I’ve just returned from Berlin, where I met my parents and brother for a week’s reunion after not seeing them for almost a year. Our European “extended family” also joined us for a weekend: Dianne’s Belgian exchange-student sister Colette, and our German friend Fabian. Where to begin? We did so many things throughout the week that I may revert to lists, but I hope they’ll give you an accurate picture of the trip.
→ We rented an apartment for the week in a fantastic location: a 2′ walk from the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), Tiergarten (400+ acre park with lots of paths and gardens and ponds), and Unter den Linden (central street of the city — wide, open avenue lined with shops, cafes, etc).
→ Berlin is a really flat city (the marathon there is one of the fastest courses in the world), so it’s easy to walk/run/bike around. And if you know my family, you can guess that we did our fair share of walking! We walked for a total of 2-4 hours every day, which was wonderful. One day we took a Fat Tire Bike Tour of the city, which was 5 hours of easy biking with plenty of informational stops. We had a great and hilarious guide, Francis from New Zealand who studied German history and so had lots to tell us.
→ Berlin has about 160 museums. We did not go to that many but did see some great collections: on Museumsinsel (a little island in between branches of the Spree River that holds five museums and the Berliner Dom, a gorgeous Protestant cathedral) we visited the Alte Nationalgalerie, which had 19th-century paintings, and the Pergamon Museum, which had an incredible collection of ancient Greek/Roman pillared gates, sculptures, friezes, and more. One could easily spend an entire day in the Pergamon, strolling through while listening to the excellent audio guide. Another favorite museum was the Sammlung Berggruen, in Charlottenburg, which was a small collection of great Picasso, Matisse, Klee, and Giacometti interspersed with black-and-white photographs of the artists and their workspaces. We visited the Museum für Fotografie, which had a strange Helmut Newton exhibit but also a great Abisag Tüllmann collection. We visited the Charlottenburg Schloss (palace, home of the Prussian royal family when they lived and ruled in Berlin) but didn’t go inside and opted instead to explore the gardens. My dad, brother, and I checked out the Erotik Museum on our last day — drawings and sculptures depicting sex (often in an exaggerated way) throughout the ages; lots from the 18th and 19th centuries with many from China and Japan. Checkpoint Charlie has an outdoor museum of sorts — panels lining the street (Friedrichstrasse) with photographs and descriptions of periods when the Berlin Wall was up. The Neue Nationalgalerie is a cool building across from the Berlin Philharmonic near Potsdamer Platz — the exhibit we saw was works from 1900-1945, including some fantastic Kirchner paintings and some interesting sculpture.
→ We ate well and diversely. Delicious breakfasts — some out, some in our apartment — of pastries, breads, cheeses, meats, coffee. I got my ethnic food fix that ought to hold me through winter in Ukraine: we ate Indian, Turkish (at Hasir), Moroccan (at Kasbah), Italian, German (at biergartens and cafes), and Vietnamese food. Coffee and tortes in Berlin are delicious. We enjoyed late dinners and strolls near Hackaescher Markt.
→ Architecturally, the city is an interesting mix of old and new. Berlin was 90% bombed during World War II, so most buildings are new-ish. Some survived the bombings or were reconstructed. And the newest parts of town were built up in the ’90s after the wall fell. It’s a diverse city with lots of little cultural pockets and historical tidbits to explore.
I’ll let the pictures say the rest. Click HERE to view my photos from the week (you don’t have to be a member of facebook to see them).
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