Back to cold, beautiful Germany!
The last time I was in Berlin, I was 16 years old and traveling with my high school exchange program. For some reason, I never managed to fit in another trip to the capital city of Germany in the 10+ years since that visit.
We arrived in Berlin to our lovely hotel which was located right near a lot of major sights. We unpacked our things and decided to wander around and try to find some dinner. Our walk took us right past the Brandenburg Gate, which was built in the late 1700s, became a symbol of Germany when the city was divided by a wall separating East and West, and the gate was directly along this line. Of course, walls don’t work and it was torn down in 1989, but remnants of the wall remain around the city to remind citizens of Germany, and visitors from all over the world, the hurtful and deadly consequences of dividing the nation.
We wandered a bit that evening before finding a nice restaurant to have some beer, flammkuchen (sort of like a pizza), and a type of meatball dish. The flammkuchen was different from any I had tried before – it was covered with brussel sprouts, pear, bacon, onion and the sauce is a “fresh cheese” (frischkäse) spread that is tasty on everything. Brian isn’t a fan of the German lagers and pils and he missed the Beglian beer desperately, but I have been a fan of German beer ever since I had my first beer at the age of 16 on the aforementioned high school exchange trip.
The next day we began our tour of Berlin in earnest. We started at the Reichstag for a look and some pictures before taking the short walk past the Brandenburg Gate again. Unfortunately the tickets were completely booked to take a tour in the large glass dome that rests atop the capitol. Next time we visit Germany, we will be a little more prepared! We decided to walk since it was a sunny day and it was good to get some exercise. Brian and I stopped at the Rittersport store to pick up some chocolate and I indulged in a delicious hot chocolate. There were so many flavors of chocolate, ranging from mint to orange, almond to… tortilla chip? Strange but true, you can get your chocolate with little pieces of tortilla chips inside. The store was right around the corner from the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt, where they were taking down the remnants of the Christmas market. So sad! I could practically smell the glühwein in the air. Next we walked to the Berliner Dom where we paid the 5 euro student price to see the beautiful inside of the cathedral as well as go to the top of the building to see the city of Berlin from above. It was such a beautiful, sunny day (but cold, of course, always cold) and it was nice to see a different perspective of the city. We walked past Alexanderplatz for a cheap lunch, before we took the public transportation over to the residence of the President of Germany (different from Angela Merkel, the Chancellor), Bellevue. There was some important people coming and going while we were walking by, but unfortunately we never did figure out who we saw! Right near the Bellevue Palace is the Victory Column. This was an important sight as it was included in the LEGO architecture set for Berlin. We grabbed a bus back to Potsdamer Platz and took the faster elevator in Europe up to Panorama Point where we watched the sun set over the city. It was beautiful and I could have stayed there forever. My stomach had other ideas and informed us it was time for dinner, and I got some delicious Mexican food which I had desperately been missing. It was just nachos and margaritas, but the simple joys are easy to come by when you’ve been without real chips and salsa for five months.
The next day we had booked our bus for later in the afternoon so we could do some more sightseeing, but we woke up to a bitterly cold, snowy, freezing winter wonderland. We were not inclined to spend much time outdoors! We visited the Topography of Terror museum, which is located where many SS offices and headquarters used to stand. It was a very interesting exhibit but packed with people! No one wanted to be outside in the gross weather. Also we wandered through the Holocaust Memorial before we had to call it a day because I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes. It was time to catch our bus and head back to Hamburg for the remainder of Brian’s visit!