Berlin, Germany

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Berlin has an incredible history just within the 20th century.  This makes it an appealing and fascinating destination for people from all over the world.  It’s a history that feels accessible to us since only 90 years ago, Adolph Hitler was making his move in Berlin with the rise of the Nazi Party and the Third Reich.  The subsequent war ended with a crushing invasion of Berlin by 1.5 million Soviet troops and Hitler’s suicide in his bunker here.  Then the city, and all of Germany was divided up by the victorious allies, kicking off the Cold War with the Soviets eventually building a wall that would divide Berlin.  When the wall came down in 1989, Germany was reunified and there was a huge rush of development in the former East Berlin.

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Hamburg, Germany

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The crest for the city of Hamburg prominently features a castle which represents the Hammaburg that was built by order of Charlemagne around the year 808 AD.  Subsequently the castle was attacked and destroyed, by Vikings, then rebuilt no less than 8 times.  Hamburg really got a boost when, in 1189, Frederick I granted it the status of a Free Imperial City and tax free access into the North Sea.  This made the city a major port in Northern Europe.  In more recent times, they have discovered that in fact, Frederick I died before he could sign this actual document but they were successful in convincing others that he had done so.

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Amsterdam, Netherlands

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The Netherlands, and particularly Amsterdam, experienced a Golden Age during the majority of the 17th century.  In 1602, the Dutch East India Company was founded to trade with India and other Southeast Asian countries.  It experienced rapid growth and is considered to be a forerunner of modern corporations.  The public was offered shares of ownership in the company and many of these owners realized fortunes as the company grew.  The company became a pioneer of outward foreign direct investment by establishing foreign colonies where it possessed quasi-governmental powers.

Amsterdam Canals

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Brussels, Belgium

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The official founding of Brussels is usually considered to be 979.  The town grew rapidly and extended towards the upper town (higher ground) where there is a smaller risk of floods.  In 1225 work began on the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.  The Grand Place was where Brussels traditionally conducted its business.  In 1407, they began construction of the City Hall at this location and eventually, the square was filled with a variety of Guild Halls representing all of the trades.

Grand Place

In 1695, during the Nine Years’ War, French King Louis XIV sent troops to bombard Brussels with artillery.  Together with the resulting fire, it was the most destructive event in the entire history of Brussels.  Most of the Grand Place was destroyed (with the exception of the City Hall) along with 4,000 buildings.  The Guild Halls were all rebuilt within five years, an impressive accomplishment. Continue reading

Brussels Murals

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Belgium is known for its comics or cartoons, which are an integral part of Belgian culture.  Comics are strongly rooted in reality and in people’s imagination.  Some of the most well known characters are Tintin and the cowboy Lucky Luke.

Brussels Mural

On buildings around Brussels, artists have painted large murals depicting many of the favorite comic characters.  There are over 50 of these murals that have been cataloged. It’s a little bit of a scavenger hunt to find them.  Sadly, in some cases, “street artists” have felt the need to add their own stupid graffiti, but most of them are unaltered.