Brandon and I spent the four-day Memorial Day weekend in Berlin. It took about five hours to drive up there on Friday afternoon with a stop for lunch. Brandon really enjoys the unlimited speeds on the Autobahn! We stayed at the Hotel Askanischerhof, which is right on the main drag of West Berlin, Kurfürstendamm (Ku’damm). The hotel offers free parking on the street and we were lucky to find a spot right away. The car stayed there safely all weekend with the other BMWs and Bentleys while we used public transportation.
Our first evening there, we walked down to the TI to purchase a good city map and our WelcomeCards, which gave us unlimited public transportation access and other discounts for 72-hours. Then Brandon successfully navigated the U-Bahn system (subway) to get us to Checkpoint Charlie since the museum there is open late. The museum was a little dry and basically just an account of all the ways people were able to escape. Still, it was interesting to learn more about this part of history.
After the museum, it was definitely time to find some dinner. We decided to try one of Rick Steves’ recommendations back near our hotel in Savignyplatz. Unfortunately, we still weren’t completely familiar with the bus system yet, so getting there was not the most efficient. However, dinner at Dicke Wirtin, a traditional old-Berlin Kneipe, was delicious once we got there!
Saturday began with breakfast at the hotel. They had the normal German options of rolls, meats, cheeses, jams, yogurt, fruit, and cereals. There was Nutella, so I was very happy. Then we were off to the Gemäldegalerie, which features a collection of over 1400 European paintings from the 13th through 18th centuries. There was a free audio guide that was very helpful, but we were still only able to listen to a small sample of the works. This period in art history is not Brandon’s favorite (he prefers 19th century, specifically Van Gogh), but I enjoy seeing how the styles evolved. My favorite painting was The Netherlandish Proverbs (1559) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, depicting around 100 proverbs. For convenience, we ate lunch at the cafeteria at the Kulturforum before heading to the Bahnhof Zoo for the Discover Berlin walking tour by Original Berlin Walks.
The Discover Berlin walking tour was four hours long and covered a LOT of sights!! We saw the following (not in this order):
- Berlin Wall
- Hitler’s Bunker (stood above)
- Site of Goebbels’ Bunker
- Checkpoint Charlie
- Nazi Air Ministry
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
- Brandenburg Gate
- Museum Island and Lustgarten
- Pergamon Museum
- Bebelplatz, scene of the Nazi Bookburning
- Potsdamer Platz
- Site of SS and Gestapo HQs
- “Ghost Station”
- Unter den Linden
- Royal Armoury (Zeughaus)
- Russian Embassy
- War Memorial (Neue Wache)
- TV Tower
- Berlin Cathedral
- Catholic Cathedral (St. Hedwigs)
- Friedrichstrasse (1920s cabaret)
- Humboldt University
- State Opera
- Hackescher Markt
- Royal Hunting Grounds (Tiergarten)
The tour was super informative and our guide, Holly, was very knowledgeable. The only disappointment was not being able to walk through the Brandenburg Gate or going to the Reichstag. Saturday, May 23rd, was the 60th Anniversary of the Federal Republic of Germany, and there was a huge celebration in that area that prevented us from getting too close. I guess this gives us a good reason to go back to Berlin in the future!
Needless to say, we were pretty worn out after the walking tour. We went back to Hackescher Markt for dinner at Weihenstephaner Bavarian Restaurant. I was thrilled to see they had Spargelcremesuppe (Asparagus Crème Soup) and it was delicious!! Unfortunately, my meal was not as delicious. I ordered the Tafelspitz, which was described as marinated prime boiled beef with pumpkin oil. It was disgusting! It was a pile of cold beef marinated in something green. Thankfully, I had ordered the soup and the potatoes it came with were good. This was the first time I’d ordered something here in Germany that didn’t turn out to be really good, so I can’t complain too much. But in the future, DON’T ORDER THE TAFELSPITZ!
Brandon and I spent Sunday morning at the German History Museum (Deutsches Historisches Museum). This is an amazing museum that covers the history of Germany from 1 B.C. through today. We easily could have spent the entire weekend exploring this museum, but we hit the highlights in about 2 hours. We grabbed some brauts for lunch at a sidewalk vendor and ate in the Lustgarden. It was a beautiful sunny day with lots of locals and other tourists enjoying the garden. Then we went in the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom) to climb to the top. Brandon loves to make me walk up hundreds of steps in every city we visit. This one was only 270 steps to the top, and the view was worth it. After the Berliner Dom, we tried to visit KaDeWe, a famous 100-year old department store, but it is closed on Sundays. I guess they still haven’t completely embraced all of the ways of brazen capitalism. Another reason to go back to Berlin!
Sunday evening we went to see Blue Man Group in Potsdamer Platz. Neither one of us had seen Blue Man before. All of the advertising said it was suitable for foreign tourists, and for the most part it was. There were just a few parts that we wished we spoke German. The audience would laugh, and we sat there clueless. Of course, that isn’t exactly an unusual experience for me since we moved to Germany! We both really enjoyed the performance; however, we were both rather tired and hungry when it was finished. We found a restaurant close by, and then headed back to the hotel.
The next day we checked out of the hotel and found an Esso station to get gas before leaving Berlin. Instead of driving straight home, we made a one-hour detour towards Magdeburg to see a water bridge. This bridge connects two important shipping canals over the Elbe River. It was quite strange to see water on and below the bridge! There was a nice little beer garden right near the bridge that we were able to eat at before getting back on the road towards home.
If you’d like to see all of our pictures, please see my Picasa album here. [Link updated on June 1st.]