Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Berlin for Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving day, we planned to drive to Berlin for a quick visit. We celebrated Thanksgiving a week early with turkey dinner and all of that, and took the van in for a tune up and oil change. However, the garage had some delays on getting to work on our car and the day we planned to leave on our trip our van was STILL not done. Well, I blew a gasket. I called and screamed and yelled and threatened and was quite ugly about it and I am not proud of that, but an hour or so later the garage delivered the van to our house. We will not be using this mechanic again. Anyway, by the time we made it to Berlin it was time to put the kids to bed so I planned an action packed day for Friday.

We rented an apartment off of airbnb again. It had three bedrooms and pretty basic furnishings, but was very convenient to a bus line that took us right down to the sights we wanted most to see.  We started the morning at Checkpoint Charlie. 

This was the main access point most people passed through when visiting East Berlin between 1961 and 1990.

Souvenir stands near here sell Communist kitsch and mementos.  We couldn't resist a nesting doll set starting with Lenin, then Stalin, and and so on.

Crossing into the East Berlin area, we walked down Friedrichstrasse, which is Berlin's version of Fifth Avenue. High end shops, luxury brands, and this awesome Audi showroom. Toby loved this racing game.

And Rob may not be a motorhead, but he really enjoyed looking at these impressive cars and motorcycles.

After the Audi showroom, we turned left onto Unter den Linden and walked to the Brandenburg Gate. It suffered considerable damage during WWII, and was inaccessible while the Wall stood, but has since been fully restored.  In this photo, the French Embassy is to the right and the US Embassy is to the left. The French embassy's sidewalk was covered in flowers, candles, and notes, in the wake of the recent attacks in Paris. 

After passing under the gate, we turned left to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This memorial is a big deal. First of all, Germany admitted to a crime in naming the memorial, and second of all they placed it in front of their government offices. It doesn't look like much, and at first I was underwhelmed.  But then we began to walk between the stones of varying heights and I started to lose sight of the kids, which made me feel anxious as they disappeared and reappeared further away.  Also, it is sunken down somewhat and the ground is uneven, and no matter which way you try to go out, you must walk up hill.  It is pretty striking.

Across the way is the Reichstag building. This is like Germany's Parliament building.  You can make an appointment to tour inside and view the government debates... but ya know, four little kids.

At this point we had crossed the former Berlin Wall at least twice.  A brick line and these markers let you know all throughout the city.

Our next stop was the Berlin Wall memorial.  This is a small remaining stretch of the wall, which was actually two walls with a no man's land down the middle.  Guards in towers along the way could shoot anyone trying to cross the wall.

Inside the visitor's center, the children sat down to draw pictures and hang them up.  Both Charlotte and Toby's pictures focused on the idea that we should have a world without walls. Jakey drew a pirate train.

At the wall.

Broken shards.

And a memorial to those who died in their attempts to escape East Berlin.  The anniversary of the wall coming down was just a few days before our visit, hence the white roses.

The world is crazy.  It just makes me want to hold on to the ones that I love.

After the Wall Memorial it was time for some fun.  We scrambled onto a bus to the Berlin Zoo. We only had a few hours of daylight left, so we skipped a sit down lunch and fed the kids a few McNuggets literally as we walked to the zoo. Berlin Zoo was awesome, and I wish we had more time there, but we made the most of the time we had.  This baby hippo kept bobbing up and down like she was giving Toby kisses.

Charlotte got to see her first real live polar bear.

By luck, we even caught part of the seal show and the feeding of the lions and other big cats.

This wagon gave Jake's feet a break, and Rob's back a break from carrying Amelie all day. Also, I should really note that Rob had broken his big toe just about a week earlier, but he toughed it out.

Just before dark (when the Zoo closes) we scurried over to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.  This church suffered serious damages from the bombings of Berlin in WWII, but has been left standing as a memorial.  The new church is that modern thing in the foreground.

In the church square was a large Christmas market.  So we sat down as the sun set and drank some hot Kinderpunsch (non-alcoholic juice drink; the shot glasses on the table are not ours) and ate lots of yummy brats, pommes, kale and potatoes, crepes with Nutella, and pierogies. Everyone was completely exhausted from our marathon day of sightseeing.

After dinner and a stroll around the market, we hobbled back to the bus and to our apartment, and all slept like rocks.  We needed to head home on Saturday, but first visited the Deutches Historisches Museum.  (German History.) I didn't take any pictures because my camera battery was dead, but the museum was really interesting, although not very child friendly at all.  The kids did like the medieval armor, weapons, and cannons.  And Charlotte liked the fancy portraits and old clothing, but so much of it was over their heads, so our visit was brief. It did make me think about how history is written by the victors though, and it was interesting to view German history from their perspective and to consider how it has shaped their national identity and current political policies. After the museum we stopped in two very fancy chocolate shops and stocked up, and one last tourist shop and let the kids choose their souvenirs.  Then we hit the road back to home. We wanted to be home before the kids' bedtime so Rob set a new driving record in our old minivan, getting it up to 105 mph at one point, and getting us home in just 4 hours and 40 minutes.  We like the Autobahns very much.  (And I guess it is a good thing we had the van checked over before our tip.)

1 comment:

Aubrey said...

What an awesome trip! When we went to Berlin the threat level had been raised to red in Berlin specifically. I suppose that's what it feels like in virtually every European city at the moment, not to mention every street and public place in all of the United States. Agree completely that the world is crazy. Hold on tight to those you love and raise those kiddos to have love and peace in their hearts.

So glad Charlotte got to see Polar in the flesh, er...fur! :)