Monday, February 4, 2013

Berlin

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For our final trip we went to Berlin together.  I had done a trip with my parents when they came to visit, but my husband still had to work that week.  We left on Friday our last weekend in Germany before we left and arrived in the afternoon.

 It was pretty cold in Berlin that weekend too, but no snow like in Austria.  I guess the main factor was the wind.  We put our stuff in a locker at the train station and set out so we could save some time.  We walked over to Tiergarten park and had another cold picnic in the park.  We'd taken several of the Sandeman's New Europe tours on our trips and decided one in Berlin would be a good idea.  We headed over to the meeting point which was near the Brandenburg Gate.  After we took some pictures around the gate we looked for the typical Sandeman's guide.  However, we didn't really see what we were used to seeing--red shirt, big red sign, clipboard, etc.  We found the guy we thought was the tour guide and joined the group.  Something seemed off about him and the tour from the beginning and as it progressed and became political we became increasingly suspicious.  We decided to leave and my husband asked him about the Sandeman's bar crawls before we left.  His response of negativity toward them made it evident that he wasn't part of the company and was taking advantage of the situation.  We reported it to the TI nearby and it turned out there used to be a tour at that time that had stopped just recently and this guy must have seen an opportunity to pick up a tour with people who weren't in the know.  We were glad we left, but we disappointed we never got a good tour of the city.

We ended up grabbing our stuff from the locker at the train station and got to our hostel to settle in.  After a recommendation for a Turkish place we walked not too far away to check it out.  The Jack Wolfskin (The North Face of Europe) store next door to the restaurant was having a sale so my husband got himself a new winter hat.  Our Turkish dinner was different and pretty good, though Brice's entree was pretty minimal.  Then we walked back to the hostel and ended up at the bar next door.  Our friends we'd hung out with when we first moved to Marburg had just recently moved to Berlin (he is in the same kind of program as Brice but in Germany) so they met up with us at he bar.  She's Estonian but she translates for a living and knows several languages.  After a couple drinks at that bar we walked to a Cuban bar and had a cocktail.  We really enjoy them and had a good time together and planned to meet up again the next day.


The next morning we had our tour of the Reichstag (the capitol building) scheduled.  We grabbed some breakfast at a bakery and then got in line for security at the capitol.  It was a pretty interesting tour with a cool audioguide.  It sensed where you were standing as you walked around the dome and started giving you the appropriate information for where you were standing.  After the tour we hit up the German history museum which was a huge museum with much more information than we ever could have absorbed.  Then we headed for Museum Island.  Before going into any museums we grabbed a couple bratwursts at a cart and then checked out the Altes museum and Neues Museum.  The big famous thing in the Neues Museum is the bust of Nefertiti which was really pretty amazing.  Then we went to the Pergamon which I had been to with my mom during the other trip.  The Pergamon has some really great reconstructed monuments from antiquity including the Pergamon altar from Turkey, the Gate of Miletus, and the amazing Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon.  The Ishtar Gate is super amazing and I loved getting to see it again.  The part that is reconstructed in the museum is actually the smaller of the two gates but it's still so huge and beautiful!  It's amazing to think that ancients were able to build something so great.

After the museum we gave our friends a call and they met up with us and we went to grab some dinner together.  We settled on a Mexican restaurant that was okay, but definitely no substitute for the Mexican food one can find in the States.  But it was fine because we knew we'd be back soon.  After dinner we went to a a '60s bar that was to say the least, groovy.  Then we walked around until we found another cool place which was some kind of beach that literally was covered in sand.  It was very odd to be walking around on sand when it was that cold outside, but we had some cocktails and popcorn and a lot of fun.  We said goodbye then not really sure when we'd see each other again (at least the girls--the guys will see each other for work again soon).


On Sunday morning we went to the Topography of Terror Museum which is an outside display of WWII history but there's also and inside display.  It was really very good and free so we definitely recommend it.  After that we had to check to out the Ritter Sport store--what a good way to culminate our time in Germany :-)  The place was crazy with all the merchandise--t-shirts, lunchboxes, gift boxes, how they make them, a line to make a custom Ritter Sport, Ritter Sport cakes, a stack of giant Ritter Sports.  It was crazy.  We'd also read about the largest chocolate store in Europe, Fassbender and Rausch (at least that's what the store claims--we weren't floored or anything).  But they had some huge chocolate sculptures of the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, the Titanic, and a chocolate volcano.  Then we went over to the Checkpoint Charlie street scene and read some of the history timeline nearby.  We spent our last little bit exploring the Jewish museum.
 
There was a little trouble with late trains on the way home, but overall it was a pretty good trip.  We took a total of 21 different trips while we were living in Europe.  Since we returned a common question has been what was our favorite country.  We both tend to think of things more in trips rather than by country and each place had things we liked.  We loved the beauty in Greece and the food in London.  We loved the museums in Paris and the people in Ireland.  We loved the chocolate in Belgium and then landscape in Switzerland.  Europe is an amazing place to visit and we felt exceedingly blessed to have had the opportunity we did.  If any of you ever want some advice about traveling in Europe, we hope that you are able to look through our trips and find something useful.  I know the experiences I had stretched me as a person and I look at the world very differently now.  I hope that in some small way you had felt the same if you traveled along "with" us.  Thanks for coming!

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