Germany was an empire, a mishmash, a dictatorship, then a shipwreck. For the two decades since reunification, it has at last been a normal country. But it is no sooner normal than it is thrust back on parade. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has emerged from the financial crash of 2008 the unchallenged impresario of the eurozone.

She rescued the currency from disaster last year and salvaged the Greek economy from bankruptcy. She may yet have to do the same for other members of the club. Her country bestrides Europe as it has not done, dare we say it, since the 1940s. This time it does so with a more hesitant leadership and with generosity.

To visit the restored capital of Berlin for the first time in a decade is to see a place transformed. The scars of division have been removed. The wall has gone, as have most traces of the Third Reich. The two greatest traumas of Germany's past have been quietly erased from the Berlin map.

In their place the classical monuments of the Prussian ascendancy are reinstated along the banks of the Spree, like grand old soldiers comforting themselves with their memories.

Beyond is a strange, still bruised city, beset by banal postwar architecture.

Berlin suffers from large building fatigue and cobble-stone starvation. It lacks the boisterous warmth of Munich, the sleek plutocracy of Frankfurt and the bustling commerce of the Rhine. Berliners hate being told how inexpensive their city seems, let alone how empty. It is both. Read full article in the Guardian...