(At the start of spring, we spontaneously decided to take the kids on the road. For them, there is nothing more fantastic or fun than the thought of us four piling into car just for “an adventure”...)
Although we’d passed briefly through Berlin before, today is our first time to get to really take in this iconic city.
We cruise into Germany’s historical capital, feeling like country mice entering the slick city. In awe at the flashing lights; dwarfed by dazzling skyscrapers; taken aback by throngs of people. Parking is another story, as cars are lined bumper to bumper along the streets of Kreuzberg, where we make our first pit stop.
We want to find wifi, in order to book a hotel, in order to sleep somewhere the night. At a bright and busy café, we park our backpacks and kids, order breakfast, brought by a woman speaking some kind of strange foreigner-German accent, and proceeded to Booking.com
The website has hardly ever failed us; we punch in the usual requirements:
2 adults, 2 kids, and an extra child’s bed.
We like to think we’re not that demanding as travelers.
And truth be told, the boys are easiest. Alex and I appreciate a little more comfort—private toilet and working shower at the top of the list. With a budget somewhere between 50-100 euros per night, we’re likely to almost always find something pretty decent.
But today in Berlin, we strike gold! Smack in the city center, just on Checkpoint Charlie, we score a two-story luxury apartment with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, giant living, dining and kitchen for 70euros!
Definitely, the best way to see a city, when you only have 24 hours to do so, is from the top.
So the next day, we ascend up the TV Tower, a 365 meter high monument, the tallest building in Berlin. Built by East German architects, it receives over 1 million visitors per year.
Adding to those figures, we become tourists for a day, lining up to get our tickets, before passing through a couple of security checks that feel like airport controls.
“Ele-bator! Ele-bator!” Alexandra has been adding new words to her vocabulary at a dizzying rate.
Once piled into the lift, we zoom up 200 meters to the observation deck in 40 seconds.
Upstairs, the kids are in awe. Our birds’ eye view of Berlin and Brandenburg impresses them profoundly. The fun lasts all morning, as these little ones don’t want to leave, switching from one side of the tower to the next, and then back again, they peer through the tower’s windows and telescopes, observing life down below: miniature buildings, miniature cars, traffic and trains. All so fascinating!
Meanwhile, I am checking the menu at the Tower restaurant, supposedly a fantastic way to eat with a view—as the room rotates with a panoramic view of Berlin. But all the window view tables have been reserved; better luck next time.
After convincing the kids that it’s time to reward our tummies, we head back down and check out a newly opened sushi restaurant. I always feel an affinity for other Asians when travelling, but am suddenly confused when having to speak in a third language.
In Berlin, we also wander through the Pergamon Museum, investigating the archaeological ruins of Persia. Ancient Babylon, at its peak of greatness.
I am longing to see the famous bust of Egyptian “Sun Queen”, Nefitirti. And so excited am I, that I buy a magnet souvenir of her at the museum shop even before entering—only to find, hours later, that we were in the wrong museum the entire time!
She is apparently on display in the museum next door, for which we will have to pay another entry fee. And by now, the kids are restless, the husband wants (needs) a beer, and so I agree to save the date with her for another day…
It is not so easy to linger as long as you’d like in museums, when you’ve got two trailing kids (or running ahead of you). Especially when one, a toddler, has just learned to explore on her own. I am forever chasing after her, scolding her for attempting to touch precious artifacts, sitting on artworks or getting lost down some enticing corridor.
A girlfriend from Manila happens to be studying in Berlin and we meet to catch up over the museum tour and later, for dinner at an Indian restaurant announcing Happy Hour all day.
We enjoy the spicy taste of Lamb curries, samosas and chicken Tikka, then, it’s back to our party apartment to enjoy each other.
In another thrilling wave of synchronicity, I savor this kind of encounter. You never know where in the world you end up, with whom, or at what day and hour. And yet, when things are meant to happen, they do…in strange and wonderful ways.
Berlin brought out my childlike wonder once again, as travelling in strange and new places usually does.
After a good night’s sleep, we hit the road–this time, headed for the capital city of Saxony Anhalt, a dreamy destination along the Elbe river: Magdeburg!
…to be continued…
(Of course, if you are in Berlin longer, and have the time to see more, check out the suggested itinerary here, on Lonely Planet’s Top 20 Free Things to Do in Berlin.)