Friday, November 30

Berlin, day 5

Hola amigos, and happy Friday! Going to finish up my vacation posts through the weekend, and return to regular posting on Monday. I have some more wishlists coming (one for men too!), some great DIY inspiration, some of the best books I've read all year, and a few new things to discover.


So day 5 was Thanksgiving for us, which they don't celebrate anywhere but America (savages). We spent the morning doing research on Berlin and what we wanted to see once my sister, M, arrived in the afternoon. She's been studying abroad in Rome since the summer, and was looking forward to a weekend trip that she didn't have to worry about in terms of travel, planning, etc, so we wanted to make sure we had a good handle on things.

After a hearty breakfast, we met M for a wonderful family reunion! It was so good to see her, since the last time was at my brother's wedding. We immediately started the long trek out to the Berliner-Kindl-Schultheiss brewery (that's a mouthful). This place was huge, as you can imagine it would need to be to support multiple brands. We got some great technical knowledge on beer making (which M and I already knew, via Dad AKA the renaissance man), as well as a lesson on the history of brewing in Germany.

The tour was just excellent. Our guide was a total sweetie- when we got out of the cab, he walked right over and asked, "Miss Gibbons? We are waiting for your tour!". Very personal. The tour was for just the three of us in English, so we were able to ask questions and chit chat freely. 

We weren't allowed to take any pictures, which was odd, but we did snap a few in the tasting room. The brewery operates for 3 different brands, so there were quiteee a few to sample. They included a meal (sausage and potato salad, yum) for 12 euro. Annnnnnd that's when we realized how cheap Germany was going to be, at least compared to Copenhagen.

After the brewery, we went to the longest remaining strip of the Berlin wall, called the East Side Gallery. It's located very close to the Ostbahnhof station, and continues for 1km. The murals are painted by international artists in 1990, which they repainted in 2000 and again in 2009. I read surprising but understandable criticisms of this area of the wall: apparently, some feel that it's disingenuous and inauthentic to continually repaint and touch-up this historically significant landmark. However, there are many other less creative, less decorated areas of the wall remaining throughout Berlin, so if you feel that these murals are pulling away from the gritty reality of a divided city, all you have to do is walk around the block. I'll admit, it's a bit awkward to smile in front of the kiss of death. We walked together and debated the value of freedom when up against a controlled, but safe and regulated, society. I think my sister may be a socialist based on this conversation :)

We got beers at a "nightshop", a store that is open all night and caters to the open container laws. I tried a wheat beer, while M continued her love affair with the "green beer", or beer with a green woodruff-flavored syrup added (you can try red beer as well, which is a raspberry syrup). We walked through Treptow Park with our drinks, and visited the soviet memorial. It was pitch black at this point, and let me tell you, this park was NOT well lit. I couldn't see 5 feet in front of me, so we used M's flash to see the monument (here), a big hulking black chunk of rock. It was very severe, very oppressive, and probably very representative to how Berliners remember the U.S.S.R. Though it would have been nice to have a better vision of it, it was an eerie and memorable experience to see it under a bright moon on a foggy night.

After our freezing and protracted walk in the park, we were ready for a warm and inviting restaurant. We visited Marjcellchen for our Thanksgiving dinner, and it COULD NOT have been better. It was voted Travelers Choice 2012, and I can see why. The decor was like your weird grandmother's house, everything a dusty pink and fancy candles and dark oil paintings on the wall, and the food was like your awesome grandmother's cooking. It's a German restaurant, so we went with German dishes: M ordered the only thing on the menu with cranberries, I tried goose for the first time (as close as I could get to turkey), and D had a meat stew. All of us were blown away. We stayed there for hours, talking and joking and eating and drinking.

In an effort to prolong the evening, we tried a traditional German dessert, Baum Kuchen, which literally means "tree cake" because of the 20-30 layers that look like tree rings. It's covered in chocolate and sits in an orange sauce. Honestly, it may be one of the best meals I've ever had. German wine, however, was less impressive. After eating we headed back to the hotel and packed- day 6 would bring a new hotel in the Mitte region, the heart of Berlin. Stay tuned, Saturday post coming to wrap this fairy tale up!

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