Having spent a whole year in this beautiful city, learning a series of random facts about one of Europe’s most beloved destinations and cultural landmarks was hardly any surprise. I decided to make a list of the quirkiest Berlin related facts – enjoy!
1. Swamp City:
Well I bet nobody saw this one coming, but apparently the word’s etymology can be traced all the way back to the old Polabian language, a West Slavic dialect spoken by the Polabian Slavs who inhabited the area around the Elbe river. Berlin was also described as a fishing village in the first historical documentations and it is therefore very likely that the city’s name has its origins in the Polabian stem “berl-/birl-“ which translates to “swamp”. So why should anyone bother visiting swamp city?
This is perhaps Berlin’s most popular slogan, and was first mentioned by Klaus Wowereit, the governing mayor of Berlin during an interview in 2004. My own interpretation of the slogan is closely linked to the flamboyant and vibrant alternative scene and artistic innovation to be seen everywhere in the city, which brings me to the next point:
3. East Side Gallery Sell-Out:
We all know that the East Side Gallery is by far one of the city’s emblems of the above mentioned artistic innovation, but the recent urban expansion and renovation project Media Spree may actually succeed in demolishing a landmark standing for the city’s history and freedom of expression. The project has unsurprisingly been met with outraged protests and street art slogans, and even a petition demanding the gallery’s preservation was launched.
4. Pariser Platz:
The famous square hosting Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate is named Pariser Platz, which, as you may have already guessed, is referring to the French capital. So why would Paris have anything to do with Berlin? The name is connected to the Battle of Paris from 1814, during which the city was occupied by the Anti-Napoleon Allies, a coalition formed by Russian, Austrian and Prussian armies.
Pariser Platz is therefore paying homage to the victory over the French Empire.
5. Hitler’s Bunker:
Is now nothing else but a desolate car park. Quite rightfully so, because what reason would there be to commemorate the bunker where Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva Braun committed suicide at the end of the Second World War? The site remained completely unmarked until 2006, when a small plaque with a plan of the underground corridors was installed.
6. Quadriga and the French Embassy:
Ever wondered why the Quadriga’s head, the imposing chariot on top of the Brandenburg Gate, seems to be looking over the French Embassy?
Because Napoleon actually stole it from Berlin during the Napoleonic Wars and it was not returned until 1814. Ever since, the statue’s head is ostentatiously oriented towards the Embassy building - Berlin’s way of saying: “We’re watching you.”
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