Photo: Brandenburger Tor
We were in
We were staying in an apartment off the former government area in former
We spent our first morning getting into the apartment, and then went to eat lunch at a veggie restaurant called Einhorn, across from
March 6 we went to Unter den Linden, the main drag of
We then headed out for the Musueum insel, an island in the
The Pergamon is an amazing museum, and good to visit with kids. The museum is full of large-scale reconstructions of buildings and monuments. You walk into the museum and see a reconstruction of the Pergamon altar, a Greek altar built about 200 BC in
We spent most of our time in the Near-Eastern wing of the museum. It was full of monumental gates. The Ishtar gate was first (after a Roman market gate in the process of being reconstructed). It’s made of blue tiles, and was part of the processional way in
On March 7 we started the day at the Brandenburger Tor, which used to close Berlin in (Berlin then ending at the end of Unter den Linden and the area where Tiergarden – Berlin’s Central Park area- and former West Berlin being out of the city limits) and later was a symbol of the split city as it was off-limits for years, located in the no- man’s-land in between the two walls separating East from West. We then walked to the Reichtag (now called Bundestag), the parliament building that was burned in 1933 and served as Hitler’s excuse for dissolving the legally elected government. Its dome was redone in the 1990’s as the Germans prepared to move their parliament from
From the Reichtag, we walked a few blocks to the new Holocaust Memorial. Aboveground, it’s a whole block full of concrete slabs of varying heights forming a maze. Belowground is a museum and visitor’s center, luckily again very kid-friendly. The room I spent the most time in had excerpts from the last narratives of about 15 holocaust victims, mostly letters home, on the floor. There were also a number of benches in the room that Maeve enjoyed climbing on which gave me the opportunity to read. The most telling part of the room, however, were the numbers of victims in different countries which were like a decorative band around the top of the wall.
Leaving, there was information about other Holocaust memorials around
From there, we walked to Potsdamer Platz, which was a major hub before WWII and got mostly bombed out. It was never rebuilt because the wall went through the middle of the square. When I was last in
That evening, we took the S-Bahn to Oranienburger strasse, which is just north of the area with Unter den Linden and used to be the Jewish quarter. It’s now very funky. We walked past the New Synagogue, which was saved from being burned by the Nazis by a policeman, only to be totally bombed out by the Allies. It was recently rebuilt, but as a cultural center not a site of worship. We had dinner at Diafana, a little organic/vegetarian café and bakery around the corner from the Synagogue, and got to listen to a lecture on bread baking. On the way back to the station, we walked through a
On March 8, we went to the Checkpoint Charlie museum. This is a museum, originally set up right on the boarder between East and
On the way back to the S-Bahn at Potsdammer Platz, we stopped by the Topographie des Terrors, an outdoor exhibit on the grounds of where the SS-building used to be, about the Nazi war and terror machine. They’re thinking about reworking the exhibit, and most of the site was under construction, but they had one very full wall of information in what used to be the basement of the SS-building. We had a hard time making sense of it all, and could have used more overview. At that point, I was pretty much museumed out anyway and tired, so we got some fast food pizzas on the way home for lunch and took naps. The plan was to get Maeve down early and up from her nap to go out that evening.
We did get Maeve up at a reasonable time and went to the Kathe Kolowitz museum, which was walkable from our apartment. She’s a 19-20th century artist/sculptor who lived most of her life in
Our last free day was Sunday, as Mike had to check in at the retreat Sunday evening. We packed up the apartment and then went again to Potsdammer Platz to walk to the Jewish museum, which is a very new museum and we were hopeful would be kid-friendly. It was. We entered through an older building where they have the coat check, restaurant etc and then you go underground to walk to the new building and up to the third floor where the exhibit starts. The museum is very well done, starting from Jewish life in the Roman times and continuing to the present. It has information about architecture, daily life, travel journals from businesspeople, biographical information about famous people like Mendelsson etc. It also has plenty of interactive exhibits as well as audio texts, but those were in German only. Maeve found plenty to play with in each room, so we were able to move along and have one of us keep an eye on her while the other browsed the museum. Like at the Pergamon, we ate in the museum café so we could go back in the museum for a little while after lunch. We left the museum a bit before 1 and decided to get a taxi to take us back to the apartment and then straight on to the retreat site which was out near the Free University, outside the city center in
An aside about car seats for kids: some drivers didn’t have a booster seat and wouldn’t take Maeve without it, others had a booster seat, really for kids much larger than Maeve who should be in a car seat, and wouldn’t let Maeve sit in our laps because they said the booster seat was safer, and others just let us hold her in our laps. Our CambioCar (the car-sharing service we use in Saarbruecken) claims to have a child seat in every car and actually does have a booster seat, but we take our own car seat along when we use it as Maeve is still too small for the booster. Most taxis do seem to have these booster seats as well.
So we hopped in the taxi, went by the apartment to pick up our bag, and headed to Harnak House where we’d be staying for the retreat to put Maeve down. When we go there, we realized it’s in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the Free University. After Maeve’s nap, we walked about 15-20 minutes to Dahlen, the nearest village, to get Maeve and me dinner. Mike had dinner later with the retreat. In Dahlen, there is a working farm which if Maeve were a bit older would have been lots of fun to visit.
The next two days, Mike was mostly working and I also listened to a few talks during Maeve’s afternoon naps. But the mornings Maeve and I got to explore. We called a cab to take us to the nearest S-Bahn station and then took the train into town. The first morning we went to KaDeWe, as I wanted to see if they had a baby monitor and to find some pesto. On the way there, we stopped by the interior of the Kaiser Wilhem peace monument, which is the bombed out remains of a church right on Kurfurstendamm near Bahnhof Zoo. We’d seen it from the outside before, but hadn’t gone in. Only the vestibule remains (there’s a modern church beside it) but the vestibule has a lovely mosaic ceiling. I had Maeve in the sling and we walked around with me staring upwards and Maeve bending over backwards to be able to better see the ceiling.
About the pesto, Maeve is allergic to nuts – not the deathly allergy some kids have but every time she eats nuts, including peanuts and coconut, she gets a skin rash. And all the pesto I can find in Saarbruecken has cashews in it. When I make pesto, I use pine nuts which is no problem for Maeve, but I don’t have a food processor here and we want non-nutty pesto. So Maeve and I went to the gourmet food section in KaDeWe, which is a very very upscale department store. They did not have non-cashew pesto, but they did have ground up basil and garlic paste, so I got a couple of jars and can add grated parmesan at home. The baby monitors were 59 Euros at the cheapest, so I passed on buying that. We got lunch at our buddy Einhorn restaurant and got some take out to take back for dinner.
March 11 was our last day in
We got home to Saarbruecken at about 9 that evening – a very late night for Maeve who usually goes to sleep about 7. She was hyper on the plane, but not fussy and traveled very well.