General Information on Berlin

Since the wall came down in 1989, the city has been in search of its own identity. The creation of the new "face" is being influenced by the reunion of the former East and West, the contrasts between the old and new Berlin, and the variety and the individuality of its people. An increasing number of visitors from all over the world come to see the city and enjoy the rich cultural life.


Berlin was founded between 1230 and 1240 by Brandenburgian margraves (higher members of the nobility). With the founding of the German Reich in 1871, it became the capital of Germany. In 1920 the city with its 3.8 million inhabitants was the largest industrial city on the Continent and one of the world's intellectual and cultural centers. Berlin was subsequently the heart of the National Socialist dictatorship - but also of the resistance to the Hitler regime. After the end of World War II the city was divided into four sectors by the Allies (the U.S.A., Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union). For decades it was the symbol of Germany's division and a flashpoint of the Cold War between East and West. In 1948 the airlift sustained by the Western Allies, above all by the U.S.A., enabled the people of Berlin (West) to survive an 11-month Soviet blockade of the overland routes to Berlin.
When the German Democratic Republic (GDR), which had been founded in the eastern part of the city, began to build a wall between the eastern and western parts of Berlin in 1961, the city's partition seemed final. With his famous exclamation "Ich bin ein Berliner" in front of Schöneberg Town Hall in '63, U.S. President John F. Kennedy underscored his support for the city. In the wake of the peaceful revolution in the GDR, the Wall fell on 9 November 1989. On 3 October 1990 the unification of Germany was consummated in Berlin with a state ceremony.

Because of the unification and Berlin's new function as the Federal Capital the city has been undergoing intense development for the last years. Building projects of the government and of world-renowned companies such as Daimler-Benz and Sony have created the largest construction site in Europe. In July 1999 the German government moved from Bonn to Berlin, and an entirely new government quarter was built around the historical "Reichstag".

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Geography & Climate

Berlin lies on the great plain of the North German flatlands. The city covers an area of 343 square miles and in size it is almost as large as Germany's Ruhr District. Berlin lies 111.5 feet above sea-level and the variations in altitude are very slight. The highest elevations are the Teufelsberg, which like 22 other "mountains" is built of wartime rubble, and the Müggelberge. Each "mountain" is 377 feet high. Berlin is located in a landscape of forests and lakes which also cover 24% of the city's surface. There are 122 miles of navigable waterways in the city.

Berlin enjoys pleasant, sunny summers when days are long and temperatures can sometimes exceed 86°F (30°C), particularly in July and August. However the summer months are also unpredictable, and odd days can rapidly change from sunshine to cloud. Winter weather in Berlin, by contrast, can be bitterly cold and damp, with snow and frosty days when temperatures hover at or just below freezing. Rain can fall all year round, but the wettest months are June and August, and the driest on average October and February.

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Among Berlin's 3.5 million inhabitants are 440.000 internationals from over 184 countries, most of them come from Turkey. Nearly 30% of the population is younger than 25! 

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Berlin is not only the capital and the largest German city, but also one of the sixteen States ("Bundesländer") of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The Governing Mayor of Berlin (Berliner Regierender Bürgermeister) simultaneously serves as the city's chief and prime minister. The Senators are both state ministers and local heads of departments.
The unified municipality of Berlin is a decentralized body divided into 12 city districts ("Bezirke") of different size. These districts look after local politics and administrative matters. Unlike independent municipalities, however, they do not have financial autonomy but are allocated funds by the Senate.

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In its heyday Berlin was a magnet for German and foreign artists and intellectuals. Only a few of the most famous Germans can be mentioned here: Theodor Fontane and Gerhard Hauptmann, later Bertolt Brecht and Arnold Zweig. Here Alfred Döblin wrote his big-city novel "Berlin Alexanderplatz". The "Berliner Secession" founded by Max Liebermann and Walter Leistikow in 1898 drew painters such as Lovis Corinth and Max Slevogt to the city. Painters like Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, the Swiss native Paul Klee and the Russian Wassily Kandinsky worked and staged joint exhibitions in Berlin, decisively influencing the new European avant-garde. Käthe Kollwitz and Heinrich Zille revealed the darker sides of the city as well. In the "golden twenties" these morbid sides of life themselves became the subject of great art, variously depicted by George Grosz, John Heartfield, Max Beckmann and Otto Dix.
Theater and cabaret were no less prolific, and great architects distinguished themselves through their innovative buildings. Until the beginning of the 1930's the city of Berlin was the center of film artistry.

Today Berlin is proud of its large and varied cultural scene, which includes three opera houses, more than 150 theaters and concert halls, 400 independent theater groups, 70 museums, 200 art galleries, 120 cinemas, and numerous other cultural centers. In the Tiergarten the "House of World Cultures" presents a wealth of events and exhibitions featuring cultures from outside Europe. What makes Berlin's cultural atmosphere so dynamic is the coexistence of the big names in the arts and entertainment industry and the countless artists, painters and sculptors, composers and musicians, poets and writers who make up the local "scene".

There is not one week without cultural, musical and sports highlights. Especially between May and September people enjoy outdoor events like parades, festivals, open air music and movies.

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Science and Industry

In Berlin, scientists in every field found optimal conditions for pursuing their work, for example Rudolf Virchow, Robert Koch and Albert Einstein. Berlin is the largest university city in Germany. There are approximately 147,000 students in three universities: The Humboldt University in the eastern part and the Freie Universität and the Technical University in the western part. Roughly 250 non-university research institutions are located here as well. In the second half of the 19th century Berlin was Europe's largest industrial center, the home of global corporations such as Siemens and AEG. Today the city is undergoing a profound structural change; major shifts are occurring in the labor market, a phenomenon largely attributable to the massive changes in eastern Germany's industrial sector. Approximately 230,000 of the 1.5 million citizens in the workforce are employed in trade, over 200,000 in the manufacturing sector, and 750,000 in the services area, primarily in the public sector (excluding commerce and transportation). In April 2004 the unemployment rate has been up to 18.2 per cent.

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