Friday, April 22, 2011

"Ich bin ein Berliner" (Our trip to Berlin Part 2)

Did you miss Part 1?  Click here to get caught up.
Monday morning, I was up and at the nearby Aldi Grocery store buying food for the next three days while Dana was getting Dylan up and ready to go.  We made it out the door together around 9:45 am and made it to the Brandenburg Gate just in time for our Guided Walking Tour.  We were in a group of around 40 people, and were around other Americans for the first time in 7 months.  

The walking tour, from, lasted 3 ½ hours and took us through the key landmarks of the city.  Dylan was content in his buggy for most of the time and wasn’t too much of a distraction.   We were able to see a lot of the tourist spots and receive the history behind it.  I would highly recommend the walking tour if you come to Berlin. Here are some photos from the tour:

The Brandenburg Gate.  We saw this the day before and had no idea what it was for.  This gate was part of the Berlin Wall and was one of the few points of entry between East and West Berlin.

Right by the Brandenburg Gate is the Hotel Adlon - famous for Michael Jackson's "Baby Dangling" incident.

Here is Bryan at the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe.  This is a series of coffin shaped rectangles that start at ground level, get really tall, then end at ground level.  The meaning is up to your own interpretation.

The parking lot is approximately above Hitler's Bunker - where he spent his final days and killed himself.  Not much of a memorial here.

This building is what our tour guide called "a good example of Nazi architecture" - meaning, it is meant to make you feel very small.  You can see the group of people at the other end of the corridor and how small they are compared to the ceiling.  Even the door handle is at eye-level.

One of the few places in the city where the wall is still standing.

Where the wall used to be is this double cobbled-stoned strip all throughout the city so you always know where the wall once stood.

During our break, Bryan got to chase Dylan around.

After the walking tour, we ate lunch and ate the best Doner’s ever (or we may have been really hungry from the walking tour).  I actually polished off 2 Doner’s in one sitting.  Usually one is more than good enough.  Two was a little too much. We went home after that and put Dylan to bed for his nap.  After that lunch, I napped just as long as Dylan.
Bryan enjoying his second doner in a row. 
We stayed around the house during the evening.  After our lunch, we only needed some French fries for dinner.  We let Dylan run around the yard at night and enjoyed conversing with Iris for a little while (in German…we’re getting better.)  

Tuesday was our (sort of) map/agenda free day.  Although the walking tour/tourist destinations are a necessary part of exploring a new city, learning about the city ‘off the beaten path’ is a better way to really learn about a city. 

Dana was ok with the agenda free day (as long as we made it to the East Side Gallery), but was not keen on a map free day.   Once we made it off East train station (Ostbahnhof), we wandered across the river to a really shady part of town (and I am not talking about tree shade.)  We had unknowingly walked into a squatter/gypsy community.  It was the first time ever in Europe where we felt a sense of danger, but concluded that it still wasn’t as dangerous as our neighborhood in St. Augustine on a Friday night. 

We continued to take the next possible right hand turn to get out of the gypsy area.  I kept thinking that the people that live here don’t believe in money, but would only be interested in taking my money if I asked for directions.  Is that irony or ignorance?  

We made it out of the gypsy village and found our way to the East Side Gallery.  We were able to get some good pictures there.  That was really the last time we saw other English speaking tourists.   That’s because we walked over the Oberbaum Bridge and wandered the artsy district of Kreuzberg.  I use the word ‘artsy’ because it’s the best word to describe it.  It was a fascinating area where everyone seemed to be either a hippy or an artist or both.  We felt so out of place, that even using a baby stroller seemed too mainstream for this area.
Dylan running along the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery

Family photo at East Side Gallery.  We're actually on the "graffiti" side of the wall.  The "gallery" is on the other side, but it also looks like graffiti.

Bryan and Dylan on the gallery side of the East Side Gallery.

Famous painting.

This is a very good representative photo of the squatter/gypsy camp that we wandered into.  So, not quite as unsafe as our neighborhood in St. Augustine, but close.
After eating a great falafel for lunch, we continued to wander through the streets of Kreuzberg.  At one point, we arrived at more burned out buildings/warehouses.  Instead of looking like a gypsy camp, there were other German tourists walking in and out of the district.  Having not learned from our previous mis-directions from the previous two hours, we walked in and found some really cool sites. 

The deeper we walked through these old buildings, the more we saw.  Our tour concluded on the other side of these buildings, where auditions were being held for the X-Factor Berlin.  I couldn’t get Dana to try out for the show (you should hear her belt out “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” it will bring tears to your eyes) but it’s just a matter of time before the world will behold her brilliant voice.

Kreuzberg district in Berlin.  Very artsy / bohemian.

Any old street corner will do for a diaper change.  Dylan is getting used to it.

Famous Berlin graffiti - across the street from where Bryan was changing Dylan's diaper.

Weird really big bench.

An old hollowed out bus - Dylan could have stayed here all day.

Maybe he will grow up to be a bus driver.

Dana and Dylan on the bus.

We found the nearest subway station and headed back to the apartment for Dylan’s nap (I say Dylan’s, but I actually took a nap every day as well.)   After D’s nap, we rode back up to Hermanplatz, another area that seemed to be only occupied by Berlin residents (and not tourists.)  

We ended up walking the streets in this beautiful district and enjoyed a snack at the street *kiosk.  *Tourist Budget Tip; A great money saving tip is to skip an overpriced restaurant and enjoy your snack/appetizer at a kiosk, where you can sit outside at a table.  We were able to people watch and enjoy an appetizer at a fraction of the price of the next door restaurant. 

We continued to wander the streets, and settled on a nice outdoor café called Goldberg’s to eat dinner.  We didn’t know where we were on the map because the streets were not on our map, but quickly found our location on the map by matching the restaurant name “Goldbergs” to the general “Jewish” district on our map.  This dinner was our nice dinner (if you can a couple of sandwiches that) of our trip, and we stayed out until nearly 10 pm with Dylan, which was unheard of.  We pushed him to his limit, but he was pretty good.

Dinner at Goldberg's.

The next morning, we were on our way out of Berlin, taking the same 6-7 trains back and arriving in Borken early in the evening on Wednesday.

Although I wish we could have stayed a few days longer, we learned that it is possible to travel with a crazy and energetic 22 month old without losing our minds.  We are planning on a more extensive trip this summer and feel that we can proceed with our plans to book it.

Here are some unofficial highlights of the trip:
  • Me whistling the Scorpions “Winds of Change” most of the trip.  Found out today that the song was about Moscow.  Maybe David Hasselhoff brought the Berlin wall down after all. Hmmm.
  • Dylan pulling his shoes and socks off and smelling his feet in the middle of a full train.  His “Ew!” could be heard a couple of train cards away. 
  • Starting to grow the Hockey Playoff Beard while on the trip.  It’s working.  They won the first round 4 games to 0. 
  • We taught Dylan how to ‘bump it’ on one of our many train rides.  Now, he will say, “bump it” and give us his fist.  We just hope he is not becoming a McPoyle from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.


Anonymous said...

once Dylan gets used to traveling and it seems he is. you will find it is extremly easy traveling with one child. They enjoy the change of scenery and experiences as much as you do. We did a lot with Tyler who was 5 by the time we had Carter. Ty was a great traveler.

Bryan said...

I hope you are right about this. We kept looking at other couples traveling through Berlin with two children and it seemed like they were managing it ok. We figured at least we could play man to man defense against two kids.