End of the first term, so Deb and I went to Berlin for 3 nights and 3 days. My overall impression is that Berlin is big. Really big. Very spread out. Walkable only in the area that you are in. But the good news is that it has great public transit and it is much cheaper than Helsinki or any of the Scandinavian countries. Probably by 30% or so.
But Tegel Airport is small. Really small. I am amazed that Tegel Airport is the major airport of Berlin, especially since Berlin is the capital of Germany. Berlin has a new airport being built, but it is anyone’s guess when it will be completed. I have read somewhere around 2019. The current airport, Tegel airport, is the very same airport where the Berlin Airlift took place during the cold war back in 1948. So Tegel Airport has earned its right to be worn, tired and small. But, maybe I am over-reacting since I was recently in the airports of Dubai and Stockholm, which are all very modern, spacious and comfortable with great design (and free WiFi). This may make Berlin Airport appear worse because of the contrast between them. But, nah, I don’t think so. Tegel airport is tired and small. Final answer.
Did you know that Berlin is on a swamp? I didn’t. And, did you know that Berl means swamp? I didn’t either. But, these pipes, which are all over Berlin, carry water away so that Berlin doesn’t look like Venice. Who knew?
And did you know that in Berlin (and maybe all of Germany) retail shops can only be open 8 Sundays per year (with 2 of the 8 Sundays must be in December prior to Christmas) to benefit employees. We found this out by planning to shop on Sunday. Wrong.
Live Escape room
Deb and I had heard of live escape games in Berlin…has anyone heard of these? I understand they started in Hungary, then spread to Berlin and other cities. We went to Exit Berlin and played Toxic Kitchen. The idea is that you are placed in a room and you have 60 minutes to find out how to stop a bad guy from poisoning the water supply. You have to solve riddles and puzzles and put them all together with teams of between 2 and 7. We got into it and it was great fun. They will also help with tips. But alas and alack, we weren’t able to stop the bad guy. But, we were REALLY close. Kind of. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Do NOT call us if your city is in trouble. http://exit-game.de/engl/
Festival of Lights
We were lucky enough to be in Berlin when their Festival of Lights was going on. Somehow they shine colored lights on buildings throughout Berlin. Amazing.
Naturally, we had to do two foodie things…we had to eat a curry wurst and we had to go to a biergarten.
Challenge Accepted. Mission accomplished.
The curry wurst was great. Fries with mayo and sausage with curry powder. Does it get any better?
Well, the only thing better would be to go to a biergarten. So we did. The bier garten was very, very busy, with open seating and a fun atmosphere. Great beer and great pretzels. The boiled, pale sausages were ok, however, mustard solves many problems. My fault, many other sausages that I could have chosen. Next time.
Pretzel and mustard with boiled sausages
Speaking of food, we went to a great restaurant on our first night called Marjellchen. Terrific atmosphere, service and food.
Sausage, ham and sausage with potatoes. YUM!
Full beet soup cup…happy!
Empty beet soup cup. Sad
Vegie plate in Germany. A rare sight.
Deb and her beet soup
I found the food to be perfect. Deb found the food to be meat and potatoes.
I was puzzled. What’s the problem with the food? Great food.
We went to the Berlin Philharmonic Symphony (Berliner Philharmonie). This was terrific and it was just a few blocks away from our hotel (Hotel Mandala). Since we got tickets only one day before, we got chorus tickets, which is behind the orchestra. We both thought the seats were terrific, because you see the conductor’s interaction with the musicians, which, of course, is normally completely lost to the audience since his back is to them. This could be rationalization too.
We went on a walking tour of Berlin…first one that Deb and I have ever been on. It was great. Saw and learned a great deal more than we could ever have done on our own. Definitely will not be our last. Barry, from Insider Tours was terrific. Barry was candid and informative with humor. Just perfect. http://www.insidertour.com/
Berlin was terrific as was our guide, Barry. From trivial to the major stuff, it was all there.
Trivia-Berlin has the largest hydraulic rotating sign that is atop a building. Who knew?
Largest rotating hydraulic sign on top of building
Another piece of trivia (you know you love it) is the British Embassy building. When the building was going to be built, all buildings had to look the same. The Brits did not like nor want to look the same. Afterall, they are not the same. They read the law very, very closely and noticed a loophole that this only applied to the first level. So, by leaving the first floor traditional (boring), they were able to add a bit more flair to the second level. This is even cooler when seen in person.
British Embassy in Berlin
This year marks the 25th year of the falling of the Berlin wall. Signs of this are all over the city, even in shopping malls. This is a big deal and Germany does a great job in making sure that no one forgets what happened during the 1930’s and 1940’s. It appears that they have moved on from guilt to a responsibility that no one forgets what can happen. Excellent job, Germany.
The Berlin Wall is amazing. There are pieces all over the city. Here is a long stretch of it.
Here is a road where the Berlin wall used to run…The bricks are where the wall used to be.
Bricks show where Berlin wall used to be
We went to see Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate. Checkpoint Charlie is a tourist zoo, possibly avoid except that it is a Berlin must see, but the Brandenburg Gate is loaded with history and is definitely worth seeing.
We next visited the square (Bebelplatz) where the infamous Nazi book burning took place in 1933 to get rid of anything written that was “un German”. It is now a symbolic place that is a hole with a clear window where shelves can be seen symbolizing the importance of books and learning. Nearby, there is a plaque with a sentence by Heinrich Heine, written in 1820 that says: “where books are burned, in the end people will burn”. Powerful stuff.
We visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which is a very unique memorial. It is 2,711 concrete pillars that you can enter from all four sides.
On the way to the hotel, we met three kind of strange guys who insisted we sit and talk. So I had an impromptu meeting and talked about a few things with the boys.
John holding forth
We also saw the cousin of TJ Maxx, TK Maxx…who knew?
Finally, random pictures:
mannequins in store window
Potsdamer Platz Mall