M has officially half way done with his Masters in France! Big accomplishment! A Master’s alone is not easy but tackling tough subjects in your second language is a whole new level. He has worked hard to overcome cultural differences, language barriers and long papers. So now we are celebrating with a trip to a part of Europe we have not yet had the opportunity to experience. Starting with Berlin, Germany.
While Europe may look rather small on the map, it can actually take full days by train to travel a visually short distance. From Strasbourg to Berlin we boarded a 7 hour train. Starting at an early 7:00AM. We eventually arrived, checked into our hotel and got dinner. M got a meat platter (a plate with 8 different kinds of meat typically served with sauerkraut), which I am still surprised the common dish has not made it’s way back to the states. We enjoyed gelato and went back to the hotel to rest for the next day.
The next day began with a great European breakfast from our hotel. Our first stop was the Berlin Parliament. We were hoping to take an elevator to the top of the dome, giving us a view of the entire city. Tickets for the day were booked but we had no problem waiting in line to purchase tickets for the following day. Good thing to note if looking to visit the German Parliament.
We walked through the Grober Tiergarten, a large central-park-like garden in the middle of the city. As we walked we came across beautiful trees lining the pathways, statues of old war heroes, and a couple arguing. “We can’t find a bathroom right now Karen! We came here to chill, like that is what we came here to do!” The young man scolded his girlfriend as she did a potty dance in the middle of the park.
We eventually exited the park heading for the Brandenburg Gate, but just before we entered the large square we came across a memorial, dedicated to the Jews that had lost their lives during WW2.
I am still not completely sure of the right way to say this, but the memorial is without a doubt the most impressive memorial I have ever seen.
Looking from the side it appears to be a large graveyard.
But as you walk past the tombs the ground slopes down and the blocks of granite stones grow taller over your head. The intent is to give you the feeling of claustrophobia and being alone.
It is not something you can explain, but if you are ever in Berlin I highly recommend visiting this memorial.
Something else we noticed while visiting the memorial was the amount of people sitting on the stones eating, children running and laughing down the isles and adults playing “hide and seek” in-between the columns of the of the memorial. It was disappointing.
Just down the street from the memorial is the Brandenburg Gate. We wondered over to the gate, passing many embassy’s and tourists. Practically every building surrounding the gate is an Embassy and the area is flooded with tourists. We enjoyed a Starbucks and sat by the gate enjoying the amazing combination of so many countries represented in one location.
We stopped by a few souvenir stores on our way to Checkpoint Charlie. The Checkpoint is pretty disrespectful, tacky and distasteful. There are a few street performers dressed up as American soldiers, pretending to salute, strike suggestive poses and overall just acting plain embarrassing. We weren’t fans.
We then got some lunch, more sausages and beer!
After lunch we headed to a cathedral and tower that was suppose to be famous. We really were sure what it was but it was beautiful and too expensive to go in.
The evening ended with the Haufsbrauhus Berlin and some ice cream. We loved the Hofsbrauhaus in Munich, largely because it was the original and really embraced the Bavarian style. The Berlin Hofsbrauhaus was pretty disappointing with their attempt. The building seemed more industrial then Bavarian and you could easily tell it was made just for tourists. At one point I believe the live band was even playing country music. I would only visit if I was close and there wasn’t anything good around.
The following day started with another great European breakfast from our hotel. We had reserved tickets for later in the day to see the German parliament so we quickly headed over to the Brandenburg gate and got some photos since we forgot the previous day.
We then went to a little cafe in the park where we enjoyed a type of Apple Cheesecake. Well I enjoyed it, M decided to feed the birds in the middle of the cafe which just attracted a bunch of sparrows to our table. Boy does he love birds.
As we waited for our turn to go into the dome of Reichstag it started to rain. Soaking wet we eventually made it in and walked around the new beautiful glass dome. The building overall is gorgeous. It is a wonderful combination the old architecture with the new modern glass.
We changed out of our wet clothes and headed to the east side. Picked up some McDonalds (got a nugget craving) and walked along the East Side Gallery.
Another visit to Checkpoint Charlie for a mug I had my heart set on and a stop at the Topography of Terrors were the last sightseeing items on our list.
We enjoyed a quick espresso and nap before we headed to a big festival that was going on within the center of the city. We had seen signs posted everywhere for a gymnastic festival, complete with music and food along the street up to the Brandenburg Gate. Once we arrived at security we were told we could not enter and the festival was at capacity. Many people were denied entry and everyone was very confused. With the increase in security in Europe does make us feel safer, it can be a big inconvenience at times.
Starving we attempted to eat at a German restaurant but while we waited for a table, the staff blatantly ignored us and was overall very rude. Apparently they could tell we were tourists.
There aren’t a lot of restaurant options in this area of the city. Hangry is probably the best way to describe it. We stumbled upon a Chinese restaurant. While we studied the menu outside a mouse ran right by our feet. M and I looked at each other, let out a “Nope” and continued walking.
A few blocks down we found a Germany restaurant without any food and then finally a small Italian restaurant connected to a hotel. The food was ok and the staff was angry. Fortunately not at us, there was a soccer game Italy was losing.
An advertisement we saw in the subway.
*So sorry for the photo quality, we had not realized how tinted some of the photos were until we pulled them up on my computer.