Thursday, December 1, 2016

Berlin Weekend, Part Zwei

Our second day in Berlin, we spent the morning on a walking tour to see more of the city. The Opera House, Humboldt University, the Dom and Museum District were on our itinerary.

Above you can see the bullet holes left on the columns at one of the museums, a very graphic reminder of World War II. The art and architecture of the city is very interesting, a unique twist of west meeting east, a marriage of the old and new.

We visited a tiny little museum, Otto Weidt's workshop for the blind. He was the a small scale Oskar Schindler. Otto employed mainly blind and deaf Jews during the war. They produced brooms and brushes in the rooms we toured. Otto spent the war years trying to protect his Jewish workers from persecution and deportation. We saw a windowless back room hidden behind a wardrobe where he hid three people for a couple years to save them from the Nazis.

We also had the chance to see several stolperstein, known as stumble stones. They are small commemorations of Jews persecuted by the Nazis during their regime. These square brass plates are installed in the pavement outside buildings where Jews lived during the war.

On our way to a new Christmas market Saturday evening, we snooped through the local Mall of Berlin. It's a funny thing - Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in Europe, but they have Black Friday sales.

Sweater Weather

Our Cairn boy Ollie looks very handsome in his sweater as he heads out to doggy daycare with temps in the upper 20s, though warming into the low 40s by early afternoon. We're all getting out to enjoy the seasonal weather since we'll miss it once we repatriate to Texas later this month.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Berlin Christmas Markets

Since the teenager's American school here in England didn't have classes on Thanksgiving Thursday or Friday, we decided to visit Berlin for the long weekend. I must admit I wasn't as impressed with the city as I was with Cologne, but that's probably because we bombed the hell out of Berlin during the war. And then that whole wall and cold war era certainly didn't help it rebound. Per our tour guide, the communists levelled many of the old buildings on their side, so much of what we saw had only been built since the wall came down in 1989.

Checkpoint Charlie, above and below

Our tour guide told us about the Trabi Cars, made from plastic rather than metal. You can't miss them - they sound like a sickly lawnmower and put out quite a lot of exhaust.

One of the few remaining sections of the old Berlin Wall

Below is the most famous parking lot in Berlin, the site where Hitler's bunker was located and he spent the last days of the war hiding underground like a trapped rat before committing suicide.

Berlin's Holocaust memorial above and the Brandenburg gate below

Above is a picture of the Reichstag

The Christmas market we most enjoyed was Gendarmenmarkt, just a couple blocks from where we were staying in what was East Berlin.

As expected, I worked in a bit of retail therapy at the Kathe Wohlfahrt store. And added another gluhwein mug to my collection I started last year in Cologne.

Planning Ahead

Three guesses where the teenager and I are going for spring break, and the first two don't count! 

The Waterloo Loop

On their last full day in England, I took my sister and niece on what I refer to as the Waterloo loop. Disembarking at Waterloo station where we arrive on the commuter train, we crossed the street for them to ride the London Eye.

Then we crossed the bridge to check out Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. After a stop at one of the iconic phone booths, we strolled through St. James Park and ended up at Buckingham Palace for them to get a gander at the queen's residence that will soon be covered up in scaffolding for a reno. 

Then we headed up the Mall to Trafalgar Square where we visited the National Gallery. 

Just like the British Museum, we were treated to lots of butts, boobs and penises on display.

On our walk back to Waterloo, we stopped for a photo in front of the horse guards. Dontcha love the sign? It makes me sad that not everyone is polite and respectful of these soldiers and their horses. I can't help but wonder how many obnoxious tourists have been kicked and bitten over the years. I've seen lots of idiots get really close and the soldiers have had to tell them to back away. So yeah, if you're ignoring the warning and making an ass of yourself, you deserve whatever treatment the horse decides to dish out.