Log on to Europe Today

Travel bargains from 1st Online Travel
International flights, best prices
Hotels in Europe and world wide
Car rental, info and reservations
Holiday cottages, villas and resorts
European tourist information

Free Travel Update
Travel contest

Calling card

EUROPE TODAY International flights, best pricesHotels in Europe and world wideCar rental, info and reservations FIND Exact Match

German bannerWelcome to Germany Today


BrandenburgBerlinThe Free State of Saxony

The legacy of Frederick II. The state of Brandenburg encircles the German capital. Just outside Berlin lies the state capital of Potsdam (140,000), venue of the Potsdam Conference where, in the summer of 1945, the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union took decisions which greatly affected the future of conquered Germany. Potsdam had been deliberately chosen for the conference because of its close association with Prussian-German history, King Frederick II (1712-1786) having made it his residence. Frederick's architectural masterpieces in Potsdam, especially those in the beautiful park of Sanssouci, outlived Prussia's existence as a state. It was there that the enlightened monarch held philosophical discussions with his friends, who included Voltaire (1694-1778). And there he also received other famous guests such as Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

Dutchmen and Huguenots. For a long time thinly populated Brandenburg remained economically underdeveloped. In order to rectify this situation its rulers opened the borders to large numbers of foreigners in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Dutch immigrants as well as Protestants who had been expelled from France and Bohemia brought their knowledge and skills and played a major part in the region's advancement. We are still reminded of this by such names as the 'Dutch Quarter' and the 'French Church' in Potsdam.

The countryside around Berlin has been impressively described by Theodor Fontane (1819-1898), a descendant of French Huguenots, in his famous 'Walks in the March of Brandenburg'.

Brandenburg is the largest of the new German states. Agriculture and forestry are important branches of the economy. Thirty-five per cent of the total area is forest (mainly fir). This region grows rye and wheat, oilseed, potatoes and sugarbeet and, in a belt around Berlin and in the Oderbruch near Frankfurt on the Oder, fruit and vegetables. The industrial centres are around Eisenhuttenstadt (steel) and Cottbus, where the lignite mines provide the raw materials for the chemical industry and energy. 23.6 per cent of the workforce are employed in engineering and the automotive industry. Mercedes Benz has a truck assembly works in Ludwigsfelde to the south of Berlin. The company proposes to invest one billion marks there. Frankfurt on the Oder is known for its electrical engineering and appliance construction industries. Increasing numbers of tourists are attracted to Brandenburg's rugged but none the less charming landscape of forests and lakes.

The old (1508-1811) and new (since 1991) university town of Frankfurt on the Oder acquires a new significance as a distribution port for eastern Europe now that visas are no longer required for travel between Germany and Poland. Since 1991 a German-Polish intergovernmental commission for regional and transborder cooper- ation has been promoting good-neighbourly contacts in the Euro-regions of 'Viadrina' and 'Spree-Neisse-Bobr'.

Brandenburg sees good prospects of sharing in Berlin's economic boom. There are plans for merging Brandenburg and Berlin into one federal state with Potsdam as the capital. This is the task of an inter-state commission.

Back up

A city with a turbulent past. For decades Berlin was the symbol of Germany's division and a flashpoint in the Cold War between the victorious western powers and the Soviet Union. In 1948 only the unforgettable airlift enabled the West Berliners to survive an 11-month Soviet blockade of the city. Aircraft of the American Air Force, supported by the British and French allies, kept the people of West Berlin supplied with vital necessities.

In the 50s the three western sectors and East Berlin grew more and more apart. The city's partition seemed to be cemented for ever when the East Germans began to build that infamous wall on 13 August 1961. With his famous call 'Ich bin ein Berliner' in front of Schoneberg town-hall in 1963, US President John F. Kennedy endorsed his support for the city and its people. Among Berlin's governing mayors are such famous names as Ernst Reuter, Willy Brandt and Richard von Weizsacker. And in 1987 President Ronald Reagan, in a speech near the Brandenburg Gate, appealed to the Soviet Union to 'tear down this wall'. The wall was indeed opened - on 9 November 1989 - in the wake of the peaceful revolution in East Germany. That was the city's chance to make a new start.

Germany's capital and a European cultural centre. Prior to its spiritual and cultural decline under the nazi dictatorship, and prior to the destruction caused by the Second World War, Berlin was not only the hub of German industry but, in the 'golden twenties', also one of Europe's cultural capitals. With Germany's division now a thing of the past, cultural roots, severed for decades, can grow together again and complement each other. Berlin boasts three opera houses (Deutsche Oper, Deutsche Staatsoper, Komische Oper), several major orchestras and dozens of theatres, and it continues to be one of the world's greatest museum cities. The leading newspapers are 'Berliner Morgenpost', 'Berliner Zeitung' and 'Tagesspiegel'. The university in the eastern part of the city is named after the von Humboldt brothers, Wilhelm (1767-1835), the scholar and politician, and Alexander (1769-1859), a famous naturalist and traveller. In the western part are the Free University and the Technical University, both founded in 1948. Berlin also has many famous research establishments, such as the Hahn Meitner Institute of Nuclear Physics, the Heinrich Hertz Institute of Communications Technology, and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

The future seat of the Federal Government continues to grow and it is estimated that the metropolitan area's present population of 3,5 million will almost double by the year 2000. Great efforts are being made to modernize the city's transport systems (roads, city and underground railways, ferries, airports) without destroying its many parks, woods and lakes.

Berlin is still Germany's largest industrial centre, focusing mainly on engineering, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, textiles and especially electrical goods. Two world famous companies were established there in the 19th century: Siemens and AEG. With Berlin as their base they have successfully coped with the transition to the information age.

The reunited city faces tremendous challenges. The people in both parts of Berlin, having lived for decades under different political systems, are now growing accustomed to one another again and the economic disparity is being overcome. Hundreds of thousands of flats, especially in the eastern districts, are being brought up to standard. Unification has sparked an economic boom but the measures needed to link the two parts together, to develop and modernize the future seat of government and to accommodate the rapidly growing population demand creativity, investment and enterprise. German and foreign investors have meanwhile acquired large plots of land at Potsdamer Platz, which had remained derelict since the Second World War. Planning for the new government quarter in the Spreebogen is well advanced. 835 architects from 44 countries took part in a competition for the area's overall design and layout. The nearby cathedral, having been renovated over the past 20 years, is now resplendent in its former glory.

Back up

The Free State of Saxony
'Little Paris' and 'Florence on the Elbe'. Saxony is the most densely populated and most industrialized of the new German states. More than one fifth of the region's 4.9 million inhabitants live in Leipzig (508,000) and Dresden (488,000). Leipzig, famous for its international industrial fair and referred to by Goethe as 'little Paris', was one of the main centres of peaceful resistance to the Communist regime in East Germany. The 'Monday demonstrations' in the city culminated on 9 October 1989 in the chant: 'We are the people!' And Dresden, that 'pearl of baroque architecture' which was reduced almost to ashes in the inferno of the 1945 bombings, has been made capital of the restored 'Free State of Saxony'.

The Meissen porcelain factory has been producing its famous merchandise continuously since 1710. The year before, Johann Friedrich Bottger (1682-1719) had produced his formula for this 'white gold'. Also world-famous are the wood carvings and pillow lace from the Erzgebirge.

Chemnitz, with its Technical University and research institutes, focuses on mechanical engineering and, of late, micro-electronics. Zwickau is a car manufacturing centre, though instead of the legendary Trabant ('Trabi') Volkswagen's 'Polo' is now produced there. Leipzig, once Germany's most important commercial centre and hub of the publishing world, continues to stage its international trade fair, which makes it a gateway to Eastern Europe.

Dresden, popularly known as 'Florence on the Elbe', hopes to be able to live up to its reputation as one of Germany's cultural centres. It is still a leading city in the world of music, with the Opera House, built in the Italian Renaissance style by Gottfried Semper in 1870-78, restored to its former glory, the Staatskapelle, and the famous choir, the Kreuzchor. It is an El Dorado of the visual arts with its extensive collections of precious stones, pearls and works of art in the Grunes Gewolbe and its paintings by European masters in the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister.

The Elbe Sandstone Mountains in the 'Switzerland of Saxony' is a popular holiday region, but not only on account of the ideal climbing conditions it has to offer. Great efforts are being made to expand the tourist trade. An 'Erzgebirge Silver Route' is being developed which will lead visitors to 150 places of interest.

Creative energy and enterprising spirit. Saxony features in many chapters of German cultural history. The works of Johann Sebastian Bach (born in Eisenach in 1685) are traditionally performed by the St. Thomas's Choir in Leipzig where he was cantor from 1723 until his death in 1750. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), philosopher, mathematician and diplomat, discovered the binary number system and - independently of Newton - infinitesimal calculus. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) extolled in his drama 'Nathan the Wise' the virtues of humanity and tolerance. Other sons of Saxony are the composers Robert Schumann (1810-1856) and Richard Wagner (1813-1883).

Even when eastern Germany had a centrally planned economy the Saxons retained their artistic and business sense. Now their characteristic enterprise is beginning to reassert itself. Of the new federal states, this one is considered to have the best economic prospects.

Back up

You are here: Europe Today - Germany - East Germany

© Copyright 1995-2000 Europe Today A.S. (Text: Uwe Wähner) - All rights reserved.