This Thanksgiving, we headed off to Berlin for a quick weekend trip.
We drove into the city past Tiergarten park and the famous Victory Column.
Our first real stop was Berlin Cathedral. On our walk there, we could see the TV Tower which was built in East Germany as a symbol of Communist power and today is the tallest structure in Germany. The Cathedral was located amidst the many museums and historic buildings located on Museum Island.
Upon leaving the cathedral, we wandered past several interesting buildings until we came to Gendarmenmarkt, a square containing the Berlin Concert Hall, which was heavily damaged during World War II, but on this day looked very inviting with a Christmas market. We ducked into a store on the way into the market that featured handmade woodwork including German Christmas Pyramids and Cuckoo Clocks-very beautiful and very expensive!!
The Christmas market itself was a real gem with lots of artisan booths, good food and plenty of holiday cheer. We made the most of it by trying candied cashews (seriously delicious), roasted chestnuts, spaetzle with cheese and truffle, a giant pretzel, bacon cheese balls, and some currywurst.
After the Christmas market, we walked to Checkpoint Charlie, the well-known border crossing point and the scene of the Soviet-US tank standoff.
Next, we walked to the Topography of Terror. This location houses an exhibit in photographs of the Nazi regime and the operations of the SS and Gestapo. Outside, the remains of the building that became the SS and Gestapo headquarters during WWII sits almost directly under the remains of the Berlin Wall. It was quite a sobering place.
After that, we headed toward the Brandenburg Gate, stopping along the way at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and Potsdamer Platz, which housed more sections of the Berlin Wall.
We decided to finish our day by going to Friedrichstrabe Station, a former crossing point/border control point that was heavily guarded and featured various walled-off sections for transport within East Germany, transport between East and West and transport to outside areas/countries.
We took the train to Warschauer station and walked to the water gate and East Side Gallery-another long section of the wall that has been turned into an art gallery.
After a day of thinking about what we could be thankful for in the face of what others have had to endure, we ended our Thanksgiving with a typical German meal. We had some pilsner, dark and Weizen beers, traditional potato soup, meatballs over fried potatoes, fried eggs over fried potatoes and Eisbein (a seriously huge ham hock!). To finish off our traditional meal in a traditional way, we ordered a piece of apple strudel and potato pancakes. It was all very good and a nice way to end a day of sightseeing.
Today we planned to visit several museums, but first, we had to grab something to eat, so we stopped in a store for a Berliner-basically a jelly donut. Later we also came across one that was filled with egg nog cream-and it was alcoholic egg nog!
Our first museum was the Natural History Museum. It was really nice. They have the tallest mounted dinosaur in the world, many stuffed species, fossils, and a massive rock and mineral collection-we could have spent hours in just that section.
After perusing the museum, we had some lunch where we tried a beer flight that featured 5 really good beers, but after careful consideration, we settled on a black beer and the house brew-both were really good. For the food, we tried Konigsberg Klopse (meatballs in a white sauce), Shnitzel, another meatball with crispy potatoes and a local sausage in a dark beer gravy sauce. If I’m being honest, no one liked the Konigsberg Klopse, but everything else was very good.
After lunch, we had some time to kill before our reservation at the next museum, so we stopped at another Christmas market for some Pink Lady Gluhwein (warm drink made from rosé) and a warm kidpunch as well as a bag of candied almonds.
Our next museum was the Pergamon. This museum featured some very old pieces which were in very good shape. Many of the pieces were from several hundred to thousands of years B.C. including this wall that was from 3000 B.C.
Several of the more interesting pieces were the Ishtar Gate, which was the gate to Babylon, a brick with an inscription from Nebuchadnezzar, a law book from the 12th century B.C., a reconstructed Roman market gate, and some really nice Islamic pieces.
After the Pergamon, we visited their annex museum called the Panorama. This museum was all about the ancient city of Pergamon and featured statues from the city as well as a huge panorama which provided a visual of what life would have been like in the city.
After a seriously freezing walk to dinner, we enjoyed some schnitzel, black pudding, potato soup, and maultaschen-a very thick layered ravioli type dish- along with a really nice Reisling. On the way back to the apartment, we happened to walk by the first Christmas market we had visited on Thursday, so we decided that was a sign that we needed a few more roasted chestnuts and candied cashews. Very, very cold, but very good!
We left Berlin very early in order to stop in Quedlinburg, a very charming little town with half-timber houses and historic buildings. It was a perfect town for a little shopping and, of course, a Christmas market! The market was charming and the town itself was all decorated for Christmas-aside from snow, it was a perfect Christmas scene! We were only able to walk around for a short while due to our timing and the cold, but we did manage to try a paper cone filled with a fried dough covered in powdered sugar and a couple of pastries.
On our way home, we had to make an unexpected stop to charge the car in Goslar, but it turned out to be a treat. They had a really nice Christmas market and the town was very lovely with interesting old buildings. There was a lot of Christmas decor and even a forest made from pine trees that you could go in to drink gluhwein and hot chocolate. We did have to try some hot chocolate. One interesting thing to note at these German Christmas markets- they charge you an added fee for your cup or plate and then when you return it, they give you the deposit back, so you can’t just order and leave the area.
After that stop, it was off to the final charging stop which included a lunch of massive schnitzels and a black beer and Octoberfest beer.
While it was a very short trip, it was a perfect quick getaway, and we were very happy and thankful to get the opportunity to experience Berlin and the surrounding area.
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