The origins of Berlin, built on the river Spree, go back to the 13th Century. The city was originally in Prussia, but that German state was dissolved after WW II.
Berlin was divided into four sectors following WW II - American, British, French and Russian. In 1961, the Russians became so embarrassed by the numbers of people escaping from their sector to the West - about 2,000 per day, eventually totaling one-sixth of the population of the Russian sector - that they built the infamous "Wall." While some still managed to escape, over 80 people died attempting to scale that wall, and we saw a memorial to those brave souls - a series of white crosses bearing their names.
So, what happened to the Wall? Beginning in early 1989, communist governments started crumbling all over eastern Europe, and the Soviets no longer had the will to go in with tanks and prop up those regimes. The Hungarian border with Austria was opened, and thousands of East Germans poured through Hungary to freedom. In November, East Germans had had enough, and through demonstrations and disturbances that began in the city of Leipzig, demanded an end to their hated system of government. Our Berlin tour guide gave up a graphic description of the night of November 9, 1989. She was watching TV, when an East German official answered a reporter's question by saying "the border is open as of now." No one could believe their ears. Our guide said that she and many others ran to the wall to see thousands of people streaming into West Berlin from the Eastern Sector. No one slept that night. They celebrated. Our guide returned home at 6:00 the next morning, just in time to clean up and go to work. The wall was, soon after, hacked to pieces. Before long, the communist regime collapsed, and on July 1, 1990, East and West Germany were reunited, and the German capital was moved back to Berlin.
Here is a photo I took that shows all that remains of the Berlin Wall. It's about a city block long. Also, a photo of the sign at "Checkpoint Charlie," where American and Russian tanks faced off. This most famous border crossing between East and West Berlin has been preserved as a memorial. Also, here are photos of the monument to the famous Berlin Airlift of 1948-49, and to the Allied airmen who died during that undertaking.
As for Berlin's dark Nazi past, little remains of the Hitler years. We did see the spot where Hitler's body was burned and buried after he committed suicide, and the courtyard where some of the officers who plotted to kill him with a briefcase bomb in July, 1944, were executed. That building somehow escaped destruction from Allied bombs. Today, a simple plaque bearing the names of Colonel von Stauffenberg and three other officers who were shot here is placed above a red memorial wreath.
The only other remnant of the Nazi years I saw was the recently discovered SS torture cells. They were uncovered while excavating the site of the former SS (Schutzstaffel) headquarters building.
We rode around various parts of Berlin, and visited one museum. Here are some pictures of the Brandenburg Gate (from a book - the gate was covered in scaffolding when I saw it), the famous Pergamon Museum, with it's priceless antiquities from Babylon, Greece and Rome, and the Charlottenburg Castle. I would call the latter a palace, but perhaps the Germans don't make the same distinctions between castles and palaces that are customary in other parts of Europe. For those who are interested, the third photo shows the reconstructed Market Gate of Miletis, built in 150 A.D., and the fourth photo shows (I believe) a section of the Pergamon Altar, erected in 180 B.C. in what is now Turkey. It was excavated and moved in sections to the museum. The next two images are from the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, also reconstructed in the museum. The last picture is of the Charlottenburg Castle.
Of course, there is a lot more to Berlin. It is a big city, with beautiful parks, stores, museums and theaters. But much of the city was rebuilt after 1945, and today's structures are of mostly modern architecture. I have no appreciation for such designs, and I didn't waste film capturing them. Also, a lot of what I saw was from our tour bus, and I didn't have a window seat. But here are a few photos from a book. The last one is the tree-lined main boulevard of the city.
Our tour made a side trip to the City of Potsdam, site of the historic conference between the Allied leaders soon after WW II ended. We saw the offices Truman, Churchill and Stalin used, and the conference room where they met to decide the future of Europe. That room has been preserved as it looked in 1945. We were only permitted to take photos outside the building, which is known as Cecilienhoff Palace, built to look like an English country house. It was the last Prussian palace, being completed in 1917.
I took the first two pictures. The others are from a book. The last two shots are of the conference room where the world leaders met, and the grand staircase.
Potsdam is actually a fair-sized city with many beautiful old buildings. We next went to Sanssouci Palace, the rococo-style summer residence of Frederick the Great, completed in 1748. Here are three pictures I took, plus an aerial view from a book.
This finished our stay in the Berlin area. Notice that I didn't mention our hotel. That's because I don't think we stayed at the place the tour book specified. I do remember it was in eastern Berlin and one of the bell boys wasn't very polite.
We then proceeded south into Saxony, to Leipzig.