A Historical Day in Berlin

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Day 8: Berlin to Copenhagen

Well, we finally made it upstairs last night and watched two episodes of Dinner Imnpossible with Michael Simon that Mathew had on his external hard drive and one of Iron Chef America with Bobby Flay who won by one point. Sometimes amidst these well-traveled days it’s nice to have a bit of normalcy and just come home, watch some telly and head to bed, you know. So, we awoke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to take on Berlin. We showered, got some hot water and spoons from the girl in the restaurant for our oatmeal and peanut butter, packed our stuff to go into their luggage room, got dressed (managed to both be wearing tan on the bottom and black north faces on the top-weird right?) and we were off. We walked about 8 minutes to the nearest train station (U-bahn) and bought a single ticket for the day for each of us. Of course, it’s a good thing that we’re honest and did that as there were no turnstiles or borders to enter to get onto the platform…Berlin is on the honor system (kind of like when I buy beach passes every summer and we never have to use them) for their subway systems… can you believe it? Like that would ever work in New York!

We rode the U-bahn into the city as we were staying out by the airport since we were only there for one short night. Surprisingly, this airport is in what used to once be East Berlin so it’s existence has only been for a short time and my husband assures me it’s not as nice as one of the other airports that has and always is in West Berlin. Anyway…first stop, the Reichstag, Berlin’s Parliament Building. As we got out of the train station and walked with the river on our right, there was a small piece of artwork just before the building by the river. It’s a memorial to those who tried to cross into West Berlin via the river and never made it. Already a difficult city with a difficult history to be in, right? We got to the Reichstag and decided just to take some photos in front as the line was crazy long and we were (of course) on a schedule. A few photos later and we were off to the Brandenburg Gate, one of the most prominent symbols of Berlin and the only gate of the Berlin wall still standing. It was quite eerie as you are truly standing on hallowed ground but the mood here is nowhere near as somber as say when you are at the memorial over Pearl Harbor and no one is talking at all. I got a postcard stamped with many stamps and an entrance card for the gate for 2 Euro as it meant something to me as many members of my family were actually stationed at the Brandenburg Gate. The passport was cool and creepy at the same time; we stood for a few minutes, read the information, chatted about how it felt to be there and moved on. Next stop-Berlin’s Holocaust memorial and museum.

The memorial is above ground and is an impressive artistic structure spread over a full block that is quite breathtaking. It has hundreds of stone blocks at differing heights just standing equidistant apart from one another that makes it look as if you’re walking through a maze when you wander through the ones taller than your own height. It’s strange, you want to take pictures by it but you don’t want to smile in them. The museum itself if underground, with of course, a security check as you enter. It’s smaller than some others I’ve been to but very well done. It tells a full account of Germany before, during and after the atrocities of the Holocaust. We spent some time reading all of the time line plaques, seeing the first hand documents, reading what happened to some families from many parts of Europe and looking at Shoah testimony as well. It was difficult for me to be at a Holocaust museum in Germany when I know that it was such a difficult time for so many. My great-aunt Ruthie is from just outside of Berlin and loved it here as a child so I was so glad that I could be here. Mathew had told her that he was here and her eyes lit up so I’m glad that my feet could touch the same soil. I know she loved living here and didn’t want to leave as a young child; but her father (grandpa wally) had to literally ride the trains at night so the SS officers wouldn’t come to his house and take him or his family to camps. I remember her saying how hard it was for her to leave her friends and come to America at such a young age knowing no English at all and having to exist in a whole nother world, but the world that she knew in Germany wasn’t a safe one anymore. The tour ends, of course in the gift shop where we looked around for a little while and spoke to some very helpful people about finding out some information for Rosh Hashanah services in Berlin. We left feeling quite somber for awhile and just walking hand in hand without many words.

We continued to wander the streets, finding ones that said EBERT on them and of course taking some photos as my dad’s family hails a bit from Germany. As we kept walking we were seeing a few different things. One, the different street lights of the men for walk and don’t walk that are different whether you’re in an area of the former East or West Berlin and it seems to be a big thing in Germany as it’s on t-shirts and post cards and such. There is also a cobblestone pathway that is continuing to be constructed across the whole city that runs the path that the wall used to be so you can always see and remember what was there and it’s significance. We did also see some pieces of the wall which are basic monuments to the time period now and are laden with artwork. Of course all over the city you can also purchase pieces of the wall for memorabilia if you like. We headed to Potsdam Platz (funny sounding name I thought) for lunch at Cara’s Foods which made us smile and think of our Minnesotan friend. I had a grilled veggie and cous cous salad and the boy had a tuna nicoise salad and there was diet green Arizona iced tea…awesome! We of course had to have some dessert and it seems the Germans know how to do that really well-I had a waffle and Mathew had something that resembled a squished donut with fondant icing on it…really nice!

We made our way back to the U-bahn and headed for the New Synagogue that is really just a building that at this time is a museum to the jewish people and the community center is attached but we thought there might be some information about services so we headed there. It was a nice area with some interesting cuisine that we thought about going back to on our return to Berlin, and the temple was beautiful. Unfortunately (there was also a security check to go inside) no one spoke English and new lots about services so we were back on our way as we had to make it to the airport and we were using public transport. We went back to the hotel, picked up our luggage, hopped two buses and got to the airport for our 5:20 pm flight to Copenhagen on Air Berlin. We walked onto the tarmac and up to the plane; were served a drink and a complimentary snack on the 35 minute flight to Copenhagen-Air Berlin rocked! Landing shortly after the flight began, we took a train from the airport to the central train station in Copenhagen (that looked like platform 9 and ¾ would turn up around the corner and the Hogwarts Express would be on it’s way there) and walked a few short blocks to our hotel at the Norlandia Star. We checked in, changed and by 7:30 were out to wander the streets of Copenhagen to find the lights of Tivoli Gardens, the bright sparkly and twinkly lights also across the street on the Wheel of Copenhagen (similar to the London eye) and people everywhere. We had a quick bite at a kebab shop (can’t go wrong with falafel and schwarma) as everything in Copenhagen seemed quite expensive. Strange to me how they’re on a different currency and we still didn’t get a stamp in our passports or go through immigration at all when we arrived. Sure makes it faster to get out of the airport but what about my stamps!!!!! We managed a bit of a walk back to the hotel by way of a seven-eleven for some hot chocolate (strange how we were just in spain and hot all the time and now it’s a bit chilly and some hot drinks are necessary) and headed back to the hotel for the night. Tomorrow…Copenhagen by daylight!

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