Sunday, November 25, 2018

The blurry lights of Berlin

October 27 - November 15

Germany has been on the must visit list from the first day we arrived in Europe.  Our initial plan was to go to Munich for Oktoberfest for large steins of beer of course!!  Between the Belfast trip and going to Barcelona, we could not get the schedule worked out. I can't believe I just wrote that.  Until 9 months ago our biggest travel conflicts were fitting in a Woodburn Walmart trip in between a visit to Vernonia City Park and shopping at Washington Square.  Fortunately, Nike has an office in Berlin and I needed to take trip there to meet the local team and tour the area.  Though not the foamy steins of beer, loud music and wearing lederhosen (yes I have a pair) that we expected, Berlin was a wonderful experience.  As we have traveled, we have found most cities in Europe have extremely rich and interesting histories that date back hundreds of years.  Berlin also has its share of old history, but it’s more recent history including WWII, the cold war and rise and fall of the Berlin Wall is captivating.   

We decided to stay in ANOTHER 25 hour hotel.  No balcony tub here but there was a sauna room just down the hall.  We decided to go for a sauna fairly late at night and I had the bright idea to get comfortable and remove my contacts so I could close my eyes and relax.  I didn’t realize that the sauna had a glass wall that overlooked the city.  Cheryl told me it was an amazing view and was oooing and ahhhing and I just saw blurry images that looked more like a kaleidoscope than the lights of Berlin.  Then just as we were leaving, a couple came in and enjoyed the sauna the European way (if you know what I mean.)  Again, I just saw blurry images, but from the report Cheryl gave there was not much to ooo and ahhhh over.  To quote famous line "They were real but they weren't spectacular!"

We took another Hop On, Hop Off bus to tour Berlin.  I must say, we really enjoyed driving through Berlin.  It is the capital of Germany and home to 3.7 million people.  Though it has a long history dating back to the 12th century, its recent history is what was so fascinating to Cheryl and I.  The symbolic significance of Berlin as the Capital of Germany during WWII and the many buildings that still show damage from the bombings and then the building of the Berlin Wall in 1969 and finally the reunification in 1989.  As we drove past Checkpoint Charlie into the former East Berlin, you can see a definite change in architecture.  The East is more utilitarian with simple, efficient, square buildings.  Even the landmark "TV Tower" which served an important function, but was also meant to represent Communist power is quite plain and simple.  

We definitely enjoyed the food.  It was as expected, in terms of lots of meats, potatoes and heavy sauces.  Our Nike site lead recommended a place called Schnitzelei.  They have a long list of appetizers/tapas that all looked very good so we ordered 9 of them.  OMG, it was delicious.  Of course there was a lot of bread to go with it so between the loaf of bread and 9 tapas and of course a beer (or two) I felt like Augustus Gloop.  Staying true to tradition, we had to try the local pub and bar scene.  We eventually "stumbled" upon a cool bar called the House of Gin.  It's located in the Hotel Palace Berlin and has over 150 types of gin on their shelves.  The drinks are very creative.  My Old Smoke Fashion was served in a smoke filled lantern.  

We were also able to see all the other sites including the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag (German Parliament building), TV Tower and Berlin Cathedral just to name a few.  Our favorite attraction was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  It is a breathtaking place.  It covers 200,000 square feet with over 2700 individual concrete slabs.  A very impactful memorial.    

No more big trips planned until the family comes over for Christmas so we will hang out in Amsterdam and getting ready for the Holidays!!  Until next time........

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