Berlin is Germany's capital and the capital of the Land of Berlin, one of the 16 federal states that make up the Federal Republic of Germany.
With a population of 3.5 million (4.5 million if adjacent suburbs across the state line in Brandenburg are counted), Berlin is Germany's biggest city, but the Ruhr area arguably has a bigger metro area population.
The focus on and dominance of Berlin as a capital is and has historically been far weaker than that of London, Paris or Madrid, not least because of the federal nature of Germany and the havoc partition wreaked on the city.
Berlin is unusual among European capitals in many respects and the four decades of partition - 28 years of them being physically separated by a wall - have also left traces. Barely a fishing village in the 18th century, Berlin grew to be one of the most important and biggest cities in the world by the 1920s, only to lose much of its importance and historic architecture as a result of World War II and German partition. The heart of old Prussia and a focal point of the Cold War, Berlin today is coming into its own again as a cosmopolitan capital of one of Europe's wealthiest nations.
"Arm aber sexy" (poor but sexy) as a former mayor would have it, Berlin attracts young people, students and a creative bohème like few other cities in the world. With architectural heritage from Prussian monarchism, Nazism, East German communism and Potsdamer Platz, filled 1990s and 2000s style glass palaces, Berlin's architecture is as varied as its neighborhoods and its people.
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