As you may recall, my Dad was visiting me here in Berlin for two weeks. We had an absolutely terrific time, and now that he is back home it is time to tell you all about our adventures! We actually took a road trip to Amsterdam in the middle of his visit, but I’ve decided to make that a whole other blog post since I have so much I would like to say about the experience.
Dad had excellent timing on his trip; he took off from a snow-covered Calgary and was greeted by a sunny Berlin. Over the course of his two weeks here, he got to see everything come to life: trees are now covered in new leaves, and there are gorgeous daffodils and tulips everywhere. It’s hard to believe that there is still snow in Calgary this late in the year…but hopefully Spring is right around the corner!
On Dad’s first night here, we made a schnitzel dinner and gave him a chance to relax after the long flight. In case you’re not quite sure what schnitzel is: it’s a type of meat (usually pork, but we also tried chicken) that has been beaten into a very thin cutlet, and then breaded and fried. Understandably, I have yet to meet a non-vegetarian that doesn’t enjoy it.
I unfortunately had to work during Dad’s trip, but he was able to make himself quite at home around Alexanderplatz while I was teaching. He took a lot of photos of the (East) Berlin TV Tower, and was able to entertain himself in both the huge Galeria there (a large, fancy department store), and the Alexa Mall. He highly recommends the McCafe inside of the mall, since they serve impressively large coffees and have an outside terrace where people can sit.
On our first day exploring the city together, we took Alexanderplatz as a starting point for what I think of as my “Grade 11 Tour”. When I was in grade 11, my school band came to Germany for two weeks, and we spent about two days in Berlin. We ate almost all of our meals at a restaurant right in Alexanderplatz, and stayed at the Radisson Hotel just down the street. I pointed out to Dad the restaurant where we ate, and also showed him where I had been a waitress for two weeks last summer. We then headed to the Radisson, and stopped at a few touristy shops along the way. The lobby of the Radisson is pretty amazing to see, because there is an enormous aquarium in the center that stretches to the ceiling. You can technically take an elevator up the middle of the aquarium, but this attraction is connected to an aquarium around the block, as opposed to being controlled by the hotel.
Of course, the Radisson was just the precursor to the amazing Berliner Dom. We only viewed it from the outside on the first day, but Dad later took my recommendation and went inside. The vastness and beauty of the dome’s ceilings can only really be appreciated in person as opposed to photographed. He also took the climb to the upper roof of the dome, from which you can see a large part of the city.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t terrific on the day that Dad went to the top part of the Berliner Dom, but I think he still thoroughly enjoyed the experience!
After we had taken a few photos of the dome from the outside, we continued to walk towards the Brandenburg Gate (or Brandenburger Tor). It was a few blocks farther away than I had remembered, but our walking efforts were eventually rewarded. We not only saw the Brandenburg Gate, we also saw a group of dancers doing a routine around a dressed-up border guard. The routine was quite spontaneous and there were no costumes worn, but you could tell the dancers were well trained.
After this, Dad and I called it a day and headed home. The next day, Dad once again entertained himself while I was at work. For my Conversation Course we watched Sonic Underground, since the students had been requesting it for weeks. Unfortunately, I discovered that the show was not nearly as awesome as I recalled from my elementary days. But after that, Dad and I met up with Sebastien by his university campus. The first thing we checked out was the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was bombed in World War II. This church has been preserved with the hole in the top of it, and is impressive to see.
We then headed over to the “Kaufhaus des Westens”, which basically means the Department store of the West. It’s an extremely fancy store, and includes pricey brand-names. The main reason we went in was to check out the seventh floor, which houses interesting foods from all over the world. The contribution from America includes pop-tarts, maple syrup, marshmallows, and hot sauce. Of course, each of us had our own favourite part of this floor: I was all over the tea, Dad was into the coffee, and Seb was quite interested in the beer. In any case, it was a nice tourist stop, as well as the fountain which was right beside it.
After this, we headed to the small town right next to Berlin, in which Sebastien’s parents live. We ate dinner at a large Chinese restaurant there – Seb and I have eaten the buffet there once before, and remembered it being delicious. It’s quite the impressive building from the outside, and on the inside they have a large number of intricate details. Not to mention that they have a small fountain with a live turtle in it, and there’s a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Definitely a great way to spend an evening! From there, we picked up Sebastien’s parents’ small car to take on our road trip for the weekend.
On Thursday, I had one shift and then we took off on our Amsterdam Adventure – but I’m going to save that for another blog entry. Just to keep you in suspense!
The first big adventure we had upon our return to Berlin was having brunch in the (East) Berlin TV Tower. I made a reservation for us before Dad arrived, and we therefore had priority treatment when it came to lining up for the elevator both up and down. One neat detail in the Berlin Tower was that the roof of the elevator was glass – so we were able to watch our speedy ascent. If I remember correctly, the Berlin Tower is over twice the height of the Calgary Tower – however, the revolving restaurant at the top is fairly similar. Dad and I got a spot right beside the window, and even though the day was a bit cloudy we had a great view.
After this, I still had some time before I had to work, so we headed to the East Side Gallery. This is basically a stretch of the Berlin Wall still standing, on which a lot of people have painted art. Dad was quite surprised to see how small the physical wall itself was; but while people make it seem like the wall itself prevented people from going in or out of East Berlin, in reality it was the security surrounding the wall that was more dangerous. The art there now is quite interesting though, and it was a good thing for us to see. There is an interesting bridge at the end of the stretch of wall, as you can see in the pictures.
That evening, Dad came with me to my orchestra practice. We went out for dinner afterwards the way we usually do, and Dad enjoyed speaking with the two English teachers that are members of the band.
On Thursday, we briefly visited Checkpoint Charlie. This used to act as a checkpoint between East and West Berlin, and there are now two guards that stand representing the checkpoint, and also a museum in which there are various artifacts from this period. I remember visiting this museum on my band tour in grade eleven, but on this day there were way too many school groups for us to go inside the museum.
That evening, I brought Dad to the usual Thursday “Sneak Peek” Movie Night. It was a lot of fun bringing him to Potsdamer Platz, because it’s a place I’ve started to take for granted since I’ve visited it so often. Dad being there with me reminded me of how cool the whole set-up is, with the roof that lights up at night. The movie of the week was “Labor Day” which was alright, but I don’t think I would bother seeing it again.
The big events of Friday were checking out “Bikini Berlin” and the Audi Showroom. “Bikini Berlin” is a brand new mall that has only been open for about two weeks, and the main reason we decided to check it out is that you can see into the Berlin Zoo. We found a window in the mall that looks into a few exhibits through the mall, and when we climbed onto the roof we could see a few monkey enclosures, and the elephants way in the distance.
The Audi Showroom was basically a building that contained a lot of movie screens depicting Audis, and there were four different Audis to climb into and check out. I quite enjoyed the one with television screens in the backseat.
After this, we went for currywurst. It’s basically sausage covered in a curry sauce and ketchup. Dad and I are definitely big fans!
The next day, the three of us went for a bike ride to a historical GDR tower that has recently been restored. It was originally used for looking out over the Berlin Wall to make sure no one tried to cross it, but now you can climb up and see some of the communication tools they had, as well as photos and stories of escapees. There was also a set of binoculars that were extremely powerful – you could see straight across the river into someone’s porch! Our trip involved first taking a ferry across the river and then biking a while to reach this tower.
Our next big adventure was taking a trip to the Reichstag in Berlin, which is the main government building. On our way there, we stopped at Hauptbahnhof (Main Station) because of it’s elaborate multi-floor train system, and impressive, open set-up.
After this, we walked over to see the ever-impressive Reichstag, and walk up through the glass dome. This is the first time I’ve visited when the weather has been nice, and there wasn’t rain pouring in through the top of the roof. It was great to have a clear day, and all of the trees were showing their Spring blossoms.
After our time at the Reichstag, we took a brief stop at the Holocaust Memorial that is only a few blocks away. We didn’t have time to visit the museum underneath, but the Memorial itself was easily accessible. The concept of this Memorial – which is a similar to a maze – is to make visitors have feelings of loss and confusion similar to how Holocaust victims would have felt. Our visit was extremely short, but even then I managed to get lost amongst the solid stones.
We then went to Sebastien’s parents’ house for a raclette dinner. Sebastien’s parents find it funny that I constantly request raclette every time I go over there but it really is a great way to eat a meal, and it’s not at all common in Canada. Dad really enjoyed it – each person cuts up vegetables, noodles, and potatoes, and puts them in a tiny individual pan, then places cheese on top to melt in a small oven in the center of the table. It’s complicated to try and describe, but it results in everyone taking their time with their eating, and preparing their individual dishes exactly the way they like.
Sadly, the following day marked Dad’s last complete day in Berlin. We started off with a bike ride through the forest to Tegel, where Dad was able to enjoy a donair (which is a very important culinary experience in Berlin!). In the forest, we were lucky enough to spot some boars – it was my first time seeing them in person! There was even a cute little baby boar.
And so we reach the conclusion of my blog detailing Dad’s visit to Berlin. It really was a great trip! I hope you didn’t find my writing too tedious, or repetitive in regards to my landmark stories. I shall be sure to write my very exciting blog about our road trip to Amsterdam soon.
Thank you all so much for reading!