Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Would You Like Some 'Wierner Art' With Your Schnitzel?

“Would You Like Some ‘Weiner Art’ With Your Schnitzel?”

My first weekend trip to the small city that changed history in a big way!
I decided on Tuesday the 11th to join Sophie’s roommates on their adventure to Berlin from the February 13th-16th. To say it was a spontaneous decision was an understatement, but Christina, Ashley, Kenzie, Sarah, and Ellie were good saleswomen. Happy Valentine’s Day to me! I had never done anything like it, and to be honest I was a bit nervous to be traveling out what was beginning to feel like home. We left Thursday afternoon and boarded a bus to Berlin. We got to the rainy city around 8:30 PM, and had no clue how to get to our hostel. But with a little teamwork, and listening to some fun German accents, we made our way through a metro, tram, and short walk and found the Heart of Gold Hostel.

I was also very hesitant to stay in a hostel for the first time, but we hit the jackpot with the Heart of Gold hostel. Since we got there on a Thursday not many people were there yet, and we actually were able to find a mega-dorm room with no one in it. It was a very fun, artsy environment, but met all the “mommy” requirements of cleanliness and security as well! It was kind of comical, actually, thanks to the faux pieces of the Berlin Wall scattered through the rooms with cutouts for you to stand in. We were all hungry for our first taste of German beer, so we went around the corner to the Berliner Republik, a Wall Street of 15 kinds of beer on tap! It was such a unique and amusing dinner that consisted of a beer stock exchange. The screens around the restaurant showed which beers were less expensive than others, and advertised when there was a stock market crash and all beers were priced at their minimum.  We called it a night and set plans to be up and early to see as much as possible.

            We bought a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus ticket on Valentines Day and boarded a double decker to get a general overview of the vast city. Our first stop was at the Charlottenburg Gardens, which is close to a mini-Versailles. It was built as a summer retreat for Queen Sophie-Charlotte by her husband Friedrich I. It’s a striking portal to an older Berlin and gives a romantic feel to its surrounding. So much so that we ran into a couple taking weddings pictures in the gardens and courtyards. A wedding on Valentine’s Day…how sweet? 

We hopped on our bus, and got off at the KaDeWe Mall stop. We had no intentions of going in, but rather to the market across the street, but it was tempting…and worth it! This mall was like nothing I had ever seen and I could only imagine it as if Beverly Hills, New York, and Donald Trump created an elite mall for the world’s celebrities and dignitaries! It was massive and oozing with European flare. After spending a good hour in the world’s greatest mall we grabbed some lunch across the street at the farmers market and was greeted by a friend, who wanted to be more than that. In fact Daniel was hoping to be Ashley’s Valentines. Daniel was a complete stranger from Bolivia, living in Germany, who spoke English, and wanted nothing more than to take Ashley out for a romantic Valentines Day dinner with “candles and classy shit!” We were obviously peeing our pants watching this skit played out before us! After Ashley’s run-in, we traveled over to Checkpoint Charlie.

It was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. Along with the actual checkpoint, there was also a small outdoor exhibit, and pieces of the Berlin Wall that had been re-envisioned by some of Germany’s talented artists. We then headed to what I looked forward to the most, the East Side Gallery! 

Berlin’s East Side Gallery is a colorful section of the original Berlin Wall, which once divided the city into East and West Berlin. 
After the wall fell in 1989, hundreds of artists from all over the world came to Berlin to transform the grim and gray wall into a piece of art. They covered the east side of the former border, which had been untouchable up to then, with more than 100 paintings and turned it into the largest open-air gallery in the world. Along the way, an abandoned carnival across the street caught our eyes and called our names. It was kind of eerie, but we just had to check it out, but back to the wall. Along the mile long wall…we had a bit of a photo shoot! We went full out..and then some! After a long full day we went back to the hostel for happy hour and grabbed some beers before dinner.  On the way back Kenzie  and I had some fun taking selfies in Berlin’s Photoautomaten.

The next day we had some fun on the red carpet outside a huge theater near our hostel and then moved onto a national monument! The Victory Column in the midst of Berlin’s park Tiergarten is a 230 feet high monument, commemorating Prussia’s victory over France in 1871. The column is topped by the golden statue of goddess Victoria, fondly called Goldelse by the locals. The tunnels that allow you to get to the monument also had fun light boards that we had a small dance party at. 

We continued adventuring through the Tiergarten and found ourselves at a children’s park having more fun than most of the kids there! We continued onto a more mature site, the Bellevue Palace, or the German White House…or a college kids dream of a location for a house party! We continued with a walk along the Spree river to the Reichstag. 

The Reichstag is the traditional seat of the German Parliament. 
When the historic building was remodeled in the 1990s, it was adorned with a modern glass dome, offering a look into the parliamentary proceedings and a stunning view of the Berlin skyline. We made a reservation to come back and go to the top of the dome for 8:00 PM. Next to the Reichstag is a small Central Park and the infamous Brandenburg Gate. 

In the course of German history, the Brandenburg Gate played many different roles; it reflects the country's turbulent past and its peaceful achievements like no other landmark in Germany.During the Cold War, the Brandenburg Gate stood between East and West Berlin and was the sad symbol for the division of the city and Germany. This plaza is also home to the Hotel Adlon, or as you may remember as the hotel which Michael Jackson held Blanket out the window! We just had to re-create it! Also along this strip was the American Embassy and a Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, that left all of us with a lump in our throats. Underneath was a captivating and emotional museum that I would recommend to anyone who visits Berlin. The museum really took me by surprise when they examined a Jewish family from Greece.

Before our visit to the Reichstag we went out for a traditional German consisting of Schnitzel, Spaetzle, and beer! Despite the seemingly funny sounding names…the food was out of this world! Our night at the Reichstag was a perfect way to end our last full day in Germany. The views and scenery were unreal, and the architecture of the dome alone was captivating.

The next morning we spent time on Museum Island and at the Berlin Cathedral, which almost looked fake because it was so fantastical. On Museum island we found a small flee market with fun German treasures and as we walked back to head to our train station we stopped for the notorious lunch of Currywurst and Pomme Frites. As we passed a hotel near the train station, I had a brief moment of feeling like I was at home when I saw a Roatary plaque outside! It reminded me of high school and Interact, and that I have the chance to do community service work across the world now!

We had an eventful train ride home in a cabin that made us feel like we were on the Hogwart’s Express, got back to my apartment and crashed. The next morning however, I woke to a not so friendly “Welcom-Home!” gift. Remember that saying your parents use to say? “Night, night. Don’t let the bed bugs bite!” Well…our apartment has bed bugs, so I’ve been living with Sophie at her apartment these past two days while they fumigated and cleaned up our apartment. I just got back in to my apartment, and hopefully those stinkers are gone!

But the adventure continues!

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading about Berlin and your adventures. I have so many questions (of course I do). I've spoken to a number of people that have told me how much they are enjoying reading your blog. Miss you, but I feel like I'm right there with you. Keep on bloggin' xo mom