After half a century of isolation in a divided Europe, Berlin is full of metropolitan energy.
After half a century of isolation in a divided Europe, Berlin is full of metropolitan energy. Yet the city is still marked by its eventful history, a past mirrored in its disjointed urban landscape - dilapidated town houses, crumbling facades, glass and steel high-rises, a tilted gravestone inscribed in Hebrew.
The Heart of Berlin: "Mitte"
Conflict is omnipresent in Berlin, whether German, European or global, and is most obviously reflected in the city's architecture. A bus-ride down the wide avenue "Unter den Linden" in the city centre leads past the Schlossplatz, the East German Palace of the Republic down to the tatty, windswept square, Alexanderplatz. The other end of this boulevard peters out in the more representative part of Berlin's centre, where immaculately dressed businessmen and -women hurry across the historic Gendarmenmarkt, past the Schauspielhaus built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in the early 19th century and the two large churches, Deutscher Dom and Französischer Dom. Fashionable restaurants border the square, offering expensive brasserie food in high-ceilinged rooms refurbished in style. Here, tourists mingle with workers from surrounding office buildings and waiters in formal attire.
Inside the Reichstag
Not far from this more upscale part of "Mitte", is a large park, the Tiergarten. It's located close to the Reichstag, the German Parliament. The impressive building was built in 1894 by Paul Wallot. It has witnessed turbulent times and was partly destroyed in the Second World War. After German unification in 1990, the British architect Norman Foster built a huge glass dome for the Reichstag. The dome has become an architectural icon of the new Berlin. Inside the glass roof, the public can climb a winding ramp, reminiscent of the one in the Guggenheim Museum in New York. People are rewarded with a breathtaking view across the city.
From here they can see the new German chancellery - a huge building designed by architects Axel Schultes and Charlotte Frank . The building houses four hundred offices for up to 500 employees. The architecture of the new chancellery is controversial: some Germans view the building as a symbol of power and needless extravagance, while others praise its clarity and openness.
The Reichstag is situated on what was once the bordering line between East and West. The Berlin Wall snaked by right behind the building. Even though there is no longer any trace of the Wall, the division between east and west Berlin sometimes still becomes obvious in everyday life - if only in people's heads.