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Berlin, DE

by christina.kronstal on November 1st, 2011
Dinner at home

Dinner at home

Well, we’ve now entered into our last country in our European leg of the trip. Our journey by train from Prague to Germany was still quite beautiful, despite the overcast weather and threat of rain. For most of the trip, we ran alongside a river and every minute, a charming river town came into view. We had quite a civilized ride, breaking up our ride by having a proper meal in the comfortable dining car. Before we knew it, we had arrive in the large metal and glass cocoon that is Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Like Paris, we decided to spend the week in an apartment rental so that we had the flexibility and comfort of our own place – doing our laundry, cooking our own meals, etc. Our instructions from our landlady were to “…take any S or U-bahn to Warschauer Straße. So, we opted the for the S-bahn, and climbed the the flights of escalators leading to the platform. However we were thoroughly confused (not yet accustomed to their metro system) as to which platform to get on, and which direction the train was going. Somehow, we found ourselves at the correct spot, boarded the S75 in the direction of Wartenberg and we were off. It was nice to choose the S-bahn (above ground train), because we were able to get a preview of the city.

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral

At one point, just before coming into the Alexanderplatz station, we saw the large dome of the Cathedral of Berlin, and the red tower of the Rathaus. No more than 10 minutes after boarding, we found ourselves in at our train station and were greeted by a light sprinkling of rain. We walked northward up Warschauer Straße and found our home for the next seven days. Our host, Elin was (I kid you not) a spitting image of Heidi Klume, which was a stark difference from Anabelle, our host in Vienna, who looked like the character in ’50 First Dates’ (Adam Sandler’s assistant at the animal waterpark). Anyways, I digress. Elin gave us the short tour of our awesome space, a top floor unit with large windows, and modern furnishings. Of course, being the top floor, with no lift mind you, we’ve had the opportunity to really work out our thighs and glutes this past week. The moment we dropped off our bags, we headed out to the grocery store to purchase our provisions for the next little while. As mundane as grocery shopping is, I really enjoy strolling down the aisles and seeing the different products or variants unique to a country. Plus, in some ways, the domestic chore somewhat lets me pretend that I’m home, even for a fleeting moment. The first evening (surprise, surprise), we cooked up an Italian meal. It didn’t take us long to get back into our default cuisine. We fried up “lots of onions and lots of garlic” as Dad K would have liked it, tossed in some fresh tomatoes and basil and poured the sauce over a ricotta stuffed ravioli.

Meetup with Dittmar

Meetup with Dittmar

The next day we went over to the Prenzlauer Berg area to check out the iStockphoto Berlin office and have a quick visit with our good friend, Dittmar. He has, on several occasions, joined Dan & I at the shooting range back home. I’d be lying if I didn’t feel even a little nostalgic seeing the familiar iStock logo and open space concept of the Berlin office. It was a nice (if not small) taste of home. We chatted with Dittmar over some coffee at a nearby cafe and traded stories of travels.  With a promise to go for a beer before we left town, Dittmar directed us to take the M2 back to Alexanderplatz, take Bus 100 and go along its route. so, we did – kind of. Once we got off the M2, we started walking the bus route instead. A sure sign that we’ve been accustomed to our legs as our primary mode of transportation.

Drums and dancing in Alexanderplatz

Drums and dancing in Alexanderplatz

We walked by Alexanderplatz, the Fernsehturm, Rathaus, the Berlin Cathedral, the Humbolt University, the Staatsoper, Humboldt Museum, Brandenburger Tor (the last of 18 gates that remained standing) and the Reichstag (Parliament building).

Fernsehturm at night

Fernsehturm at night

We inquired about the free admission into the Reichstag, but were told that we had to make reservations online.

Reichstag (Parliament Building)

Reichstag (Parliament Building)

We were also forewarned that the earliest admission would be 3-5 business days. When we got home, Dan tried making reservations and indeed, the earliest entry would have been November 3rd, long after we have departed Berlin. Oh well, at least we saw it from the outside.

Our Friday was pretty laid back, after sleeping in and having a lazy morning, we walked towards the river to check out the Berlin wall. It was pretty convenient that the longest stretch of wall left standing is only a 10 minute walk from our apartment. The wall has since been covered with murals. Dan had remarked at how much taller the Belfast peace wall seemed to the Berlin wall.

Berlin Wall graffiti I

Berlin Wall graffiti I

Berlin Wall graffiti II

Berlin Wall graffiti II

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

Oberbaumbrücke

Oberbaumbrücke

We continued on across the river, past the Oberbaumbrücke and explored the community a bit, before heading back to the apartment for lunch. We then headed out in the late afternoon to check out the Alexa mall, which is like any other mall, and then later we hopped on the U-bahn to Potsdamer Platz.

Sony Center

Sony Center

We followed the crowd off the U-Bahn into the Sony Center, which we’re sure Dad E would have enjoyed. The large plaza was surrounded by modern buildings like Film Museum and the cinema and a huge metallic canopy sheltered the plaza below. There were several restaurant ‘patios’ in the plaza, surrounding the water feature in the center. Out of curiousity, we inquired about the next show for ‘Tin Tin in 3d’ and suddenly we had tickets in hand for the 8pm showing. Like India, this cinema had reserved seating, so there wasn’t much rush to our seats. But, we didn’t have enough time to relax at a nearby restaurant, so we opted for the popcorn and coke – which was HUUUUUGE. I think the coke was nearly 2 litres, which of course we didn’t even finish. Anyways, we both really enjoyed the movie.

Brandenburger Tor

Brandenburger Tor

Saturday kicked off with another lazy morning. By the time we had the motivation to get out of bed, we hopped on the S-bahn to Brandenburger Tor and walked south along Eberstraße to the Holocaust memorial, a one-city block dedication designed by Peter Eisenman, to remember the Jewish victims during the Holocaust.

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

The entire area was covered in tomb-like stones of varying heights, some only inches tall, others twice the height of an average man. We continued down Eberstraße and found ourselves in the Potsdamer Platz area for a second time.

Fall in Berlin

Fall in Berlin

After filling up briefly for lunch at Tony Roma’s (I had a craving for their baked potato soup and ribs), we continued our walking tour through the large Tiergarten. Berlin in the fall is quite beautiful and there were several trees turning magnifiscent shades of red, yellow and orange.

Victory Column

Victory Column

The tiergarten was a nice quiet break form the hustle and bustle of the city streets. We popped out of the garden only for a moment to admire the Berlin Victory column at Großer Stern. It was erected to commemerate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian war and the golden statue was added later to commemorate additional unification wars. Interestingly enough, this monument was moved to Großer Stern, where it now stands, by the Nazis. We then cut back into the tiergarten and walked passed the zoo and found ourselves in a very modern area. My senses were bombarded with bright lights, large crowds, and lots of noise, so different from the park we had just emerged from. In the distance I saw a huge Mercedes Benz logo rotating atop a tall building, one of the many modern buildings that stood. We came to this area mainly to get Tito Greg’s Hard Rock t-shirt. There was an interesting church, right in the middle of Breitscheidplatz, called Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, but it would have been cooler if its damaged spire wasn’t covered up by an aluminum facade – apparently it’s encased for renovations. Aside from the Hard Rock and this cool church, I wouldn’t have any reason to come back. Too loud, too crowded – clearly I’m not a big-city girl.

Hackescher Markt

Hackescher Markt

Our Sunday was really relaxed. We had a late start, again – are you starting to see a pattern? This day was what we dubbed ‘market day’. We started off with the Hackesher Markt, which was close to the Bode museum. We only spent a brief hour there while sipping on Glühwein.

Vermont Joy Parade

Vermont Joy Parade

We then made our way to Mauer Park, which was supposedly the largest market in Berlin. And it sure did deliver! We were first greeted by a busker band, The Vermont Joy Parade, just outside the market area, so we stood and watched them for a bit before pressing on.

Biergarten in Mauer Park

Biergarten in Mauer Park

Once we were inside the market, we were rubbing shoulders with locals, exploring the artisan and antique stalls – it was way more crowded than the first market and it got our appetites going. Which leads me to our highlight of the day. We found a stall that sold wursts and provided about 20 different kinds of mustards. We each bought ourselves a serving and sat down in one of the dozens of wooden benches, sharing the space with other people who were enjoying their food and beer as well. We slopped gobs of garlic mustard, apple mustard, cassis mustard, chili mustard, etc. on our plates and had fun trying them all.

Monday was (or so we thought) our last full day in Berlin. We decided to lay low and basically get a few errands done in afternoon before meeting up with Dittmar one last time for a beer. So, after work (Dittmar’s workhour, not ours, of course), we met up for a pint, a visit and a chance to say our goodbyes. When we got back home, we started packing until we realized that we weren’t checking out tomorrow – it was the day AFTER. We were pretty amused at our mistake.

Which leads me to today. You would think that given another day in Berlin we would take advantage of it. See more. Do more. But instead we’ve hermitted in the apartment all day, given us ample opportunity to read, sleep, stay in our PJs, write in our journals and blog. And so I sign off for now, and tomorrow we should find ourselves in Nürnberg – given that it’s the correct day to check out. :)

3 Comments
  1. Mom and Dad E. permalink

    Berlin looks interesting place in both history and architecture… too bad you missed out the light festival by a couple of weeks! How would you rate their beer? Found the brand of wine you were looking for?

    • christina.kronstal permalink

      Yeah, we’ll also be missing the Christmas markets in Germany, which is also supposed to be really neat. Dan & I don’t mind the beer, but Diitmar insists that Munich’s beer is far more superior. We still haven’t found the wine we’re looking for yet, but are sure we’ll find it soon.

  2. Julene permalink

    Love the picture with you guys and the trees! Have added Germany to my travel wish list as well.

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