Maddie came to visit this past weekend and we had a ton of fun exploring Berlin and being Christmas-y! Since she’s in the last weeks of her program she has a pretty hefty load of papers and exams looming and was also feeling a bit tired to maxed out tourist days. We did something touristy everyday, but also spent lots of time relaxing eating and playing Bananagrams!
She arrived on Friday morning and I met her at the airport. We headed back to the apartment (about an hour ride) to drop all of her stuff off before heading out for lunch. We dropped the stuff, picked up Dave and made our way to Santa Maria’s. Maddie can attest- I have been talking to her about this Mexican place in Kreuzberg called Santa Maria forever! It’s the best Mexican food I’ve found in Europe. Their guacamole is delicious and their carnitas are as authentic as you’ll find in Germany! They also have a pretty sweet lunch deal that includes a cup of yummy corn chowder, three tacos and a beer- all for 8€! After stuffing our faces we then made our way out to the East Side Gallery.
The East Side Gallery is not a traditional gallery. It’s a grouping of murals that were painted by artists in around the world in 1990. What’s interesting about it’s location is that the murals are all painted on the largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall. Thematically most are about peace and community, but there are also some abstract pieces. Though it was freezing and rainy out we braved the weather to take in the entire gallery and got some great pictures of our favorite pieces!
After freezing our butts off at the East Side Gallery we decided it would be a good idea to head home and warm up. We picked up some bratwurst and other goodies for dinner and made our way home. We spend the night relaxing, enjoying our brats and watching a smattering of music videos from the 90s and early 2000s. (Enjoy a throwback right here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqGnsP4wOf0)
The next morning we scheduled a free walking tour of Berlin. We met up with our guide, an Australian gal named Kim, at 11:00 in front the Brandenburg Gate. There were about 35 people on our tour from all over the world. Only one other small group was from the U.S. Over the course of the next 3.5 hours Kim took us all over the city, giving us lot of interesting information about Berlin and it’s history. I knew a lot of facts, but was interested in hearing a little more background on some of my favorite spots.
Additionally, she provided us with an interesting perspective regarding the building of the Berlin Wall. I didn’t know, but apparently the Berlin Wall went up overnight. Literally one night thousands of guards from the Soviet Sector lined up with a basic fence and barbed wire and then over time proceeded to build their inner wall, outer wall and line their “death strip” with guards, landmines, automatic shooters, dogs etc… She had us imagine our own homes and think about the suburbs surrounding us. What your family lived in a different part of the city or your friends or what if your job was in a different area? All the sudden millions of peoples lives were changes. Over 60,000 people lost their jobs. Obviously the Berlin Wall made a huge impact on the city and it’s inhabitants, but I hadn’t quite thought about on such a personal level.
After the tour we warmed up with hot glasses of Glühwein at a local Christmas Market before heading to our appointment at the Reichstag. The Reichstag is the meeting place of Germany’s Bundestag (government). Touring the dome atop the building is free to the public, but you do have to reserve your spot a few days ahead of time online. We made it right on time and got ushered up to the Dome for some great views (even in spite of the rain) and an interesting audio tour.
After the visit the Reichstag we were a bit hungry and decided we needed a good German meal to end our very German day. We made our way up to the huge Bier Hall beside Alexanderplatz. We partook in “mas biers” and introduced Maddie to Schnitzel and Spätzle. Needless to say, she was a fan!
After dinner we went home for a miniature Christmas celebration. Unfortunately this year Dave and I aren’t going to be able to make it home for Christmas- which we’re both pretty bummed about. Rather than feeling glum though we opted to have a mini-celebration ourselves. Maddie and I made Chocolate Chip Peppermint cookies, Oreo Truffles and Chocolate Dipped- Peppermint dusted oreos. While we were baking Dave was able the Skype with the Chebuske clan as they set up their tree and decorations. They picked a beautiful tree! Maddie and I couldn’t Skype with our parents because to the power outages in Sierra Madre due to the massive wind storms, but were lucky enough to talk to them over the phone. We ended the night with the Christmas classic- Frosty!
Sunday was our final full day together and we took it pretty easy. Maddie spent the morning finishing up some homework. Dave also spent the morning studying and I was able to get in a little job searching. After our productive morning we decided we would continue our educational pursuits by visiting the Deutsches Historisches Museum. The museum was huge and was spread across two large buildings. We spent about 3 hours soaking up some German history and learning a little more about what essentially is our family’s past. (Maddie’s and my family is about 75% German).
Following our educational visit we made one final trip to a Christmas Market. We spent a little while walking around the different booths, taking in the sights and (delicious) smells before heading home. Upon our arrival home we found that Dave had cooked up a delicious homemade meal of lasagna, salad and wine. He’d also crafted something he titled “The Sister Quiz”, in which Maddie and I had to answer 20+ questions about each other’s favorite things. I won of course:) We had a fun last “family” night with more games, food and drink.
The next day Maddie had to head back to Brussels (she flies back to the States in just 10 days!) I was really sad to see her go, considering I don’t know when the next time I’ll get to see her will be- but it’s been awesome to have been able to explore Prague, Brussels and then Berlin together. Hopefully she has an awesome last week abroad and will be back to visit soon!