Christmas Day 2007 was our Berlin Walking Tour Day! This was a busy, busy day. Sensory overload, to say the least. I regret that I won’t be able to go into extreme detail regarding the many sites we visited on this day — we did so much, and I was so exhausted when we returned to our room that evening, that I could barely string together a paragraph… check it out.
“I love Berlin at Christmas! Though I regret not having the confidence to say Fröhliche Weihnachten to anyone. We had a timely start to the day with the breakfast buffet at our hotel (the Berlin Plaza Hotel), then met for a free walking tour (with Sandeman’s New Europe). It was excellent, I really liked our guide Desiree, a German university student from Dusseldorf who’s lived in Berlin for 10 years; she’s extremely intelligent, and speaks MUCH better English than we do… I spent the day listening intently to her, hoping it’d somehow help me develop a more sophisticated vocabularly. We saw a LOT: Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, (had lunch at ‘Snackpoint Charlie’, ha)…”
Checkpoint Charlie was one of the many checkpoints in the Berlin Wall where people could cross from West to East Berlin during the Cold War. It was at this precise location that the Cold War reached its zenith, with American and Soviet tanks poised and ready to fire at each other. Also, a lot of spying went on here. That probably goes without saying. I think the part that struck me the most was a huge signpost with the intense image of a soldier staring you down. One side of the sign featured an American soldier, and the other side featured a Soviet soldier. You can see it the photo above… next to the Christmas tree.
“… we saw the carpark that stands above where Hitler’s bunker had been… saw the Reichstag , TV Tower, Museum Island, Potsdamer Platz, the university where Einstein and Marx studied, and visited a Chrsitmas Market and had Glühwein for the first time — hot, strong, and delicious.”
“Then we went for supper at a restaurant that turned out to be a Westin.”
Okay, THAT is hilarious. We were FREEZING from having been up on top of the Reichstag. I mean, it was phenomenal being on top, seeing the view… but honestly, we’d been outside all day, and the cold had found its way into my very bones, even the Glühwein couldn’t melt it away. Then we walked the incredible spiral ramp to the top of the Reichstag and went outside… and I tried very hard to appreciate the view of the Spree, and to be in the moment with our experience… but mostly I was dying to get it over with so we could get into a cozy restaurant and order some hot, stick-to-your-ribs, authentic German food. So, we went to the first authentic-looking restaurant we could find. When left, we found ourselves somehow in the lobby… and realized we’d just dined at a Westin. Ha!
Tomorrow, I’ll tell the tale of my first visit to a concentration camp.