I’ve been looking forward to Berlin for quite some time. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about Germany and the German people that fascinates me. Maybe it’s their tragic and resilient history; or the Germans’ ability to making fabulous meats in tube form; or maybe it is the incredible German language, where there is a word for even the most nuanced thing like: “walking in a forest alone thinking about how you treated your dog from childhood.” (note: not sure if that’s an actual German word)
For this leg of the journey, my wife and decided to slow down a bit and spend two weeks in the city of Berlin. We landed a cheap apartment in the suburbs, cooked at home, took public transit like Berliners, slowly explored the town, and made a few German friends in the process. It was mostly mudane stuff but some of the most satisfying travel we’ve done so far.
Here are just a few highlights from Berlin:
2014 World Cup
Wow, we couldn’t have timed our arrival better. It just so happened that the week we arrived to Berlin was the World Cup final, where Germany faced off against Argentina.
It’s a pretty amazing experience to hear thousands of people scream “JAAAAAA!” simultaneously and at top volume each time there is a goal. Germany won the game and the city of Berlin was in massive party mode.
I read a hilarious comment on Reddit right after the World Cup that there may be a noticeable uptick in German babies born in about nine months. Germans are quite chummy when they are drunk and high on a football win.
One of the coolest sites we visited during our Berlin stay was the Reichstag dome. The Reichstag today is the building where the Bundestag (German parliament) convenes. This building has a bit of a crazy history and has been bombed out and rebuilt several times.
In the 90s, the Germans hired
an American a British architect [EDIT 7/25/14: I’m wrong, it was the British architect Norman Foster. Thanks Stuart for pointing this out to me in the comments!] to renovate and modernize the building. When it opened in 1999, a stunning glass dome was revealed at the top of the building.
The dome is so cool. It is completely glass with a mirror funnel in the center. The top of the dome is completely open, and with the funnel, it is designed to pull fresh air into the building and push stale out above. When it rains, the funnel is also designed to deflect rainwater into storage tanks for grey water recycling. I’ve never visited a place that was so beautiful and so green at the same time.
The Reichstag dome is a must visit while you’re in Berlin. Note that you will need to make a reservation several days in advance to even enter the dome. It’s free and the visit comes with a decent audio tour as well.
Tempelhof Field was one of the cooler discoveries we made in Berlin. Tempelhof was a big airport within the city of Berlin that operated as the primary international airline hub for West Berlin during the Cold War. The US Army had its own terminal here.
After the Cold War, the airport was abandoned. Now, it is a public park that is completely free and open to any visitor. It is somewhat of a bitch to reach via public transportation, but once you’re there you can ride bikes, picnic, and BBQ in this massively huge public park.
My wife and I rented some bikes and had a blast riding down the runways. It’s a pretty weird place and I highly recommend if you want an off-the-beaten path activity in Berlin.
Travel is better with friends…
The very best part of Berlin was the fact that my wife and I were able to spend a good part of our time here with old friends and make some new friends.
A big thanks goes out to the Loh-Ratan family, some of our oldest buddies, for letting us crash their family reunion. We loved meeting and hanging out with their extended Ratan and Jahn families. Very generous people and way cool Berliners (and Frankfurters and Hamburgers).
Thanks guys for the fun times!
It was great to slow down in Germany, but now it’s time to pick up the pace. Next stop: Croatia