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The Rough Guide To Berlin 6 (rough Guide Travel Guides)

by John Gawthrop, Jack Holland
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Rough Guides
  • Publishing date: 05/03/2001
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9781858286822
  • ISBN: 1858286824

Synopsis

INTRODUCTION

Das gibts nur einmal
Das kehrt nicht wieder
Das ist zu sch?n, um wahr zu sein!

It happens only once
It will not come again
It is too beautiful to be true!

Seemingly in a perpetual state of transformation, Berlin is an extraordinary city. For over a century, events here have either mirrored or determined what has happened in the rest of Europe, and, more than a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city is on the move again, working furiously to re-create itself as the capital of Europe's most powerful country and as an international metropolis on a level with London, Paris or New York.

The speed of change has been astounding, with a complete shift in the city's centre of gravity. The area around Zoo Station, the very heart of Berlin when the Wall was in place, has lost much of its lure - there's still plenty of shopping to be had, but the action, both daytime and night-time, is now firmly rooted in the east. Scores of trendy bars, restaurants, clubs and galleries have taken over once quiet streets and weekend nights now have a carnival-like atmosphere, the pavements practically impassable. Sleek chrome and glass has replaced crumbling brick throughout the neighbourhoods of Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain, yanking them out of a fifty-year slumber, while Potsdamer Platz, nothing but a barren field until a few years ago, is now a bustling entertainment quarter. It's an exciting, infectious scene and, for anyone familiar with the forlorn and unkempt eastern streets of the GDR, a slightly unbelievable one.

The relocation of government from Bonn to Berlin has played its part in this renaissance - a titanic undertaking with inevitably profound results, most notably, again, on the eastern side of the city. Not only has the physical demeanour changed, with both new and old buildings housing embassies and ministries to accompany the freshly domed Reichstag, but the influx of politicians and bureaucrats has changed the city's ambience, giving it a sophistication and gravitas that offsets the newly found vitality of the streetlife.

This recent regeneration of the city centre is merely the most visible layer of Berlin's dense and complex past. Heart of the Prussian kingdom, economic and cultural centre of the Weimar Republic, and, in the final days of Nazi Germany, the headquarters of Hitler's Third Reich, Berlin is a weather vane of European history. After the war, the world's two most powerful military systems stood face to face here, sharing the spoils of a city later to be split by that most tangible object of the East-West divide, the Berlin Wall. As the Wall fell in November 1989, Berlin was once again pushed to the forefront of world events, ushering in a period of change as frantic, confused and significant as any the city has experienced. It's this weight of history, the sense of living in a hothouse where all the dilemmas of contemporary Europe are nurtured, that gives Berlin its excitement and troubling fascination.

It was, of course, World War II that defined the shape of today's city. A seventh of all the buildings destroyed in Germany were in Berlin, Allied and Soviet bombing razing 92 percent of all the shops, houses and industry here. After the war, Berlin formed the stage for some of the most significant moments in the convoluted drama of the Cold War: the permanent division of the city into communist east and capitalist west, the Blockade of 1948, and, in 1961, the construction of the Berlin Wall. The city became the frontline of the Cold War, and the ideological schizophrenia of East and West is still visible in the city streets. West Berlin made a habit of tearing down its war-damaged buildings and erecting undistinguished modern ones, while East Berlin restored wherever possible, preserving some of the nineteenth-century buildings that had once made the city magnificent. Despite the current feverish construction activity in many parts of eastern Berlin, it's still easy to spot f!

acades scarred by wartime bullets, and common to turn off a main avenue onto a street that appears to have remained unchanged for a century.

Given the range and severity of the events Berlin endured, it's no wonder it emerged far differently from anywhere else in the country. West Berlin's unorthodox character made it a magnet for those seeking alternative lifestyles - hippies and punks, gays and lesbians, artists and musicians all flocked there. Vital to this migration were the huge subsidies pouring in from the West German government to keep that portion of the city alive - with money available for just about everything, Berlin developed a cutting edge arts scene and vibrant nightlife that continue to this day, long after the grants have dried up. Non-Germans came too, attracted by the city's tolerance. The large numbers of Turks, Greeks and Italians, who originally came as "guest workers" in the 1960s, make Berlin Germany's most cosmopolitan city by far - a fact reflected in the excellent variety of cuisine on offer in the city's restaurants.

East Berlin followed this pattern in a more modest way. Much less diverse and considerably less prosperous than its western twin, it was still, as the largest city in East Germany, a draw for nonconformists. No surprise then that it was here, in the late 1980s, that grassroots groups began to call for reform and help set in motion the opening of the Wall on November 9, 1989 - and the eventual collapse of the German Democratic Republic.

What Berlin will be like when the dust from the world's largest building project settles is anyone's guess. Older East Berliners still consider that the west got by far the better deal from unification, and everyone is suffering from an economy greatly weakened by the costs of pulling the two Germanys together. The long-promised financial benefits of a revitalized Berlin will undoubtedly make some residents richer, but will the majority be any better off? The transformation of the city into a vigorous cultural centre, as museums and art collections are shifted and reorganized to integrate facilities in the east and west is encouraging, but how much longer will it take, and how much more will need to be spent? Anxiety and optimism can be found here in equal measure.

Inevitably, the pace of change in Berlin, particularly in the eastern part of the city, means that certain sections of this book are going to be out of date even as you read them. New cafés and restaurants open (and close) daily, traffic is rerouted around building sites, and the public transport system is being radically revamped.

One great advantage of unification is that, for the first time since the 1930s, the area around Berlin can easily be visited. Potsdam and the magnificent palace of Sanssouci is the obvious day-trip, and it's easy to get into countryside dotted with small towns and villages that preserve a "lost in time" feel.

It's a bracing time to see Berlin. As it seeks to keep its bearings even as its entire foundation has shifted, the city is again making history.


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  • Lots of outdated info
    From Amazon

    The Rough Guide to Berlin sure is a convenient size, it fits in my jacket pocket. It also has one or two useful maps. That postive comment out of the way...

    My wife and I bought this before we moved to Berlin in Sept. 2001. I think this was only a couple of months after the 2001 edition had been published. We've been let down numerous times by it since: four restaurants reccommended are out of business, prices for museums and other places are about 20% too low, and other small facts are frequently just inaccurate enough to make planning hard.

    Sure, budget priced places in Berlin come and go daily, but we've figured out that much of this edition wasn't updated since 2000, including the info about standard tourist attractions and well-known restaurants. Visitors budgeting activities based on prices in this book might be dissapointed.

    Finally, an information design complaint. Restaurant maps are numbered with the restaurants in alphabetical order, not according to location. So, if you're standing in Kathe Kollwitz Platz, and you really want Chinese, you have to look at a map, find the numbers on the map in the neigborhood, then look through the whole alphabetical list at each one to see if you want to eat there. Believe me, that's frustrating in the dark on the street.

    Better would be to forgo alphabetical listing at all, and list places by proximity. Who says, well, Akbar Pizza is closed, but lets try Amrit for indian since it's next on the list? No, you say, Akbar Pizza is closed, so what else is in the area? You can't easily answer that with the Rough Guide.

  • a must have in berlin...
    From Amazon

    Berlin is a huge city which can, at many times, be very intimidating. The Rough Guide Series takes some of that alienation and fear away as it gives you a very thorough and concise view of the city of berlin.

    Aside from giving almost 100% accurate advice on where to eat, sleep, and party, this guide also keys readers in on some of Berlin's very vivid history. Taking Berlin, district to district, it is very detailed in letting the reader know where's what and how to get there.

    Without my Rough Guide, I would have been lost in Berlin. I wouldn't even have known where to mail my postcards from. The detailed maps and subway layout are excellent as well. All in all, this guide is great for a first time visitor (like me) or someone who is already familiar with all the Berlin has to offer.

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