As the title of this post suggests, my mom came to visit me in Berlin! It has been just over three months since I left home, and it was so terrific to see her. We decided before she arrived that the first day would be spent in the house, to let her adjust to the time difference and be able to relax a bit. The three of us (Sebastien, her, and I) decorated a modest Christmas tree and enjoyed a meal of schnitzel with mushroom sauce and spätzel noodles.
The next day, Mum and I headed for the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church as a touristy starting point. It’s one of the churches that had been bombed during the war, and it remains standing with a hole in the roof. It turns out that a large Christmas market was going on right around the church, and we experienced our first legitimate taste of German Christmas (more specifically, we drank glühwein).
For those of you who don’t know, “glühwein” is basically mulled wine – so steaming hot wine with sugar and spices added to it. I learned that at the Christmas Markets, if you would like to drink your hot beverage from a glass mug, you pay a deposit of about three euros. Mum and I never returned the mugs for the deposit, and ended up with quite a few nice mugs from different Christmas markets.
After we had walked around there for a little while, we headed to an Irish pub that Sebastien had informed me about earlier. We had a nice meal there, although it was a bit more of a sports bar than anything else. We then headed to “Ka De We” which is the fanciest and most historical department store in Berlin. We figured it would be decorated for Christmas, and were not disappointed! There was a huge tree in the front entrance, and all the Christmas-tree ornaments you could imagine. On another level, there were hand-crafted wood sculptures in the shapes of angels and nativity sets. Mum and I feel that Christmas decorations in Germany seem to be a lot more about quality and tradition, whereas Canadian ones are flashy.
After we had shopped to our hearts’ content, we headed home for another Christmas movie. The next day, we headed to the German Parliament building with Sebastien. For once in my life, I didn’t take many photos – I’ve seen it once before, and to be honest there was about as much rain as there had been on my first visit. But before we arrived there, we stopped at Hauptbahnhof, which is the main train station in Berlin. Very large and busy and fancy, and in this case very Christmassy.
We enjoyed walking along the clear dome of the Parliament Building once we were on our tour there, although I basically talked nonstop the whole time thanks to a Starbucks drink I had just consumed. After that, we headed over to the Brandenburg Gate, and admired the view in the midst of Christmas decorations.
Once we had walked around a little, it was time to go to Sebastien’s parents’ house for dinner. We enjoyed raclette, which continues to be one of my favourite meals. The conversation varied between English and German, and it was an extremely pleasant evening.
On Monday morning, Mum and I headed to the Berlin TV Tower for lunch at the top. I had made reservations the previous week, and that led to us getting all sorts of priority treatment. We were able to quickly get on the elevator to the top level, and enjoyed a relaxed lunch while taking in the view. We were lucky that it was the clearest day out of my mom’s entire visit, so we were able to see for miles around. It was interesting to see the Christmas markets from so high up, and I was able to see the train station I get off at every day to go to work.
After lunch, we walked through the Christmas Market that was going on directly below the TV Tower, in Alexanderplatz. I know it sounds like we obsessively were seeking out these Christmas Markets, but honestly they were everywhere we went! The one we went to was in a square where there is usually a large fountain with a statue in the middle. For the market, there was instead an ice skating rink surrounding the statue. With the sun beginning to set (as it does so early here in Germany) the view was absolutely gorgeous.
I apologize for my apparent fixation with the ferris wheel, but it was extremely photogenic!
After that, we took a walk over to the Berliner Dom, and I also showed Mum the hotel in which I had stayed with my grade 11 band a few years ago. We then headed to Potsdamer Platz to see the newest Disney film, “Frozen”. For some reason, Sebastien had said it would be alright if I saw that one with my mom instead of waiting for him to come see it with me. There was yet another Christmas Market in Potsdamr Platz, and we had lots to look at before it was time to go see the movie. Within Potsdamer Platz itself, a set was in the works for the premier of the Hobbit. I have no interest in seeing the Hobbit myself, but the elaborate set was pretty amazing!
We had picked the 4:30 time to see the movie, and there were exactly five other individuals in the theatre besides ourselves. But it was an absolutely fantastic film. A must-see for anyone who is a fan of Disney and animation, and especially for those that enjoy lots of singing. The only problem was that all the ice and snow in 3D didn’t really help us warm up from the cold outside. Either way, it was an awesome day overall.
On Tuesday, I had to head to work for one class. I finally got to show Mum what my daily routine is like in terms of work. She was amazed at the fact that it takes an entire hour to get to work, but for us it meant more time to chat. I showed her inside the school a bit, and then while I was working she went shopping nearby. After that, I took her to Hackeshir Markt and showed her the stores I think are coolest there – namely one store that is dedicated entirely to Doc Martens. We then went to the Kilkenny Irish Pub under the station at Hackeshir Markt, and decided that it’s our new favourite Irish Pub in Berlin.
Wednesday passed fairly uneventfully, since I had to work and Mum stayed home to catch up on some work of her own. Unfortunately the heater in our house decided to stop working, which meant that she was rather chilly. I didn’t notice the absence of heat that much, but the fact that we had no hot water meant that we couldn’t shower. Either way, that problem was fixed by about Friday, and it was right after that we left for the weekend anyway.
On Thursday, Mum came all the way to Friedrichstraße by herself! I had to work and then attend my German class, so Sebastien met her there so that we could go to our usual “Sneak a Peek” movie night. In my German class, the teacher went on a fair bit about how much a storm there would supposedly be that night. We were even told that we could leave early to go home and brace ourselves, if necessary. But Seb, Mum and I took the chance and went to the movie night anyway. The film was “Machete Kills” which was alright but not something my mother and I would usually see. Sebastien loved it though!
Friday was the day of my school Christmas concert. On my first day of work back in August, I agreed that I would play bagpipes at this concert – hard to believe that the time passed so quickly! I had attended rehearsals on Wednesday and Thursday, and while I usually have Fridays off I went in for the dress-rehearsal early in the day. Mum decided to come along, even though she wouldn’t have much to do while there. The storm that we had been warned of before had hit: there was snow in the air! I know that in Calgary the weather was much worse, but it was still a bit of a shock to see Berlin so cold. There would be no visiting Christmas Markets on that day!
But back to the rehearsal. We managed to get a bit of knitting done while I wasn’t playing, and got a sample of the other performances that would be in the show. I’m pretty amazed at how talented some of these students are; one played the piano while singing a gorgeous song, and there was a rock band that sounded pretty good. One of the students in the rock band comes to my conversation class regularly, and it almost made me emotional seeing him on stage and knowing that his dream is to become a musician. It was a moment where I could understand why teachers do what they do – to help support and inspire new generations.
But anyway! Everyone seemed extremely impressed with the bagpipes (it was fun hearing how surprised everyone was when I brought them out for the first time) and it didn’t take too long to figure out my role. After rehearsal was finished, Mum and I went to Kilkenny’s to have some dinner and spend the new few hours before we had to head back to the school. There was snow on the ground, but with the dim lighting and Irish music it felt like the perfect Christmas moment. We eventually went back to the school, and Sebastien met us there. I was slightly anxious for playing, but thankfully it all went well. My performance was basically walking up the centre aisle with the choir following me, while I played “O Come All Ye Faithful” followed by “Scotland the Brave” (naturally). It was extremely dark in the auditorium save for one spotlight, but fortunately I didn’t trip over any toddlers or anything. After that, I sat behind the stage waiting for my next performance. A group of the teachers and staff had put together a Christmas Carol performance, and I had volunteered to sing along with them. The audience absolutely loved the song we did, but I think the main reason for that was that they got to see their principal, janitor and secretary do something silly and fun while wearing Santa hats. Overall, the performance was a complete success and the day had been a most enjoyable one.
The next thing on our agenda was our visit to Dresden. However, I am going to save that for another blog entry. Talk about a cliffhanger!
Thank you so much for reading!