Guten tag und wilkommmen zum Berlin Stadtrunfahrt. We will start our tour of Berlin with a brief history of the city. Berlin developed as a trading village in about 1200 AD. It's location at the junction on the Spree and Havel rivers helped to establish its importance. In the 1600's it became the capital of Prussia. Berlin's worst period began with Adolf Hitler's rise to power with the Nazi Party in 1933. During World War II in 1939 to 1945, Germany fought England, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States. Berlin was ruined by the bombings. Germany was defeated in 1945 and the peace treaty divided the nation into Communists East Germany and non-Communist West Germany. Berlin was also divided. A 103-mile wall surround West Berlin. It was made of concrete, wasw12 feet high and was white so that anyone trying to climb it would be clearly visible. In 1989 the East German government collapsed and the wall was knocked down.
In 1990, East and West Germany re-united.
The population of Berlin is three and a half million, it covers an area of 341 square miles.
We are traveling down the Kurfurstendam, also known as the Ku-damm, which as you can see is lined with hotels, cafes, shops, art galleries, cinemas and restaurants. The Ku-damm is the heart of what was formerly West Berlin. It is always pleasurable to stroll along it, day or night, or to sit at one of the many sidewalk cafes and watch the passers-by. Sidewalk musicians, comedians and mines are a constant source of entertainment as they earn a few marks for their performances.
At the East End of the Ku-damm we see the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The bombed-out tower was left as a remembrance of the tragedy of war. The modern church and bell towers were built on either side of it.
If you look to your left, you'll see the Tiergarten, a former royal hunting ground. It is now a large park replanted with trees, having many walking paths. The 2120-foot high Victory Column in the park commemorates the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. If you're willing and able to climb it's 285 steps, the view of the Brandenburg Gate is worth the effort.
On your right you'll see the Reichstag, Platz der Republic which was built in 1898 to house Parliament. In 1933, the Nazis, who then blamed the Communists, burned it down. Damaged by allied forces in WWII, it was restored in 1970 as a museum.
We're now coming up to the Olympic Stadium. It was built for the 1936 Olympics and was used for Nazi rallies afterward. It seats over 95,000 people and is an example of the grand ideas Hitler had for Berlin.
Now the 453 foot-high structure that you see towering over those buildings is called the Radio Tower. It is located in the fairground of Charlottenburg and was built in 1926 for the Berlin Trades Fair. While dining at the restaurant at the top of this skyscraper, you can see a marvelous view of the entire city.
The center of Berlin is the Brandenburg Gate, a 65-foot high arch that is topped by a chariot drawn by four horses. It was built in 1788 as the imperial entrance to Berlin. For almost 30 years it led nowhere because it stood just feet from the Berlin Wall. The 103-mile wall was knocked down in 1989 and East and West Berlin re-united. During the 28 years that the wall existed, thousands of east Berliners tried to escape to the west by tunneling under or climbing over it. Nearly 200 people were killed in their attempts to reach freedom.
As we pass through the Brandenburg Gate, we proceed along the historic Unter den Linden; a tree lined street almost 1 mile long. Various eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings, which were leveled during the war, have been restored including the State Opera House, Humbolt University and several museums.
The Berlin Cathedral, whom we see here, was also painstakingly restored after war-damage. Look up and notice the magnificent detail of the ceiling architecture.
Before returning to the Ku-damm, we will travel northward to the summer palace of Charlottenburg, completed in 1695 for the future queen, Sophie Charlotte. It is Berlin's most impressive example of royal architecture. In the informal Palace Gardens are several pavilions and the Royal Mausoleum.
And here we are. Back at the Ku-damm. You have probably noticed that Berlin has also been infiltrated by Burger King, McDonalds, and Pizza Hut in the recent years. I hope you have enjoyed your tour and bid you Aufwiedersehen.