This article is about the city in Germany. For other articles subjects named Berlin, see Berlin (disambiguation).
capital of Germany and its largest city, with 3,389,450 inhabitants (as of 2002; down from 4.5 million before World War II, and on the decline since German reunification in 1990).
Berlin state colors are red/white/red with a black upright Berlin Bear.
The city and state parliament is called Abgeordnetenhaus. Berlin is governed by a Regierender Bürgermeister ("ruling mayor"), who is mayor of the city and head of the Bundesland at the same time. Presently, this office is held by Klaus Wowereit; for earlier mayors, see the list of Mayors of Berlin.
Berlin is subdivided into 12 districts called Bezirke, which have been combined from the earlier 23 districts in 1998. Since this administrational reform has not really caught on with the public (which still tends to use the traditional names), the following list displays the 23 old districts:
Berlin was founded around 1200 as two cities, Berlin and Cölln, which only united in 1307. Berlin is therefore quite old; however, not much is left of these ancient communities. Instead, the impression one gets visiting Berlin today is one of great discontinuity, visibly reflecting mainly the many ruptures in Germany's difficult history in the 20th century.
After having been the residential of the Prussian kings, Berlin only became big in the 19th century, especially after becoming the capital of the 1871 German Empire. It remained Germany's capital in the Weimar Republic and under the Nazis; it was therefore a primary target in the air raids of World War II.
After the city's separation in two, East Berlin was the capital of the GDR, while the FRG had its capital in Bonn. An island of the western world in the territory of the east, Berlin was the natural focal point of the two blocks of the Cold War. In 1961, the Berlin Wall was constructed. After the German reunification in 1990, Berlin was made the capital of all of Germany again.
Sights Even though Berlin does have a number of impressive buildings from earlier centuries, the city today is mainly stamped by the primal role it played in Germany's history in the 20th century. On the one hand, each of the governments which had their respective seat in Berlin --namely the 1871 German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, the GDR, and now the reunified Germany-- initiated ambitious construction programs, each with a distinctive taste (or, depending on one's standpoint, the lack of it). On the other hand, Berlin was devastated in the bombardments during World War II, and many of the old buildings that were left were eradicated in the 1950s and 1960s in both the West and the East in overambitious architecture programs. Although not much is left of the actual Wall, one can usually still tell from the architecture if one is in the former eastern or western part.
Culture After the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), many houses partially destroyed in World War II and not yet rebuilt were situated in the city center (formerly the western part of East Berlin). They became a fertile ground for all sorts of underground and counter-culture as well as many nightclubs, including the world-famous Tresor, which is one of the most important Techno clubs on earth. Berlin has a rich art scene, but it is increasingly coming under financial pressure, because rents have been increasing since the German government moved back to Berlin from Bonn.