For our big city adventure, A and I chose Berlin. Neither of us had ever been, and it seems like one of those places you should go, especially if you’re already this close. So we packed ourselves into a train and arrived in Germany’s vibrant capital a little over four hours later.
We spent our first afternoon getting to know the city on a Fat Tire Bike Tour. This is a great way to explore a new place – not only do you cover a lot of ground, but you also hear its stories from a person passionate enough to want to lead tourists around on bikes all day. The pace was very relaxed as we cruised from point to point, always learning more about the 1871 German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, East Germany, and the reunified Germany. We saw places like Alexanderplatz, Potsdamer Platz, and Brandenburg Gate; Red City Hall and the Reichstag building (Parliament); Checkpoint Charlie, parts of the Berlin wall, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe; Berlin’s Cathedral, Museum Island, and Humboldt University; and a beer garden in the Tiergarten.
What left a lasting impression on me was how the face of Berlin had changed over the course of its recent history. Sure, like many other European cities in the 20th century, many buildings had been bombed or burned down, either in full or part. But it was interesting to learn that some of them had been exactly rebuilt, but in a different location, or that parts of buildings had been kept and integrated into new buildings. Kind of like a way for the city to remember pieces of its history while still moving forward.
A bike tour can make you hungry, so we settled into a cafe on Gendarmenmarkt for dinner. We enjoyed an open-air jazz concert that ended with an impressive show of fireworks followed immediately by a crazy downpour. We were outside but under the roof and had the perfect vantage point from which to watch the concert-goers scrambling for cover. The rain gave us a good excuse to stay a little longer with some hot beverages. It was a nice way to spend our only evening in Berlin.
On our last day we explored on our own. We started with a visit to the Ritter Sport chocolate store. We’re girls. That’s what we do. Our second visit to Checkpoint Charlie provided a great photo opportunity with its popsicle-eating ‘guards.’ We ate what must be the best waffle on the face of the planet as we wandered past old Trabant cars repurposed into tour cars. We read our way through Topography of Terror (a free museum about the history of repression under the Nazis). We took a short subway ride to Charlottenburg Palace to see a different part of Berlin and treated ourselves to afternoon coffee and hot chocolate in the palace gardens. And then it was time to head back to the train station.
It was a fun two days for the traveling sisters!