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Berlin, Germany


By Sean P. Killian

Although Berlin has been dubbed a city that never is because it's always becoming, the German capital has managed to leave behind traces of what shaped it throughout centuries, making it one of the most fascinating tourist cities in the world.

From the civil uprising of the Thirty Years War, to the Allied bombing of World War II, to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Berlin has managed to heal without missing a step.  But the scars remain, which have transformed it into a living, breathing museum.

Perhaps the most poignant remnant of turbulent times past is the Berlin Wall, which divided east and west, communist and capitalist, for nearly 30 years.  The Eastside Gallery, the world's largest outdoor collection of paintings, is the last standing section of the Berlin Wall.  And even where the wall no longer looms, bricks embedded in the ground form a literal scar across the city as a reminder of what once tore Berlin in two.

Bombed by the British in 1943, the Gedächtnis Kirche serves as another reminder of Berlin's troubled history, its walls stained black and its steeple ripped in half.

Even the Reichstag, the seat of the German government since 1999, embodies Berlin's dedication to remembering the past while looking toward the future. Although the building appears as it did during the Third Reich, a modern glass copula now adorns the top as a symbol of a transparent government and a promising future.

Berlin also has its share of world-renown museums.  Two of the most noteworthy are the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, which traces the history of the Cold War from Berlin's perspective, and the Pergamon Museum, which houses the Gates of Babylon among other temples from antiquity.

But don't be fooled.  Berlin rivals most European cities for its cafe culture and nightlife.

From posh cafes, to intimate jazz clubs, to hard-core techno bars, Berlin offers tourists of all walks a place to socialize.

Potsdamer Platz, once a barren wasteland during the Cold War, boasts the city's most impressive cutting-edge buildings and classy restaurants.

Or, for a taste of Berlin's alternative culture, stroll down Oranienburger Strasse, where rich meets poor and cultures collide.  Stop at a Turkish döner kebap stand for a snack or one of city's best Indian restaurants followed by a drink and a smoke at an Egyptian cafe. 

Here, buildings built in the 19th century stand next to those build by the communist regime which in turn stand next to structures built only a few years ago -- offering tourists a functional architectural timeline.

For music lovers, Berlin is unrivaled.  The annual Love Parade is the world's largest techno concert, Quasimodo is one of the world's best jazz clubs, and the Berlin Philharmonic is one of the world's best.

And, for those who need a bit of peace and quiet, Tiergarten, similar to New York's central park, offers visitors a quiet respite from the grind of daily life.

Perhaps one of Europe's most underrated cities, Berlin is worth a visit.