and welcomes occurred and others climbed the wall to help those on the other side.
Almost a year later and Berlin’s two divided sections were unified as the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany and the wall was officially knocked down as Berlin created a new foundation to start the long process of rebuilding its city and community. While today’s Berlin may remember its history, Berlin’s progression and evolution make it almost unrecognisable to its former days.
Surrounded by marshy woodlands, this city and its eclectic architecture lies on the River Spree and its glacier valley, feeding the chain of lakes called the River Havel. With one-third of the area covered in forests, parks and lakes, Berlin has become the home to 4.5 million residents from over 180 nations. The centre of the Berlin-Brandenburg Metropolitan region, Berlin is part of the Northern European Plain which runs from Northern France to Western Russia.
Now the third most visited city in Europe, Berlin is renowned for its’ creative arts, home to Internationales Congress Centrum the biggest convention centre in Europe, Berlin boasts renowned Orchestras, theatres, festivals and Museum Island, a world heritage site which has become a Mecca of history, culture and preservation in the northern part of Spree Island. Berlin was named ‘City of Design’ in 2005 by UNESCO for its culture, creative art and architecture.
Marginally shaped by the role it played in German history, every national government to oversee Berlin created ambitious reconstruction plans to provide their own mold and influence over the city and its design, creating Berlin’s widely diverse building style. Evidence of the Weimar Republic, East Germany and Kingdom of Prussia are clear to see in the monuments and buildings created in the ever-developing city.
The Brandenburg Gate still stands as an iconic landmark of the 18th century, along with the Reichstag building, the traditional seat of German parliament, remodelled in 1990 to feature a large glass dome for views of the city and parliament. The East side gallery, and open air exhibition houses street art painted directly onto the last remaining portions of the Berlin Wall, as Berlin acknowledges its history and honours those whose lives were taken.
Striving for educational excellence, Berlin is home to many major Universities and research centres, with 40 Nobel Prize winners affiliating themselves with Berlin and its academic industry. As well in sport, Berlin hosted both the 1939 Summer Olympics and the 2006 Fifa World Cup in its impressive Olympiastadion.
Berlin has become a city of free thinking, advancement and innovation. Its large scale multi-ethnic and open-orientation communities and festivals are a clear demonstration of the urban centre of activity it has become. Its history serves as a reminder of the strength and determination of its people, with the city they’ve built emerging into a leading light with a bright future.
What other places in the world match Berlin’s successful leap in recovery and development?