In vague chronological order, here are my favourite memories from 5 days in Berlin, Germany:
<> On our first night in Berlin we walked around the corner from Tilo’s apartment and stumbled into one of Germany’s famous beer gardens. Out of an old junkyard someone had placed tables and twinkle lights, brought in an Italian pizza oven and full-stocked bar, and opened the place up to Berliners (and their friends) of all ages. It was the perfect introduction to Berlin and the pizza wasn’t half bad either!
<> Checkpoint Charlie was….pretty much a giant tourist trap. There were even “American” (probably just Germans) guards you could pay to take a photo with. You could also pay to get your passport stamped and while I knew it was a touristy rip-off, I couldn’t resist filling another page in my almost-full passport!
<> The East Side Gallery was the one thing on my Berlin to-see list. I love the idea of street art anywhere but the fact that it’s creating something so beautiful and meaningful out of a once-oppressive wall really made the gallery special to me. I wish we had gotten to spend some more time there, but due to a painfully long and hot bus ride, we were set with about 20 minutes.
<> Who would have thought satisfying sushi and delicious ice cream would be highlights of Berlin? YUM
<> After ice cream we stumbled onto another awesome outdoor event: swing dancing by the water! While we weren’t skilled enough to join in, it was so cool to watch a bunch of people freestyle swing dancing under fairy lights in the middle of a big city!
<> One of my favourite memories of our time in Berlin was meeting and spending time with Tilo’s family. They were honestly the most warm, kind and hospitable people who didn’t hesitate to open their home to us. We sat down for cake and fruit salad with Tilo’s parents, his sister and his nephews. After the snack, we headed over to billiards where the girls beat the boys 3 to 1! I even managed to sink a few balls myself, including a game-winning 8-ball, but the memorable hot streak belonged to 8 year old Peter who sunk 4 balls in a row! After pool, it was more games (and more food) back at the house. Who would’ve thought Family Night would be a travel highlight?
<> A lot of this trip was about spending time with my Moo and I was so lucky to be able to do that in these wonderful European cities. But sometimes we had to bring back a bit of our Toronto routine: like spending a morning eating Vietnamese noodles, getting pedicures and going shopping!
<> Berlin’s CineStar IMAX theatre is a magical place with the comfiest seats I have ever sat in! They were plush, spacious and there were even a few double seats for couples (or people like me who want to stretch out!). With all the rain Berlin showered down on us, we actually made 2 visits to the theatre for Maleficent and X-Men. Both movies were awesome, but the seats were still the highlight 🙂
<> Eating was definitely a major part of our trip. Despite our German location, we branched out quite a bit when it came to cuisines. Like the night we went to “Massai” and dined on plantains, falafel, mango beer, zebra, crocodile and antelope!
Berlin was a city I stepped into (drove into?) without any expectation. Strangely, it had never been a city I was dying to see. And since I was going with a veteran-visitor, my mom, and a local, Tilo, I didn’t have to do much in terms of planning. Despite coming into the city unarmed, I was pleasantly surprised: Berlin was pretty cool. And I feel fortunate that I got to experience the touristy side (including the cringe-inducing tour bus) and a bit of the local life all in a quick rainy 5-day adventure.
Next, off to Croatia!