My mom and I had an early train right out of Prague (6:30AM!) and arrived in Berlin around 10AM. After a bit of confusion in the giant train station, we finally figured out how to get on the metro and arrived in Alexanderplatz (the area near our hotel) just ten minutes later. Alexanderplatz is also where the famed TV Tower (“Alex”) is located!
We had about a ten minute walk then to our hotel, which was truthfully along a bit of a sketchy street. We decided that we wanted to walk on the other side of the street the next time because it seemed less sketchy 🙂
Once we arrived at our hotel, we found out that there was a two-hour wait until check-in, but that we may get in sooner. The front desk attendant sent a note to cleaning, moving our room up on the list, and then since we were hesitant to lug our bags back to Alexanderplatz for lunch, my mom and I decided to just wait in the lobby, mapping out our route for the next two days. (Being that Berlin was the last stop on our journey, I had still mapped out our daily itineraries, but not to the detailed extent of earlier stops.) My mom also went to the small cafe next door and grabbed us some water and doughnuts for a mini-lunch, since we were quite hungry. My doughnut had pink frosting & multi-colored sprinkles and was called, by the cafe, a “Party Doughnut.” I had a party while I ate it! (Just kidding, I actually sat there grumpily in the lobby wondering why it was taking so long for our room. I did get a bit rambunctious though at one point and my beloved Canon, perched on top of my suitcase– stupid me!– rolled off and landed on the tile. I freaked out. Thank heavens it did not break!)
After sitting in the lobby for over an hour and noticing two other people arrive and get checked into their rooms with no problems, I approached the attendant and asked if there was any update on our room. She taped a few keys on her keyboard and then said “Oh yes. It has been ready.” What do you MEAN it has been ready and you didn’t TELL us!? Like HELLO, we are the ONLY guests in the lobby, sitting six feet in front of you, clearly bored out of our minds. And you didn’t think to let us know when they brought the key down? I clearly didn’t say this to the lady, instead only throwing daggers at her from my eyes, and then politely took my key and went up to the room with Mom. -100 points for customer service, Ibis Hotels!
…..but then +100 points when we saw the room! My mom and I had a legit suite that overlooked the TV tower! We literally had a walk-in closet and dressing room area, a big bathroom, and then a room that was about the length of four cartwheels. (I did not test this, but I did two between the beds & the sitting area and had extra room left over, so that means four cartwheels could have easily occurred from one end to the next :))
After getting settled a bit and a quick wardrobe change, we headed out to explore! Obviously, we first went through the Alexanderplatz area, stopping to take pictures of a cool one-man-hot-dog-stand, before visiting the city hall and Nikolaikerche, Berlin’s oldest church.
Noting the restaurant we had dinner plans at later, we continued along Schlobplatz, across the River Spree and Museum Island, to the Berliner Dom! Setting the theme for Berlin, the Dom was literally surrounded by cranes. Intel’s construction site still has the most cranes that I have ever seen in one place– 34 at its peak– but Berlin is easily a close second. Check out this view!
At first, I was exasperated that, once again, stupid cranes were popping up in all of the pictures I was trying to take! But then we found our way around to the front of the Dom and were excited to find some crane-free angles for photos. The building was very impressive!
While I, being the camera professional, managed to snap some wonderful pictures of the Dom and my mom in a matter of mere seconds…..Mom took foreverrrrrrr. She literally made me stand, posing, in the below picture for about twenty minutes while she laughed about someone in the background wearing a puffy jacket who, apparently, looked like a penguin. As a result there are 40 pictures just like this one my camera….and the best picture is the first one, from before she started laughing. I’m not usually one to get embarrassed, but since she posed me in the middle of the walkway, people were ducking around me, trying to avoid being in the picture, while the “penguin” lookalike person frolicked behind me and my mom laughed. I literally stood there for ten minutes smiling like a goon. I would have been there another ten minutes if I hadn’t finally just confiscated my camera from her and told her we had to keep moving! She’s a nut.
We continued then along Unter den Linden, one of Berlin’s main boulevards, stopping at the University and browsing a book sale, before crossing through Bebelplatz and ending up at the matching French & German Cathedrals. Then we walked along Friedrichstadt to the Berlin Wall Memorial and Checkpoint Charlie. Having written my senior thesis (in high school) on the influence of Soviet Communism on the writings of George Orwell, I have always been very interested in happenings of Eastern Europe. However, prior to visiting the Berlin Wall, I hadn’t realized just how recently everything had taken place. Heck, Berlin was only made the capital of Germany in 1991! No wonder everything was still so heavily under construction and hence all of the cranes.
(Side Note: Oh my gosh!!!!! I forgot to mention our visit to the Communist Museum in Prague! It took us two days of searching to find it, despite having it Google-mapped on my phone, but it was very much worth it! It was crazy to see the propaganda and learn how populations under Soviet control were so controlled as to have no access to outsiders and therefore no perspective from which to compare their, at times, dire states.)
After reading the small history bits and taking pictures, we headed back toward Unter den Linden, to Brandenburg Tor (Gate) and the German Parliament. I had read online that you can tour the glass dome at the top of the Parliament building, for free, if you sign up for tickets in advance. Being a fan of lookout points and free things, this was clearly a must-do for me. However, when we found the line, I grew discontent, uncertain if we should wait in line forever to request our tickets or spend the time exploring and come back early the next morning, hoping to get lucky with a lesser line.
Adding to the long line was the fact that the weather was slowly becoming worse and worse. It was now probably mid-50’s, with quite a breeze….and I was in flip flops. (I refused to be seen in Berlin, a fashion hub, wearing tennis shoes with jeans. No. Just no.) While my mom and I debated what to do, we took turns walking into a nearby gift shop to warm up. Because she is the Queen of Sweet Tooth’s, my mom of course came back from her turn with a surprise treat: MOVENPICK!!!!! (Remember? My favorite ice cream from Zurich!)
As I munched on my cold ice cream treat in the freezing weather….(hey, you can never turn down ice cream, no matter how cold it is)….I decided that I was getting frost bit and also had to go to the bathroom. So I left my mom in line and went to the gift shop! The bathroom line was, of course, forever long so I didn’t emerge until about 20 minutes later. And I couldn’t find my mom! As I spanned the area with my eyes trying to find her, I realized she was at the very front of the line, squished against the barricade, letting people pass her! Eek! Yet again my bathroom breaks almost had us missing an opportunity. I ran up to her and we received tickets to go to the top of the dome at that very moment! Apparently a large group had cancelled their reservation, so they were giving out the now “extra” tickets to those people closest to the front of the line. Just a minute or so longer in the bathroom line, and we would have missed our chance at these tickets and had more line waiting ahead of us. Instead, we were off across the street to go through security and to the dome!
I loved the dome! Not only did it provide an awesome view of Berlin, but the architecture was so unique. You walked up a circle ramp on the outer inside of the dome, until you reached the very top where there was a small seating area. If you don’t like heights, the Parliamentary Dome is maybe not for you, but otherwise, it is a neat view no matter where you look! I couldn’t believe something so neat was free.
By the time we left the dome, the wind had picked up quite a bit and it was now near dark, so we headed back down Unter den Linden toward dinner and our hotel. Along the way, we stopped at a few gift shops and my mom convinced me to buy a sweatshirt that would end up coming in handy the next day. I normally would never buy anything as tourist-y as this, but I was nearing the point of full-body frost bite, with even worse weather forecast the next day, and it was only $15– a steal!
At this point, one of the very funniest parts of the trip happened….well I mean, I thought it was funny. As we were passing the Berliner Dom a second time, I was glancing away, looking toward the row of historical posters nearby, when I heard a clatter and looked to find my mom literally face-planting on the sidewalk, her camera, and purse clattering everywhere! At first I though “uh-oh, is her hip broken too?!” because my dad had told me his hip sometimes gives out. Then I started laughing because my mom is so teeny that she already looks like a pre-teen and then she had sat up with her hair all twirled around her face, like a bully had given her a twirl-a-whirl in a toilet, and to top it all off, her pink & grey jacket had “Hannah” embroidered on it, like it was her name! I literally felt like I had witnessed a 9-year old named Hannah fall while playing tag during recess. I could. not. stop. laughing. (After making sure she was at least still breathing.) She laughed too as we both tried to figure out how she went from walking….to flat on her face. I’ve never seen a fall like it! Fortunately, she wasn’t seriously hurt– just sore the next day– so we got quite a few giggles out of it the rest of the day. (Me more than her :)) I honestly think people passing by thought she was my child!
For dinner, we ended up at Mutter Hoppe Gasthaus, a restaurant I had picked out during my pre-trip research. Oh wait….we actually ate at the restaurant next door and didn’t realize until we were leaving lol. The patios of the two restaurants were touching and it was started to rain, so we just ducked into the first entrance, not realizing it was the restaurant next door instead. Oops. Oh well, the food was awesome! I ordered one of Berlin’s specialties that we kept seeing throughout the day– the currywurst! It is basically a curry-flavored bratwurst. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it, but it basically was like a brat in funky-tasting ketchup so it wasn’t too bad. And following the unidentifiable nourishment I had suffered through in Switzerland & Austria, I wasn’t complaining! It was reasonably priced, too.
We finished the night by trudging very quickly through the rain (I was wearing flip-flops, remember?! ugh) and made it to our hotel around 9PM. We laid out all of our clothes and prayed they would be dry in the morning! We also enjoyed this awesome view of the TV tower: