Thursday, July 24, 2008

Life in Berlin

Some call it wild, colorful, and full of surprises, while others find it a little too hectic and gruff. Berlin is intriguing because it is so versatile and so multi-faceted. Differences are more extreme, conflicts more tangible, and problems larger than they are elsewhere. Yet even Berlin’s contradictions are part of its appeal.

Berlin’s historic city center is located east of Pariser Platz and Brandenburg Gate around the avenue Unter den Linden, and extends across Gendarmenmarkt to the waterfront areas of the Nicolaiviertel and the Fischerinsel. The western city center is concentrated around the boulevard Kurfürstendamm, the Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church), and Tauentzienstrasse. There are also a number of borough “centers”; these all have a character of their own and play a major role in the way Berliners identify with their neighborhoods.

An entirely new shopping, cultural, and residential quarter has emerged at Potsdamer Platz. This is an excellent place to begin a stroll through the government, parliament, and embassy district, past the Reichstag building, and up to elegant Friedrichstrasse.

According to many who’ve tried it, Berlin is addictive. The city offers residents and visitors alike an almost inexhaustible variety of possible activities – from a multitude of everyday options to huge events like Christopher Street Day and the Carnival of Cultures.

Don’t forget the cafés, bars, and restaurants in every price category, featuring international and local specialties. The neighborhood around Hackescher Markt is especially popular in this regard, while an impression of Berlin would be incomplete without a trip to the districts of Friedrichshain, Prenzlauer Berg or Kreuzberg. The city’s night life tempts visitors with countless bars, discos, and clubs – which can stay open all night if they like – and with exhibitions and open-air events. Here, too, in the middle of the latest international trends, you can feel the city’s exceptional vitality and dynamism. Berlin is an ideal place for a dialogue between cultures: more than 460,000 non-German citizens live here. They come from 185 different countries and ensure great cultural pluralism. Their decisive contribution to the city’s distinctive and cosmopolitan character is apparent not only during the annual Carnival of Cultures. Berlin became a city of immigration earlier than other parts of Germany. Ethnic and cultural diversity enrich the city, but also require special skills and make new demands on society as a whole. The Senate Commissioner for Integration and Migration has been an indispensable source of information for many years for people seeking advice and assistance. It is also an important contact for issues related to integration and the work done on the state, federal, and EU level to combat discrimination.

Forests, parks, and garden plots – a total of more than 2,500 public recreational and green spaces – make Berlin a green city. Anyone taking a walk on a warm summer evening through the forest in Grunewald, strolling through the gardens of Charlottenburg Palace, may well forget that this is a city of almost 3.4 million.

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