Let’s go to Berlin!

I wrote this for a travel website some time ago but they seem to have absconded into cyberspace with it. Since I have zero creative energy today I’ll post it here.

Berlin is an amazing city. The historical and the modern day meet on the streets. Whenever I’ve visited Berlin I’ve always gotten a feeling of many cultures coming together to form their own unique culture. I’ve never felt like a visitor but more like a resident because there are so many people from so many places everywhere you go.

Central to Germany history Berlin has a lot to offer. The famous Berlin Wall still stands in one section of the city just as it did when it was built. It is here that you can learn the reason the wall was built, how it was built and the sacrifices that occurred because of its existence. The site itself is under construction, a new museum and information center is being built, but along the outside perimeter are large reader boards giving the timeline and history.

You can also see sections of the wall that were relocated to Potsdamer Platz. The original placement of the wall is outlined with stones in the ground and you’ll find them running all over Berlin marking the former division of the city.

Checkpoint Charlie is a small white hut in the middle of the road which at first glance is underwhelming. But as you look up you’ll see the original sign telling people they were leaving the American Sector. Spend a few minutes here thinking about the magnitude of the signs’ meaning. Near Checkpoint Charlie there is a museum with more information. Due to the nature of the subject matter displayed it is not designed for children so keep that in mind if you plan to visit.

At Potsdamer Platz there is a very modern feel of the New Berlin and you’ll find lots of shops and restaurants at the Sony Center under a glass dome. It’s a great place to sit and enjoy a coffee and some strudel. In winter the decorations are impressive. The entrance to the LegoLand Center can be found here. Around the corner take a break at Vapiano’s for lunch. Choose an outdoor table to enjoy some people watching. This is the best way to feel like a local and truly experience Germany. Eating outside, no matter the weather is one of my favorite pastimes.

From Potsdamer Platz walk down Elberstr and you will pass the Holocaust Memorial and the grey slabs of concrete rising out of the ground like a cemetery. At different heights and varying sizes just walking among them shrouded from light and other people it is an experience that is humbling. Underneath is the information center. At the end of this street you’ll find Brandenburger Tor or the Brandenburg Gate. It was one of the main gates of the city and the square behind the gate is filled with embassies. The buildings are beautiful to look at.

The Reichstag, home to the German parliament is along the Spree River. The building itself is beautiful and there is a glass dome inside. The lines are almost always very long to get inside so I suggest walking around to the other side of the building. Across the river sits a very modern white building, the Bundeskanzleramt which houses the chancellor’s office and residence. The dichotomy of the old and new can truly be seen by viewing these two buildings at the same time.

There are plenty of museums in Berlin not only museums of history but also plenty containing works of art and other objects. From the Old National Library where you can see an original piece of Beethoven’s sheet music to the National Gallery housing works of art from the 19th century. The Pergamon Museum hosts art from Greek, Middle Eastern and Roman eras among others and is worth a visit.

Berlin is a city where I could easily spend a week and still not see all of it. The rich culture and history of Germany lives in the city and in the people who call this place home. Every time I’ve gone to Berlin I’ve discovered a new reason to fall in love with the city. Visit Berlin today and find your reason to fall in love.

My Hubby is so Cool!

Hubby went to Berlin this weekend for a 60 km bicycle race he’s been training months for.  The official results haven’t been released yet but he did really well!  He hoped to keep an average of 37 kph and did 40!  (I am pretty sure kph not mph but not positive which he was tracking with it may have been mph).  Either way he did really well and hopes to participate in more races.  Next time the family will be at the finish to cheer him on.  Go Daddy!

Weekend in Berlin

Berlin Hauptbahnhof
Berlin. There are hardly words to describe the feelings I walked away with after spending the weekend there but I will try. Amazing. Beautiful. Overwhelming. Cold.
Amazing is for the architecture of the city. The buildings just blew me away. I love architecture and modern buildings and Berlin is full of them.
Since so much of the city is fairly new, this makes sense. I had a wonderful time exploring with my eyes and seeing the sights.

Beautiful because it was crisp and all lit up with Christmas spirit. The lights stringing across the city markets and the trees all brightly lit was so fun to see.
Overwhelming. Wow, there are so many things that struck me about Berlin. Our hotel room view, the Marriot Courtyard, happened to look down upon the pavers laid in the road marking out the former Berlin wall. So every time I looked out the window I saw those pavers, it struck me what those pavers represented.

Even more so when we went to the Potsdamer Platz Bahnhof station and they have actual pieces of the wall displayed on the former wall line. As I stood reading the history and bit of writing about the wall, I felt tears spring to my eyes. I have no German relatives and I am not connected to German history but the feelings that those walls pieces represented where amazing. Sadness. Anger. Hope. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be on one side of the wall while maybe your friend or family member was on the other side. Not being allowed to see them or speak to them. The sadness that must have surrounded this wall and also the anger and likely the fear as well is something very hard to comprehend. I could not believe I reacted the way I did. I can be fairly sensitive but it really struck me more than I thought it would.

We also visited the Brandenburg Gate and the surrounding area. This brings us to COLD. It was windy and cold this weekend, especially when your plans take you primarily outside. The area was beautiful and I loved the government building with its structure and history and across the river the very modern buildings (art gallery or museum, I wasn’t sure what it was). It made a very interesting contrast.
We also walked past a Jewish Holocaust Memorial. What appeared to be tombs (blocks of concrete) laid over the square at different heights. It was amazing to walk into them and see how far over my head they went at the center. It really made you feel claustrophobic. To think about all of the memorials that must be scattered over the country… It’s just very hard to describe.

The trip concluded with a visit to LegoLand (where I was photographed next to a Lego Harry Potter and Hagrid) and the return 5 hour train ride (which was about 3 hours TOO long).

We also went to the tourist hot spot, Hard Rock Cafe, since it’s one of my dad’s favorite places. While waiting for our food, some fairly heavy rock-metal group was blasting our eardrums, and there’s little Chickadee, rocking out in her highchair. The girl needs to improve her musical taste a bit, maybe add a bit more Bach violin.

Last thoughts on Berlin, we will definitely be returning (when it’s a bit warmer) and I wish we could live there for a bit. There was so much history and so much I didn’t get to see.
Please forgive the text size and fonts and also the picture layouts. I am learning the Mac system and my Windows brain is having trouble cooperating.

Whiney ExPat Meet-Up – This Weekend

Please see J’s Blog post for details and info. It’s this weekend! It’s in Dresden so it’s too far for me to do alone with the kids but it should be marvelous fun (Deutsche Bahn on strike will not kill the fun!).
Christina G has moved her blog, so update if you read, she’s hilarious (and her baby is the cutest to boot).
As for me, I’m trying to kick a lingering migraine (I thought post-adoption I wouldn’t be getting those anymore…hmf!) and trying to prevent Chickadee from turning the toy basket over again. Darn, I just lost that battle. Well, she’s picking it up herself this time! Geez, what am I the maid? (chef, driver, laundress, take your pick)
12 more days till my family visits and I am still looking for Berlin ideas so speak up if you’ve got any for me!
And while I’m feeling random, anyone know a psychic? I’d love to know where I’ll be living in three and a half months. Really love to know. Not going to sell my firstborn or second child (today anyway) but I’m willing to give up gummy bears (see this post for my addicition and you’ll know I’m serious) or pfefferminz choclate. I’ve been asked where in America I’d like to live. Now that’s a tough question. How about Texas? I hear The Woodlands near Houston is very nice (awesome schools and big CHEAP houses) or how about Ohio, near Dayton? Or maybe Arkansas? Southern Florida? Or…see my problem? It’s hard to decide. Plus the bonus would also be my husband having a job in any of these places. Well, that’s a small matter isn’t it? Or we could just stay here in Germany another year and just move house to something big with a yard. Maybe that’s why I have a headache. God Bless my dear husband, he keeps answering my questions (the ones I asked yesterday and the day before) without saying I make him crazy. I am sure I do make him crazy but he’s too sweet to let on.

Ok, Tell me about Berlin with kids

I am looking for fun things to do with kids in Berlin for a weekend. Specifically for a 18 month old and a 5 3/4 year old. My parents are visiting in three weeks and since we had to scrap going to Paris because we couldn’t change the tickets for a reasonable price (it was the World Cup Rugby Final in Paris that weekend, who knew??), we are looking to do a train trip. Berlin is only 4-5 hours by train right? There is a special going for the ICE train which makes the first class tickets cheaper than the economy tickets. It’s a no brainer there. I would love to have a compartment type of thing (like Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express) but I don’t think they really do true compartments.

Anyway, I’m looking for fun things to do for 4 adults and two small kids in December. Obviously, Christmas Markets will be on so that’s great but there’s only so much you can look at Christmas Markets. Please leave comments with suggestions!

I never had a chance to blog here with pictures while in Taiwan (you know, the Republic of China, where I ate REAL Chinese food – so I know what it is supposed to taste like), anyway, I wanted to share the greatest thing I brought home with me (besides Chickadee). Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone in CHINESE. It’s just so cool looking. And the fact that they read the book from what we consider the back to the front is all that much neater.

I also have the UK version (Bloomsbury) and the US version (Scholastic) of Deathly Hallows. They are the same inside but having two different covers is kinda cool. I actually have two UK versions, wonder if ebaying them once we move to US would bring any money?