Berlin is a phoenix reinventing itself. Decades of war and oppression are being replaced by trendy boutiques, sidewalk cafes, retail-shopping areas, and renovated historical monuments and museums.

Since World War II much of this German capital was in ruins after intensive bombing. Then, for more than 28 years, it was a divided city with a barbed-wire fence erected under the cover of night, eventually turning into a permanent concrete barrier. When the wall fell, the rush of freedom and new hope was almost inexpressible.

As a first time visitor, part of what impressed me the most was that this city doesn’t hide its dark past. Instead, it’s put on display in the hopes that future generations will never forget what happened here. The Checkpoint Charlie Museum, for example, is one of the most popular spots for visitors. Inside are displays, newsreels and artifacts from those who successfully escaped. Some hid in hollowed out gas tanks, others tried to swim, and one family constructed a hot air balloon and floated to their freedom in West Berlin.

For the full story, visit http://sdgln.com/entertainment/2013/08/08/city-contrasts-berlin-germany

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