History of Berlin to 1976
At the beginning of the 13th century, the community of Coelln grew up on an island in the Spree. It is mentioned for the first time in a document dated 1237.
Berlin started on the right bank, later. In 1307, Coelln and Berlin merged into one city. In 1451, the castle of Coelln ad der Spree became the permanent residence of the Elector. In 1710, there were 56,000 inhabitants including 6,000 Huguenots (Protestant refugees from France), 500 Swiss and 500 from the Palatinate, and the city covered 182 acres. The Prussian "Soldier King," Frederick William I made Berlin the capitol of Prussia and his son Frederick the Great continued to make Berlin a center of culture in Europe. Napoleon occupied Berlin in 1806, but the revolution of 1848 was short-lived and William I became emperor of the Second German Reich in 1871, with Berlin as its capital. All this was cut short by the First World War. After the war, Berlin became the capital of Germany's first democracy, the Weimar Republic, in the 1920s.
Berlin remained the capital of Germany during the Nazi era. Hitler even envisioned the city as 'Germania', the capital of a global empire. Berliners suffered under Nazi rule, especially the persecuted left-wing movements and the vast Jewish community. More than 60,000 Berlin Jews, nearly half of the city's population, died in the Holocaust. Thousands more fled the country.
By the end of World War II, Old Berlin had been reduced to a pile of rubble. Anything from before the war has probably been reconstructed. The Potsdam Agreement divided the city into four sectors, each of which was ruled by one of the Allies—the USA, USSR, Britain and France. The German Democratic Republic proclaimed East Berlin as its capital. And this was the way it remained when I visitd in 1976
Jump on the 100 bus
For a great and reasonably cheap bus tour of the city just jump on the 100 at Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten and travel down towards Prenzlauer Allee.
It passes by many sights including Kaiser Wilhelm Church, the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate.
All this for the price of a bus fare, which is 2 euros.
Turks and others
There are over 2 mln Turkish people living in Germany of which many live in Berlin.
That's why I could easy find quite many Turkish restaurants and food (kebab) and some Turkish shops in Berlin esp. in Kreuzberg district where I saw stalls on which Turkish vendors sold cheap clothes.
The large numbers of Turks, Greeks and Italians originally came as "guest workers" in the 1960s. I found lots of races, colors, tastes and faces in multicultural Berlin including Turkish, Arabs, Asians, Africans.
Oranienburger Str is a street full of surprises. Hidden bars, galleries, shops and nightclubs seem to be the norm. Surprises await you up stairs, down alleys and in buildings that seem uninhabited. An artists dream come true. The night life is also full of great music and friendly people. The best way to find something to do is word of mouth as it seem that there are many hidden treasures in this part of town
UPDATE: Sadly this area, like many ares of Berlin in recent years, has drastically changed. I originally visited this area in 1998 and found it as described above. When returning in 2001 I found many upscale shops, bars and restaurants. Luckily some of the artists still remain but the raising rent and refurbishing of buildings has driven a lot of them out. It's still worth a visit but not as exciting as it once was.
About the wall and cold war
On the western side of Ebertstraße between Branderburg Gate and Reichstag on the edge of Tiergarten park and on the place where the Belin wall stood, there was a special place to commemorate victims of the Berlin Wall.
There were numerous white crosses hang on the fence and there was this table on my picture but no street vendor at the moment I was there. Books, leaflets, old newspapers and video-cassetes on history of Berlin Wall and Cold War. Hmm... everything in German. There was advertisement printed on a paper: "STASI-files in English" (and in German, Spanish and Italian). Excuse, I have no idea.