Friday, October 30, 2009

Berlin

Berlin

We flew to Berlin last Wednesay and stayed until Friday afternoon. We added Berlin to our trip because my friends, Courtney and Jamie (long lost high school friends reunited on facebook), raved about how wonderful the city was. They were definitely correct! We loved it!


Berlin



Berlin



The city oozes with history and I love the rawness of it. There are tons of beautiful old buildings right next to modern buildings that have been rebuilt since the war. There's a lot more open spaces and trees and grass than in Amsterdam, Paris or Brussels. And the people seemed more down to earth and relaxed (from what we could tell from our lack of German skills). The city is a lot more spread out, so it was nice to be able to walk down tree lined streets and peer into windows on our way to the next destination. Berlin really felt like a city that I could move to and be comfortable in.



Berlin



After being completely tired out by Paris, we took time to slow down and enjoy ourselves in the city. We didn't put ourselves on a crazy tourist schedule, but we did get to see quite a few recommended spots.







Checkpoint Charlie (and museum):


Berlin

This was definitely my favorite museum of the trip. The museum is kind of old and run down and very raw. I'm sure that archivists must be squirming at the site of some of the precious relics in the museum being open and exposed to elements, but I suppose it added to the charm of the museum. I knew about the Berlin wall, but I was a little too young to understand exactly what was going on and why the wall was constructed. This museum explained everything in detail and made the situation come to life. We saw car trunks and radiators that were used to smuggle people across the wall, homemade respiratory machines to help survive an underground tunnel under the wall and lots of pictures and accounts of people who made it across the border. At one point in the museum, we were standing at a window that people used in the actual museum as a lookout point to smuggle people across the border. The history and experiences of the people was just so real to me at that moment!









The Reichstag:


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Berlin

Berlin



This is the newly constructed German parliament building. The original base of the Reichstag still remains, but the inside was completely remodeled and a transparent dome was added to the top. The designers of the building reflected the new dedication to openness the government took after WWII with the building's architecture. The building is open to the public and visitors can peer down into the main meeting room and watch law making in progress. The dome on top of the building has spiraling walkways and an open air top that collects rain water and precipitation to help heat and cool the building. The mirrors in the dome also reflect sunlight to help direct natural light into the meeting space and reduce electricity need.













Brandenberger Tor:


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us sporting my handknit hats (habitat for me, koolhaas for Jon).

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There was an art installation right behind the gate with a stack of nine boats that were used to rescue prisoners from Turkey and bring them to safety. I loved seeing art installations like this all over the city that were so symbolic of freedom from persecution.






Pergamon Museum:


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This was the only art museum we visited in Berlin. The Pergamon is filled with antiquities from ancient Greek, Babylonian and Arabic cultures. The museum has a great 30 minute audio introduction to the museum that we listened to and then we wandered around looking at other things that piqued our interest. I really enjoyed looking at some of the arabic rugs and textiles in the museum.






Potsdamer Platz:




Berlin

Berlin

Berlin



Potsdamer Platz is supposed to be the central area of the city and is
filled with lots of ads, tall buildings and shops. The most striking
building in the center is the Sony building, which looks like Mt Fuji
from outside and a space ship from inside. And, in the interest of full
disclosure and being real (thanks Amy), it is also the place where we
succumbed to American food and had ourselves a snack of 6 donuts
and 2 large hot chocolates from Dunkin Donuts (who knew it was so
popular in Germany?). Yes, we were on a total sugar rush after that!
But, how could we just buy four when a half dozen was cheaper?






Jüdisches Museum:




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Berlin



We visited the Jewish museum on Thursday afternoon after a lovely lunch in the museum café. The museum is designed by Daniel Libeskind and is full of such striking symbolism history through its windows, gardens, art installations and enclosed spaces. The museum had a lot of interactive exhibits that would be great for young kids, but we mostly enjoyed the design of the building and the photos and descriptions in the collection.






Pension Peters:


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We stayed at Pension Peters, which was recommended in the Rick Steves book. We could not recommend this hotel enough. It was the most inexpensive hotel of the trip, included breakfast, had soaring ceilings and a beautiful courtyard view and was incredibly clean. We were so happy to have found this place.



On a side note, Jon and I are totally sold on the separate bed coverings thing. This solved the cover stealing debate that has been going on since we were married. We each had our own blanket and were warm throughout the night. I think I will be turning the Crate and Barrel quilt that I wanted to make into two twin sized quilts with a duvet pocket so that we can use separate quilts in the summer and separate comforters in the winter.





Mr Hai & Friends Vietnamese food:


Berlin

We were so happy to have found this restaurant. It's located just around the corner from Pension Peters and has two pages of the menu devoted to vegetarian dishes. Because we couldn't understand German, we just pointed to a dish and were surprised with what we got. We ate there twice because we enjoyed the food (and ease of ordering) so much.





Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche:


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Our last stop in Berlin was at this old church that was bombed out in WWII. Instead of tearing the church down, it was left up as a monument and the church was rebuilt around it. The old and new remain to remind visitors of the past and encourage them in the future.





• • •




Berlin

On Friday morning, we journeyed on the U-Bahn to the home of my ancestors, or at least what I pretended to be was the home of my ancestors. My maiden name was plastered everywhere and I had fun getting pictures to bring back to my family. If the museum had museum t-shirts, I totally would have brought them all home to my family for their annual Christmas photo. Unfortunately, they did not, so they'll have to enjoy the photos of the local farm, apothecary, café, bookstore, map and train station!


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And, you can see the rest of the Berlin pictures on flickr: here



14 comments:

  1. Hey Rebekah,
    I'm so homesick now! It seems like you saw the main sights, but even better - a bit of German city life, too. I like that you described Berlin as raw, it fits :)
    I haven't been to half those places since they were built after I moved away and therefore weren't part of 'my Berlin' so I've been faithfully boycotting them :)

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  2. ok you are the best tour guide ever...I love reading these posts!!

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  3. I am so enjoying this tour of Europe you are sharing with us! Very brave and fun of you to pick something on the menu not knowing what you're going to get.

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  4. i second the "best tour guide" comment! i am so enjoying your vacation posts. your excitement and enjoyment of berlin can be felt in your writing and seen in your beautiful pictures.
    and i think you guys have stumbled upon genius in the separate comforter department! what a great idea!!

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  5. I just can't get enough of all your pictures. Such beautiful places. It really seems like you guys had an amazing time. When we go, ...that a big when... I'll have to go by all your recommendations!

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  6. Once again, beautiful photos! I'm really enjoying your trip and feel like I am there seeing it all with you, what fun!! Oh, and the 2 comforter thing, we totally did that for the first time this summer, I made myself a quilt and then wanted to use it, but it was only a twin size, so Andy used a seperate one and we realized this was the best thing ever! That hotel? you stumbled on looked very clean and nice, makes me want to pack my bags and head for Berlin right now. :)

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  7. Wow I've never considered Berlin as a must-see destination before. But I am a sucker for great architecture and you've sold me! Great photos - love the one of you both in the mirrors! Thanks for the virtual tour :)

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  8. 1) Separate blankets are awesome! 2) When I was in Florence for a semester, my American friends and I would eat (feast?) at McDonald's every Sunday. It was so fun, and I completely understand the lure of Dunkin Donuts. :)

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  9. Wow. I'm loving your pics~! Sounds like Rick Steeves had some great tips, I love his show and always wondered if the trip lived up to his descriptions.

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  10. This brings back such great memories for me as my husband and I went to Europe a couple of years ago, and Berlin was totally the highlight of our tour. We went there unexpectedly (it wasn't on our itinerary) and were so glad we did. I totally agree that one somehow feel very connected to the history of the place in Berlin. It was so nice to see your photos of places that we also visited - though we stayed in a really nasty little youth hostel, (hot water optional) and I so wish we'd been at Pension Peters instead!

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  11. More great pictures. More envy going on here. Many (many) years ago I went through Checkpoint Charlie - when it was still a checkpoint. Very interesting.

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  12. I sort of feel like I just headed to Berlin...second best!!! Thanks for all the beautiful pictures of your trip---I am absolutely loving them!

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  13. wow! wow! wow!
    i completely adore berlin and your pictures do it so much justice! they're wonderful! i am so glad you made it to the checkpoint charlie museum- it is my all time favorite! so glad to see you had such an incredible time!

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  14. Rebekah, thanks so much for sharing this Berlin post with me. I've taken note of all your suggestions, and hopefully we'll have a great time as you both have ! A nice coincidence, it just so happens that the hotel we're staying at (my husband is going for a conference) is located near the Dahlem-Dorf U-Bahn station :)

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