We have always wanted to visit the Christmas markets in Germany (they are well advertised in England), and my mother was visiting for the holidays, so we decided to spend a long weekend in Berlin. The only other time our family had visited Germany was a brief excursion from Alsace in 2005.
We took a taxi to the apartment that P had booked near Rosa Luxemburg station. The Prenzlauer Berg area turned out to have a hippie (so many Tibetan shops) and family (so many strollers) feel. On Saturday the adults walked to Kollwitzplatz where there was an organic market. There, standing next to a young boy sharing the same treat, I had a pickled fish sandwich for breakfast. Mmm. The market was the first place I had glühwein (which is great) and the only place I had Currywurst (which is gloppy). P bought some cute felt animals, and I bought a load of deli meats to bring back to the children, who were all still asleep.
We walked a little way into town, shopping, and did our only geocache, which was in a courtyard with some funky mobile art sculptures. Nearby was the Anne Frank museum. At first I was too cheap/bored to go in, but when I did I was powerfully affected by the exhibit of videos where young people, including Anne, speak of their hopes and fears for the future. Anne was Ross's age when she died in the camps.
Then we went to the Altes Museum and the Pergamon Museum. I like German museums because they let you take pictures (w/o flash). Nefertiti's head is impressive, and Cleopatra's signature. The guard made Elise check her bag, yet ignored some pretty young ladies with bigger bags. Perhaps my mother looks more suspicious.
The altar and the Ishtar Gate were amazing.
From the museums we walked to a nearby Christmas market, our first. It was cosy and festive, but extremely crowded. If it hadn't been Christmas, the crowds would have been quite unpleasant. We bought some hats and snacks.
We ate dinner at the Gugelhof restaurant. They waiter made me change my foie gras order from the crème brûlée to the pâté, and it was good advice as the latter was beautifully soft and light. Ross had the flammekueche.
For breakfast we had a buffet, which was pretty heavy: meat pies and fried pasta squares.
Then the girls went to a dollhouse museum while the boys went to the Berlin Wall museum. This museum had some exciting stuff about escapes. My favorite was about some pensioners whose neighbors were constructing a tunnel and told them they were too old to crawl through it. So they built one themselves, tall enough to stand up in, and put the dirt in their allotment. When they calmly paraded into West Berlin, they said that all the digging made them feel 10 years younger (the oldest was in his 80s).
The museum was pretty erratic, though, and did not even have a map of where the wall had been. I got the impression that nobody wanted to remember that period. At the same time, Berlin did not feel like a business-oriented, bustling world capital, but something more relaxed and bohemian. Perhaps it was the season.
We met up again at the Brandenburg Gate and had hot chocolates with loads of cream at the Einstein Cafe, Unter Den Linden.
Then we went to the Christmas market at the Gendarmenmarkt, which was the most posh. It was still crowded despite the €1 entrance fee. It was Elise's birthday and she bought a silk top and I bought her an ornament. She also bought some glass earrings after unfortunately breaking them when knocking over a glass tree. The craftsman at least tidied them up with his blowtorch, so she can wear them. I also bought Lebkuchen for the office. The flammenkuche-making stall was beautiful.
Birthday dinner was at Lutter & Wegner, who invented Sekt. Three of us had the prize-winning sauerbraten. P had the very paprika-y goulash. And I also had the "himmel und erde", a delicious dish of apples, mash and black pudding. The restaurant soundtrack was an infinite loop of jazzy carols in English. In fact, a lot of the ambient carolling in Berlin was in English.
The next day was mostly shopping, although P insisted on an excursion to the Bauhaus museum. I suppose it is partly the thorough success of their designs (tubular chairs, dreary concrete) that made it rather boring (for me).
On our last day I insisted on visiting the Museum für Naturkunde der Humboldt-Universität. It has the original Archaeopteryx fossil (traded by its discoverer for a cow!) Claire liked the big amethyst and other rocks. There was a cool interactive table and some jurascopes.
Later, we had cupcakes.
After it grew dark my nose found yet another Weihnachtsmarkt, in a place called the KulturBrauerei. This one -- be still my heart -- had a nordic flavor. There was cherry glühwein, fish frying in huge pans, and slabs of salmon spiked onto boards by an open fire. I walked repeatedly past a stand with luscious hams roasting on a spit, and finally got a plateful, along with sauerkraut and potatoes which the boys helped me hoover up.
There was a trampoline with bungees, and Griffin and Claire bounced for a long time, with Claire turning somersaults.
And after that we just spent a few hours in doll-house shops and loaded up with food and wine to bring home.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
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