“Ich bin ein Berliner” – John F. Kennedy.
Unlike the former U.S. president I mean the doughnut when I say “Ich bin ein Berliner,” but I’ll also say I wish I was a Berliner (person). Never have I witnessed a city so full of strength, beauty, and perseverance.
We stayed in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood for one month over Christmas and New Year’s. I have a lot to say about Berlin, but mostly that one month really was not long enough. I feel that I didn’t even scratch the surface of what Berlin has to offer.
As you may know, a big draw for me to come to Berlin in the winter was for the Christmas markets. I wanted über Christmas, however, early in our stay there was an incident at one of the markets. It was incredibly tragic, many people lost their lives or were injured. I, of course was affected by this and initially I no longer wanted to take part in the winter markets, but then I saw how the city reacted. Berlin reacted with respect to the victims and persevered through. There wasn’t any major shutdown of the markets and there wasn’t any major speculation as to why it happened. People just got on with life. I couldn’t help thinking of how Canada or the USA would respond to a similar incident, and I could only think of the over reaction and over speculation (by government and media) that would happen. How damaging it is for communities to dwell on horrible incidents and how much power it gives to the people who wish to harm others. It became so apparent that the US and Canada are just so young and don’t have anything nearing the experience the German people have when dealing with terrorism and tragedy.
Now my ramble is over, let’s talk about some cool things in Berlin!
The Prenzlauer Berg area.
The neighbourhood we stayed in was the best. It was very hip and cool. Near transit to get around the city. Tonnes of cool graffiti and parks. We were right near Mauerpark which is great to walk around in and has an amazing flea market weekly. I was totally in love with the youthful vibe of this neighbourhood in the former East.
As people who are fascinated by history and war, we were drawn to the museum and the bits of remaining wall. Since the wall had been taken down so recently there is still so much weight and fear connected to it. It has served as a symbol of oppression and now has been taken over as a symbol of freedom.
We went to the East Side Gallery to see some of the beautiful art that people created on the bits of standing wall.
We also checked out the Wall memorial and museum. The museum is full of powerful images and statements from people who lived through the wall’s creation and destruction. Stories from people who escaped East Berlin. As well as stories and images of people who died trying to escape.
(click here for the panorama if the embedded one doesn’t work, or to see it full screen)
Christmas Time and New Year’s Celebrations.
We went to a few different Christmas Markets around the city. One of my favourites was the market closest to our apartment at the Kulturbrauerei, an old old brewery that’s now full of bars and art galleries.
We also really enjoyed the market at Alexanderplatz. Which was super big and had cool rides and things.
Yum! a Berliner!
We also walked through the market near the Sony Centre on Christmas Eve, so it was mostly closed but still lit up and beautiful.
And then New Year’s Eve happened. Berliners love fireworks. Like LOVE them. Fireworks are sold everywhere, even the grocery store… next to the fancy cheese. Berliners start setting off fireworks mid-day on New Year’s Eve and they don’t stop until mid-day on New Year’s Day. SO, ya, it’s noisy. It’s complete chaos. The city is set on fire for 24hrs with explosions going off in every direction. Someone mentioned how chaotic New Year’s is in Berlin, so we stayed in, but got a great view of the fireworks all around us from our apartment.
After New Year’s Eve it’s a bit messy for a few days as you can imagine..
We visited Brandenburg Gate at night and it was all beautifully lit up for the holidays.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
We went to the memorial in the evening and I unfortunately didn’t get a great photo representing the power of this site. If you haven’t been there, imagine a city block filled with coffin sized cement blocks and the further you go into the centre the taller the coffins get, until they might overcome you. On the outside the cement blocks are neat and organized, but when you look further in it’s a claustrophobic maze. It’s very powerful and important to see.
As I was feeling homesick over the holidays I splurged on some baking ingredients to make my Grandma’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies or at least an approximation of them. They definitely made me feel better.
Plus we made sweet potato pie for Christmas! In a spring-form pan. You gotta do what you gotta do.
OMG! Currywurst. Invented by Berliners and is my new fav food. They even have the potato chip version. For those who may not know, Currywurst is traditionally a hot dog drenched in ketchup with curry powder sprinkled over top and served with French fries. I, of course do not eat sausages, so I found veggie versions and it is my new fav junk food by far. If anyone is interested, I will cook this for you when I’m in your city.
I got a really sweet haircut and colour while in Berlin. It almost made me feel cool enough to live in Berlin.
We went to a hockey game! The Berlin EISBEARS vs. other German team! And we ate German pretzels and drank beer at the game.
Berlin has so many layers I really want to go back and discover more. I love seeing graffiti everywhere, I love hearing German swear words on the train, I love the easy/convenient transit, and I love the currywurst.
Here’s a map including some of the stuff we got up to and my fav veg currywurst spots.
As a final goodbye, Berlin snowed on us just in time for us to leave to sunnier, warmer places.