Posted by: jwhiff | August 2, 2013

7 Days in Berlin

Not enough!  Despite a few rough patches (noisy nights, the odd record breaking temperature day, and a weird stomach bug), we have had a great time here.

imageWe picked the perfect neighbourhood for enjoying the city with kids (somewhere between Mitte and Prenzlaur Berg).  It is on the old East German side of the city very near the centre, but it feels off the beaten track.  There are tons of well-loved parks, art and fashion shops (all very home-made hip), and a variety of unique inexpensive cafes.  Lots of kids, lots of bikes and lots of opportunity for play.  A very cool place, but inclusive and light-hearted too.  It has been fun puttering around and imagining living here.

The kids carry around a backpack with a soccerball in it (you never know when you’ll need one) and have been able to use it often here.  We have had a couple of great family matches (they can’t stop giggling when mom finally joins in) and even some games with neighbourhood kids.  This means kids of all ages and genders…from barefooted teens to fully-outfitted four year olds and everything in between.  Although many kids are really impressive to watch, playing well is not a prerequisite for participation.  Our kids had a lot of fun, to say the least.

imageOf course we’ve needed to do a little sight-seeing. Berlin has a lot of subtle, but important sights relating to the wall.  We enjoyed interpreting the ground symbols (literally simple lines and numbered circles on the ground) showing escape tunnels paths and individual stories around Bernaur Strasse. We also went to Check-Point Charlie and viewed old sections of the wall.  However, the city has grown incredibly over the past 24 years and most of the wall has simply been swallowed up by development.

We also visited several museums including the amazing Pergamon (with such things as Babylonian city gates and Greek temples reassembled to give scope and dimension to the ancient wonders) and the Deutsches Technikmuseum (with an interactive German history of technology, perfect for the kids).  I also enjoyed taking in the Neues Museum, not for its artifacts so much, but for the building itself.  It was demolished at the end of World War 2 and then carefully reconstructed with all salvageable columns, frescos and brickwork.  All new materials were used to fuse the original parts together.  They match the original parts in their form, but are completely basic in terms of colour so as to highlight the original battle-damaged parts.  The effect is solemn and grand.

The story of Berlin during the Nazi regime is told in bits and pieces all over the city.  Everywhere are photos and short stories of great artists, scientists, musicians, activists, business people, authors…that were lost to Berlin (a once vibrant, liberal, diverse city) as a result of Nazi persecution.  We also saw the remaining foundations of the Gestapo headquarters and the ruins of a train station from which Jewish people and others targeted by the regime were deported.

Altogether, Berlin has a depth that most cities lack.  It is not as beautiful as many European cities, but that doesn’t matter.  It has a positive, creative energy coupled with the psychology of a really complicated past..  It’s one of my favourite cities.


  1. Hey Jen, here with Mom and Dad at Tyhee Lake swatting hornets and enjoying a morning coffee. Great post on Berlin – always wanted to see the wall…guess I’d better hurry up if the development is swallowing it up. We wanted to wish Quentin a happy birthday and to shamelessly brag about the great weather up here…and how much fun it is to see all the old sites. It hasn’t changed – the mountains are exactly as we left them and the Telkwa High Road is still pretty awesome.

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