Last Day in Berlin

Our time in Berlin was coming to a close, and this is how we spent our final day.  We walked over to the “Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe”  the site dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust.  The art installation that sits on this city block is made up of concrete blocks, each one slightly different from all the other ones.  We passed by it on our tour the day before but weren’t able to really explore it because we used the break to take care of some baby stuff.  Looking at it from the edge you don’t realize the size of some of the blocks. As you walk into it you begin to almost disappear.

Right next to this happens to be the United States Embassy, and what do you know know they had a special bear too, dressed like Lady Liberty!

It was our favorite bear in Berlin.

 Right down the street from the embassy is the Brandenburg Gate.  We didn’t get a chance for the family photo on the tour so we had to snap one before we left!  After that we found our way to the nearby Starbucks and sipped on coffee while people watching on the platz.

The famous ampelmann crossing symbol.

All that was left was to grab a few souvenirs and head back to the train station.  We ended up in another sticky train situation that made our departure a little stressful but in the end it turned out OK. Overall I found Berlin to be a very clean, walkable, and enjoyable city.  Berlin is very modern, but has such a deep history.  The city is still rebuilding after its tumultuous past.  The Berlin Wall came down in our lifetime and it’s rare-especially in Europe-to see the effects of historic events like that happening in front of your eyes.  Most people who’ve been to Berlin have plenty of good things to say about it and I can definitely see why!

Berlin Walking Tour

On our second day in Berlin, the six of us set out on a walking tour of the city.  We started out near Museum Island, which my husband and I were quite familiar with from the day before.  Our guide Darren was an Irish post-grad student studying German history here in Berlin.  He was a great guide, he had so much knowledge and was able to really put things into a context where they were easy to understand.  Tours are all about the guide, and we lucked out with this one!

We started out in the same Museum Island area that we had been the day prior.  Our guide wound us through Berlin’s big sites and historic tales.  We learned so much from him and were able to really get an understanding of the city’s history.

Trying to keep up with the group walking through the Brandenburg Gate.
The ending point of the tour in a beautiful platz.
Baby Girl had to put on her bear suit to keep warm!

After the tour we made a detour into a chocolate shop to look around.

Giant chocolate Titanic.
Chocolate Brandenburg Gate.
Browsing…

After looking at all that chocolate we needed to sit down for some kaffee & kuchen (coffee & cake).  K and I ended up trading the coffee for prosecco, I mean we were on vacation!

Daddies and their girls.

Later that evening we set out to find a rarity in Germany…good Mexican food.  I had seen several people recommend this restaurant on some local Facebook groups so we decided to give it a go.  And we were not disappointed!  This place was delicious and probably tasted even more delicious after not eating Mexican food for almost two years.

Margaritas & Coronas, yum!

On the way back home we stopped to try to get a photo with some of the light displays that were up through the city for the Festival of Lights.  There were many different lighting displays on various buildings and landmarks.  The city was crawling with photographers, amateurs and professionals alike.  It took us a few tries but we were finally able to snap a decent shot, we’re still working on our night photography :).

Sights of Berlin

Our first full day in Berlin began without a particular plan.  My husband & I decided to head over toward Museum Island to check it out.  The Berlin Cathedral or Berliner Dom is also over in that area.  As you can see it was a very overcast and misty day, but still pleasant enough to walk around.  Museum Island sits in the middle of the river that runs through Berlin.

We found our first Berlin Bear (they are scattered over the city, all painted differently).
I’ve never seen a brat stand quite like this, the guy is wearing the grill and the umbrella!

We decided to pop into the cathedral to take a peak.  It is quite “cozy” on the inside.  It’s not as massive as some of the other churches we have visited but I thought it was nice.  You get a more intimate feeling inside.

Music was playing while we were inside, so we stopped to sit and listen for a bit.

Statue at the tomb of one of the King’s wives, death is writing her name down…creepy!

From there we headed over to the Neues Museum.  Most famously it houses the Egyptian bust of Nefertiti.  It also houses many different artifacts from ancient civilizations.  It was really well presented and laid out.  The building itself still shows signs of damage from World War II.  It was left that way intentionally as a reminder.

Source-The bust of Nefertiti
The inside and outside architecture is littered with pock marks from the bombing of the city.

From there we ran back onto the “mainland” for lunch because the museum cafe was just too crowded for us and our stroller (but the food looked delicious).  We settled for an outdoor lunch of club sandwiches instead :).  Then we popped into the Pergamon Museum.  This museum is impressive because it has taken actual pieces of buildings and gates from ancient civilizations and rebuilt them inside the museum.  The Pergamon Altar was taken from the Greek city of Pergamon, there are models to show how it would’ve appeared in whole in the city.  The Ishtar Gate was the inner gate to the city of Babylon.  Both of the pictures below cannot do them justice, they are truly massive in scale and very impressive to see.

The Pergamon Altar-Source
Ishtar Gate-Source

From there we went back to the area of our hotel to meet with R, K, and E at the Topography of Terror exhibit.  It sits on the former headquarters of the S.S. and Gestapo.  It is a free exhibit outlining Nazi history, rise to power, and fall after the war.  It was a very detailed and though we’ve seen many of these sites before, we find ourselves learning new things each time.  It is hard to imagine, and never loses it’s astonishing horror. It’s a heavy topic but an unavoidable part of European, and world history.  Just outside it sits the only remaining connected section of the Berlin Wall, another dark part of the city’s history.  Honestly I didn’t know much about the wall until getting ready for this trip.  I knew that it existed and that it came down in my lifetime, but I never understood the purpose.  One of the things I’m the most grateful for about being in Europe is how it has allowed me to learn and deepen my understanding of history.

After World War II, Berlin was split in half by the Soviet Union on the east and the Americans, British, and French on the west. The wall was built in the 1960’s by the Soviet controlled East Berlin authorities. The east side was communist, and there were rising tensions between them and their capitalist neighbors. The Soviet authorities constructed the wall to keep their own people from escaping and leaving to the  west side. Families were separated by the wall, and people died trying to escape beyond it. The history behind it is fascinating and is another very hard to imagine scenario.

After all that, it was time for a pick me up and dinner!  We headed out to find a Cuban restaurant recommended by our favorite travel guide.  Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let us in with our strollers-boo!  So we had to go elsewhere.  Luckily we found a delicious Indian restaurant down the street that was happy to accommodate us!  One more full day was left in the city.  Here’s a happy picture of Baby Girl and me enjoying our time in Berlin!

 

Crazy Train to Berlin

It was time for another four day getaway, this time with our good friends R, K, and Baby E.  This was our first trip together since Morocco and our first one all together with the babies!  We bought our train tickets 90 days in advance, getting us a great deal on prices.  We thought the train would be a much more relaxing way to travel vs. driving two cars.  For the most part it was, but we ran into some hiccups along the way.

We had taken a regional train to Mannheim where we switched to an ICE train (fast train) to Berlin.  We had reserved a cabin so that we could all sit together and have our own little contained space.  It was a circus getting on and seated because we were four adults, two babies, two big strollers, lots of suitcases, bags of food, diaper bags…you get the idea.  Traveling light is much more difficult now.  So once we finally got the bags stored, the strollers broken down, babies situated, it was time for mimosas!

R popping the champagne in the hallway.
Hubby mixing the celebratory mimosas.

We had just toasted to our trip and taken our first sips when over the intercom we noticed an announcement in German talking about Berlin and the next station.  Not getting a good feeling, we also notice that the hallway has filled with people in line to get off the train.  Since we weren’t supposed to stop until Berlin, this was a little odd.  Next thing we know they repeat the announcement in English telling all passengers for Berlin to get off the train at the next station-the train was terminating.  Great.  So we start rushing around to gather bags, put strollers back together, put coats on, and juggle red cups of mimosas.  We hurriedly made our way off the train onto the platform asking a Deutsche Bahn employee what we were supposed to do.  They told us to go a couple tracks over and get on that train to Berlin.  So we rush over there, and make it on the train with only a few minutes to spare.  The only problem was, now there were people in our “reserved” cabin who were insisting it was their reserved cabin.  Meanwhile, the train is moving, K and I are stuck in the hallway with our strollers blocking anyone from passing through. The guys are separated from us trying to ask another employee what’s going on.  We didn’t realize we had been told to get on another train for Berlin that was already full.  So everyone from our train has now double packed this already full train.  Great.  So now people are not only staring at us for blocking the aisle (from which we didn’t have room to move forward or backward), they have decided to try and push past us to get to the restroom.  One lady even had the nerve to tell us we shouldn’t be standing there when clearly there was no way to go anywhere else…geez!  Hubby had found another conductor who said we could take our chances looking for an empty cabin in another car, or get off at the next station and get on the next train which was our original train resuming it’s course.  We opted to get off and wait for the sure thing where our seats were guaranteed.  After this whole ordeal we got settled again and enjoyed the rest of the ride, but it got off to a crazy start.

Looking a little worn after finally getting settled…for the 2nd time.

We got into Berlin later than expected and basically only had time to check into our hotels and freshen up before meeting up again for our visit to the Reichstag building, home of the German Bundestag (Parliament).  This requires a reservation, so make sure you schedule it in advance!

We didn’t tour the whole building but just went up into the glass dome.

Starting up the spiral walkway.

We got audio-guides that would have you stop and look out over the city, explaining different landmarks and history of the city.  All the while you walk up you can see the giant mirror covered cone in the center of the dome.  At the bottom you can see down into the room where the government officials sit and do business.

The dome was really an interesting way to start the trip.  We got to see the whole city all lit up and got a brief overview of some history.  Not bad for a free entry!  After this tour we were ready to eat!  The Reichstag building is very close to the Brandenburg Gate, so we walked that direction to see it all lit up and then found a restaurant nearby.  Berlin is known for adding flavored syrups to their weissbier, so when we saw it on the menu, we had to try it.  I tried grapefruit, and Hubby tried white peach.

Yum, fruity beer!

Hubby decided one fruity beer was enough and then opted for the much more manly “meter of beer.”

A good start to our weekend in Berlin!

After our biers we were ready for some rest. It was a quick U-bahn ride back to our hotel where we turned in for the night to get ready for our next big day in Berlin!