We are having a wonderful time in Berlin, Germany. Even with the cooler weather and the rain on-and-off again (its light and seems to pass quickly), it’s a great place to be. The history is rich and the sites are many.
We had an amazing hostess our first day and she showed us some great sites:
1) The Humboldt University in Berlin – where she attends school (first semester classes started back in 1810 and it is located in the center of Berlin off of Unter den Linden Boulevard);
2) The East Side Gallery to see what remains of the Berlin Wall (very interesting aspect that we learned more about was the “Death Strip” and how 100 people, over those years, had been shot dead trying to cross over to West Germany. One of the most famous being 18-year-old Peter Fechter, who was shot in the hip and left to bleed to death for over an hour in the “Death Strip” with citizens from both sides watching as well as journalists but everyone reluctant to help because of the unknown nature of consequences that they could face);
3) The Brandenburg Gate (one of the main symbols of Berlin and Germany, it is the only remaining gate of 18 in which Berlin was once entered, it was erected in the 1730’s). People may remember when former President Ronald Reagan spoke in front of the this gate in 1987: “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Steffi gave us a great education on how things operate in Berlin, we had a wonderful time with her and we will hopefully meet up with her again before we leave; we just want to make sure we don’t interfere with her studies.
In the mean time we also visited:
1) The Memorial for the Murdered Jewish Families of Europe (which is behind the US Embassy);
2) The famous streets of Kurfurstendamn (which origins date back to the 1500’s) and Unter den Linden (Unter den Linden leads you straight to the Brandenburg Gate and has the sweet smell from the Linden trees);
3) The beautiful Charlottenburg Palace (which was built in the end of the 17th century and is the largest palace in Berlin, it’s only a few blocks from our apartment and has a huge fairytale garden in back);
4) The completely amazing Tiergarten (we rented bikes for a couple of days here); and
5) The Sony Center
We learn and see something new everyday. So much to see and so little time.
Our apartment is ½ block from the UBahn so we have been going most everywhere via subway. The subway system itself is very easy to navigate. As I mentioned earlier we rented bikes for a couple of days and got around town as most of the locals do and that in itself was a true experience. The bike lanes are huge and people bike fast and efficient just as if they were walking. It is common to find 10 to 15 bikers at your side waiting for the light to change. As busy as the streets are I am happy to report that we got around quite effectively with no injuries. The apartment is very clean and has what we need – IKEA merchandise fills every corner. The first few days the WiFi system would not work but with some persistence we were able to get that resolved. Our apartment is on the 5th floor and there is no elevator so we are definitely getting our workouts in. The kids are sharing a room… it’s a pullout bed that is in the middle of the kitchen, dining room, laundry room and overall family area. No complaints from the troops; so far all good. We also have many store options for food and beverage right in our area, which has been very convenient.
We have been eating in for breakfast and dinner. Our lunch is typically not sit-down but maybe a few baguettes or Panini sandwiches to share. We take apples or some other snack in the backpack while we are sight seeing and that seems to hold us over until we eat at the apartment. That doesn’t mean we don’t have the occasional ice cream, pretzel or Nutella and banana crepe when needed. The grocery stores in my opinion are a pretty good value – $25 euro can feed us for a few days in-house (and yes that includes beverages as well ;-)).
It’s funny how after only a few days we can acclimate ourselves to our surroundings and feel “at home”. We have never felt unsafe since we have been in Germany, which is probably why we feel so at ease. Similarly it has been so easy to find the benefits and beauty of this area, as we did in Gelsenkirchen, without even searching. Germany has been a wonderful country, full of great history and culture and we look forward to seeing and learning more in the next couple weeks that remain.