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Enlightened in Berlin

SmarterTravel

Author: Amelia Hesson
Date of Trip: August 2014

8/23-9/2/2014 Berlin

We had a delightful 10 day stay in Berlin before we got on a cruise ship for the Baltics and a Transatlantic cruise back to NYC. It was probably the highlight of the vacation, we really enjoyed Berlin.

We stayed in Berlin at the Adina Apartment Hotel Berlin Hackescher Markt, 11 An der Spandauer Brcke, Berlin 10178. Located in the historic district of Mitte, it was also located in the old Jewish District and an easy walk to the river Spree with its many boat ride opportunities. We loved this hotel; it was in an awesome location and enabled us to walk almost everywhere. It took 15 minutes to get to the hotel from the airport, although we came in late at about 9pm and there was no traffic at all. It was located next to the train station/subway station at Hackescher Markt, as well as a tram line, making it a perfect jump off spot for all discoveries. As an added bonus we were surrounded by lovely restaurants, I cannot say enough about this hotel.

The hotel staff was excellent; they were always available to help with directions and suggestions. There was free Internet available for use in the lobby area and the lobby area had lots of couches and chairs and places to gather and email. The rooms were well appointed; we had a nice sized room with a huge balcony and a nice kitchen for snacks and morning coffee. It was well stocked with all the dishes and cooking utensils for making meals and even a dishwasher to clean up afterwards. We had an excellent coffee maker and they provided coffee. Around the corner were several well-stocked markets so we could buy whatever we needed such as coffee, fruit, and even meat, cheese, and bakery items.

During our stay we used the Ho-Ho bus, there were actually 3 different ones but we choose the least expensive one because it served our needs well. Make sure you check out all the Ho-Ho buses, their maps and costs so you can compare and pick the one that suites your needs best. We also used some “Frommers” and “fodors” walks to familiarize us with the areas. Some of these walks are available for free on the web.

Our second day we used the Frommer’s walking tour called “Dark past, Bright future”. We walked through Mitte as we meandered our way past the new Jewish synagogue as well as a part of the ancient Jewish synagogue, among other interesting places. We found this wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant called Dada Falafel, which is very close to the Jewish synagogue. The food was delicious; we each ordered different plates and loved every morsel of food that we got there. The falafels were yummy, as were all the sauces, couscous, hummus, and more. This was one of the best falafel’s we had in a long time. This was certainly a be-back kind of the restaurant; we ended up eating here four times in the 10 days we were in Berlin. Not only was the service spectacular, they had live entertainment and the singer and pianist, which were wonderful. In total that day we must’ve walked 8 miles and my feet were killing me. We retired early because we plan to get up really early and have a full day of touring.

We had the reservations for the Reichstag tour the following day and were excited to visit. It turned out to be a highlight of the stay, it was interesting and at the top of it were magnificent views of Berlin. Got up early that day and ate at a local restaurant for breakfast which was really delicious. The restaurant was called Hackescher Hof. The breakfast menu was lovely, I had scrambled eggs with spinach and feta, wonderful toast, all of this for a mere €4.50.. We love this restaurant so much we ended up eating here almost every morning for breakfast. On to the Reichstag, we really enjoyed the experience and because I had made reservations in advance we got in quickly without waiting on any lines. After visiting this we walked to the Holocaust memorial, a haunting tribute to those murdered during the Nazi era. We also visited Checkpoint Charlie, as well as the Topography of terror. This was a somber afternoon but well worth the experiences and learning’s. Tomorrow we would visit the concentration camp outside Berlin. We found a Hertz car rental and grabbed the car we reserved and drove back to the hotel, we found driving in Berlin easy as well as all over Germany. Ken got to drive one 100MPH on the Autobahn, which was really fun!

Having picked up our car the day before, it was time for our Mosaic tour of Sachsenhousen concentration camp with guide Brian. This camp was located close to Berlin although Chris and Ken had different opinions about how to get out of Berlin and ignored our GPS, who we finally referred to as Flossie! Anyway it took us three times as long as we anticipated to get to the train station where we would meet our mosaic tour guide Brian. Gratefully Brian waited for us. From there we walked for miles to get to the entrance of the concentration camp. My feet were killing me and we hadn’t even begun the tour.

Brian gave a fantastic tour, for me it was so enlightening where I had thought it might be simply frightening. This was an educational tour and I learned so much, I really was impressed with Brian. Our tour mates were very kind as they waited for us an extra half-hour because we were late and we were really grateful for them. I highly recommend mosaic tours if you want to learn about what happened in a typical camp from a historical perspective. In spite of this being such a horrific subject, Brain taught me about how serious the new Germans are about anti-Semitism and all hateful behavior. I have to say I came away from this with a newfound love of the German people, as a Jew this says a lot!

We came home fairly late, taking much less time to get back as the boys learned how to get back to Berlin using GPS! We decided to walk up to a new restaurant called Amrit, an Indian restaurant very close to the falafel place. The food was quite delicious, except the appetizer plate, which was really terrible, all fried and tasting bland. In spite of the food being tasty, the service was not very good. The waiter pointed to my husband stomach and embarrassed him, and all of us thought that was very rude. Good thing he didn’t do that to me cause I would’ve slapped him hard. So even though we enjoyed the food we would never go back there again.

We stop for some dessert, Chris had to have apple torte and we walk to a restaurant on the river spree to get it. I had a scoop of ice cream, after ordering something called a Caramel Crunch, which was so hard it practically broke my teeth. I am not sure what they did to the Carmel but even the waitress could not eat it! Although we had returned here several times this ended up being our last visit.

Another dinner place we visited several times which was across the street from our hotel was a Mediterranean restaurant called Trattoria Ossana. The food was quite good and reasonably priced. They had yummy thin-crusted Pizza’s and great pasta dishes. They did not have free tap water so we had to pay for bottled! After dinner we stopped at Häagen-Dazs and got some ice cream, right across the street and around the corner of our hotel, very convenient! We stopped here too much, my clothing was getting tighter and tighter!

We took an Underground Tour of bunkers under subways, it was recommended by one of our friends who were staying at our hotel. This was a fantastic tour, really illuminated the way the Nazi’s thought and I was pleased with how humble our tour guide was, she was accurate and really owned the way the people of Nazi Germany’s views were very messed up and negative. I found this incredible attitude all over Germany, these people were model citizens who had learned and had grown from the negative Nazi prejudices’ to full ownership of the atrocities of that thinking. I really loved Berlin, and all of Germany and found this expanded vision everywhere I went. It was a great learning for me.

We also took several Canal rides on the Spree River—first we took a one hour tour which was nice but very limited in where it visited. Several days later we took a 4 hour tour which visited all the locks and took us to many interesting locations. The 4 hours tour was about one hour too long and we jumped off the boat and found our way back to Berlin’s Mitte district easily using subways, trains, and trams. After being in Berlin for 10 days we really got the hang of public transportation and would have rented the car for less days since we paid for it, its parking space at our hotel, and gas (diesel). We all agreed that Berlin was a wonderful place to visit and were glad we had such a long and leisurely visit.

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