Location/Culture Reports

Berlin, Germany

History
Around 1230, a municipal charter was granted to the settlements of Cölin and Berlin. They built a joint town hall in 1307. In 1871, King William I became Emperor of Germany, which was the first time that Germany was a truly unified nation, and Berlin was declared the capital. In 1918, Germany became a republic and Berlin remained the capital.
The memorial to the Berlin Airlift at Tempelhoff Airport.
The memorial to the Berlin Airlift at Tempelhoff Airport.
After WWII, Germany was divided into four sectors. The East (including Berlin) was administered by the Soviet Union, the Southwest by the USA, the West by Great Britain, and the Northwest by France. The city of Berlin was divided into similar sectors. In 1948, the Soviets blockaded Berlin and permitted no ground access to the city by the western countries. In order to keep the West Berliners supplied with the necessities of life, the Allies organized the Berlin Air Lift flying supplies in via three 20-mile-wide air corridors.

In 1958, the Soviet Union demanded that West Berlin (made up of the US, British, and French sectors) should become a "free, demilitarized city." In 1961, in the dark of night, the Soviets began construction on a wall to enclose West Berlin and restrict movement from East to West Berlin. This wall left West Berlin as an isolated island in the middle of a communist country at the height of the Cold War. The wall stood until 1989, when it was brought down and free travel between the two Berlins (and two Germanys) was allowed. Two years later in 1991, East and West Germany were officially reunited and Berlin was, once again, the capital of Germany.
The Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche
The Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche
Places visited on the race

Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächntniskirche
The Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächntniskirche (Emperor William Memorial Church) was built in 1891-5. It suffered damage during World War II during a massive Allied forces air attack on November 23, 1943. Its ruins were supposed to be demolished to make place for a planned new building in 1956. Many Berliners were opposed to the demolition of the tower they call the "hollow tooth" and, after some emotional protests, it was decided to integrate the ruins into a new building. This new church contains numerous exhibits and serves as both a modern church with an active congregation and a reminder of the horrors of war.
The Brandenburg Tor in 1986 - in the no-man's land between East and West Berlin.
The Brandenburg Tor in 1986 - in the no-man's land between East and West Berlin.
Brandenburg Tor
For many years, the Brandenburg Gate, stranded in the no-man’s land between East and West Berlin, was a symbol of divided Germany. This role was nothing new for the Gate, which has often been at the center of German history. It was built in 1788-91 at the western end of Unter den Linden Straße and was the final gate leading into historical Berlin and the emperor's palace. The statue on top of the Gate is called the Quadriga. After he conquered Prussia, Napoleon claimed this statue as a spoil of war. It was returned in 1814 after the French army was driven out of the Germany and the goddess's an oak wreath was replaced by a scepter with an iron cross – reflecting the change of mindset from peace to victory .
When Berlin was a divided city, graffitti was only seen on the Western side of the Wall.
When Berlin was a divided city, graffitti was only seen on the Western side of the Wall.
The East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is a 1.3 km-long section of border wall located on the northern bank of the Spree river. Many artists painted murals on the wall and it soon started to gain international attention. This section of wall was officially dubbed the East Side Gallery in September 1990.

Teufelsberg
Teufelsberg (Devil's Hill) is a huge mound (377 ft high) that was built up from 33 million cubic yards of rubble from the destroyed buildings of Berlin on a site formerly occupied by the Faculty of Military Science. The top of the hill offers good views of the city and the area is rich with recreation facilities.
Checkpoint Charlie back in its day as an active border crossing station.
Checkpoint Charlie back in its day as an active border crossing station.
Climate and nature
Berlin gets cold in the winter. Rain occurs year-round. Berlin is a very “green” city. About 45 percent of it is undeveloped, and includes forests, agricultural tracts, parks, and water.

Fun fact
Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood is home to trendy anarchists and Turkish immigrants. The Lonely Planet guide describes it as “a bit self-consciously alternative,” with Turkish cafes and markets, bookstores, and an underground art and music scene. Be careful visiting Kreuzberg on May 1 – that’s the day of the annual ritual riot.

For further reading
Berlin
Metropolis '05 Berlin
The Berlin Wall
Lonely Planet's Berlin Travel Information
Berline Tourist Information
Breakthrough: The Fight for Freedom at the Berlin Wall
Berlin Airlift
Walks through Berlin
Wall Tour

German History