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After 12 months of planning and 12 hours of flying, this is Berlin. I’ll be here a month, learning German better at school and revisiting corners of this former East-West border city that featured prominently in the life of everyone my age. My generation was born shortly after Nazi Germany’s surrender, and our lives have been defined by the global political division that followed.

My last trip to what now is the German capital was marked by harassment from Soviet guards at Checkpoint Charlie, shopping at Alexanderplatz with black-market East German marks, a subway papers check by submachine-gun toting People’s Police, and a somber visit to Spandau Prison, where Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess was serving a life sentence. The Berlin Wall has been gone now for more than the 26 years it stood, and I’m here to see the Berlin that has changed with it.

A photo of the iconic Brandenburg Gate, just to prove I’m really here. The fencing is to create a chute Sept. 15 and 16 for the 44,000 registered runners of the Berlin Marathon who will charge through here.

On the way to the Brandenburg Gate is the Adlon Hotel of lore. No one held a baby out the window (as one pop singer did) to show it off to us below.

Where I’ll be at school: the GLS Language Center in suburban Prenzlauer Berg. As you can see, an international high school language event is under way.

Today, the Berlin Wall is a huge tourist attraction. Still a nightmare to the millions who had to live with it.

The Bundestag, seat of the nation’s government in the capital city. The transparent cupola at the top is a modern addition to the parliament’s classical motif.

The tower in Alexanderplatz, a symbol of East Germany before reunification.

Courtyard entrance to a former Prussian palace. The rear gardens are even more stunning.

The former U.S. intelligence station on Devil’s Mountain, now open to visitors.

The stadium, centerpiece of the 1936 Olympics.

The Wannsee House, where a key step in the Final Solution was taken by German authorities.

Rails to the concentration camps. Somber Track 17 at Grunewald train station.

The bombed-out tower of Kaiser Wilhelm Church, now a memorial.

The room in which the Germans surrendered at the end of WWII in Europe.


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