Berlin is the largest city in Germany, its capital. Since 1417, the city was first the capital of the Elector of Brandenburg, then Prussia, and after the creation of the German Empire it became its capital.
After the end of the Second World War, the city was divided into two parts, between which the famous wall was erected in 1961. And Berlin became the capital of an already integral country.
Today the city is home to about 3.5 million people. It is not only the political but also the cultural center of Germany. Numerous tourists come here, because the city has many iconic museums, there is inexpensive beer and tolerant towards unusual people.
Nevertheless, many of our compatriots, even those who live in Berlin, do not know this great city well enough. We will debunk the most famous myths about him. In addition to the life of the city itself, it would be nice to learn a little about its history.
Berlin is a poor city. "Berlin is poor but sexy." This is the phrase that the mayor of the city, Klaus Wowereit, uttered recently. It was supposed to be the motto of the tourism campaign. The slogan is rather peculiar, but is it worse than the previous "Bi Berlin"? This phrase was supposed to reflect the liberal attitude of the townspeople to sex, but it sounded like a stutter. In fact, it is true that Berlin is poor relative to the rest of Germany. Every fifth city dweller lives on welfare, every third child lives below the poverty line. And these proportions are not decreasing. The city has double unemployment compared to the rest of the country - 12% versus 6%. On the other hand, the city is becoming one of the most efficient in the country in terms of GDP. It grew 1.75% between 2004 and 2009, which is three times the national average. The distribution of wealth can be disproportionate, especially when it comes to immigrants, but the overall numbers are not as tragic as they are presented to tourists. Either way, poverty can hardly seem as sexual as the gay mayor portrays it. The really poor areas of the city have real social problems. Many of these sites are located in the former East Berlin or outside the inner city ring, where huge housing complexes were built in due time without regard to infrastructure. In the Marzahn-Hellersdorf area, unemployment is 18%, many residents simply cannot get out of their predicament by living here.
Berlin has very cheap accommodation. As in most European capitals, there is always an opportunity to rent inexpensive housing in disadvantaged areas. But the days of cheap lofts for artists in popular neighborhoods like Mitte and Kreuzberg are long gone. As proof of the myth, the fact is cited that it is possible to rent an apartment in Neukölln twice as much as a similar one in London. In fact, the real estate market in the German capital is constantly growing. Over the past couple of years, rental prices have increased by about 8%. And the cost of rent in medium-prestige areas is gradually coming up to the elite.
Tourists are to blame for the rise in rents. It's no secret that a lot of young people travel to Berlin. There are many clubs and the beer is cheap. According to a survey by Smithsonian Magazine, Berlin was even included in the list of those 43 places to see before dying. But what do people want to see in the city? There are many museums and galleries, but visitors aged 18-35 come here for cheap drinks and famous hangout spots. But according to statistics, out of twenty million guests who visited the city in January-November 2011, about three million choose not hotels at all, but other places of accommodation. Usually in this case it means renting an apartment. But does this add value to the rent? Tourists do not set the rental price themselves, they create demand, which determines higher prices in a market economy. Investors are even buying up apartment buildings, turning them into places of short-term residence. The complex real estate market involves not only tourists coming here, but also local residents, foreigners or other Germans. The dynamics of the local economy is another important factor in increasing housing values. Investments come to the city, including foreign ones. Compared to London or Paris, there are still not very many of them, it is just that the city has experienced an unusual economic transformation over the past decades.
Berlin is the tech Mecca of Europe. It is believed that the digital technology business is gradually settling into Berlin instead of London. The mayor's office even recently posted plans to launch free Wi-Fi throughout the city. There are plans to launch a startup center in Mitte to further stimulate the entrepreneurial climate. Today, MacBook owners can be found in abundance around Rosenthaler Platz. And technical blogs are increasingly praising Berlin. However, this is far from San Jose and all these great startups do not yet play an important role in the structure of the urban economy. Berlin, like the rest of Germany, still makes money from retail, exports and tourism. It is the latter that gives an impressive 64% of annual income for service and trade enterprises. So jobs in the IT industry are still dreams. Startups and internet companies are not even listed in the official city economy summary. And while the government recently passed a $ 100 million law to invest in IT projects, there was a proposal to tax freelancers, which could work against independent small businesses trying to get on their feet. So from an economic point of view, Berlin's IT start-ups are still in their infancy, and is the city ready to turn from “poor but sexy” to “rich and intelligent”?
The only significant ethnic group in Berlin is the Turks. Turks make up an impressive percentage of residents in some areas, for example, in Kreuzberg, 30% of 160 thousand. In total, according to official data, 14% of the city is foreigners, of which about 119 thousand are Turkish citizens. And this is only about immigrants, and many natives of this Asian country have already received German citizenship. Despite the impressive contribution of this diaspora to the culture and economy of the city, it is far from the only significant ethnic group. Berlin is home to 36 thousand Poles, there are Serbs, Italians, Americans and French. There are also many Russians in the city, who make up a third of the population of the Marzahn-Hellersdorf region. At one time, European integration erased the boundaries between nations, so that attention is paid to exotic cultures. In addition, there is a large Arabic-speaking community, mostly from Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq, who are confused with the Turks. Berlin is home to one of the largest Vietnamese communities outside the country - here 83 thousand people have a corresponding origin. West African natives open delightful restaurants in Neukölln and Kreuzberg. And although statistically, it is the Turks who are the largest foreign ethnic group in the city, the city in terms of nationalities is much more diverse than it might seem at first glance.
Anyone in Berlin speaks good English. According to the latest data, there are only 25,400 expats in Berlin from those countries where the official language is English. This is less than a percent of the total number of citizens. English is compulsory in German schools, it is easy to think Berlin is easy to travel without knowing the local language. The townspeople, even if they look unfriendly, will always help an English-speaking tourist. Only a poor knowledge of German will become a problem if you have to live in Berlin for a long time. Talking to a clerk, plumber or salesperson in English alone will not work. Language exchange evenings or German courses can help. If you plan to rent an apartment, then it is better to find a German neighbor. He will help you adapt to an unfamiliar environment and provide you with daily language practice.
There is a lot of street art in the city as it is legal here. Walking around Berlin, you often pay attention to pictures painted with spray and stencil. It seems that the authorities calmly allow this form of creativity. In fact, any graffiti or street art on private or public buildings without the owner's permission is punishable by a fine of up to two thousand euros or even three years in prison. Yet there are thousands of illegal works in the alleyways, including some from Banksy himself. Local artists have become legends of underground art, already reaching the international level. But more often than not, street craftsmen prefer to work in abandoned warehouses, old construction sites and objects with unclear ownership.
West Berlin is boring. It's no secret that most of the creative people choose the eastern part of the city. But this does not mean that the western part of Berlin is very boring. Here is the same Kreuzberg, dusty and dirty, and quite oriental in spirit. Considered the worst neighborhood in this part of the city, Charlottenburg was once the epicenter of Berlin's cultural and social life. There are many interesting museums and galleries, excellent restaurants, at least one round-the-clock bohemian cafe, stylish and elegant hotels, far from commerce and bustle. Do not forget about other western regions. Schöneberg is an interesting place to spend your time. Nollendofplatz is one of the centers of Berlin's nightlife, the center of the gay community. Even before the fall of the Wall, Schöneberg was an excellent resting place. Young people were smoking in local cafes, people were talking on a variety of topics. Today in June one of the most famous "rainbow" festivals "Berlin Pride" takes place here. The same popular district of Neukölln belongs to the western part, although many associate it with the eastern part.
The Prenzlauer Berg region has the largest percentage of children in Europe. It is believed that there are many Swabian yuppies who can be found with strollers on the streets. The area itself is considered a youth area, there are more than anywhere else in the city of people aged 20 to 44. The baby boom is clearly visible here, the playgrounds are constantly full. It is difficult to imagine that Prenzlauer Beng looked like Kreuzberg 10 years ago. Punks, dissidents, poetry and intellectuals lived here all the time. Today, it is believed that many Swabians live here. This South German nation is considered thrifty and child-loving. The Swabians prefer comfortable living and talk about high topics. And although the area itself has really changed beyond recognition, and most of the primitive entertainment is a thing of the past, the baby boom statement is still a myth. In comparison with other areas of the city, the birth rate is similar here. Although some of the famous clubs have recently closed, this is more of a citywide trend. There are still places in the area that are out of touch with yuppies.
Smoking is not allowed in Berlin. There are indeed bans on smoking in public places in the city. This applies to subways, electric trains, hotels and restaurants. And although it seems inconvenient, there is a way out. Many restaurants have street tables on the streets where you can smoke a cigarette. True, on the open platforms of the metro and electric trains, the Germans do not hesitate to smoke.
In Berlin, pedestrians are extremely disciplined. Everyone knows about the love of the Germans for order. But even in Berlin you can meet pedestrians who, in a hurry, cross the street at a red light or in the wrong place. This happens especially often when joggers go out on the street, and there are few cars on the roads.
It is difficult to find a public toilet in Berlin. A tourist shouldn't bother himself with looking for a toilet. Here you can contact any cafe or restaurant with a request to go to the toilet. Such a request does not surprise anyone, the cost of such a service is from 50 eurocents to euros. And in the same Starbucks or McDonald's you can use the restroom for free. It should be noted that this is a simple and convenient solution for everyone. Tourists do not have to suffer in search of the desired institution, and the Germans themselves receive an additional stable income.
Pedestrians can be calm on the sidewalks. Berlin has excellent conditions for pedestrians - the sidewalks here are almost wider than the roads themselves. But it should be borne in mind that most often part of such a path will be occupied by a bicycle path. And cyclists will not give way, being in their lane. They will loudly call pedestrians to give way.
During the storming of Berlin during the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers died in vain. There are quite official figures of losses during that operation. From April 16 to May 8, Soviet troops lost 352 thousand soldiers, of which 78 thousand were irretrievably lost. There is no need to speak about a million or hundreds of thousands of those killed. During this time, the Germans only lost 400 thousand soldiers killed, another 380 thousand were captured. The effectiveness of storming the city can be estimated at least from the ratio of losses.
Berlin could not be stormed, but surrounded and starved out. At the start of the operation, most of the German troops were outside the city. It is no coincidence that 3.5 million Germans were captured by the Allies, and 1.5 million were captured by the Soviet Union. It is obvious that without the capture of the capital of Germany and, accordingly, the death of Hitler, the troops would have continued resistance, which would have entailed even more casualties.
Berlin could have been taken back in February 1945. Acquaintance with the chronology of events suggests that Berlin could have been taken earlier. Back in late January 1945, Soviet troops captured bridgeheads on the Oder, just 70 kilometers from Berlin. However, the troops of the 1st Belorussian Front turned to Pomerania. Marshal Chuikov recalled that Stalin himself was the initiator of this, who thwarted Zhukov's plans to take Berlin. In fact, the army had to pull up the rear - in January, 500 kilometers from the Vistula to the Oder were swiftly covered. The Germans managed to form a powerful defense here. And such a maneuver made it possible to defeat the grouping in Pomerania and free up several armies for the future main offensive. Only an adventurer, which Zhukov was not, could start an offensive on Berlin at such a moment.
Stalin arranged a competition between Zhukov and Konev for the right to take Berlin. It is believed that at the cost of thousands of soldiers, the generals competed for the right to take the enemy's capital. In fact, today, studying the directives of the Headquarters to the fronts, the myth is easy to debunk. Zhukov was clearly instructed to seize Berlin, and Konev was ordered to defeat the enemy grouping south of the city. However, Konev himself decided to attack Berlin with the main forces from the south in order to get the winner's laurels. But it was far from Stalin who organized the competition of the fronts.
The Germans in Berlin burned down the tank armies of the Soviet Union. Today they say that it was not worth bringing tanks to Berlin. In the conditions of a city building, they were simply burned with faust patrons. When asked whether it was worth it to enter the city with tanks at all, the commander of the 3rd Army, General Rybalko, answered. He believes that the experience of the Great Patriotic War has shown the inevitability of such decisions. And the experience of conducting street battles must be learned by tank and mechanized troops. But it was Rybalko's troops that stormed Berlin. Today, based on archival documents, you can find out the cost of using tanks during the assault on the city.Each of the three entered armies lost a hundred combat vehicles. Half of them were shot from faust cartridges. But in the same 2nd army of Bogdanov there were only 685 combat vehicles. So there is no need to say that the army was burned in Berlin. But the tanks became reliable support for the infantry, and the Soviet troops were able to reliably counteract the Faustists.
After the victory, Soviet troops blew up the Reichstag. There is a legend that our soldiers, after the end of the war, executed one of the symbols of the "Third Reich". The building had nothing to regret, it was a shame only to lose the inscriptions left here. In fact, this did not happen. During the division of the city, the Reichstag remained in the western part, not far from the future Berlin Wall. The dilapidated building only in 1954 attracted the attention of the authorities. Then the dome was dismantled, which was about to collapse. Incidentally, the Reichstag was planned to be demolished even by the Germans themselves under Hitler. In addition, the building did not play any political role in the life of the country. Minister Speer even drew up a project for the construction of a new capital of the German world. Hitler wanted to demolish old Berlin and build on this site the main city of the New World Order. And after the war, the Reichstag remained dilapidated for a long time. Only by 1973 was the restoration completed and historical exhibitions and meetings of the factions of the Bundestag began to take place here. And in the 1990s, a new reconstruction of the building was carried out, it was decided to leave 159 Soviet graffiti. The Bundestag moved to the Reichstag from Bonn.
The Reichstag was the last stronghold of Hitler's Germany. By 1945, the Reichstag in Germany itself had long lost its significance, but for the Soviet troops it was one of the strongest centers of resistance. But in Berlin itself, it was not the last stronghold of the state and personally of Hitler. These include the personal bunker of the Fuhrer and the building of the imperial chancellery. It was from there that the city's garrison was controlled. But for the Soviet army, the Reichstag turned out to be a suitable target. Its capture marked the end of the war, so everyone was striving there. The commander of the regiment that stormed the Reichstag, F.M. Zinchenko did not even know that Hitler's bunker was located nearby. If he had such information, the soldiers, naturally, would have tried to take the Fuhrer alive.
Hitler ordered the flooding of the Berlin subway. This myth was created by Soviet propaganda. People were told that Hitler, seeing the approach of Soviet soldiers through the metro tunnels to the Reich Chancellery, ordered to flood the underground facility. But there civilians and wounded German soldiers were hiding from the bombing. It was they who became the main victims of the criminal order. This legend was even embodied in the film "Liberation. The last assault ". Domestic propaganda claims that up to 200 thousand people died then. In fact, there was no order in principle, it was found in the archives. And Hitler never destroyed his people in vain. It was also impossible to flood the metro technically; such locks are not built in principle because of the danger of a system failure. And it was impossible to quickly flood the stations, because for the most part they are close to the surface and certainly above the level of the Spree. Up to 400 people died in the metro, while they suffered from constant bombing. The tunnels collapsed, but the water level barely reached half a meter. In addition, the Germans themselves constantly pumped it out. Directly from the water, one disabled person died, who fell there from his wheelchair and drowned.