Berlin Baby!

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Our 5th annual girls’ trip took us to Berlin this year – a city I’ve wanted to visit for ages. This time 7 of us managed to sort out childcare and not be heavily pregnant etc., which is not a bad turnout considering the hectic lives everyone has. We left Helsinki early on Friday morning and flew back on Sunday evening, but in hindsight we should’ve flown on Thursday so we would’ve been a bit less tired on Friday. But hey, at least we learned a lesson!

I will just take you through our holiday through my photos (and a couple by my friend Kati – as proof that I was there too!).

Our 8am flight was delayed by 30 minutes, but Finnair took us to Berlin safely in the end. What was quite funny was that Leena’s brother-in-law happened to be on the same flight – so he had to endure our mature conversation very early in the morning…Poor guy.

A flight, taxi ride and walk later we found ourselves having lunch at Kimchi Princess. Our luggage we left at our hotel, New Berlin. The hotel was quiet, the rooms were spacious and recently decorated and the breakfast was nice. It was just a bit away from everything – but luckily taxis weren’t that expensive and there was 7 of us to share the fee!

I was very hungry, so it didn’t take long for me to devour my tofu and noodle dish. And a glass of rose.

Quite an industrial place with big tables. Seemed to be quite popular!

We continued our walk towards the Jewish Museum, but stopped to grab a take away coffee, which was very much needed after the early start to the day. The weather was sunny and warm all three days, which made walking even more enjoyable.

Just before we reached the museum I spotted this amazing autumnal wall perfect for a quick photo moment…

And behind the corner we spotted a building unlike any other I’ve ever seen. It was futuristic, surreal and a bit scary all at once. Impressive.

We paid the entrance fee, got a bottle of water (how quickly you forget that you need to drink more when it’s warm!) and started exploring the fascinating buildings.

There is one old baroque building and a new one designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. The new building, which you see in my photos, is of a zig-zag shape and can only be accessed via an underground passage via the old building. Needless to say it took us a while to figure it out…

The Garden of Exile stands outside the new building and consists of 49 tilted concrete columns on a sloping plot of ground. Exile meant rescue and safety but the escape from Germany and the arrival in a foreign country also caused feelings of disorientation – exactly what we felt walking on the sloped ground between the columns. It didn’t took long before we all felt dizzy and had to leave!

The columns are filled with earth and planted with Russian olive trees, which provide some shade in summer.

The memory void was probably my favourite part of the museum. There are empty spaces, or voids, in several parts of the museum, which represent the absence of the Jews from the German society.

This installation called “Fallen Leaves” with over 10 000 faces covering the floor is dedicated to all innocent victims of war and violence.

The museum divided opinions and wasn’t what we expected it to be. It was more about understanding and interpreting the past through architecture than anything else – which I think can be a bit abstract for many people. There were also display cabinets with snippets of stories in order to make the experience more personal, but the main role definitely belonged to the architecture.

After the museum we took a taxi to the hotel and finally checked into our rooms. Some of us rested a bit whilst other focussed on drinking bubbles. I was in the second category! We had a dinner reservation at the popular Katz Orange, which was such a cute and inviting place at the end of a little courtyard. The food was amazing apart from some things being a bit too salty. Our reservation was at 21.15 and having woken up early there was no party party in store for us, unfortunately. But sleeping on my own in a bed without two little people there to wake me up was pretty inviting too!

After most of us having had a good night’s sleep (including me, for the first time in over 6 months!!) and a nice breakfast at the hotel we jumped into another taxi to go to our 4-hour (!) walking tour with Sandemans Tours. Hannele downloaded a taxi app, which was easy to use and pay with, so we didn’t even bother with public transport…We were on holiday, ok?!

Anyway, the tour was held by an Australian guy from Melbourne (these tours are always by foreigners I’ve noticed), who knew what he was talking about and really seemed to love Berlin and enjoy it there. He said the main reason he likes living in Berlin is because it’s fun. And you know what? I believe him!

Three pretty mamas listening intensely.

We started in East Berlin and slowly made our way through to West Berlin. That’s the Old Museum of Berlin on Museum Island.

Some people explored the city in style, whilst we just used our poor old feet.

Behind the autumnal trees is the Berlin Cathedral and the radio tower behind that.

This heart-gripping sculpture of a mother holding her dead son can be found in the New Guardhouse. It stands at the centre of the memorial’s chamber, right underneath an unglazed circular skylight, leaving it exposed to the best and worst of the Berlin weather.

The price for the most camera-crazy person in our group goes to Kati 🙂

A couple of hours into the tour we finally reached the border where the Berlin wall once stood, and with one small step we where in West Berlin. Our guide was saying that the border between West and East Berlin closed overnight, and on the morning of the 13th of August 1961 you could no longer cross. So if you happened to be sleeping over at your girlfriend’s place on the other side you were stuck. If you happened to be staying on the East side and worked on the West side it was tough luck. The reason the wall was built was to prevent East Germans from fleeing to the West through West Berlin during the Cold War.

Checkpoint Charlie was the best known Berlin wall crossing point. There were 13 altogether.

That is not just any concrete wall, but the original Berlin wall. Our guide urged us to take a photo in front of the wall in order to make sure we don’t forget about what happened here.

It’s a shame we didn’t have time to go and see the longer bit of the wall with graffiti on it, but at least we got to see the wall (and feel it).

We continued our walk through a protest until we reached this insignificant-looking parking lot tucked in in between residential high rise buildings. This is where Hitler’s bunker was and where his body was burnt. The location of his remains is unknown in order to make sure you don’t get any maniacs building shrines and worshipping this evil man. It felt good to see that this is all he got; a crappy parking lot.

Not far from the parking lot is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – a place I’ve seen in photos and have wanted to visit for ages.

It is a remarkable memorial consisting of 2,711 concrete slabs on a 19,000 square-metre area in the centre of Berlin.

Walking through the memorial gave me an uneasy feeling, which I think is exactly the atmosphere architect Peter Eisenman intended for the memorial.

Let us never, ever forget that 6 million Jewish people were systematically murdered during the Nazi regime. That was two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe. Six million! It is impossible to understand.

The tour ended at one of the best-known landmarks of Germany, Brandenburg Gate. It was a lot of walking and a lot of information, but so worth it!

We were starving, and since the restaurant we had booked was too far away we just chose the first best place we came across, which happened to be a Vietnamese restaurant with a little back garden.

Some wine and Aperol Spritz lifted the mood nicely.

And then it was time to vote for the next trip destination. Amsterdam came out as a winner!

After a very late lunch Fia and Diana went back to the hotel and the rest decided to head to Monkey Bar at the 10th floor of a hotel and overlooking the zoo – but the queue was long and didn’t seem to be moving, so we went to another place nearby called Gecko Bar. Plus we were also thirsty!

After a few drinks we got into another taxi and met the other girls at Brandenburg Gate. The Berlin Festival of Lights happened to be on, so we walked down Bundesstrasse again and marvelled at the light shows taking place against the buildings. Before we knew it it was closer to 11pm and we realised we were hungry. Luckily the Heat restaurant at Radisson Blu Hotel agreed to serve us food (and drinks). After walking the whooole day we were again tired and just headed back to the hotel for an undisturbed snooze. However, we did agree on that we have to make our Amsterdam-trip more about partying and prove we’re no grannies yet!…

The following morning we enjoyed another lovely breakfast at the hotel before heading to Mauerpark for some flea market shopping and beer. They also do karaoke there on Sundays but we didn’t have time to join in. And that was maybe for the best!

There were also many stalls with local handwork – such as this one selling wooden accessories. I might’ve bought something but changed my mind when the designer of these items told me off in a very arrogant and rude way for taking photos of his products. I agree that I should’ve asked for permission, but there are nicer ways of saying that. Plus has he never heard of free advertising??

I did buy a lovely hand knitted peach-coloured hat from another vendor, and a few of the other girls found some nice stuff too.

Hannele and I felt it was time for a (big) beer, so we went to a beer garden whilst the others were still shopping/lost.

These pints demanded a selfie.

Before we knew it it was time to get some lunch in our bellies. We checked Google and found a nice-looking Lebanese place nearby Mauerpark, so that’s where we headed. I thought that Berlin’s neighbourhoods and streets were quite different from each other, so I had to take a photo of this street as again the area had a different vibe to the others we’d visited.

These small 10 cm by 10 cm brass plates inscribed with the name and life dates of victims of Nazi extermination or persecution can be found on many streets in Berlin. In fact, there are over 67,000 of them in 22 different countries. In German they’re called “Stolperstein”, which translates as “stumbling stone”.

Again we were all starving, so some hummus, falafel and pita breads tasted really good. Washed down with some wine in the sun!

From the restaurant we went straight to our hotel to pick up our bags and then to the airport.

Berlin wasn’t the most picturesque city, but definitely an interesting one with a surreal history. I feel like we only scratched the surface, but I left with a good feeling about the place.

Thank you girls for many laughs, crap jokes and a magnificent weekend! Can’t wait for Amsterdam and all the space cakes we’re going to eat 😉

x Nina x