Monday, February 6, 2012

{Berlin: Part II}

I've taken a different approach with these Berlin posts than I have with past travel posts. I've gone into more detail into places we stayed, things we saw and places we ate. Do you like this format? Or are you in it more for the picture? Just curious :)

Where We Stayed (Night 2 & 3): 
The Westin Grand Berlin: We liked the location of the Westin better than the COSMO, but much preferred the COSMO's modern design. The Westin was clean, the bed was super comfy (they have those "Heavenly Beds"... amazing) and the lobby was really pretty in a more traditional way. It was also 100 EUR/night, which we thought was more than fair for our experience!

What We Saw (Day 2 & 3):
Mauerpark Flea Market: We woke up early Sunday morning on a mission. Per Ashley’s suggestion, we were headed to the Mauerpark Flea Market, and hopefully before the crowds were too heavy and the goods were picked over. We weren’t looking for anything in particular, just wanted to browse and walk around a bit. It was fun to look at all the trinkets and treasures and wander around with a cup of coffee in hand. Sadly, it didn’t take long for us to feel unbearably cold, so we had to cut our trip a little short and head somewhere to warm up. But, and I know I’ve said this a lot, I can imagine that in the spring and summer this would be such a fun spot to spend a Sunday morning strolling around.
TV Tower: This is one of Berlin’s biggest tourist attractions, with over 1.2 million visitors a year. We really wanted to go up the tower for the magnificent view of the city, but there was an hour wait when we tried so we had to pass. 
Altes Museum: A gorgeous museum in the area of Berlin known as “Museum Island”. We didn’t go inside – but the sight from the outside was impressive enough!

The Berlin Cathedral: The Cathedral sees thousands of visitors a year and is the largest church in the city.

The Reichstag
Brandenburg Gate: This is one of the city's most well-known landmarks. It has a long history in the city, having been built between 1778 and 1779. The Berlin Wall went up in 1961 right near the Brandenburg Gate, forcing it to become known as a symbol of Germany's division. The now bustling Pariser Platz, on the East-Berlin side, was completely desolate and the west side was expansive forest, guarded heavily by military. Seeing this gate was incredibly powerful and personal to me as my mom has told me stories of how her and my dad (who escaped from communist Romania in the 80s) used to sit on the East side of the gate, looking out toward the other side - towards freedom - and wishing so badly they could find a way to get across. I sent her a photo of me and my cousin in front of the gate and she emailed me back that day with this message:
"35 years ago I was standing on the other side of the gate, yearning to cross to the other side, thinking that will never happen. Seeing you criss-crossing the globe I celebrate the decision we made! I'm happy that you will never experience the feeling of frustration we felt. I love you,and so good to see you with Julie!"
It seriously brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.  When the wall fell in 1989, people flocked to the reopened Brandenburg Gate to celebrate. 

More Tiergarten Park:
Checkpoint Charlie: "Checkpoint Charlie was the best known border-crossing of Cold War days. The sign, which became a symbol of the division of Cold War Berlin and read like a dire warning to those about to venture beyond the Wall – YOU ARE NOW LEAVING THE AMERICAN SECTOR – in English, Russian, French and German - stood here. Today, it's an iconic marker of territorial boundary and political division. Until the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, it signified the border between West and East, Capitalism and Communism, freedom and confinement." - source

This piece of the Berlin wall was sitting right outside the Westin's entrance:
East Side Gallery: "The Berlin Wall East Side Gallery is a 1.3km-long section of the wall near the center of Berlin. Approximately 106 paintings by artists from all over the world cover this memorial for freedom and make it the largest open air gallery in the world." - source
View of the Oberbaum Bridge from the East Side Gallery:

Where We Ate:
Oliv Cafe: Max Wanger happened to be in Berlin the same week we were and he turned us in the direction (via social media) of this cute cafe. Corey and I sat here and enjoyed a heaping bowl of soup, a couple mint teas and a piece of cheesecake while we attempted to warm up after our last bit of sightseeing in Berlin. We really loved the ambiance and the food. If we lived there I could see myself spending a lot of time there on the weekends! It's right by Alexanderplatz. 
Barcomi's: When we read this deli and coffee bar was run by a Seattleite we knew we had to go. Yes, we're American, and maybe we should've be trying places that were a bit more German, but sometimes we just miss home. I'm glad we gave this place a try. It was decidedly un-American. Everyone around us seemed to be a local and the place was buzzing - full to the brim. We thoroughly enjoyed our mediterranean plate filled with buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, rucola, sundried tomatoes and much more. And Corey downed his sandwhich so fast I couldn't even tell you what it was!