A Portrait of Berlin

Reported By Carla Schulze

Have you ever heard from the Brandenburger gate, the Octoberfest? Or the unique curry sausage in Germany? Or possibly the history of the Berlin Wall and the segregation of the city?

As a German exchange student, I want to use my chance during my time here to bring you my culture and lifestyle a bit closer and thought to start with a little description of my hometown Berlin. 

Berlin is the capital of Germany and has a very special ‘’flavor’ ’that is hard to explain when you haven’t experienced it before. This special atmosphere in the city is created through the mix of many aspects that influence each other. 

The huge historical background of the city is still imprinted in the present and played a big role in the whole development of the city regarding its culture, the creation of specific educational institutions (which are related to the historical heritage of the town), and the way of thinking from the people that are daily out in the city. 

After WW2 ended in 1945 and the former regime was defeated, Germany tried to rebuild their horribly damaged country and recover economically but also psychologically from the war. This process was only possible through the support by the Allies (the Soviet Union, France, the United States and Great Britain). They split the land of Germany in four pieces, so that every state got something depending on their power and achievements they accomplished regarding the war. 

Map of Berlin’s separation, 1961-89

The Soviet Union and the US impacted the war the most. The final goal of these two world powers was to control Germany totally to prevent such an event from happening again. 

But over the years, the revival sponsored by the US and USSR increased tensions and caused a huge rivalry of political and economic polarization between the two countries, known as the Cold War. This term means that two opponents didn’t use actual weapons to fight, but instead waged on political, economic and propaganda fronts. 

The tip of the iceberg in this conflict was reached in the year 1961, when the Soviet Union started to barricade the border between the east and west part of Germany. From that day on, Germany and Berlin were separated East and West by a 96 mile concrete wall known as the Berlin Wall. 

The wall fell on November 9th 1989, after it was announced that East Germans could freely travel to West Germany.  Crowds of people from both sides flooded to the wall, eventually tearing down parts of the barrier. Germany reunited eleven months after the wall collapsed, on October 3rd, 1990

Crowds of German people reuniting after decades of division ,  November 9th, 1989

When you now walk around the city you can still see some remains of the wall that are spread out in the town to show where the wall exactly run through the city and of course also remember all people that pass this piece of historic leftover at the special events and the dark side of the city in the last century. 

During the Cold War, East Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union, which had very harsh rules for their citizens, as a result of East German people that tried to flee from the East to the West in order to achieve better living conditions. But the East German government immediately reacted to the wave of migrants by blocking the border completely and even shooting those who attempted to leave. This little time span in history influenced the lives of many Germans and still affected their behavior and reactions regarding social, political and also economic topics very much nowadays. 

“Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us.”

Remarks of President John F. Kennedy at the Rudolph Wilde Platz Berlin, June 26, 1963

Regardless of the oppression from the East German government, the people tried to express their feelings by using different mediums of art like music, literature, or the streetlife in order to escape to a place where they could express their emotions and opinions without being dictated. During this time, Germany had a large economic boom and led to development of cultural institutions, the role of the women changed completely, and finally the whole concept of society differs from the inhabitants of East Germany. 

Graffiti expressing citizens discontent with the wall

I’ve only mentioned a few factors that impacted the ‘’character’’ of Germany and in my opinion Berlin (the capital) represents the most important part of our history. 

Berlin in modern times is a colorful, pulsive and multicultural city. The people of Berlin are warmly accepting of every foreign culture and nation, encountering them with a high level of respect and tolerance and are very open-minded to learn from other nations.  

I would claim that everyone would find an interesting and challenging activity in my city that enriches you and expands your intellectual horizon in different directions. Berlin’s triumphant history is why it’s such a huge tourist magnet with travelers.

View of Alexanderplatz, The city center of Berlin, here you can feel Berlin’s heartbeat


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