If you’re a history buff, then there will be plenty for you to see and learn in Berlin. Germany’s capital stands on historic grounds and it’s believed to have been inhabited since pre-Christian times by Slavic Wends, Burgundian tribes and Germanic Swabian. However, no one knows for sure where the name “Berlin” originates. Some say it was given by the West Slavic inhabitants, meaning “swamp” in Old Polabian (“birl-” or “berl-”). Others associate the name with the German term “Bär” (“bear”). Berlin’s coat of arms actually features a bear.
There have been found evidences of modern settlements in the area of Berlin that date from 1174 (wooden house parts) and 1192 (a wooden rod). The oldest written records about villages in the area are from the 12th century.
Köpenick dates from 1209 and Spandau was founded in 1197, but these villages became part of Berlin much later, in 1920. Today’s Central Berlin was mentioned for the first time in 1237, under the name Cölln. The year 1237 is also celebrated as the city’s founding date. Finally, the name Berlin, referring to today’s capital, was first mentioned in 1244.
Later, in the 15th century, Berlin-Cölln was recognised for the first time as a capital, being the “headquarters” of the Margraviate of Brandenburg established by Frederick I. Since then, Berlin was ruled by the Hohenzollern family, which has given, depending on the era, numerous German emperors, kings of Prussia and electors of Brandenburg. The Hohenzollernepoch ended in 1918.
The 17th century (1618-1648) brought the Thirty Years’ War, which literally destroyed Berlin. Fifty per cent of the population died and one third of the buildings were devastated. Slowly, Berlin was rebuilt and repopulated and by 1700, most of the city’s residents were immigrants coming from France, Salzburg, Poland and Bohemia.
The Kingdom of Prussia was founded in 1701 and Berlin was named its capital. From that moment, Berlin began its growth and in 1709, it merged with Dorotheenstadt, Friedrichstadt, Friedrichswerder and Cölln. It was known as Haupt-und Residenzstadt Berlin.
In the 19th century, Berlin became even more powerful thanks to the Industrial Revolution that increased the city’s population and economy. In no time, Berlin became Germany’s major economic centre and incorporated various other areas, such as Moabit and Wedding. In the late 19th century, the German Empire was founded and, obviously, Berlin was named its capital.
The beginning of the 20th century was one of the best periods for Berlin, as it became larger, with 100% more population as compared to the previous century. At the same time, during the 1920s, the city was recognised as a world capital, famous for its unsurpassed leadership in industries, science, film, humanities, government and higher education.
A decade later, all this hype and growth would be discontinued, as the power was taken over by the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler. The Jewish population in Berlin was destroyed, as some of them emigrated, while others became victims of the Holocaust and were sent to Auschwitz and other such death camps. World War II brought a lot of damage to the city. The Battle of Berlin and the air raids between 1943 and 1945 destroyed most of the city, including significant attractions such as Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate.
The War ended in 1945, but Berlin wasn’t even close to peace and unification. The city was divided into four areas, which were occupied by the Soviet Union (East Berlin) and France, the United Kingdom and the United States (West Berlin). In 1949, this led to the foundation of the Marxist-Leninist German Democratic Republic in East Germany, under the leadership of the Soviets, and the Federal Republic of Germany in West Germany, administered by the French, British and Americans. As a result, the Cold War tensions increased, especially that East Germany surrounded West Berlin entirely. Therefore, West Germany was forced to establish its government and temporary capital in Bonn.
A significant moment in Berlin’s history is the construction of the famous Berlin Wall that separated the western and eastern sides of the city. It was built in 1961. Strictly controlled checkpoints were installed, but people from West Berlin were allowed to pass to East Berlin. On the other hand though, Easterners could not get to West Germany or West Berlin. The Wall was reinforced with 45,000 sections of concrete, 250 guard dogs, 300 watchtowers and almost 80 miles of fencing. Even though it was almost impossible to escape, around 5,000 Easterners were able to get on the Western side.
On 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall finally fell and was almost completely destroyed in the following weeks. The East Side Gallery is the largest part of the Wall that has survived till date. Germany was reunified in 1990, when it became the Federal Republic of Germany, with Berlin as official capital. The government was moved to Berlin in 1991.
After such disturbing and unfortunate history, Berlin has risen from its own ashes like a phoenix and has become the wonderful and powerful city we know today. Currently, the German capital is a world leader in science, media, politics, culture and industry. Moreover, it features tens of globally famous museums, universities, festivals, entertainment venues and orchestras. The former East Berlin in particular has become a cultural hub that attracts youngsters and artists from all around the world.
Don’t miss the chance of visiting one of the most beautiful and modern European cities. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy amazing contemporary arts, vibrant and wild nightlife, diverse architecture, rich history and significant attractions that will definitely fill yoursoul with joy and beauty.
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