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Hackesche Hfe
Hackesche Höfe
#About the Colorful and Playful Complex in Berlin

One of the more colorful attractions in Berlin, is the complex named Hackesche Höfe, at the old Jewish quarter of the city. Around the inner courtyards, existing here since the 20th century, streets are paved with stores, bars, restaurants, galleries and design stores. The courtyards are nicknamed by some of the Berlin locals as ‘The Barn.’

During the evening and night hours the complex changes so much, it could even be hard to recognize it! Many have a hard time believing it is the same place that they visited earlier that very day. The complex fills up with young people, coming in to pass away the hours in the lively area. The Hackesche Höfe is one of the most recommended nightlife areas in Berlin. There is vast nightlife here, with clubs, bars, and restaurants where alcohol flows like water, and the celebrations can go on until the small hours of the night.

There is a decent number of tourist attractions to be found in this complex. In the courtyards themselves one can see all kinds of vegetations, and art is a key player here (by the way, notice that the connecting between the courtyards remind the shape of the letter ‘S’, which is a calculated architectural concept and is not by accident). Despite the constant effort to provide to tourists, it seems that this complex truly shows an authentic Berlin that enables a true local experience.

Beyond the set tourist sites, the Hackesche Höfe becomes an even livelier center for a few occasions during the week. On Thursdays and Saturdays there is a food market, and during the summer months tourists
can enjoy street artists scattered around the complex. Sometimes the complex can be over crowded (especially during the summer months and weekends), but in a way this is part of the charm.



#Inside the Hackesche Höfe Complex

In this interesting complex are eight courtyards that were built at the beginning of the 20th century, in the Jugendstil style. Not only did these courtyards serve to the Jewish population, but the owner of the complex was a Jewish man named Jacob Michael.

If you walk into courtyard number 39, you would probably observe a mostly neglected courtyard (the Schwarzenberg House), but inside are several small museums in the memory of the Holocaust. Among them is the Otto Weidt Workshop for the Blind (in German - Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt), which hides a spectacular story of the owners that saved the lives of their Jewish employees during World War II.

Tourists can go to the movie theater where movies are screened in their original languages (which is, by the way, one of only several theaters in Berlin that do so).

Additionally, tourists can walk along the colorful graffiti walls where Anne Frank’s famous painting is located.



A Closer Look at Hackesche Höfe:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaJtthYa4qY
Unter Den Linden
Unter den Linden
#About the Elegant Avenue of Berlin - Avenue de la Linden

This wide boulevard, full of the classic European splendor and elegance, starts at the Brandenburg Gate and ends with Museum Island, this is undoubtedly the city's main tourist axis and an excellent starting point for a fascinating tour of the history of the German capital and its tourist attractions.

The boulevard received its name the from the Linden trees planted alongside it. In recent years, the boulevard has been extensively renovated.

Unter den Linden Boulevard, meaning "under the trees" in German, stretches for about a kilometer and a half. On both sides are some of the city's most important sites and buildings. One can see so many intriguing sites and architectural monuments that stand in its vicinity.

From there you can see Humboldt University - the first university in Berlin, the Opera Building and the Academy of the Arts, the Berliner Dom, the Guggenheim Gallery, as well as the Alexanderplatz to the east, with the TV Tower attached to it, the Reichstag Gate, the Holocaust Memorial to the West and the Friedrichstrasse shopping street across it.

But this boulevard, with its neo-classical structures, is not only beautiful. Here, one of the most difficult historical events in modern history took place. In the square of Bebelplatz, opposite Humboldt University, in 1933 the burning of the books took place, in which the Nazis set fire to thousands of books whose contents were against their distorted ideology.



#Tips

A weekly artists' fair takes place every week on Saturdays and Sundays. It happens in the little pedestrian walkway just before the bridge crosses the Spree River.



A Closer Look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5N_ZLdU7-18
Museumsinsel
Museum Island
#About the Island with the Important German Museum

The Museum Island (Museumsinsel) is Berlin's cultural center. A number of important art and science museums are located on this natural island, located on the Spree River from 1830, and is considered a source of pride for Berliners.

Among the museums is the famous museum for antiquities, the Pergamon Museum, which houses one of the most important collections of antiquities in the world.

Also on the island are several other museums:

The Old National Gallery - featuring 19th-century German art.

The Neues Museum - which displays ancient Egyptian art, an ancient papyrus collection, prehistoric exhibits and antiques from the classical period. The most famous item in the museum is the statue of Nefertiti, Queen of Egypt.

The Bode Museum - a museum dedicated to the art of Byzantium, medieval art and early modern art.

Due to the architectural importance of the museum buildings themselves, the whole island was declared a World Heritage Site. In the large, pleasant park next to the large museum plaza, the Lustgarten Park, one can relax a little while strolling between the museums.



#The History of Museum Island

The foundations for the island were put up by King Frederick Wilhelm IV in the first half of the 19th century. He decided to establish a museum complex, to which he would transfer the royal family’s collections, a generous decision that allowed the German public to enjoy the kingdom’s treasures that had been compiled by kings for generations.

For this purpose the king chose the northern side of the island inside Berlin, which was formed between the arms of the Spree River, which passes through the city. He ordered the architect Schinkel, whose work he admired and loved, to set up the first museum on the Museum Island.

Before the bombings of World War II, the authorities moved most of the contents from the museums outside the Berlin city area. This was done to protect the items from destruction. Things that could not be removed from Berlin were covered with sandbags. During the last bombardment over Berlin in the war, the Americans completely destroyed the island. The fact that most of the items were taken out of it before the bombings kept them from being completely destroyed.



A Closer Look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQJ6xIdMgtk
Pergamonmuseum
Pergamon Museum
#About the Museum that Catalogues Ancient Cultures

In Museum Island is located one of the most noticeable museums in Berlin – Pergamon Museum (Pergamonmuseum). You can be exposed to different architecture from different time periods – ancient Greek and Roman, Middle East, and more. The museum was built between the years 1910-1930 by Alfred Bin and Ludwig Hoffman.

So what is the reason that this museum was opened for? When the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum was constructed it was already understood that not all the archeological items that were discovered and collected around the world could be housed there. This is why back in 1907, the decision was made to built another building to house the rest of the collection by Wilhelm von Bode, the Kaiser Museum curator.

More than a million visitors come to the museum each year. This museum today is considered a world heritage site, especially for its unique architecture and the unique collections it possesses.



#What to See at the Museum

At the museum anyone can see a few amazing historical exhibits; the Pergamon altar, a marble altar built in the 2nd century BC, in the Greek city of Pergamon, and remained almost intact. Also on display are 113 meters of the Frieze altar. The market gate from Miletus from the Roman period, the Ishtar Gate which was the eighth entrance to the city of Babylon, the façade of the Shata Palace, and a milk room directly from the milk room in Syria. Visitors can also admire the other exhibits from Near Eastern cultures such as Babylon, Assyria, and other great empires of the ancient world.

More at the museum is the fascinating Islamic Museum. The Islamic Museum used to sit at the entrance to the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, but was moved here. Among the displays is the façade of the Palace of Shata, today located South of Amman in Jordan. This frontal façade was given as a gift from the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II to the Kaiser Wilhelm II

There is also an ancient collection of statues from marble and bronze at the museum, and architectural elements from ancient Greece and Rome such as mosaics and jewelry.



#Pergamon Museum during World War II

During World War II the building of the museum was badly destroyed. This is also the reason that many of the artifacts were stored ahead of time in a shelter for their protection. Full models were covered by a protective layer. Until today one can see damage to the building from the war on its North side.

In 1945 the Red Army collected the displays and moved them to the Soviet Union. They were returned to German only 13 years later. Not all of them, only parts. The ones that were not returned can see today in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Overall, even with Russia’s promise to return all items to Germany (an agreement that was signed in 2003), it has still not done so because of a Russian law (Russian law forbids taking archeological finds outside the country).



A Closer Look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5v39kYZk8U

Must See in Berlin

Brandenburger Tor
Brandenburg Gate
#About the Iconic Berlin Brandenburg Gate

The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) has already known 800 historic years of fame, and has become one of the most important symbols for Germany and Berlin in particular. The Gate is located at Paris Square, not far from the Reichstag Gate, and is the last gate left from a series of gates that were used as entryways into the city. This gate also stands in the spot where the Berlin Wall once divided West and East Berlin.

The gate is styled after the Propylaea style (a monumental gate building that was used as the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece). Just like the use of Propylaea to lead into the temple of the ancient world, is the same use of the Brandenburg Gate to lead into the most important city of the Kingdom of Prussia. Talking about architecture, the gate completely announced the entrance into the classical Berlin architecture age.

The gate was built between 1788 – 1791. Its height is 15 meters tall, 65.6 meters wide, and 11 meters longs. It contains 12 columns each 15 meters tall, with a meter and a half diameter. Through here are five separate passageways, though only two were originally opened. Today the gate is for pedestrian use only.

The gate and fence symbolize freedom and unification, and today it is one of the most important locations in the city.


#About the History of the Brandenburg Gate

The gate was especially ordered by Frederick Wilhelm II, who was the King of Prussia and his mission was to symbolize peace. You can see his portrait on the German Euro coins.

In 1806, after the conquering of Berlin, Napoleon walked through the gate into Berlin and took with him the statue above the gate, the Quadriga,
as a war prize. Napoleon transferred the statue to Paris.

In 1914 the war celebrations were celebrated around this gate.

In 1933 the Nazi’s walked through the gate in a march that symbolized the beginning of the darkest time in the history of Germany, what would lead to the destruction of the city and its division.

With the end of World War II the gate was badly damaged by bombings.

In 1987 the President of the United States Reagan visited Berlin, and gave a speech in front of the gate where he called the President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, “if you are a man of peace, take down this wall.” After a wave of applause, in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, and the gate became a symbol for the reunited Berlin. At the same time the gate also became a main location for different celebrations: New Year’s Eve, the Berlin Marathon, street markets and the Pride and Love Parade.

Between the years 2000 and 2002 the gate went through extensive renovations, to the price of about 3 million dollars.

After the war the gate became a part of the wall dividing East and West Berlin, and also symbolized the city’s division.



#What Do You See in the Statue Above the Gate?

The statue that is above the Brandenburg Gate is the Quadriga, it is a horse carriage lead by four horses. On the carriage is the figure of the goddess of victory (Victoria), carrying an olive branch and riding to bring peace into the city. At the base of the statue you can see symbols of war and of the renovations that came after. The carriage was used in the ancient Olympic games in Greece and in carriage races in ancient Rome.

In 1806, after the conquering of Berlin, the status was stolen by Napoleon and taken to Paris. It was returned to its rightful place only 8 years later, in 1814, with the olive branch having been replaced by a cross. This was also the reason for the difference in the statue’s symbol – from a bringer of peace to a goddess of victory.


A Closer Look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmlinwrCSF4
Alexanderplatz
Alexander Sqaure
#About Berlin’s Main Square and Its Massive Department Store

Alexander Square (Alexanderplatz) is a big square on the East side of Berlin. This square is a Berlin-style combination between the still present communist design, nearby modern luxury shops, and big chain brands that have sprung up in the recent years.

Alexanderplatz is a popular tourist destination in Berlin. All the public transportation in the city pass through the square, making it a great location for huge shopping centers, souvenirs shops, and many street artists and peddlers.

At the center of the square is the Berlin TV tower, one of the tallest buildings in Europe. Tourists are able to reach the top of the tower and enjoy the beautiful view of all Berlin and its surroundings. If you visit during high tourist season, you can take advantage of the long elevator wait and spend time wandering around the square.

Make sure to see the mechanical statute ‘The World Clock,’ which has been located in the square since the Eastern Germany days. The clock displays the time in different big cities around the world.

Near the square you can see the red City Hall of the Berlin municipality building.



#Alexanderplatz History – Once this Place Was Used to Sell Meats!

Up to the 18th century, the Alexanderplatz area was Berlin’s main cattle market. Changing the square’s name to ‘Alexanderplatz’ was on October 25th, 1805, when the city officials decided to honor the Russian Czar Alexander I, during his visit to Berlin.

At the end of the 19th century, a railway station was established there, and it became a main center for transportation. Pretty soon the area developed all around the station, turning the square into an extensive trading area with an active market.

At the time of the Weimar Republic in the 1920’s, Alexanderplatz alongside the Potsdamer Platz, became the center of Berlin’s nightlife. At the end of the 1920’s, Alexanderplatz was commemorated in the novel “Berlin, Alexanderplatz,” by novelist Alfred Dublin. The basis of this novel created the storyline for two movies, the first in 1930’s and the second in the 1980’s.

During World War II the square was heavily bombed, and was badly damaged. In the 1960’s it was renovated by the Eastern German government, and the square became the center of East Berlin. This is when the TV tower (The Fernsehturm) was added to the square, which was the second tallest tower in Europe.



A Closer Look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxrn3lSAIQ0
Denkmal Fr Die Ermordeten Juden Europas
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
#About the Memorial in Memory of the Many Jewish People Murdered by the Nazis

The Holocaust Memorial (Denkmal Für Die Ermordeten Juden Europas) was built exactly where the office of the Nazi oppressor Hitler was once located. The monument is the main memorial in Germany for the commemoration of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and for the crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis.

The monument purposefully reminds us of a massive grave site, a sort of huge collection of graves and dark headstones, all different sizes, as if its designers wanted to say that everyone was murdered – men, women, and children.

The location of the memorial site, right at the center of Belin and near the Reichstag Gate, makes sure that no one can ignore it. Many people are not aware that under the memorial is an information center underground dedicated to conserving the Holocaust victims, with multimedia presentation about the subject.

The designer of the Holocaust Memorial, the official name being “The Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe,” and spans over 19,000 square meters, is the Jewish American architect Peter Eisenman. He designed it as a field, with 2,711 horizontal headstones, an older style of headstones, in columns and rows, creating mazes between the spaces, where one can stay and contemplate. Eisenman refused to explain the odd number of headstones, and said the number had no meaning.



#About the Scandal Around the Holocaust Memorial

Before the memorial site was finished being built, a few scandals arose regarding it. This started criticism for its simple design, others complained about the absurd amount of space it would take up, some said that children run around and play at the site like a park, and there were groups who complained that the memorial needs to be in the memory of other groups also murdered by the Nazis.

But the most embarrassing moment brought up was that that the company for the coating of the pillars, Degusa, was found to have held a subsidiary company during World War II that produced that same Zyklon B type gas, used for the mass murders of Jews. The executives of this company were even tried for their part in the war.



A Closer Look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPRX_cr1s0k
Neus Synagoge Berlin
New Synagogue Berlin
#About the Synagogue that was Restored After it was Burned on Kristallnacht

As early as the 19th century, the New Synagogue (Neus Synagoge Berlin) was one of the brightest buildings in the city. Its large gold dome, 50.2 meters high, one can spot from all over the city. On both sides of the dome, you will see two smaller domes that remind of Muslim mosques. The synagogue was built between 18599 and 1866, and was initially the largest and most beautiful synagogue in Germany.

During Kristallnacht, between November 9th and 10th, 1938, the Nazis tried to set the building on fire. One policemen standing in the neighborhood managed to prevent the fire, claiming that the building was for preservation. However, the fate of the building haunted him. In 1943, the synagogue was destroyed by Allied bombings. Its reconstruction began only a few decades later, in 1988.

Today the synagogue is not active, but you can find the Centrum Judaicum, which is a Jewish Cultural Center. The museum also has a permanent exhibition that presents the life of the Jews in the city, changing exhibitions that teach about Jewish history and contemporary art, as well as a historical archives. In the main hall there are 3,200 seats for worshipers who used to come here in the past.



#Architecture of the Synagogue

In April 1857, an architectural competition was held in the city of Berlin to design the new synagogue. The architect Eduard Knoblauch was in charge of the competition, but since he was not able to choose any of the plans, he designed the building himself. Two years later in 1859, Knoblauch fell ill, and the building continued by Friedrich August Stüller, a friend of Knoblauch. The construction was complete in 1861, but the interior was delayed and concluded only in 1866. The cost of all the construction amounted to about 750,000 thaler.

The design of the synagogue is a tribute to the architecture of the Iberian Peninsula. On the façade of the building you will see colored stones and terra cotta, and the caption: "Open the gates and bring the righteous, the guard of the faithful" (Yeshayahu 26:2) The width of the front is 29 meters and the length of the synagogue is 97 meters. This building is one of the first built in Berlin in the modern era using modern construction methods.



#The Organ Quarrel

The community leaders of Berlin wanted to install an organ in the new synagogue, a musical instrument that was very closely associated with the church. Jewish leaders forbade the introduction of the instrument, for reasons of "following in the laws of the gentiles." In order to try to resolve the dispute, the committee invited the opinion of well-known rabbis in Germany, and here too the opinions were split into two:

The Orthodox Rabbis did not allow any kind of organ use in the synagogue, neither on the Sabbath nor on weekdays.

Reformist Rabbi Abraham Geiger, on the other hand, ridiculed the situation. In 1862 it was determined that playing an organ on the Sabbath by a gentile does not violate or contradict the Halakhah.



#Tips

It has recently been reported that the synagogue is temporarily closed. If you intend to enter it, try and find out if it has reopened first.



A Closer Look:

https://youtu.be/2TxFImu-Id0


East Side Gallery
East Side Gallery
#About Berlin’s Open Gallery

The East Side Gallery, is a gallery for graffiti art painted on the Berlin Wall, conveying various messages, social, political and universal.

The gallery is located on Mühlenstraße Boulevard in the Friedrichshain district, in the center of Berlin, Germany. The wall here, as you can see, is completely covered with beautiful, colorful, graffiti. These colorful, aesthetic and expressive paintings are full of creativity and ingenuity. Like graffiti should be, but with permission and often even invitation. All the artists were invited to paint on the Berlin Wall.

The East Side Gallery is the longest surviving remnant of the Berlin Wall. The paintings on the wall were painted by 118 artists from 21 countries, there are 105 paintings in all. In 2009, the colorful paintings were restored and preserved to ensure they will continue to be as beautiful and unique as in the past.



A Closer Look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeZ80um0GdI
Jewish Museum Berlin
#About the Museum with the Jewish History in Germany

The Jewish Museum in Berlin (Jüdisches Museum Berlin) opened in 2001 and was designed by the famous Jewish architect Daniel Liebeskind. Liebeskind’s building is impressive and large, coated with zinc and built in the shape of a broken Star of David. This building’s exterior looks like ruins, broken walls with cracks. In Liebeskind’s design he evokes identification with the terrible Jewish catastrophe of unparalleled magnitude - the Holocaust.

The museum displays a permanent exhibition 3,000 square meters, where visitors can examine and learn about the 2,000 years of Jewish history in Germany: pictures, objects and stories that together provide a clear and nostalgic picture of Jewish life in Germany. To enhance the experience, visitors will also experience interactive exhibits with multimedia, becoming active participants in the exhibition.

The temporary exhibits at the museum show the history of German Jewry, from the Roman period to the present. The exhibits showcases the Holocaust and give a glimpse into the years following the war, years of flourishing culture, years of cultural ruins of the many communities that were no more.

The museum halls emphasize the missing, the absent. This is how the museum manages to mention the millions who were murdered.



#The History of the Museum

How did the idea begin for a Jewish Museum? Well, Albert Wolf's collection of Judaica was donated to the Berlin community, where the collection began to develop. The person who developed it was Karl Schwartz, the Museum's first director.

The first Jewish Museum was not located here, and opened many years prior to the present museum. In 1933, in Oranienburger Street (Oranienburger Straße) stood the first museum. Among the items found here was a collection of royal medals inscribed in Hebrew.

In 1938, not surprisingly, the Nazi regime ordered the immediate closure of the museum according to the Nuremberg Laws (racial laws defining a German citizen). The museum's works were then vandalized. Years later, in 1961, there was another attempt to display the Jewish exhibits, this time at the Jewish Community Center in Berlin.

In 1971, the Berlin Municipality reopened the museum, and in 1975 a special association was established to build the Jewish Museum. The museum opened as an annex at the Berlin Museum, and became an independent museum in 1999, moving to its present location in the center of Berlin. It was officially opened in 2001.



#The Museum's Architecture

Berlin is a city that is not easy to stomach, especially for Jews, as it returns them to a difficult and intolerable past. The Jewish Museum in Berlin was built so that it could respond to these difficult feelings. On the outside, it is not clear what the sealed bloc holds, and it is impossible to know how many floors or halls are inside.

The building's facade looks like ruins, inside are halls in which absence is clearly felt. Its general shape is that of a broken Star of David. The building is 150 meters long and 27 meters high. Without a doubt, the purpose of Daniel Liebeskind, the Jewish architect who designed this building, who was also the son of a Holocaust survivor, was to oppose the neo-classical architecture or any other symbol that represented Nazi architecture.

The entrance to the museum is through the nearby building that was once the city municipal court and also the Berlin Museum. In 2007 Liebeskind connected the two buildings with a glass ceiling and created a closed courtyard designed according to the Jewish Sukkah.

On the steps inside the museum, visitors will reach a fork in the way that leads to three different paths: one that leads to a dead end (whose purpose is to undermine the stability of the visitor, to provide a feeling of helplessness and confusion), another to the historical wing (the history of the Jews over hundreds of years), and the third one that leads outside to the garden, representing the diaspora and immigration.

When it opened in 2001, the museum succeeded in creating a cultural debate that was hard to ignore. The architecture was talked about, the design, the materials, the history, the exhibits and all. Another question that arises is whether the architecture of the museum succeeds in answering the real needs of the museum or whether the interesting work harms the display of exhibits and items. With that, it is hard to ignore the fact that the museum manages to attract about 700,000 visitors every year.



A Closer Look:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKucqKcmlrM
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
#About the Church the Kaiser Built

The Protestant Church (Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche) was first built in the 1890’s. Kaiser Wilhelm II built the church in memory of his grandfather, and made sure to inaugurate the building on his grandfather’s birthday – September 1, 1895. He was the one who chose the location for the church, and started a competition for the design of the building, which the architect Franz Schwechten won. Schwechten later became the Royal Architect and a member of the Academy for Construction. Beyond the neo-Romanesque design, Schwechten also wanted to create a mosaic wall the size of 2,740 square meters that displayed the life of the Kaiser.

This church was very important to the Kaiser, and he took a very serious and prominent role in designing and building the church. That being said, the Kaiser’s family did not make any donations of any kind towards the building of the church, whose price reached about 6.8 million marks. Around the church other buildings were built in the same neo-Romanesque style, and the entire neighborhood received the nickname ‘the Roman Forum.’

The church walls are scattered with blue windows. On Saturdays at 6 pm a concert is performed by organ.



#The Church During the War

Due to the heavy bombings during World War II, the church was badly damaged. During an air raid by the royal air force on the 23rd of November, the roof over the center of the church collapsed, along with the top most part of the building. Many parts of the church were destroyed, and the only part that remained was a part of the bell tower (whose height is 68 meters).

Despite the Nazi leadership’s promised to the citizens of Berlin to repair and improve the church into a more big and beautiful structure at the end of the war, the plans were never executed. The reason was the tough financial times that Germany went into, and perhaps because of fear that new national pride might rise up with the renovation of the building. Only in 1956 were the church ruins removed, all except the partial bell tower that was left as a memorial for the war.

The church was built again between the years of 1959 – 1963, in the neo- Romanesque style. Alongside the church and its original turret, a new church was built with a bell tower that was inaugurated in 1961. The combination of their shapes got them the nickname ‘The Cover Up’ and ‘the Lipstick.’ Be sure not to miss the damaged bell tower, which only has a part left standing, kept since the war, and the ground floor that has become a sort of memorial hall. Because of its appearance, Berlin locals refer to the turret as ‘The Broken Tooth.’



A Closer Look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtQWvrLlgKI
Reichstag
#The Historic Building with the Modern Glass Dome

If one is interested in understanding the revolutions that Germany has undergone in the past few hundreds years, there is no place like the Reichstag, the German parliament building. This building is very impressive, and was built during the 19th century. Since the German unification, the Reichstag building has resumed its role as the building for the unified German parliament. Inside sits the Bundestag, the German House of Representatives.

The burning of the original Reichstag building gave Hitler the excuse he needed to constitute anti-democratic laws, and begin his crazed path, that will lead to the death and destruction of all of Europe and millions of people.

The famous photo of Russian soldiers waving the Soviet flag on the roof of the destroyed Reichstag was the strongest symbol of the victory over the Nazi regime.

It is no surprise that with the unification of Germany in 1988, it was decided that Germany will resume their parliament at the Reichstag, but with a modern and new twist to the building. In a big renovation effort, a transparent glass dome was added on the roof, signaling the transparency of the new democratic German government. This glass dome enables a beautiful outlook upon the city of Berlin. The center of the dome has an area which tells the story of the history of the building, and many these opem areas are to the public viewing, where from the terrace it is possible to see a panoramic view of Berlin.

From here is it possible to see the wonderful gardens of Tiergarten Park, which is located nearby, and the modern Potsdam Square.

From the inside of the dome it is possible to observe the plenary hall, where German Parliament sits and makes decisions.



#About the Reichstag Fire

Until 1933, the Reichstag building was used as the seat of German Parliament. The fire that erupted in the building, less than one month after Hitler’s rise to power, is futured to change the history of Germany and the entire world.

The fire erupted in the Reichstag during the evening hours of February 27th, 1933. When the police received warning of the fire, the fire seemed as though it was spreading from several locations inside the building simultaneously, a sign that the building was purposely set on fire. A huge explosion ended up destroying the Plenary Hall of the German Parliament. Police members who arrived on the scene found a half-naked Dutch young man in the yard, who was very confused, named Marinus van der Lubbe.

This Marinus van der Lubbe was an unemployed communist, who arrived in Germany with the purpose of stopping the Nazi rise to power. The police claim that Mr. van der Lubbe admitted to starting the fire, with the intention of causing a riot against the Nazis. Later on, while being tortured, he denied that the fire was a part of a communist plan against the Nazis.

Regardless of his confession, Hermann Goering rushed to notify Hitler and the heads of state that the fire was a communist act. Hitler ordered to arrest the communist party leaders in Germany. The next day, Hitler hurried to declare a state of emergency and convinced President Paul von Hindenburg to sign the ‘Reichstag Fire Decree.’ Hitler claimed this was done in order to “protect the nation against dangerous violence from the Communists.”

This decree overruled seven articles in the laws of the Weimar Republic, and gave the government the ability to infringe on personal freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom for the right to privacy. The government was therefore allowed to conduct house searched as they wished, confiscate property, and even impose the death punishment on a long list of crimes.

Hitler hurried to ensure a list of 4,000 people to be taken into custody as part of the decree. Mostly communists, but some were also rival Nazi leaders, some social- democratic liberals, religious figures and of course, Jewish people. Even with their Parliamentary status, some German Parliament member were also arrested. In a note of sarcasm, they were all arrested for ‘defensive custody,’ as though to protect them…

And so the Reichstag fire was a monumental time for the Nazi regime in Germany and its reign of terror. Hitler hastened to use this event to get rid of his opponents, and to establish his anti-democratic government, while at the same time releasing himself from the laws placed by the Weimar Republic. This is how he begun what 6 years later would start the biggest and most horrifying war in the history of the world.



#The Reichstag Architecture

As a city that was almost all reconstructed after World War II, the style that combines the preservation of the old together with the new, characterizes modern Berlin. In this style the Reichstag was also remodeled.

When looking at the Reichstag building is seems as though nothing correlates between the building and the modern glass dome that was added to it. The combination between the classic building to the modern glass dome ensures that the building is without a doubt a spectacular thing to look at.

And truly, the dome belongs to a new era, a different time from when the facade of the building was built. It was added 100 years later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the Reichstag was being restored and became the Parliament building for unified Germany.

Even after the remodeling, the original exterior of the building remains, which creates to a big contrast between the emerged dome and the building’s exterior. The original building was built on columns. The front exterior has arc like windows, lined by many statutes along the entire facade.



#Tips

You must register for a visit to the Reichstag building.
Do this in advance, via the Reichstag building website (see link below).

Visiting the Reichstag building is free of charge.

Be sure to pay attention to opening days. The building is closed during German holidays.



A Closer Look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShF5tl5sg1c
Checkpoint Charlie
#About the Place that Symbolized the Cold War

Checkpoint Charlie is located in the center of Berlin, and was the main crossing point between East and West Berlin. And so, during the end of the Cold War the decision was made to keep the checkpoint, including the armed guards who stand in front, with piles of sand bags laying around.

The point is located at one of the main streets in Berlin, Frederick Street (Friedrichstraße in German). From here it tells the historic story of the Berlin Wall and the divided Berlin city.

Today Checkpoint Charlie is a tourist destination, but while the Berlin Wall still stood, it was one of the main tension points between East and West Berlin. During the Cold War era there were many of escape attempts into West Berlin, some through Checkpoint Charlie. Most of these attempts failed, many times ended with the escapee’s death, only every so often a successful escape.

Who is Charlie you might ask? Charlie, as some might think, is not a person that this checkpoint was name after. Charlie is the word that stands for the letter ‘C,’ meaning the number 3 in military terms.



#About Checkpoint Charlie for Tourists

The crossing point Checkpoint Charlie is considered one of the most popular destinations for tourists. Along the street are many stores, souvenirs shops, cafes and restaurants, but tourists prefer the checkpoint.

When arriving at the location of Checkpoint Charlie, one sees a small shack in the middle of the street, in front of which are soldiers standing still, actors of course, dressed in an army uniform and big flags waving nearby. The soldiers offer tourists to take photos with them, for a small donation. Around the shack, as if the Cold War has not ended, are placed many sandbags…these show the military tension that used to haunt the spot, between the soldiers of East Berlin and the soldiers of West Berlin. There is also a stand here for passport controls, and permits into East Berlin. This place used to cost some people their lives, today, “only” 5 euros will get you a permit.



#About the Person who Ran to Freedom at Checkpoint Charlie

His name was Conrad Schumann, and he was the first person to cross the Berlin Wall that divided East and West Berlin. Schumann, a part of the East Berlin police force, saw the injustice that the Berlin Wall division created. Especially horrifying to Schumann was a situation he observed, where a small girl from West Berlin, while visiting her grandmother in East Berlin, was not allowed to cross back at the end of her visit. With his own eyes he saw the girl’s parents begging, the crying girl, and the soldiers ordering the girl to go back to her home, on the East side of the city…

After receiving an order from his officers to shoot to death anyone trying to escape to West Berlin, Conrad Schumann decided to abandon East Berlin and escape to the West himself. He did this by bravely jumping above the barbed wire wall, which he was supposed stop others from doing. And in one second he was free.

What is incredible, is that during that jump he was photographed on his way to freedom. The picture of him jumping at Checkpoint Charlie turned into a propaganda sensation. In the battle between the Communists and the Liberals in divided Germany at the time, this picture was like the golden egg of propaganda. “East German soldiers are themselves trying to escape” – the politicians from the West would declare again and again. They had no idea how right there were. The Easter Berliners all felt as if they were in one last prisoner’s camp.

Schumann did not see himself as a hero. At interviews he repeated that again and again. He met a young lady in Germany and married her, found a job and ran a normal life. But life in the West was not easy also, which can be judged by the fact that in 1990 Schumann committed suicide.



A Closer Look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxRjIXUubMw
Tiergarten Park
#About Berlin's Green Lung

Tiergarten Park is the largest and most central park of Berlin. In the center there is a lake, and also the Berlin Zoo, the largest zoo in Europe.
It lies south of the Spree River, and to the east is the Brandenburg Gate. You can find a few pleasant hours to spend and relax here. Between the lawns, the groves and the small lakes you can stroll and meet the statues of the greatest Germans throughout the ages.

The Tiergarten Park is probably Berlin's "sun terrace." During warm days, many Berliners and tourists love to come to the lawns. They spread a towel on the grass and sun tan.

On the western side of the park you can join the nudists, who tan here naked, without any clothes.

Cinema fans may be surprised to discover the Berlin Victory Column in the center of the park, also known as the Angels' Home from the film by German director Wim Wenders, "Angels in the Sky of Berlin."



A Closer Look:

https://youtu.be/VbhB22CS2kU


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