The St. Nikolai-Kirche, (St. Nicholas' Church) is the oldest church in Berlin. The area around the church is known as the 'Nicholas quarter', and is an area of restored mediaeval buildings. The church was built between 1220 and 1230, and is thus, along with the Church of Our Lady at Alexanderplatz not far away, the oldest church in Berlin.
Originally a Roman Catholic church, the Church of St. Nicholas became a Lutheran church after the Protestant Reformation in the Electorate of Brandenburg in 1539. In the 17th century, the prominent hymn-writer Paul Gerhardt was the minister of this church, and the composer Johann Crueger was musical director. The prominent Lutheran theologian Provost Philipp Jacob Spener was the minister from 1691 to 1705. From 1913 to 1923 the minister at the Church of St. Nicholas was Wilhelm Wessel, whose son Horst Wessel later became famous as a Nazi: the family lived in the nearby Jüdenstraße.
On Reformation Day in 1938 the church building served its congregation for the last time. Then the building, the oldest structure in Berlin proper, was given up to the government, to be used as a concert hall and ecclesiastical museum. The number of parishioners had shrunk due to the ever intensifying commercialisation of the inner city with residential premises being superseded by offices and shops. The congregation later merged with that of the Church of Our Lady.
During World War II the Church of St. Nicholas lost by fire the tops of its towers and the roof as a result of Allied bombing. In 1949 all the vaults and the northern pillars collapsed. The ruins were in East Berlin, and it was not until 1981 that the East German Democratic Republic authorities authorised the rebuilding of the church, using old designs and plans. The Church of St. Nicholas as seen today is largely a reconstruction. Today the church serves again mainly as a museum and occasionally as a concert venue, administered by the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin (Landesmuseum für Kultur und Geschichte Berlins). It is renowned for its acoustics and the rebuilt church has been equipped with a fine set of 41 bells.
Perched atop its cliff where the Ploučnice meets the Elbe, Děčín Castle is one of the oldest and largest landmarks in northern Bohemia. In the past several hundred years it has served as a point of control for the Bohemian princes, a military fortress, and noble estate.
The forerunner of the Děčín Castle was a wooden fortress built towards the end of the 10th century by the Bohemian princes. The first written record of the province dates from 993 A.D. and of the fortress itself from 1128. In the thirteenth century it was rebuilt in stone as a royal castle that, under unknown circumstances, fell into the hands of the powerful Wartenberg dynasty around 1305.
Numerous later renovations has erased all but fragments of the original medieval semblance of the castle. A significant change to the castle came in the second half of the 16th century when it was held by the Saxon Knights of Bünau, who gradually rebuilt the lower castle into a Renaissance palace with a grand ceremonial hall. The current semblance of the castle is the work of the Thun-Hohensteins, who held the Děčín lands from 1628 to 1932. The Thuns originally came from southern Tyrol and gradually worked their way to the upper echelons of Hapsburg society where they regularly filled important political and church appointments.
The Thuns reworked the castle twice. The first reconstruction, in the Baroque style, was undertaken by Maximilian von Thun, Imperial envoy and diplomat, and was meant to enhance the ceremonial aspects of the property. A central element of the project was a grand access road, the Long Drive, ending in the upper gate of the completely rebuilt entry wing. Along the drive stretched an ornamental garden (today known as the Rose Garden) and a riding yard. Maximilian’s brother Johann Ernst von Thun was responsible for the erection of the Church of the Ascension of the Holy Cross in the town below.
The second and final reconstruction of the castle was undertaken in 1786–1803. The Gothic and Renaissance palaces were torn down, all structures were leveled to the same height and gave them a unified facade. On the riverfront the castle's new dominant feature arose, a slender clock tower. Thus the castle took on the Baroque-Classical style we see today.
In the course of the 19th century, the castle became an important cultural and political center. In the 20th century the castle was used as a military garrison for German and Soviet troops after being handed to the Czechoslovak state in 1932. In 1991 the castle reverted to the ownership of the city of Děčín and the gradual renovation of the devastated structure began.
The eastern wing serves as a branch of the Děčín Regional Museum. The northern wing is occupied by the State District Archives. The staterooms of the western wing welcome individual and group tours, weddings, concerts, exhibits, and other cultural events. The castle courtyard comes to life throughout the year with events ranging from the Historic May Fair to the Wine Festival in September.