We have been in Berlin, Germany for two days now and it has been a challenge for me. I am trying to manage my expectations, expectations that I didn’t even know I had. I think those may be the worst kind of expectations. This little side trip to Berlin just kind of happened. Both Scott and Grant wanted to see Berlin and we had some unplanned days so we drove to Cologne and said goodbye to our little car that has been with for over 2000 km of driving this month and hopped on the train.
The train ride was nice. Scott has been doing all of the driving and I really appreciate it because it hasn’t been easy. First of all there are many road signs in Germany and while we should have, we did not review them. It has been a creative distraction to try and figure out the possible meanings. In addition, there was road construction and closed roads and traffic and those few days when we drove in circles in the Rhine Valley. So, the train was a treat, especially for Scott.
Berlin is a beautiful City. It is new and old at the same time and there is a feeling of rebirth and pride and spirit. Even though there are many people and it is touristy, it is clean and spacious and as one Irish college student I chatted with said, “everything works.” There is so much to see and learn in Berlin and that is where I had some issues.
One of our edicts for this year is that it is about the journey. In Berlin, I stumbled. I was okay on the first day. Scott wanted to take a Hop On Hop Off bus tour. We have never done that with the kids and thought since we were only here for two days it would be a nice way to get an overview. We even got a decent start at 10:30 in the morning and four seats on the top of the bus. It was fun, we saw the highlights, but it got a little long as we were stuck in traffic in the busy parts of the city and a little warm as the morning sun intensified.
We did the whole 2.5 hour bus tour without getting off of the bus and the crazy little tourist in me checked off a little box on my “tourist achievement list”. Maybe that is what triggered my relapse.
We went back to the hotel to get our Frisbee so we could enjoy the huge city park (think Central Park). The kids wanted to go to a flea market that we had passed on our bus tour on the way to the park. They love a flea market, we could do a world flea market tour and they would be delighted. We walked for two hours and couldn’t find the flea market. Scott, Ashley and I all had a different idea about where it was located. It was getting warmer and the sun beat down on us. We got back on the bus tour thinking that would be an easy way to find the flea market. It was getting even later by the time we found a stop and got on the bus.
We are all getting tired and hungry now and Scott tells the kids, fifteen minutes on the bus and we should be there. We are passing familiar landmarks, things that we had seen a couple of hours before and then the bus turns and we do not recognize anything. Scott is looking at the map trying to figure out where we are on the tour. I see other people squinting at their tour maps. The bus hurtles down a tiny street while tree branched scrape the top of the bus. My heartrate climbs a few notches. It all turned out okay (obviously) but we took about a fifteen minute detour so by the time we got off of the bus at the flea market it was about 4:30.
We wandered around the flea market for a while and then set off for dinner. We walked through Tiergarten, the city green space, stopping to throw the Frisbee and play at the playground. We wanted to find dinner on the way back to the hotel because we had missed lunch but surprisingly we found the hotel before we found food. I told Scott the train ride had really messed up his navigational skills, it had made him soft.
So to recap, our first day in Belin was a bus tour, flea market, park and being lost.
Tiergarten in Berlin
This is a historical city people and we needed to make up for lost time. The second day in Berlin is when my wheels really started coming off. I woke up in a full on tourist panic and by the time Scott woke up; I had been up for hours, drank a pot of coffee by myself and had a list. Yes, I had my list of places I wanted to visit. I wanted to see the Berlin Wall and I wanted to learn about the Berlin Wall and I wanted to kids to absorb these important history lessons. There are quite a few different Belin Wall sights and so just a few of them on my list seemed reasonable. I wanted to visit Check Point Charlie and I wanted to see the Holocaust Memorial. There were other things that I wanted on the list, but I was sane enough to realize that we might need time to eat.
Scott had a bit of a stern talk with me. He too wanted to see some of the important sites and learn about Berlin’s history but he thought I should pick maybe two things on the list, see how that went and then readjust. I hate it when he is reasonable; I especially hate it after a pot of coffee, on an empty stomach in tourist panic mode. So I may not have been entirely nice or reasonable that morning. I said, “I want!” and a few other things that I didn’t mean like, “I know the kids probably need some downtime, blah, blah, blah…” But he said, “What memory do you want to have of Berlin? Do you want to remember dragging the kids from one place to the next or do you want to remember watching the helicopter land in the middle of a busy street and tall buildings and throwing the Frisbee in the park?” That got me. Of course, I want to have happy memories of our time in Berlin.
We went to the Belin Wall Memorial and it was very informative and interesting and surreal and horrible.
There was an in depth time-line along a section of the wall that described Berlin in the 1920’s to the events leading up to Hitler’s reign and then after the Wall came down. We were there for over two hours and I just enjoyed it for myself. The kids wandered around but that was okay, maybe they soaked in something. Scott and I certainly enjoyed it.
We walked by Check point Charlie just to take a picture. I had some mixed feeling as I watched tourists pose with actors dressed in US army costumes. It seemed so irreverent. We had just been looking at a picture of a six year old girl who had been sent to a concentration camp because she had epilepsy.
We went back to the hotel and swam at the pool and let the kids rest. We went out to dinner later and then we walked to the Holocaust Memorial. It is a sobering and powerful memorial. There are over 3,000 concrete blocks about the size of a coffin and they start level with the sidewalk but at you walk toward the center of the memorial the blocks get very tall, towering over you. They are all a dark grey color and in the waning light, the memorial was especially haunting.
I wanted one more picture. After visiting the Belin Wall Memorial I wanted a picture of the kids in front of the Brandenburg Gate. It was commissioned by King Frederick as a sign of peace and built from 1788-1791. It suffered considerable damage in World War II and after the war it was inaccessible and isolated because of its proximity to the Berlin Wall. It was completely restored in 2002 and is a symbol of both Germany and Europe’s tumultuous past and the peace and unity of the present.
We happened on the US Embassy and kids were happy to see a little piece of home.