I visited Berlin for a short weekend trip. It ended up being a beautiful February day, with temperatures in the 50’s. I stayed at the Marriott Berlin Hotel, which is located in a the perfect location; walking distance to many attractions.
The first place we visited was the Holocaust memorial, which is full of cement blocks over a hilly ground, to serve as a representation memorial of all the Jews that were killed. The memorial consists of almost 3,000 slabs, and there is a chamber that holds the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims.
Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)
This large archway was the old entrance to Berlin that separated East and West Berlin. We visited it the day before Valentine’s Day, and people were giving away free heart shaped balloons to anyone that wanted one. So many people were taking romantic pictures in front of the Gate. Since my Valentine was 7,800 miles away in LA, I just got a picture of me and a balloon in front of the gate.
Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom)
We walked down one of the main streets of Berlin past the many museums and parliament buildings to the Berlin Cathedral, which sits alongside the river. On the way there, we passed a book sale in front of a university building, and I bought a book in German with book pictures as well. Right next to the cathedral was an art market, and I bought a really cool tile of a picture of a cheetah car in front of the Berlin Wall. The market was so lively, and the art was really amazing.
In a common area where many tourists visit, an artist named Ai Wei Wei brought 14,000 life jackets that were used by Syrians to escape and travel to Greece. A team hung them on the pillars of the “Konzerthaus” Concert Hall building. It was crazy to see so many life jackets that were used by people, many of which drowned or died from illness. The art instillation was during the weekend of the international Berlin Film Festival, with thousands of people visiting the city.
We went to the East Side Gallery to see the remaining portion of the Berlin Wall. The wall was about 20 meters high, and was rounded at the top so that no one would be able to climb over. The graffiti art that has been left on the wall is really a cool site to see. Some of the illustrations are famous, and others are just graffiti that kids have tagged.
Berlin Film Festival
It happened to also be the Berlin Film Festival the weekend that I was visiting. We heard people talking about how the festival was even bigger and more serious than Cannes Film Festival. Johnny Depp, George Clooney, and Maryl Streep were some of the people we heard were spotted there. A lot of the events were held in our hotel, and we received a free treat from the hotel as well.
I stayed in the village of Kassel for two weeks at Hotel Gude. Everyone in the city was extremely nice and welcoming. They liked practicing their English; I do not think many American tourists visit the city. One of our taxi driver’s was so excited to talk to us, and told us was happy that we were visiting, and told us we could do anything we wanted to do. Kassel has a unique history in that the Grimm Brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, spent time writing fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty.
Luckily I had a two week work trip in Heidelberg, Germany during December, so I was able to experience the wonderful Christmas Markets. I stayed at the Marriott hotel right on the river.
I walked down the river to the Old City, which was a beautiful site. There were kids out playing, and people walking around everywhere.
The Christmas Markets are full of Sizzling sausages and Glühwein (mulled wine which is basically like spiced warm sangria). I was able to buy a lot of cute christmas presents including stuffed gnomes, chocolate, chubby little santa’s, bird ordainments with feathers, and beautiful glass candle holders. The markets were packed with christmas decorations and ordainments, but I was not sure I would be able to transport anything too fragile back to the US with me.
The castle was originally built in 1225, we climbed up the 315 steps to the top. The castle is partially in ruins from the wars. The castle is unique because it holds the largest wine barrel in the world.
I visited the Church of the Holy Spirit – Heiliggeistkirche and the Jesuit Church – Jesuitenkirche. Both churches were beautiful and so old. I lit a candle for my grandfather in both churches. I know he would be proud and smiling down on me since his family is originally from Germany.
During the weekend, I took the Deutsche Bahn train up to Dusseldorf to visit one of my friends from Michigan State University. We walked around the Christmas Markets, and through the Altstadt, which is just a long street filled with bars. It is actually referred to as The Longest Bar in the World with over 300 bars in a half mile radius. Everyone drinks outside with glass bottles. We went out after dinner, and I got to truly experience how Germany drink. They drink a LOT!!
On my way back to Heidelberg on the Deutsche Bahn, I passed Cologne, which has the beautiful Cologne Cathedral, also known as the Kölner Dom. It is the largest Roman Catholic cathedral in Germany. I would really love to go back to Cologne and explore the Cathedral and city one day.
The train route along the Rhein River is really beautiful. I saw a lot of vineyards, people playing with their dogs in the middle of fields, dirt bike courses, and then regular cities too. In the cities, a lot of buildings look so old and like they are falling apart and in ruins. There have been warehouses that have all of the windows smashed. There are always massive churches with tall crosses on top in all of the cities / villages. The houses look similar to the houses in Italy, but in Italy they all had green shutters; here, they do not have shutters. My favorite seeing the castles on top of the hills, and imagining how hard it had to be to build them up there.