If Amsterdam and I had a mad, weekend-long love affair, then Berlin and I are taking our time getting to know one another. You know, starting with coffee and taking it step by step from there. Details such as days of the week and weather have a lot to do with this, as I was in Amsterdam from Saturday afternoon to Monday morning - each day filled with blue skies and sunshine - and arrived to gray skies and rain Monday afternoon in Berlin. My husband had to race to a meeting right away, so I spent my first hour staying fairly close to our hotel on foot, walking with an umbrella and taking pictures with my iPhone. (Speaking of which - my iPhone Hipstamatic shots have turned out great here in Berlin, but I'll have to post those images later since my husband got dibs on the charger and he's off in another country at the moment.) Yesterday - my first day - I was feeling overwhelmed by Berlin, and how BIG it felt compared to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is tall, narrow buildings that are actually sometimes crooked because they exist on canals, and there are little shops and cafes all over the place. It feels cozy and inviting. Berlin is big columns with big statues on top, the great big Brandenburg Gate, and big, solid buildings that look like they grew from the concrete beneath them. This isn't to say my first impressions have been unpleasant, it is that I had to adjust to the contrast and an entirely different approach to seeing and experiencing the city.
I was thrilled when I woke up this morning and saw clear skies. Exploring in the rain would not have been a complete disaster, but it would have made taking pictures a bit difficult. I headed out in the morning, and after a very kind woman helped me procure an all-day U-Bahn ticket, I headed to the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church (pictured above). A quick & dirty re-cap of my day after that: Took the train to Graefestrasse in order to find Kado (found it - bought some licorice treats), and had lunch at a teeny cafe nearby. From there I went to catch another train, and as I was heading to the station I got sidetracked by an amazing open air market with a lot of Turkish shoppers (there is a significant Turkish population in Berlin, which I did not know about until I first started researching Berlin.) The market had everything from fabrics to jewelry to cheeses to huge stacks of grape leaves, but the best part was the people watching. (Those pictures are on my phone - I'll post them soon!)
I finally got on my train, and upon exiting the station, found myself staring at the Berlin TV Tower, which I had seen from a distance here and there throughout the city. And then I thought to myself, "What's this? I can go up there? Excellent!" and off I went, enjoying a 360-degree view of Berlin.
After this, I walked to the DDR Museum. This was fascinating - it is a small, interactive museum that showed what everyday life was like for East Germans when the wall (as in - The Wall) was still up. Visitors open drawers and cabinets to see examples of clothing, toys, books and other household items and there are descriptions of almost every aspect of the day-to-day experiences of East Germans at each display. The weirdest part? That this was still going on in the 80s - which is actually not so long ago.
After the museum, I found a tiny bakery where I enjoyed a cappucino and cherry streusal - yum - before heading back to my hotel. I think that is going to end up being my dinner, as I'm camped out in my room, probably not far away from sleep (and amazingly, not hungry, which just seems wrong.)
Today's wandering - which took me all over the city - reminded me of my backpacking trips around Europe right after college. I remember arriving in a new city by train, hunting down the best hostels, grabbing a croissant or loaf of bread, and doing my best to see and do as much as possible at every location. Today I wasn't on a particularly hell-bent mission to tackle every corner of Berlin, but I got to experience what I love most about these days when I can wander without an itinerary - moments when I turn a corner or exit a train station and see something I didn't expect and decide in that instant to go check it out. There were other sights I saw today that I haven't even mentioned yet, and they all happened that way - happenstance, or to put it another way, perfectly.
And tomorrow? Tomorrow is still holding its surprises for me.