5.6.14

Berlin- Days 16-21

Today I’m bringing you to a special place, friends.

A place where Doner Kebaps are their own food group, beer is the best breakfast, and The City That Never Sleeps finds its competition: Berlin.

My goodness, it is the ultimate melting pot: a place where history kisses new ideas and people are prideful, yet so loving and carefree. It has the brisk city life, but it’s sprinkled with warm faces that you only find in a small town. It was such a beautiful and unexpected surprise, unlike any of the other cities that we have visited while in Europe. If I saw myself living somewhere abroad, it could be Berlin. It was just that incredible.

You see, Berlin was the odd choice from the beginning. As the wheels in my head turned like clockwork, there was just something that made me dig to find a way to make it fit into this trip. France and Italy were so easily pieced together, but Berlin, located in Northeast Germany, was quite a distance. We found a flight, took a chance, and attempted to find our way from one international airport to another. Planes, trains, busses, metros, and taxis- it was all worth it when I saw this:




I know, you’re probably a little bit shocked. That’s okay. I know that it doesn’t have ruins and ages of wisdom like Rome or breathtaking architecture like Paris and Florence. There is no ocean view like Cinque Terra and no glamorous cafes like the others. It was so unique and completely stunning in a Cinderella-like way.

I chose it for the history. I have an interest in World War history and, after many years of learning about the wars, I knew Berlin was the perfect place to see some incredible sites! So, off we went!

We had an incredible hostel booked and a bike tour planned, thanks to some recommendations from one of the guys that I worked with last summer. We stayed at the PLUS Berlin Hostel, which was the most legit hostel we stayed at our entire trip! Sauna, pool, restaurant, big rooms, toilet seats {not funny- I’m dead serious!}, and good water pressure. Check, check, check, check, check, and check! If you’re the “livin’ life on the edge” kinda traveler, they also had a vending machine of beer in the lobby, hosted pub crawls every night, and had a VIP entrance to one of the clubs in the city. Although I opted out of those options {okay, I had to see the beer vending machine in action! I couldn’t help it, so I made mom drink it ;) }, I really enjoyed the hostel.

Our room at PLUS Berlin Hostel
 Our first day there, we did the bike tour that my friend had recommended: Fat Tire Bike Tours- All In One City Tour. We hadn’t done a bike tour yet in any of our other cities because they are all pretty scary places to ride with the crazy driving, but Berlin was so different. We had a blast! We got to see all of the main sites, including parts of the Berlin Wall, Hitler’s Bunker, The Memorial for the Jews, Museum Island, and so much more! They even took us out to a beer garden in the middle of Tiergarten for some authentic German food! Mom and I weren’t so into the German food, but they had soft pretzels, apple strudel, and salads, so we were happy bikers!



The library where the memorial of the burning of the books sits

Mom and I by the Berlin Wall remains

Checkpoint Charlie sign
Checkpoint Charlie
Lunch spot in the Tiergarten

Traditional German foods that mom likes (and Kendall too!).. Ha! Not pictured: my chicken caesar salad :)

Riding bikes through Tiergarten

City Square

The Parliament Building

Brandenburg Gate

A church that we climbed to the top of! It was so pretty.
 We were pretty well wiped out when we finished the tour, so we just walked around the area a bit to get our bearings and headed back to the hostel a bit early for happy hour and buffet night!


Wine and random bowls of mixed dishes for the win! It made me miss my days of running around the Point Loma caf, scrounging whatever I could find to put together a salad! I think this one had some vegetable soup at the base, topped with steamed broccoli with goat cheese, steamed carrots, and the most amazing chicken and red pepper curry in a cream sauce. It was delicious. Typing this right now makes me want more! 

After happy hour, we watched a movie and got ready for the next big day: a tour of Sachsenhausen, the concentration camp in Berlin. I’m glad that we wound down when we did because the camp was pretty draining and emotional.

Yes, there is a keg in the middle of that 8 person bike! This is how Germans have fun ;)

We took a trip to Sachsenhausen, the concentration camp memorial just outside of Berlin

Some of the things that we saw and heard were unbelievable.

Walking through the gates of the camp.

We saw some uniforms and reconstructions of the living conditions.

 

Wash basins that the individuals would have to fight for every morning

Monument called "Liberation." It is decorated with red triangles on all sides and was intended to honor only the political prisoners (Communists and Social Democrats), who wore red triangles on their striped prison uniforms. Sachsenhausen was primarily a camp for political opponents of the Nazis, not an extermination camp for the Jews. 
(This description is taken from the map that is handed out in the tourist office)

The Execution Trenches where prisoners were shot.


Station Z, the crematorium

Memorial statue within the Station Z area.

More of Station Z

 We took the train back from the camp and decided to stop a few metro stations from the hostel and explore something new. We went and grabbed sandwiches and coffee at a little organic café hidden in town, caught a glimpse at a new piece of The Wall, and then wandered back towards Alexanderplatz station for a nice evening walk and a short ride home.

Lots of coffee, per the usual :) 
On Monday, we went back and walked the part of the bike tour that went through Potsdamer Platz. There were some things that we saw on the bike tour that we wanted to spend more time at, so we went back to Potsdamerplatz and walked to the Topography of Terror, Checkpoint Charlie, and The Brandenburg Gate. We also found some souvenirs as we walked towards Alexanderplatz, and then spent some time people watching from beneath the TV Tower. Some new clothing stores may or may not have distracted us along the way.. ;)

The streets are bustling. We had fun just walking the city.



The Memorial for the Murdered Jews

By the TV Tower
Another piece of The Wall

Mom and I at The Wall


Topography of Terrors, a memorial that takes you from pre-WWI through the end of the Cold War






Our final day in Berlin was probably the hardest one to plan. We knew that we wanted to do a day trip, but it was kind of overcast and we didn’t really know where to go. A little bit of Googleing later, we had our destination: Frankfurt-Oder! It’s not the Frankfurt that most people think of in Germany {that one is much further West and a bit longer than just a day trip}. Frankfurt-Oder is, well I don’t know how to really say it, kind of dumpy, for lack of better words. It was cute, quaint, and a bit of a college town by the water. It reminded me a lot of Flagstaff in the NAU area, actually. There wasn’t much to draw a tourist into Fr.O., but there was this one thing..

POLAND!


The bridge from Poland to Germany




Didn’t see that one coming, did ya?!

We walked across the bridge from Germany to Slubice, Poland, an even smaller town that Fr.O.! It was kind of fun to spend the afternoon just wandering the shops and the cute little towns. We got some drinks in Poland and, of course, I wanted to feed my newly acquired addiction to Doners..

YUM. 
No, I don’t think about, ask questions, or care about what kind of meat that is.. Some claim steak, others chicken and, many, the traditional lamb. It grosses me out, so I just shut up and eat my doner happily J Along with the meat, they put some kind of super spicy sauce, a caesar-like sauce, and a thousand island type sauce, a blend with shredded beets, sliced onions and cabbage, and lettuce. All shoved inside an upscale pita pocket until it's too big to fit in your mouth! My gosh, we need those at home. They are kind of like those unbelievable hole-in-the-wall Chinese places that you are kind of grossed out by, but the food is impossible to beat!

Ending on a good note at happy hour :)

Anyway, post-doner, we shopped a bit and then headed back towards the hostel to stop at the grocery store and then hit the hotel for our last happy hour. The morning would come early, and I was nowhere near ready to go.

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