Berlin

It was the morning of December 6th and I was introduced to the tradition of Nikolaus (similair to what Americans do for the 3 kings) We had breakfast with a friend and he brought me a chocolate egg with a tiny toy inside. I’m sure the kids love getting these every year.

We rode the ICE to Berlin and met with Christine who had a big day planned. Before we hit the streets running we had a second breakfast of Brot, frucht, erdbeerjoghurt and froot loops (yes, those were for me) for breakfast. We headed to the Oberbaumbrücke and walked the East side Gallery to admire all of the artwork that is painted on what is left of the Berlin wall. This section of the wall is 1.3km-long and is located near the center of Berlin. Approximately 106 paintings by artists from all over the world covered this memorial for freedom and made it the largest open air gallery in the world.  

In front of the wall sat a Trabi….a teeny tiny car. You used to have to wait 10 years on a waiting list to get one of these little things! This automobile was produced by former East German auto maker VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau in Zwickau, Sachsen. It was the most common vehicle in East Germany, and was also exported to countries both inside and outside the communist bloc. With its mediocre performance, smoky two-stroke engine, and production shortages, the Trabant is often cited as an example of the disadvantages of centralized planning; on the other hand, it is regarded with derisive affection as a symbol of the failed former East Germany and of the fall of communism (in former West Germany, as many East Germans streamed into West Berlin and West Germany in their Trabants after the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989). It was in production without any significant changes for nearly 30 years with 3,096,099 Trabants produced in total. After we left the gallery we had our pictures taken with some Berlin Bears (Berlin’s mascot)

The day was filled with enthusiastic enjoyment as we exchanged thoughts and experiences on the differences in life styles between US and Germany. We stood in front of the Brandenburger Tor. From 1961 – 1989 you weren’t allowed to stand near this because you might be shot since it was located near the death zone of the Berlin Wall.

The next stop was Checkpoint Charlie – A border crossing operated by the Allied military between East and West Berlin that became a symbol of the Cold War. The name “Charlie” represents the letter ‘c’ in the military alphabet, after the Alpha and Bravo checkpoints on the outskirts of Berlin. Allied military, diplomats, and foreigners used the crossing. Checkpoint Charlie was the site of the famous “tank confrontation” of late 1961. On October 22, the East German border police denied entrance to U.S. representatives after their refusal, in accordance with Allied law, to submit to checks. Tanks were subsequently deployed on both sides of the checkpoint. After several days, Moscow and East Berlin capitulated. It was the first time that Soviet and American tanks had faced each other directly since World War II, and it was the only time during the Cold War that they did so.

Lunch time rolled around so we stopped at Meilenstein Cafe to have Äpfelstrudel. We visited Christine’s workplace where I was introduced to the Paternoster…..strangest elevator I’ve ever been in…..no doors, just step in and go. Pretty cool! We walked over to the Berlin Weihnachtsmarkt in drink some Glüehwein and thaw out. I love all of the Weihnachtsmarkts in Germany. Each town has one the whole month of December. So festive and brings everyone together. Afterwards we made our way to the The Holocaust Memorial (German: Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas) created in remembrance of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust of the lives that were destroyed by Hitler and his followers. It consists of a 19,000 square meter (4.7 acre) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, one for each page of the Talmud arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae vary in height and were designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason. Building began on April 1, 2003 and was finished on December 15, 2004. It was inaugurated on May 10, 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II, and opened to the public on May 12 of the same year. It is located one block south of the Brandenburg Gate, in the Friedrichstadt neighborhood. It was a sad and quiet place, but I was glad to see a heart felt effort at remembering the lives that were lost.Tears came to my eyes as I listened to all of the horrific stories of families that were betrayed by the Nazis Gestapo and lives that were ruined because of sheer ignorance.

Our schedule for the day was completed. We headed to a Thai restaurant where we had a large mango drinks and appetizing meats. On the way home we walked through the  Unter den Linden to see all of the trees covered with lights. What a beautiful way to end the night 🙂

Deutschland

Germany welcomed me with a cold rush of wind running down my neck as I stepped off the plane and headed to the metro. We were greeted by two of Carsten’s old friends which was enough to fill anyone with warmth. Petra and Gero told me some history and fun facts about Frankfurt on the ride to their flat.  We warmed up and ate a little Stubenknecht (Little bread man from the bakery) before venturing out for the day.

Carsten and I roamed the streets of Frankfurt until my feet went numb (from the cold, not from walking). The first thing he had to do was eat currywurst (although it is typically from the Berlin area, he couldn’t wait any longer). I stopped in a small bakery and ordered a sugar cookie, which he thought was hilarious because it’s name was Amerikaner….so yes, I ate an American.  Once our stomaches were satisfied we walked around the Zeil area and went to the top of Zeil Gallery to overlook the city, then to Fressgasse street by the old opera, walked through Anlagenring park in search of the masses of rabbits, and ended the tour at the Eiserner Steg after strolling down the sidewalk of the Main river.  Since my fingers were beginning to go numb as well Carsten said he knew just the thing to warm me up! I couldn’t go with him because he said he was taking me somewhere tomorrow and I wasn’t allowed to see. So, I waited for him on the bridge. I watched as he crossed the street to a lighted area with booths and music, but I didn’t want to ruin the surprise so I walked to the middle of the bridge and began taking pictures and enjoying the surroundings. Ten minutes later he came back with a steaming cup in his hand and said “Drink this! It’ll warm you.” Glüehwein, a Hot Mulled Wine, is an acquired taste…but did in fact warm me up pretty quickly.

Dinner time had approached and we were taken to Zur Elenburg (Castle of Owls) a cute little restaurant hidden away down a cobble stoned street of the city. I ordered goose, but tasted a bit of all the different foods from everyone’s plates. We drank Äppler (Apple wine) traditional to the Frankfurt area.

The next morning our friendly hosts assembled a delightful breakfast consisting of Brötchen, fruit, jams and juice in their tiny library. We all bundled up for the explorative day ahead. The botanical Palmengarten filled with so many fun, exotic plants and blumen was the first stop of the day. When we arrived at the dessert portion of the Garden, there was a little old man sitting down reading his Zeitung. He was so excited to see visitors aftre being alone in there for hours and began to tell all about the plants and animals that live in the type of habitat…only problem, I’m stillnot fluent in German. So I stood there smiling and nodding my head like I knew what he was talking about and after his 20 minute spiel, my three companions turn to me and start translating in english, he gets a puzzled look on his face and says as clear as day “I’m fluent in english ya know?”

Around noon we stopped at a tiny cafe to have milk, coffee and cakes. We wandered the streets for hours learning all about Frankfurt.

 As we arrived at the Weihnachtsmarkt, my eyes gazed into fascination by all the beautifully hand crafted art work and sculptures designed by the Germans. I noticed the younger generation putting a lot of work into their creations to keep the tradition of the past alive. It was such a friendly place filled with laughter and mouthwatering smells of all of the different delicacies. We drank Glüehwein, Feuerzangenbowle, ate Bratwurst from the Schwenkgrill that was roasting the woscht and steak.We spent the whole night wandering around visiting the different booths, enjoying the atmosphere. Before we knew it the day was gone and we had to go to bed to get up bright and early to head to Berlin.

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