The New Berlin
THE NEW millennium has ushered in a whole bright new era for Berlin – as a European city with something to offer every one of its increasing number of visitors.
Once seen as a destination for the more serious-minded traveller on the dark trail of its wartime past or Cold War fragmentation, it is now pulling in millions of people looking for fun.
These include families on sightseeing and shopping trips as well as partygoers looking for nightlife in the one-time cabaret city of Marlene Dietrich.
One of the best ways to get to know the landmarks quickly is via a boat trip on the River Spree which runs serenely right through the middle of the city yet apart from its crowds and traffic.
If anything symbolises the reshaping of Berlin in the last 20 years, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s the Reichstag building. Now the German Bundestag, it has developed into a major visitor attraction with more than 15 million people visiting it since the transfer of power from Bonn to Berlin.
Set on fire in the Nazi era and severely bomb damaged in World War Two, it survived to be given a major makeover led by British architect Sir Norman Foster. Visitors can now tour a huge glass dome on top of the refurbished building to either look down on life outside the building below or view the work of the politicians inside it.
Within walking distance of the Reichstag is the Brandenburg Gate, another icon of Berlin which was once looted by Napoleon when he occupied the city. It was also given a makeover, from 2000 to 2002, after surviving wartime damage and becoming a symbol of the divided city prior to the fall of the Wall.
These former troubled times now give the city a tourist trail like no other which includes a chance to tour in a Trabant, the car produced in former East Germany, offered by the Trabi Safari company.
The old Berlin
The DDR Museum offers a snapshot of life in the old days of Soviet occupation which ended in 1990 and Checkpoint Charlie, the famous east-west border control during the Cold War, is now a tourist centre with display boards telling the Wall’s story.
Potsdamer Platz is a buzzing commercial centre with restaurants, bars and cinemas – a great place to get a sense of the new fast-moving Berlin. Sixty years ago, this spot was Berlin”s answer to Piccadilly Circus.
Then it was destroyed in the war and left desolate when the Wall was built across it.
Useful websites www.visitberlin.de
*If you are flying easyJet to Berlin you can buy onboard a 26 euro three day travel welcome card valid for one adult and up to three children under 14-years-od.