The Kölner Dom, also known as the Cologne Cathedral, is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. In the 19th century, it was the tallest building in the world. Amazingly, it would take 632 years to complete.
Begun in 1248, the Kölner Dom was commissioned as a suitable place to house the relics of the Three Kings, acquired and delivered by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Construction was predictably slow, beginning with the east wing. At some point in 1473, construction came to a stop and it remained at rest for four centuries, marked by a crane that loomed over the south tower; until 1842, when a civic organization raised the bulk of the money to finish construction. In today’s dollars, the cost for finishing Kölner Dom would be over a billion dollars. Finally, in 1880, Germany’s largest cathedral was completed.
Hans Imhoff, a chocolatier and businessman from Cologne, opened the Schokoladenmuseum in 1993, after retiring from the confectionary business in 1992. The museum that bears the late industrialist's name is a paen to the product of the cacao bean, from its development and primitive processing in the New World by the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs, to modern production methods and innovations. The program discusses the role of chocolate in later South American societies and among European elite. The museum sits inside a glass-and-steel structure shaped like a ship. Inside, the tour takes visitors through the process of chocolate production from the farm to the candy store, continuing through a greenhouse where two species of cacao trees are grown and then on through the industrialization of chocolate production, including vintage advertising campaigns. Miniature machinery allow guests a closer look at the production process, and the chocolate produced by these machines can be sampled.
Standing 67 meters (220 feet) high and topped with a 35-tonne gilded figure of Victoria – the Roman goddess of victory in battle – the Berlin Victory Column was inaugurated in 1873 to commemorate Germany’s (or Prussia, as it was called then) victory over Denmark in the Danish-Prussian War of 1864. Lovingly nicknamed ‘Golden Lizzie’ by Berlin locals, the sandstone memorial was designed by German architect Heinrich Strack and sits on a red granite base adorned with columns; it originally stood in Königsplatz, which is today’s Platz der Republik. In the run up to World War II, the column was moved to the center of the Tiergarten park as part of Hitler’s plan to rebuild Berlin as the grandiose capital city of the Third Reich.
The stylish, contemporary main railway station in Berlin was opened in 2006 by Chancellor Angela Merkel; it is built on the site of the Lehrter Bahnhof (Lehrte Station), which was demolished in 1957 after East Germany suspended rail services into its western counterpart. In 1993, the architects Gerkan, Marg and Partners were entrusted with creating a new station that befitted Berlin’s importance as the capital city of a re-united Germany, and the sleek terminus is made of glass and steel; it has five gleaming stories and is spanned by an arched glass roof. There are lines both above and underground and today the station is also a terminus for the S-Bahn (rapid transit commuter trains) and U-Bahn (metro line) services into and around the city from the Brandenburg region.
The Deutscher Dom, or German Cathedral in English, was built in the early 1700s in Berlin and was originally known as the Neue Kirche, or New Church. The church was badly damaged during World War II and was slowly rebuilt in the 80s and 90s. Today it is a museum and no longer holds religious services. The permanent exhibition on display is called "Wege - Irrwege - Umwege" which roughly translates to “Paths - Meanderings - Detours” and explains the historical development of the liberal parliamentary system in Germany.
The Elbphilharmonie, or Elbe Philharmonic, is a concert hall located in the Hafen City district of Hamburg. It has been under construction since 2007, and the expecting opening date is in January 2017. The concert hall is being built on top of an old warehouse building, and once it is completed, it will be the tallest inhabited building in the city standing at 360 feet. The eastern side of the building will be a Westin hotel, the lower floors will contain restaurants and a wellness and conference center for the hotel, and the upper floors will have residential apartments.
The Elbphilharmonie will be home to classical music as well as music from the 21st century. There will be a small hall with 550 seats for chamber music, jazz concerts, and banquets, as well as the Great Hall with 2,150 seats for larger performances. The building's integration with the warehouse combines the modern philharmonic building with Hamburg's history as an important port city.
The Lilliputian Nicholas Quarter is an area that was developed around Berlin’s oldest parish church, the Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas’s Church), dating from 1230. The area now tries to maintain its medieval character; its cobblestoned lanes worth a quick stroll if you are in the surrounding borders of Rathausstrasse, Spandauer Strasse, Mühlendamm and the Spree River. Though there are many gift stores, cafes and restaurants in the quarter, you will find locals elsewhere.
The main attractions, in addition to the St. Nicholas church, include the Ephraim Palace, a masterpiece of palace architecture of the 18th century Berlin. Equally beautiful is the Baroque style Knoblauch house built in 1760, which offers insight into world of the upper middle class world through its rooms and valuable furniture.
Alexanderplatz remains the largest urban square in all of Germany and is a central meeting place in Berlin, located in the Mitte District. At its center is the large railway station (Alexanderplatz) with connections to many subway (U-Bahn), tramway (Strassenbahn), city trains (S-Bahn) and buses.
Named after the Russian Czar Alexander I, who visited the capital of Prussia in 1805, ""Alex"" became a traffic hub when a train station was established there in 1882.
Alexanderplatz took on its present form in the 1960’s after being ravaged in World War II. After the war it became the center of East-Berlin and used as a showcase of socialist architecture. This resulted in some unattractive buildings like the former Centrum department store and the Berliner Fernsehturm (TV Tower). In 1969 two more monuments were added to the square, the Weltzeituhr (World Time Clock) by Erich John and the Fountain of International Friendship.
Königsplatz was initially built to serve the urban notions of King Ludwig I, who wished to integrate culture, administration, Christianity and Bavarian military in one massive green space. The king opted for a European Neoclassic style based on the Acropolis in Athens. He even had two museums built in the same style; first was the Glyptothek, where he could house his sprawling collection of Greek and Roman sculptures, and second, the Bavarian State Collection of Antiques, which contains Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts. King Ludwig I also commissioned the Propylaea, an imposing and austere gate which served as a memorial to his son, the Bavarian prince Otto of Greece.
Despite this architectural and urban prowess, the square is now infamous for being the place where the Nazi party held marches and mass rallies during the Holocaust. In fact, the national headquarters of the Nazi party, the Brown House, was located on Brienner Straße just off the square.
The Bebelplatz is a public square in the central ‘Mitte’ district of Germany’s capital city, Berlin. Today it is best known for being the site where some 20,000 newly banned books were burned by bonfire in 1933 on order of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, because they conflicted with Nazi ideology. The square is surrounded by notable historical buildings, including the German State Opera (Staatsoper); St. Hedwig’s Cathedral (built in 1747 and modeled after Rome’s Pantheon, it was the first Catholic church built in Germany after the Protestant Reformation); and the former Royal Prussian Library (Alte Bibliothek) which is now part of Humboldt University.
All of the buildings on the Bebelplatz were destroyed in World War II and reconstructed afterward. An easily overlooked monument in the center of the square simply contains a pane of glass, which the visitor can look through to see many rows of empty bookshelves underground.
Palace of Tears, or Tränenpalast in German, is a building at Berlin's Friedrichstrasse station that was a border crossing point during the time when the city was split between East and West. It was used by people crossing into West Berlin, so those transiting through here were mostly people who lived in West Berlin who were returning home after visiting family in East Berlin. Due to the painful good-byes that took place here, it was dubbed the Palace of Tears. It was built in 1962 and operated until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.
Today it serves as a museum with a permanent exhibition detailing the border experience and every day life in the divided Germany. Visitors can view original materials, photographs, films, documents, and interviews with witnesses, all of which document the effects and consequences of the border on the lives of Germans during this time. The exhibition also displays information on the key turning points of the reunification process.
Mauerpark is a park in Berlin located in what was once the death strip zone of a section of the Berlin Wall in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood. The name translates literally as “Wall Park.” After the wall came down and East and West were reunited, this park became a popular recreation spot. People gather here to play sports with their friends, to enjoy performances by jugglers and musicians, or simply to hang out with friends. On Sundays, Mauerpark is home to one of Berlin's most popular flea markets. Both locals and tourists come to the flea market to browse through the clothing, shoes, bicycles, vinyl records, and various trinkets.
Another big draw are the Sunday afternoon karaoke sessions that take place at the amphitheater from spring until fall and start at 3 p.m. Remaining sections of the Berlin Wall at the Jahn Stadium now serve as a canvas for graffiti artists. Near the park, visitors will find the Bernauer Straße Memorial.
With its striking three-peaked façade looming over the central Römerberg square, Frankfurt’s historic town hall, the Römer, is one of the city’s most identifiable buildings. The distinctive medieval design, characterized by three stepped gables, adorned with Neogothic embellishments and topped with a domed bell tower, was originally built in the 15th century, but reconstructed after the war to include the now-iconic central balcony.
Today, the Römer also features an additional wing, added in the late 19th-century and linked to the main buildings by a pedestrian bridge, nicknamed the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ after the famous Venice bridge of the same name. Still the center of city council meetings and the house of the municipal leader, the Römer is also a civil registry office and a popular tourist attraction in its own right. For visitors, the undeniable highlight is the magnificent Kaisersaal (Emperor Hall).
The Medizinhistorisches Museum, or Museum of Medical History, is part of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and is located in the former museum building of the Pathological Institute. In the permanent exhibition “On the Trace of Life” visitors can explore medical history over the past 300 years. The exhibit shows how the view of and into the body has continually changed throughout history. The exhibit ends with the patient as the recipient of medicine and the possibilities that exist in today's medical world.
Another central part of the museum is the specimen hall, which dates back to the collecting activities of Rudolf Virchow. Around 750 pathological-anatomical wet and dry preparations are on display here. The museum also features temporary exhibitions that focus on different aspects of current medicine and medical history. Throughout the museum, visitors can view medical instruments, valuable books and microscopes, and hundreds of rare samples.
Famous for his delicate and anatomically precise etchings, woodcuts and prints, Albrecht Dürer was a Northern Renaissance artist who lived all his life in Nuremberg between 1471 and 1528. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the city became one of Germany’s most successful commercial centers and also the focus of a great artistic flowering. Dürer was at the heart of this creative movement, visiting the great Renaissance cities of Italy, regularly attending courts of European royalty and revolutionizing printmaking. His iconic works include The Apocalypse, a number of self-portraits, books on the human anatomy and many sublime animal prints as well as friezes for civic halls in Nuremberg and altar pieces in Prague.
The Albrecht Dürer House is a fachwerkhaus, a half-timbered townhouse with a steep wooden roof and of an architectural style seen all over Bavaria.
Hamburg’s alter ego is raffish St. Pauli and the Reeperbahn, forever synonymous with strip clubs and the Beatles.
The city’s red light district, the Reeperbahn is a pedestrianised street lined with clubs, brothels and sex shops. Its proximity to the port has attracted sailors for centuries, while more recently the Beatles cut their musical teeth playing the seedy clubs here back in the early 1960s.
The scene is still in-your-face but a little less brutal these days, and up-market restaurants and theaters hosting shows like Cats and the Lion King rub shoulders with the less family-friendly forms of entertainment.