Esme Nicholson

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Every day at noon, Berliners are reminded of the American ideals of freedom and democracy as the Freedom Bell rings out from a tower of the government building where U.S. President John F. Kennedy gave his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in 1963.

Modeled on Philadelphia's Liberty Bell, the 10-ton bronze bell arrived in 1950 as a gift from the National Committee for a Free Europe to the people of what was then West Berlin.

Airports can be emotional places, where loved ones part ways and families reunite. Now more than ever, as the pandemic hampers air travel, they are an embodiment of what the Germans call Fernweh, which — for want of an English word — roughly means the painful longing to be elsewhere, a wretched wanderlust or restlessness.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced a limited lockdown in a bid to stop the exponential growth in coronavirus cases, currently doubling every seven days.

Following long negotiations with Germany's 16 state governors, Merkel, who's been urging the public to dial down socializing for weeks, persuaded the governors that closing bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, swimming pools, theaters, cinemas and concert venues is their best option.

"We only need infection numbers to double another four times and the health system is finished," she warned Wednesday.

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Statues and Ancient Egyptian sarcophagi are among about 70 objects that have been damaged with an oily substance at several of Berlin's major museums.

Police, who believe vandalism to be the cause, are unsure of the motive. But German media is speculating a link to a conspiracy theory propagated by coronavirus deniers.

Christina Haak, the deputy director general of Berlin State Museums, told reporters Wednesday that the incident amounts to the greatest damage to the museums' artefacts since World War II.

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