Arrival in Berlin

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We had an overnight stop in Berlin on our way home from Italy last year, and wanted more than our brief glimpse of the city. This time we have three days, still not enough time for all Berlin has to offer. It’s not a beautiful city, but has an amazing arts and cultural scene, good food of a huge diversity of cultures, and some interesting neighborhoods. Our great apartment is Prenzlauer Berg, a formerly rundown East Berlin neighborhood now full of renovated buildings, tons of restaurants and shops, and a mixture of hipsters and families.

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Our first afternoon, we dropped our bags and met our friendly landlord. Peek at the apartment. It’s one of the nicest places we’ve rented. We ate lunch at a place around the corner, where I had a delicious plate of mushroom and potato dumplings, served with dill and arugula. If dumplings can be light, these were. Larry had a pot of sauerkraut with pieces of meat and sausage.

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We thought an introduction to the city would be a good idea, so joined a groups from Berlin Walks. We trooped all over Mitte, the historical area of Berlin filled with enormous buildings built by Prussian kings, ugly concrete structures put up by the East German government to fill the spaces left after the Battle of Berlin destroyed 60% of the city, and many structures being built or renovated. Cranes are everywhere, Berlin seems to be an enormous, ongoing construction project.

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Our guide filled us in on some of the history of the area, concentrating on the War, its aftermath, the Wall, and the changes since Reunification. You can see how the old buildings on Museum Island were reconstructed, with bullet holes remaining in the original walls. Interesting also to see how the choice was made to completely remove some aspects of history in order for them to not become shrines for Neo-Nazis–where Hitler’s bunker was is now an apartment complex, where the failed bomb assassination attempt took place is now a Chinese restaurant.

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Portions of the Wall remain, as does an East Germany propaganda mural on a government building.

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There’s no shortage of tourist kitsch, like a currywurst truck, and a museum to the Trebi, the only car East Germans could own.

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And sobering reminders of Germany’s Jews–gold cobblestones in front of buildings giving the names and dates of Jewish residents; and the hauntingly stark Memorial to the Six Million, which swallows you as you walk through the stone slabs.

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After our walk, we strolled though Prenzlauer Berg. I really love this neighborhood’s human scale, tree-lined streets, parks, and cheerful vibe. Our apartment is surrounded by restaurants of every ethnicity–we chose a Thai place across the street for dinner, and had a super meal. And Larry demonstrated that yes, the beer is as big as your head.

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