Berlin BirthdaySeptember 23, 2017 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C
We woke up this morning in Berlin on my birthday! Brooke had a card already ready for me that she brought all the way from Calgary, so thoughtful. We headed downstairs to have breakfast with the whole family, what a treat. I was also really happy to see that Rae had finally made it in safe to Berlin last night. Breakfast was a wide selection hotel buffet with plenty of options. I even quickly noticed that they had prosecco available, so why not have a mimosa with breakfast? It's my birthday after all!
After breakfast, Brett headed out to do his final training run, just a short 3km jog (sounds like plenty to me). The rest of us geared up for the day and headed out to go on a city bus tour (hop on/hop off type with audio descriptions). I likely am starting to catch a bit of the cold that Brooke has and was also feeling run down at the start of today. At any rate, I wasn't quite in the mood yet for selfies when Brooke suggested it (since it was the first time wearing our new Blue Jays hats), but I slowly warmed up to it since we "have" to take selfies.....I'm getting off topic...city tour! The tour was overall really good, we got to see a widespread look at Berlin with all the major sites, but obviously nothing detailed and up close. The route was slightly adjusted because of the marathon route and finish line being set up, but we saw nearly everything. At times it was hard to pay attention to the audio descriptions, but it was still good to get a sense of the overall city.
Once we completed the circuit, we got off the bus and the girls went immediately to shop at the flagship Nivea store. They seem to sell some products that you rub on your face and make you smell weird, I don't really understand it. Mostly stood outside with Dad as we waited for them to finish. Brooke bought some hand lotion and lip stuff for her staff members (she also thinks the store clerk didn't charge her for 2 out of 3 of the lip things, good work Brooke!). We then zipped over to the hotel to drop off the purchases and a quick free bathroom break.
Next up we walked over to the Brandenburg Gate to take in the sight and grab some pictures. This monument will be right near the end of the marathon tomorrow and we won't have a chance of getting a good look at it. So it was a good thing we did it today. Grabbed a quick lunch of bratwurst by the gate and then walked over to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
The holocaust memorial (Proper name: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) consists of 2711 cement blocks/columns that are all of different heights. The ground is also not level. The effect of all of this is that in the center (where the ground is lower and the blocks are taller), you feel trapped. In the middle of the memorial, it would be easy enough to lose the person you're travelling with (and of course I was weaving in and out, trying to sneak behind people). The girls then entered the information center which lies below the memorial to what is a small but very powerful holocaust museum. There is a timeline of events leading from initial persecution of the Jewish people to full extermination. Another room consisted of notes from holocaust victims that were later found and translated. Where possible, the note would include a caption about who wrote the note and what is known to have happened to them thereafter. Of course, to think that these are the brief stories of just a few of the 5.5-6 million people murdered is almost unbelievable. I probably could have spent even more time there, although it is really quite overwhelming. There is also a room where they read the names and brief bios of people that were killed.
Once the girls finished off at the Memorial, I suggested that we should head over to Legoland! I had noticed this on the tour bus and thought why not check it out since it was my birthday. The whole family was on board and we headed out towards the area of Potsdam Platz. When we got to the entrance I found out that you had to have a child with you to go in (didn't even count that it was my birthday or that I was acting like a child earlier). This is entirely because it is a "Discovery Center" that is geared 100% towards children. Darn.
In the area we were able to catch a bit of racing happening on the main road. The marathon route is already set up and they have a couple of events happening today with the mini-marathon (~4km and it looked like only youth were running) and the roller blading marathon (literally a bunch of people racing the route on roller blades).
Once we finished watching some racing and practicing some cheering for tomorrow, we walked over to Checkpoint Charlie where one of the crossings between West and East Berlin during the Cold War was located. Along the street they have a series of panels to read about the entire Cold War events, the Berlin Wall, and the escape attempts into West Berlin throughout the years. There was a lot of history to recall and I definitely learnt some new facts about the Cold War. I found it very fascinating to read it all and the fact that we were standing right there where it all occurred. And to think that this all happened not so long ago in the grand scheme of things. I also confirmed that I am a very slow reader as everyone else got way ahead of me, so much that Mom and Rae headed back to do some shopping while I was only halfway through. That's all right, I think I just take it in more thoroughly (so Brooke tells me 😉). There was also a cool map that showed the entire perimeter that the Berlin Wall took up. And they had the original patrol gate of Checkpoint Charlie, but it felt a little hokey being right outside a McDonald's.
It was getting a little chilly out so Dad, Brooke, and I walked back to the hotel. Had a quick stop in a bakery because Brooke wanted to buy me a birthday treat, which ended up being a donut and a hot coffee. At the hotel we warmed up, had a short rest, and changed for dinner. By the time we left, it was fully raining out and we all walked over to the restaurant each under an umbrella.
The restaurant was German cuisine with more beer to try, all right! Seems like we didn't grab the name of the restaurant since Brett picked this one out and we just went with the flow. Regardless it was great as a birthday dinner! I enjoyed the pork knuckle again (couldn't finish it), Mom had a deer goulash, and everyone else had schnitzel. We shared more of our stories from our previous week and heard about Rae's experiences of dining over in France and Spain. Our waiter had the funniest way of saying yes of course to all of our requests. Every time we ordered something his response was "ok fine" as if he was saying "if you must, I guess......😔." I'm sure we'll be making fun of it throughout the trip.
Walking back to the hotel, it was raining hard and we had to avoid lots of puddles in the street. Time for a good sleep since tomorrow morning will be very busy. (Hopefully Brett is already asleep as I type this. Good luck Brett!!!)
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