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Bonn, city, Köln Regierungsbezirk (administrative district), North Rhine–Westphalia Land (state), Germany. The city is located on the Rhine River, about 15 miles (24 km) south of Cologne. From 1949 to 1990 it was the provisional capital of West Germany, and it served as the seat of the German federal government from 1990 until 1999–2000, when the government completed its move to Berlin (designated the capital in 1991).
The oldest settlement known by the name of Bonn was a river crossing discovered by Roman legionnaires in the 1st century BC. The settlement itself probably disappeared soon afterward, but its name was continued in Castra Bonnensia, a fortress built by the Romans in the 1st century AD. Castra Bonnensia survived the breakup of the Roman Empire as a civilian settlement, and in the 9th century it became the Frankish town of Bonnburg.
Bonn grew in importance from the 13th century, becoming the capital of the Electorate and Archbishopric of Cologne, which was then a sovereign state. This era ended in 1794, when the French Revolutionary forces occupied the city. In 1815 Bonn was awarded to Prussia by the Congress of Vienna. There was little development until the second half of the 19th century, when the city became a fashionable residential town. It was severely damaged during World War II. Development was accelerated after 1949, when Bonn was chosen as the provisional capital of West Germany, and in 1969 it was amalgamated with the towns of Bad Godesberg and Beuel and several small parishes.
Capital of the Federal Republic of Germany until 1990 and now an internationally renowned hub of commerce and culture, the idyllic city of Bonn on the Rhine River is as assured and cosmopolitan as ever.
To this day, Bonn and the ‘Bonn Republic’ are symbolic of diplomacy, democracy and Germany’s rise following World War II. Authentic sites of Germany’s political past now open to visitors include Palais Schaumburg, the Chancellor’s Bungalow and the former parliament chamber.
The city also has many exhibits that rekindle memories and illustrate the historical and political background to events between the post-war period and reunification.
But Bonn is much more than just the former capital of Germany, as it enjoys a widespread reputation as a city of the arts. As the birthplace of Beethoven, Bonn spreads the joy of classical music and honours its world-famous son during the Beethoven Festival with a series of concerts held every September and October.
The city lives up to its reputation as one of Germany’s finest centres for art with two of Germany’s most significant art museums – the Bonn Museum of Modern Art and the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany (better known as the Bundeskunsthalle).
The Museum of Modern Art features one of the most extensive collections of German Expressionism, while visitors who stroll across the Marktplatz square, which dates back to the 11th century, can marvel at the Baroque Town Hall as they sample the delicious produce that local farmers sell here daily.
Bonn is one of the oldest cities in Germany. The city celebrated its 2,000th anniversary in 1989, based on the date of its first written mention by the Roman writer Florus in 11 B.C.
Bonn is one of the oldest cities in Germany. The city celebrated its 2,000th anniversary in 1989, based on the date of its first written mention by the Roman writer Florus in 11 B.C. The Romans appreciated Bonn’s easily accessible location on the Rhine, mild climate, and beautiful surroundings. The area was settled long before Roman times, however, with first traces of human settlement dating back as far as 50,000 years.
From a Roman garrison, during the Middle Ages, Bonn developed into a spiritual and trading centre: the current Bonn market was already a market settlement more than 1,000 years ago.
Bonn was granted a full municipal charter in 1243, and in the 16th century the electors and archbishops of Cologne chose Bonn as their capital and city of residence. Their magnificent palaces and buildings are still bringing Baroque splendour to the city today.
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770 at Bonngasse 515, which is now house number 20. During the 19th century, the University of Bonn developed into one of the most important higher education institutions in Germany.
After the relocation of parliament and parts of the government in 1999, six federal ministries remained on the Rhine.
Experience political world history as part of one of the numerous guided tours through the government district and selected buildings.
This district, nowadays known as the ‘Federal Quarter’ (Bundesviertel), reflects Bonn’s fundamental change from the hub of politics to a location of international business and service companies.
Many buildings in the ‘Federal Quarter’, familiar from the political past, continue to fulfil important functions. The former Plenary Chamber of Parliament (‘Bundestag’) and the buildings of the erstwhile waterworks (‘Altes Wasserwerk’) serve as an international conference centre. What used to be the office building of the Members of Parliament plus a few adjacent buildings is the UN Campus of today. Bonn was appointed the German UN City in 1996.
Deutsche Welle, the German international broadcaster, airs its programmes in 30 languages from its headquarters in the ‘Federal Quarter’.
what is the capital of germany?
Berlin, capital and chief urban centre of Germany. The city lies at the heart of the North German Plain, athwart an east-west commercial and geographic axis that helped make it the capital of the kingdom of Prussia and then, from 1871, of a unified Germany. Berlin’s former glory ended in 1945, but the city survived the destruction of World War II. It was rebuilt and came to show amazing economic and cultural growth.
Germany’s division after the war put Berlin entirely within the territory of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany). The city itself echoed the national partition—East Berlin being the capital of East Germany and West Berlin a Land (state) of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, or West Germany). West Berlin’s isolation was later reinforced by the concrete barrier erected in 1961 and known as the Berlin Wall. Its status as an enclave made Berlin a continuous focus of confrontation between the Eastern and Western powers as well as a symbol of Western lifestyle for 45 years.
Physical and human geography
The city site
Berlin is situated about 112 miles (180 km) south of the Baltic Sea, 118 miles (190 km) north of the Czech-German border, 110 miles (177 km) east of the former inner-German border, and 55 miles (89 km) west of Poland. It lies in the wide glacial valley of the Spree River, which runs through the centre of the city. The mean elevation of Berlin is 115 feet (35 metres) above sea level. The highest point near the centre of Berlin is the peak of the Kreuzberg, a hill that rises 218 feet (66 metres) above sea level.
Berlin lies where the influence of the Atlantic Ocean fades and the climate of the continental plain begins. The city’s mean annual temperature is about 48 °F (9 °C), and mean temperatures range from 30 °F (−1 °C) in winter to 65 °F (18 °C) in summer. The average precipitation is 22 inches (568 mm). About one-fifth to one-fourth of the total falls as snow.
The city layout
The original twin towns of Berlin and Kölln developed from the early 13th century onward, on an island of the Spree River (the site of Kölln) and a small portion of land on the north bank of the river facing the island (the site of Berlin). While still a small town, it became the capital of the electoral princes of Brandenburg from the end of the 15th century onward.
From the late 17th and early 18th centuries, when the electors of Brandenburg (also kings of Prussia from 1701) developed into powerful figures on the European political stage, the city expanded and gained a Baroque appearance; new castles, such as Charlottenburg Palace, were built.
The central quarter expanded and was embellished with broad avenues, handsome squares, and grandiose stone buildings. The central area acquired broad north-south avenues, such as Wilhelmstrasse and Friedrichstrasse, and also its characteristic east-west road axis.
Although the two parts of the city divided by the wall were approximately equal in area, the population of East Berlin numbered less than two-thirds that of West Berlin.
Because the average age of West Berliners was higher than that of other West Germans, West Berlin encouraged the immigration of younger West German and foreign workers. With the end of partition, new patterns of population growth quickly emerged. Some people from the west sought cheaper housing in the east.
Property values and rents soared throughout the city. Many international firms sought Berlin locations. In the early 1990s more than 300,000 non-Germans, “guest workers” and refugees, were permanent residents of the city. The district of Kreuzberg has the largest Turkish community in Europe.
During much of its history, Berlin has had a multiethnic population. Since the collapse of communism, the city has attracted immigrants, including a significant number of Jews, from various eastern European countries and the former Soviet Union. Indeed, the city has experienced a modest rebirth of its once-thriving Jewish community.
The economy of Berlin
Industry and trade
To a large extent, traditional economic activities, greatly reduced by World War II, have been revived throughout Greater Berlin. These include the production of textiles, metals, clothing, porcelain and china, bicycles, and machinery. Electronics became a principal postwar industry. The production of food, chemicals, cigarettes, and confectionery continues. Berlin is Germany’s largest industrial town and a major centre of trade and technological development; many companies maintain facilities in the city.
Modern rapid transit systems have existed since the 19th century. Construction of the Stadt- or Schnellbahn (S-Bahn), a largely elevated and partly underground railway system, began in 1871, and building of the subway, or Untergrundbahn (U-Bahn), was initiated in 1897. By World War II the city had one of the finest rapid transit systems in Europe. After the erection of the wall, the bus became the mainstay of transportation, although streetcar service continued in some eastern districts. After unification, through train service increased rapidly, reconnecting Berlin with all major German and European cities.
Administration and social conditions
Berlin has a central government and 12 district governments, with a chief burgomaster, or mayor, a 16-member government, and a city assembly, or parliament, on the central, or Land (state), level, and district mayors, district councils (governments), and district assemblies on the local level.
The city has various local and state courts, including a constitutional court. The constitution of former West Berlin, amended in 1990, served as the transitional constitution of the state of Berlin until 1995, when a referendum on a revised constitution passed. The first all-Berlin elections since 1948 were held in 1990. For the following decade the united city was governed by a Christian Democratic mayor and a grand coalition of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).