As every year of the new millennium goes by, the reunited city of Berlin more firmly establishes itself as the capital of the Germany of the 21st century. Berlin was almost bombed out of existence during World War II, its streets reduced to piles of rubble, its parks to muddy swampland. But the optimistic spirit and strength of will of the remarkable Berliners enabled them to survive not only the wartime destruction of their city, but also its postwar division, symbolized by the Berlin Wall. Today, structures of steel and glass tower over streets where
before only piles of rubble lay, and parks and gardens are again lush. Before the war, the section of the city that became East Berlin was the cultural and political heart of Germany, where the best museums, the finest churches, and the most important boulevards lay.
The walled-in East Berliners turned to restoring their important museums, theaters, and landmarks (especially in the Berlin-Mitte section), while the West Berliners built entirely new museums and cultural centers. This contrast between the two parts of the city is still evident today, though east and west have more or less come together within the immense, fascinating whole that is Berlin.