Off to Berlin we went, with the rain hot on our heels. We had lucked out so far with many days having the threat of rain, but very few actually raining. It looked like our good luck and 60 degree weather was going to end at any time.
The train from Brussels to Berlin was perfect, about 6 hours long, and mostly relaxing with lots of napping and little productivity. Once in Berlin we had the exciting task of finding our way to a hotel we booked the day before because they were running a special; which meant we had no preplanned route and map guiding us from the train station to the hotel. We were able to make our way there without much excitement and arrived to a wonderful surprise. Because we were staying for four nights we were upgraded to a suite. This was not a flashy suite, but it was two rooms which meant there would be no trying to put our little one to sleep with us in the same room (many times requiring us to hide in the bathroom while she fell asleep in her crib). So right from the start we already loved Berlin. After a 6 hour train ride and a couple late nights in Brussels we decided an easy and early night was in store. We had dinner in the restaurant downstairs while planning our next day’s sightseeing.
The next morning we headed out under grey skies to Check Point Charlie, which was not what I expected. With a couple people in mock uniforms standing in front of the sign taking Disneyland style photos it didn’t emit the air of seriousness I would have thought fitting. Co-located with the communists mascots and the museum which promised to offer much of the same was a small outdoor exhibit of the history, much more along the lines of what we had expected. We were just finishing there as the skies started to open up. We quickly headed towards Potsdamer Platz, hoping to find a nice restaurant or café to hole up in. We made it a far as we could and with many things still closed we ended up at a Chinese Buffet. It didn’t scream German but it was very dry and since they weren’t actually serving food yet we were able to hide out for a long time. Chinese Buffet has not made its way to Morocco just yet, so the ability to have some real “Chinese Buffet” was a bit of a blessing in disguise, (more of a treat for my husband of course than the rest of us). Eventually things cleared up enough to try again.
We headed out towards the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. Walking towards the Gate we stumbled upon the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which was a sobering reminder of the tragedies that occurred during WWII. After a somber history lesson, we arrive at the Brandenburg gate, which was in much the same shape as Checkpoint Charlie, weird men in quasi-uniforms with flags and “passport officers” there to stamp various pieces of paper. After taking some pictures and admiring the Gate (from afar) we headed over to the Reichstag; hoping to get into the Dome for a great view of the city. Upon arrival we found out that you needed to make reservations 3 days in advance. (This is the kind of planning that gets missed when you are planning for 3 months at once). Feeling slightly defeated we returned to the hotel to put for nap time before meeting some friends for dinner, and made reservations to see the Reichstag the morning of our travel day to Prague; just in the nick of time!
Guidebook – For the next leg of our trip we used Fodor’s Eastern and Central Europe
. We don’t’ normally use books that cover such a wide area because it means they only cover the cities; but in this case that was all we were covering as well. We occasionally hit an area not in the book but overall it was a perfect fit. It was great only having to carry around one book for more than 2 weeks of travel. For travel in Europe Fodor’s travel books are our go-to.
Transportation – Berlin, like many other European cities has a metro that provided us with most of our transportation. Berlin wins our award though for the most stroller friendly metro! It was a breeze to use with a stroller, clean, efficient, and met all our needs.
Lodging – We stayed at the Relexa Hotel Stuttgarter Hof for $89 per night, with a free room upgrade. This was made the day before we checked in when we found a good deal on Booking.com. I don’t know what their standard rates look like. The hotel was fine, and well located. It was more geared towards business traveler than tourist, but still not a bad choice.
Check Point Charlie – Of course you must to see Check Point Charlie, but we were not impressed. It was much more of a gimmick than a historical sight. Because of this we actually skipped the very popular Wall Museum–House at Checkpoint Charlie. We instead toured an outdoor exhibit to Check Point Charlie and were very pleased with it. – Must See
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – This was an unplanned sight visit that ending up being a nice stop. I hesitate to use the word nice, because it was actually quite sad, but the memorial and museum are very well done. The museum is actually located under the memorial. We spend maybe an hour or so in the museum and only got through the highlights. Depending on your interest level, how much provided information you read and listen to you could easily spend hours there. Stroller Note – The museum is accessed down a long flight of stairs, there is an elevator that they will escort you down if you have a stroller; the rest of the museum is stroller friendly. – Memorial, Must See – Museum, If Time Allows
Brandenburg Gate – Deserves at least a quick stop; it’s an important part of German history and a beautiful piece of architecture. There are no tours of it or entrance inside of it, just viewing the Brandenburg Gate and the square it occupies. – Must See