SO, as I’ve continued writing blog posts, I’ve noticed some underlying themes throughout my travels so far. AKA my tendency to shape the limited time I have in each place around activities involving the bookstores, markets, street art, food, and coffee shops in each place. I didn’t anticipate these being the things I gravitate towards most, but there it is. So, if you were looking for an idea of what this post will contain… ta-daa!
Highlights from Berlin:
- Art on Walls
- Book Tree
- Hackescher Markt
- East Side Gallery
- Prenzlauer Berg
- Kids watching bubbles
We arrived in Berlin the Thursday afternoon of our Spring Break. First things first, we traveled to the Brandenburg Tor which we passed through to reach the Holocaust Memorial. Then we visited the Holocaust Memorial for Homosexuals, grabbed a quick bite to eat and hit up “Topography of Terror.”
The TOT is a history museum on the site of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters during the Nazi Regime – it was bombed by the Allies in 1945. The exhibition is basically one giant room (and an attached, smaller room) that have large panels hanging from the ceilings. Each panel has loads of information on them, and because we arrived with about an hour left until closing time, and we didn’t get too far. So, we left at closing time with promises of coming back the next day.
From there, we found our hostel, checked in, made our beds and unloaded our belongings. Then we settled down at a table in one of the lobby area downstairs for a little bit of wifi-time so we could plan for the next day. And to our happy surprise, some of our SLU friends had just started up a google hangout session, so we joined in on that too.
And from that hostel’s lobby in Berlin, Keeks and I “hung out” with our friends. Some were in Madrid, one in France, and the rest scattered throughout the U.S. Let me tell ya… Sometimes, I get fed up with technology. Don’t we all? But its times like that one, from our hostel, that I really appreciate how technology can bring people together even when it seems we couldn’t have ended up further apart from each other on a world map. Their familiar faces and personalities made me smile so much that it hurt. And Kiki and I filled the little room with our laughter and talk. Lil nuggets.
Next up? Sweet, sweet sleep.
We peaced out of the hostel at 10AM the next morning. We stopped for coffee and crepes and a nearby caffè, and then began deciphering the transportation signs in the area and our map to get to the East Side Gallery, which we enjoyed a lot. Below are just a couple of my personal favorites. (Also, please excuse the picturesque fence before them)
Then, we visited Checkpoint Charlie for some more of our history fix, and followed this with lunch at a place called “Back-Factory,” which had a variety of cheap, ready-made foods. It must have been about 3,00 euros for myself, and about the same for Kiki. And we left full, so SCORE.
Topography of Terror was next up again. I finished reading the rest of the panels a bit before Keeks did, so I practiced my special napping skill once more. On a bench inside, I stuck my legs through the straps of our packs so they couldn’t wander off, and slept for a bit until Kiki was done.
We had dinner and then went back at the hostel where we bought a couple beers and set up in the lobby to do our planning for the next day. Then, because it seemed like the stereotypical, German-esque thing to do, we went our for a drink at a bar near our hostel. And man are we good at picking ’em! We picked a bar that was positively hoppin’ with the older gentle-peeps of the area. We were probably the youngest by about 10 years. Anyway, after I got carded (yep, that’s right), Keeks and I sat on a leather love-seat and talked for nearly an hour or so about whatever came to mind as we drank.
We packed up and hit the road early the next morning. Our first destination of the day? You might’ve guessed it since we hadn’t happened upon one yet, but… a market! Specifically, a market in the square of Hackescher Markt.
Some booths were still in the process of getting set up, so we our sights on breakfast until they were ready – a strawberry strudel for me, and waffle for Keeks. Then we purchased some warm liquids from a caffè and checked out a nearby alleyway filled with whimsy and street art.
After our fun in the Hacksher Markt, we set our sights on a book-tree kiosk in the neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg. The “kiosk” is a group of fallen tree trunks transformed into a book-sharing space as a part of a free book swapping program called the BookCrossing club.
This particular book tree is just outside of a caffè called Caffè Anna Blume. The neighborhood was packed with people out enjoying their Saturday afternoon. And while there, several people visited the tree. They left books in the hollowed out shelves, behind plastic flaps used for protection against the rain, and took a couple in return. I wanted to take it home with me. But alas, that’s impossible. And thievery. So perhaps I’ll just have to make a few for places around good ole Tulsa and St. Louis when I get back.
The smell of food and sounds of people drew us to a market I later learned happens every Saturday in the neighborhood. And it’s one of my favorite markets yet. Everybody seemed so happy and little bambini clomped around in their boots, wearing fluffy, marshmallow-like coats and pants.
All sorts of hand-crafted and home-made items filled the tents and booths throughout. Scarves, foods, soaps, leather-bound journals, wallets made of recycled material, intricate Easter egg decor, and so much more. And each whispered “come hither” in a language only those who really appreciate them understand.And don’t even get me started on the food. Mouth-watering pockets of different, yummy scented air bombarded us every few steps. It was there that I tried currywurst, a traditional dish in Germany. And the verdict? It was absolutely delicious. 5 stars. 10/10 would recommend. All the good things.
Keeks and I split for just a bit so she could find herself a vegetarian dish, so once I got my food, I sat at a picnic table in a little green space alongside the market. As I ate, I people-watched, which was especially entertaining. A mother of an infant in a stroller blew a few bubbles from a bubble wand for her little tike. Little did she know what an effect that would have on so many other little humans in the park. There were about five other 5-6 year-old little kids present with their parents. And I kid you not. Every single one of them stopped what they were doing when the bubbles starting bubbling and just stared. Their eyes were filled with wonder and they seemed to be concerned with nothing in the world but those bubbles. Only after the last bubble was blown did life resume. It was absolutely hilarious. Not even going to lie, that was one of my favorite parts from the weekend.
And finito! That was our last stop before we made a beeline for the airport.
Overall, our couple days in Berlin were great. There definitely was a somber and reflective aspect to it because of our visits to the Holocaust memorials and museums. There were many thought-provoking moments, which only further set Berlin apart from the other places we’ve visited. And apart from the more reflective parts of our trip, our time spent there was delightful. Good food. Lots of struggling with getting places in the very spread-out city. Lots of artsy walls to look at. So many friendly folk. And the city itself has a very young and hip feel to it which was neat to explore.
I sincerely hope that I make it back there with more time, because I’m certain we only scratched the surface in getting to know the city. What a lively and happy place. Many thanks to the Berliners who treated us so kindly. Peace out, friends.