Berlin Day One – Tourist Time! – Thursday October 12

Steps: 22,764

It’s hard to write about travels and fun in Europe when there is so much pain back home in San Francisco. In the US in general, really. When times back home waver between brink of nuclear war and repeated mass shootings, it’s now got horrible wild fires in wine country. Many of our friends have been evacuated, and at least one has lost their home. What is going on here?!?! If the locusts come then that’s the last step before the apocalypse. So heartbreaking to see from afar. Hang in there, Northern California!

But we had already booked this trip to Berlin so off we went! Almost didn’t make it, as the budget airline we were on, Air Berlin, just declared bankruptcy. Yikes!

We landed late Wednesday night and checked into our AirBnB in the Kreuzberg neighborhood. This was a former West Berlin neighborhood that is super trendy and hip. Melinda and I ran out for a late night shwarma and realized, yup, this is really gritty neighborhood!

Berlin Observation #1: The street lights in this town suck.

But on awakening the next morning, we realized it was also a really pretty neighborhood. We just couldn’t see it the night before. And we went down the “wrong” road to our shwarma place. One block over and its super nice old buildings and little cafes and restaurants.

After a killer breakfast at Spindler, we got going because we had a super full and touristy day planned Thursday – we wanted to fit in as much as we could.

Got to get up to the top of the Reichstag building. (Tip: You need to register before going, or they won’t let you in.)

The view up there was awesome. All those buildings you see here past Brandenburg Gate weren’t there when I was last in Berlin in 1990. They were all part of the Death Strip of Potsdamer Platz. Amazing to see. The first building past Brandenburg Gate is the US Embassy. Primo land right there they got!

Emma had some fun once we got down and through Brandenburg Gate. Amazing to think that no-one (from the public at least) walked through the Brandenburg Gate for 28 years. Crazy. #NoMoreWalls

Just past the US Embassy, they reserved almost 5 acres of Potsdamer Platz for the Holocaust Memorial, or as it’s officially called: The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Alexis commented on the official name, “Wow, the Germans are really *owning* it with that name.” Yes, they definitely are.

The memorial is a field of concrete pillars, of various heights, from half a meter high to maybe 3-4 meters. Some are very straight and some are slightly tilted. They’re arranged in rows, on an undulating ground. There are no names anywhere, and nothing to explain what it all is. But walking through you get this sense of disorientation, and of darkness, and a feeling of orderliness combined with chaos. A very powerful memorial, unlike any I have seen. But powerful, very, along the level of the Vietnam War memorial in DC.

It’s hard to put the feeling of the place in pictures, but here’s a couple attempts:


There was also a “Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted by the Nazi’s”, though it would probably be safe to say “murdered” there as well. It was a much much smaller memorial, but a very powerful one. Brought tears to my eyes. It’s a monolithic block in the middle of a beautiful green space, with a small window. Looking in you see black and white newsreel type footage of same sex couples kissing. There’s joy and love in that, but then the footage shows them getting “caught” by disapproving people. They brush off the glares and go back to kissing.

I mentioned to Alexis that the construction of the memorial wasn’t straight. She groaned. Dad jokes.

We hopped on a hop-on-hop-off bus to quickly see some of the other sites in Berlin. As touristy as they are, we are fans of the hop-on-hop-offs everywhere we go. You get to see so much of the city so quickly.

The big East Berlin radio tower:

The Victory thing (Statue? Tower?) in the Tiergarden:

The famous bombed out church in the Ku-Dam area:

Jumped off the bus, got on the U-bahn and headed to lunch at a great place called Brlo. A brewery in a bunch of converted shipping containers. Super great food, super great beer. And schnapps. Had to do it.

Berlin Observation #2: The public transportation here is awesome! We got around Berlin entirely on the S-Bahn and U-Bahn and buses (in the former West) and trams (in the former East).

That night we went out to “Street Food Thursdays” at Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg. A huge market converted into street food stalls every Thursday night.

Awesome vibe, great drinks, great food. On the way home we passed by some great graffiti, a foreshadowing of what’s to come on Friday – a Berlin Graffiti and Street Art Walking Tour!

Berlin Observation #3: Everything in this town is covered in graffiti!

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