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Berlin, general information

Interesting facts on Berlin (September 2002)

Area of Berlin About 890 square km.
Number of inhabitants About 3.5 million
Population density almost 4,000 per square kilometer
Capital Berlin is the new capital of Germany
Monetary unit The Euro since 2002. (1 € = $ 1.24; 1 Dollar = € 0.7; Rate in Jan. 2009)
Fuel prices Gas: € 1.05 to € 1.20; Diesel: € 0.85; LPG: € 0.60
License plate of cars D (for Deutschland) and B as the first letter of the license plate, indicating Berlin
Telephone country prefix 49
Internet country code .de
Time difference GMT+1; the same as in Holland
Road network Quite good, even in former East Berlin
Prices in general We used this measure: the prices for one coffee and one beer (our normal consumption): € 2,90 (large beer) in Potsdam up to € 16,50 (small beer) near the Brandenburger Tor. So prices vary much. On Alexanderplatz and the former eastern part of the city there are still many very cheap places for eating and drinking.
The best in Berlin Well, we think Berlin is more impressive than it is beautiful. We liked the (short) ride in the elevator to the top of the Fernsehturm (Television Tower behind Alexanderplatz) the best (€ 6 per person).
The most important... Public transport: buy a card for one day or a few days and travel to all places in Berlin. This way one can see most of Berlin for a relatively cheap price. Walking around won"t bring you as far as by public transport in this metropolis.

Geographical data

Berlin has a surface of 890 square kilometers and the border of the city is 234 km. long. Travel guides tell us a complete tour on the ring road of Berlin is almost 300 km is. 18 percent of Berlin consists of nature and parks, the surafce of the water almost 7%. With that, Berlin is one of the richest cities of Europe as far as nature and fauna is concerned. Berlin is the capital of and a state within Germany, lying on the river Spree, where the river ends in the river Havel.
Before the fall of the Berlin Wall the surface of East-Berlin was about 400 km2.
The city has been build on a fairly flat area; the highest point is the Kreuzberg (35m, or 66 according to another travel guide).

Population

Germany has 82 million inhabitants of which almost 15 million live in former East Germany Germany. 3.5 million live in Berlin. Berlin is the biggest "Turkish city" after Istanbul: almost 300,000 Turks live in Berlin. Major reason for this is that an old German regulation states that foreigners have to live for at least 15 years in Germany before they can obtain the German citizenship. Children of foreign parents who were born in Berlin (and all of West-Germany) didn"t obtain German nationality automatically. A new law has shortened the term of 15 years to 8 and children born in Germany now get the German nationality automatically, but they must decide (between the age of 18 and 23) if they want to keep the German nationality or that of their parents. They get only one choice.

Languages

Berlin is a metropolis and the population is a mix of different population groups, from which once the "real Berliner" originated from. In the west it was, of course, a West-Berliner with his/her own dialect. After "Die Wende" a second melting took place of several differring Berlin groups. The people from eastern Berlin had developped a somewhat different dialect. Although most people speak German, there are several Berlin dialects now. The second language in Berlin is Turkish. No wonder in a city where the Turks have their largest community outside of Turkey.

History

Berlin is, relatively, a young city in Europe and originated from 2 small cities: one, Cölln, was situated on the Spree-island, and the other, Berlin, north of it on the right bank of it. They were first mentioned in 1237 en 1244 in certificates. In 1432 both were united under one administration, but the charter of the founding of Berlin as one city have been lost. Here a few important historical data:

Around 720: Two Slavian tribes settle in the neighbourhood of modern Berlin.

1237: Cölln is mentioned for the first time in history in writing (October 28, 1237) and this date is considerd as the official founding date of Berlin.

1307: Cölln and Berlin establish a communal council, but keep their independancy.

1432: Both cities now become one with one city council.

1448: After riots the city has to give up membership of the Hanze (an economical community, reaching from Holland to Sweden, but most powerfull in northern Germany) and her city autonomy almost ended.

1470: Berlin becomes the government seat for the monarchs of Brandenburg.

1539: Monarch Joachim II is converted to the doctrine of Luther and Berlin becomes a protestant bastion.

1617: The first weekly appears in Berlin.

1618-1648: The Thirty/Year war is a dark period for Berlin: only a few of them survive (6000 according to the chronicles).

1685: Immigration of Huguenots (persecuted protestants) from France.

1701: Monarch Frederik III becomes king Frederik I of Prussia and Berlin becomes capital of his kingdom.

1719: According to a census Berlin has 64,000 inhabitants of which about 20% Huguenots.

18th century: Prussia develops into a world power after several wars and Berlin becomes a metropolis.
around 1800: Berlin now has almost 170,000 inhabitants.

1808: Through a community law of Vom Stein Berlin regains its indepency as a city with its own local authority, after 360 years.

1871: Foundation of the German Empire, with Berlin as its capital. An area of industrial expansion and urban development begins and the number of inhabitants increases to almost two million in 1900.

1918-1920:
On November 9th, 1918 revolution breaks out. The moderate socialists, who are in the majority, are in lead and proclaim the Deutsche Republik (German Rebulic), but Karl Liebknecht proclaims the Freie Sozialistische Republik (Free Socialist Republic). In the winter of 1918-1919 street fights break out and the government uses the army to surpress this new revolution. January 1919, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg are defeated. 1920, March 13, the so-called Kapp-Putsch follows, trying to overthrow the Constitution of Weimar, but this fails. In 1920, Berlin is separated from the province of Brandenburg and becomes an autonomous administrative unity, as Great-Berlin. 7 surrounding cities, 59 rural municipalities and 27 estates are added to Gross-Berlin.

1933 - 1945
Hitler is appointed as chancellor of the empire and the Jewish community is decimated. Air attacks by the allied forces also make a lot of victims. When Berlin surrenders in 1945, the number of inhabitants has decreased from 4.8 to 2.3 million people.

1945
At the end of the second world war, Berlin is in ruins and occupied by four allied forces: the United States, Great-Britain, France in the west and the Soviet army in the east.

1948/1949
Growing disagreement between the three western powers and the Russians make it impossible to govern the city in a normal way. The Russian react vehemently when the three western powers carry out a reorganisation of the currency in the city parts controlled by them, in the beginning of 1948: All provision roads to west Berlin are cut off and blocked. The western powers establish an airlift (April 1948) to provide the inhabitants of West-Berlin with fuel and food. After one year the blockade is lifted.

1949/1950
The foundation of West-Germany (BRD, Bundes Republik Deutschland or Federal Republic of Germany) and East-Germany (DDR, Deutsche Democratische Republik or German Democratic Republic) becomes a fact and a reorganisation of the Berlin city council s necessary. West-Berlin is recognised in 1950 as well as a city as one of the federal countires of Germany, with Reuter as its mayor. The eastern part of the city has Ebert jr. as its mayor and is integrated into the German Democratic Republic and becomes its capital. The limitation in contact between the western and eastern countries make Berlin into a unique meeting place between both sides in the early fifties. Many people from East-Germany flee to the West through Berlin.

June 16/17, 1953:
A popular rising in the DDR and East-Berlin. Tanks of the Soviet army surpress the East-Berlin rebellion.
Aug. 13, 1961:
Beginning of the building of the Berlin Wall, to stop the flood of refugees to the west.

Sept. 3, 1971:
An agreement is signed in which the four allied forces lay down the status of Berlin. After this more treaties between the BRD and DDR follow, concerning Berlin.

Nov. 9, 1989:
The collapse of the Eastern bloc leads to mass demonstrations and a massive exodus to the socialist neighbouring countries. November 9, the Berlin Wall (and the border) is opened for the East-Germans.

Oct. 3, 1990:
Germany is officially reunited. The parliament decides (with just a tight majority) to move the government and parliament back to Berlin and that Berlin will become capital of Germany once more.
Dec. 1990:
The first free elections for the whole of Berlin take place.

1994:
The allied forces definitively leave Berlin. In April 1994, the governments of Berlin and Brandenburg make an agreement to unify both states into one.

1995: Christo wraps up the Reichstag (government building).

May 1996:
In a referendum about combining the state of Berlin and the state of Brandenburg, Berlin votes yes (with only a small majority), but Brandenburg votes no and both states stay separated. Brandenburg is a relatively rich state, while Berlin is a money-devouring state (especially now, with all its building projects).

2000:
> The government arrives in Berlin. The first sessions of the Bundestag (parliament) take place in the Reichstag. Berlin becomes the favourite destination in Germany.
Have a look at our Berlin linkpage for other website about the history of Berlin.

Climate

The climate of Berlin does not differ much from the climate of Holland. The influence of the sea is a little less and therefore the winters are a bit colder and the summers a bit warmer. Berlin can have precipitation in all seasons. We were there in the beginning of September and were very lucky with beautiful weather with temperatures up to 28 degrees Celsius! In the centre of town it is always a few degrees warmer than outside the centre.

Flora and fauna

We could not find any information about the flaura and fauna of Berlin. Yet, anyone can see there is an abundance of both of them in this green city, looking at all the lakes, parks and woods. Please mail us when you can provide us with more information.

Economy

During the time that Berlin was split into west and east, West-Berlin was dependant on support from the Federal Public, because most companies had left West-Berlin in the fifties and sixties of the 20th century. East-Berlin, on the other hand, had become the biggest industrial town of East-Germany. After the reunion of both states the subsidies of the west gradually dimished. The DDR-companies proved to be not really profitable and lost their outlets in the former eastern bloc countries. Unemployment rates of the city are extremely high: almost 15% in 1998. The move of the government and of parliament are a stimulation for the economy, with all the construction activities and also for the service industries.

Industry and transport
Before the unification in 1990, East Berlin was the largest centre of industry of the German Democratic Republic. West-Berlin, together with Hamburg and München, belonged to the three biggest industrial centres of the Federal Republic of Germany. More than a third of the working population has a job in the electronics industry. Other industries are the food and stimulant industry, machine construction, manufacturing of transportation and the chemical industry. Traditional Berlin indrustries are the manufacturing of china (since 1764) and the graphical and film industries. Compared with the seventies the employment in the industrial sector has decreased dramatically, in favour of the service industry. Berlin has two airports: in the northwest airport Tegel which opened in 1975 and took over the traffic from the former airport Tempelhof; in the south lies airport Schönefeld. Much of the freight traffic goes through the waterways (Oder-Spree-Canal, Teltowcanal, Oder-Havel-Canal). The subway (U-bahn) covers a length of more than 200 km.

Service industry and recreation
Almost half of the labour force works in the service industry. Although Berlin had to give up its former leading position concerning trade fairs to other cities (Frankfurt am Main, Hannover, Keulen, Düsseldorf, Leipzig), there are still important trade fairs, every year. There are conference buildings (among them the Kongresshalle (1957), the conference centre ICC (1979) and the building which was used as meeting place of the East-German Volkskammer). Every year there are several festivals, like the Berliner Festwochen (party-weeks, since 1951 with concerts, opera, theatre and visual arts), the international filmfestival (Golden and Silver Bear) and the Berliner Jazztage.
The Zoologischer Garten (29 ha., constructed in 1841) is known as one of the best zoos in the world. It has a botanical garden, an observatory and a planetarium.
There are several radio and television studios in Berlin; before the unification, the SFB (Sender Freies Berlin) and RIAS (Rundfunk im Amerikanischen Sektor) were very well-known stations in West Berlin.
There are many sports and recreation facilities: the Olympic stadium was build for the Olympic Games of 1936. For recreation the many woodlands at the borders of Berlin are of great importance: city parks in Grunewald, Spandau, Köpenick and Friedrichshain, as well as the many lakes in Berlin: Wannsee, Havel, Tegeler See, Grosser Müggelsee, Langer See and Seddin See.
© Teije and Elisabeth 2000 - 2014
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