Friday, October 4, 2013

Berlin

A couple of weeks ago Kyle and I decided that it was finally time to visit Germany's capital, Berlin.  It was a very quick and easy one hour flight from Stuttgart.  Our friend, Maria, moved to Berlin earlier this summer, and she was kind enough to put us up for a few nights.  Her apartment is in a great central location, perfect for checking out the sites!


Berlin's Hauptbahnhof (main train station) is really cool!

Maria's delicious breakfast spread!

We even got chocolates on our pillows :-)

Berlin is a unique city, very different from others we've visited.  It's an interesting mix of cool modern architecture, new buildings that were rebuilt to look old, old buildings with original facades, as well as depressing soviet era architecture.  Around every corner it seems is some reminder of the war in the form of memorials, pieces of the wall that have been turned into art, inconspicuous historical markers, and even bullet holes in buildings.  It is a city that is constantly changing...construction is everywhere!  We spent our first afternoon in Berlin walking around and taking in the sites.  We also stopped in the very cool Neues Museum, whose most notable display is the bust of Nefertiti.  The picture of the bust is in all of the history books, and it was very cool to see it in person!  (We weren't allowed to take any photos of Nefertiti.)

The Neue Wache (New Guard House) is a memorial for the victims of war and tyranny.

Einstein taught here at Humboldt University.  Alumni include the Grimm bros, Karl Marx, and 40 Nobel Prize winners.

This skeleton dates back to the Ancient Romans

Apple strudel afternoon pick-me-up

We were very lucky to have Maria take us out to dinner every evening!  She took us to a lot of good restaurants.  On the first evening we went to a tapas bar in the Kreuzberg neighborhood, which is a fun and eclectic part of town.  The food was excellent, and it's definitely a place we never would have found on our own.


We really lucked out with the weather.  We had some rain on our first day, but the rest of the trip was mostly sunny.  We spent most of the next day on a Fat Tire Bike Tour.  (The same company we used and really enjoyed in Barcelona.)   The tour lasted about four and a half hours, and covered most of the main sites in Berlin.  (Just the outside, of course!)  I love bike tours since you cover so much more ground than you do on foot.  Our tour guide was really interesting and gave us a lot of insight into the history and culture of Berlin.  I highly recommend the tour!




Berlin has no shortage of art!


An old Soviet Traubi


Not much of the wall remains.  A brick line shows where the city was once divided.

One of the few remaining sections of the Berlin wall.

The last family to escape over the wall zip lined over it from the building on the left.

One of the last remaining guard towers

Hitler's bunker is underneath this parking lot.  It's pretty much sealed shut.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  A very fitting and somber memorial.



The Brandenburg Gate!



The lovely and huge Tiergarten Park.

The Reichstag


After the tour, we headed back to the apartment to rest and change for dinner.  Maria made reservations at an awesome restaurant that does wine pairings with small plates.  The restaurant had a great atmosphere and the food did not disappoint!


On our third day in Berlin we started off enjoying some beautiful blue skies and then headed to the incredible Pergamon Museum.  It's one of the most impressive museums we've visited.  Among countless ancient treasures, the museum houses several large scale pieces of architecture that were found by German archaeologists out in the field, disassembled, and re-assembled in Berlin.

The Berliner Dom (cathedral)


These pipes were all over the city to pump water out of construction sites. 

The Sony Center

The Pergamon Alter, built in the first half of the 2nd century BC in Ancient Greece, now in modern day Turkey.

Market Gate of Miletus, built in the 2nd century AD in modern day Turkey

Ishtar Gate, built about 575 BC. The 8th gate to the inner city of Babylon. 


Had to have some curry wurst in Berlin!

Kyle's not a curry wurst fan, so he had this.

After being blown away by the Pergamon Museum, we went to visit an outdoor display called the Topography of Terror.  The exhibit is placed right behind one of the remaining sections of the Berlin wall, across the street from the former Luftwaffe headquarters (the Nazi party air force headquarters, ironically one of the few buildings in Berlin that was not damaged during the war).  It's also the former site of the Gestapo and SS headquarters.  The Topography of Terror is an exhibit that shows through pictures, propaganda posters, and texts how the Nazi party came to power.  Pretty intense stuff.

The Topography of Terror exhibit with the Berlin wall behind it.

From there, we needed a good cheering up, so we headed with Maria to a German micro brew festival!  Micro brews aren't as big in Germany as they are in the US because of the adherence to traditional German beer purity laws, but they are gaining popularity.  The fest was a bit outside of the city center in an interesting part of town.  It definitely seemed like the part of town where artists and musicians live.  There was a lot of really impressive graffiti, interesting yard art, really artsy looking people among some kinda shady looking areas where I wouldn't want to venture at night!  We sampled some great beer and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon.






Maria had gotten us tickets to see the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra that evening.  It was a very enjoyable evening in a really nice venue.  They played a selection of Slavic music, so I wasn't familiar with it, but they were very good.


We flew home the next day, but our flight was late in the evening so we still had most of the day in Berlin.  We started off at a great outdoor market.  If we had driven, I definitely would have bought more stuff to bring home!  There was a great selection of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and even some crafts and hand made decor.  It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning!  After walking around the market, we took the train a little ways out of the city to a castle/fortress where they were having a Medieval festival.  We had some great food, and of course at a Medieval fest there is always great people watching!



My freshly pressed orange and pomegranate juice!


The moat around the castle



Kyle's rösti topped with creamy herb sauce, cheese, rosemary, and red peppercorns.  

A falconry demonstration.  Of course we spent a long time looking at the birds!

Have you ever seen an owl drink out of a tea cup?  We have!


We had such a great time in Berlin.  We would definitely like to go back since we barely scratched the surface of seeing the sites.  It's a very unique city that has such a variety of things to offer.  We were also very lucky to have Maria show us around and make sure that we were well fed!  Hopefully we can return the favor when she comes our way!