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Published: December 23rd 2009
It’s taken us a couple of hours after landing into Berlin Schoenefeld to negotiate our way across town on the train, check in to our backpackers, drop off our bag, and head into town. It’s around 2:30pm now and we’ve just popped out of an S-Bahn station directly in front of the famous Brandenburg Gate. The gateway is as stately looking as we’d imagined, but all the street lights are on and there’s a steady fall of sleet from the greyness above. Periodically it breaks to rain, then to wet snow, then back to sleet. It is so cold!!
So we head indoors.
Seeing as it’s around lunchtime and we haven’t eaten yet we figure a good place to wait out the weather is in a nearby cafe. To get into the swing of being in Germany we order some typical Berlin fare and local beer. Luckily by the time we finish eating, the worst of the weather seems to be over.
Dodging the puddles, we walk through the Brandenburg gate and around the corner to check out the German parliament building, the Reichstag. Not impressed by the length of the line to get in, we decide that
The road to Alexander Platz
Just past the Brandenburg gate all the trees in the centre of the road were covered in lights. Ohh, so Christmassy...
we should keep moving (it’s one way to stay warm after all) so we set off towards Berlin’s centre square, Alexanderplatz.
About halfway along our journey, we come across our first Christmas market. Wow! Proper German Christmas markets- in Germany!
In the cold wintery evening there’s nothing quite like a cup of steaming hot Gluhwein (mulled wine) to warm us up so our first port of call once inside the market is a bar tent. Finishing our gluhweins, and in need of something to eat, we saunter up to a little wagon with an open wood grille to order a Bratwurst (pork sausage) each. Perfectly cooked with a crunchy outer and soft middle and served on a bread roll with German mustard, they are absolutely delicious. They must sound just like an Aussie barbie snag, but they’re not and if you’ve ever had German Bratwurst you’ll know what we’re talking about....
For Ariana, a sausage on a roll constitutes dinner so her focus turns to dessert. A couple of stalls further on we share a crepe, then a few more stalls later it’s time for waffles. At this point, we realise that we’ve done a full loop,
and remembering that we were actually planning to head to Alexanderplatz, we head out of the markets and continue on towards the city centre.
Earlier in the day we’d picked up a ‘what’s on’ pamphlet from the tourist information centre which said there are more than 60 Christmas markets in Berlin, 15 of which were reviewed in detail. So here we are, two blocks after our first Christmas market, and we’ve stumbled across yet another one!
We can’t help it - we’ve got to check this one out too.
Many of the stalls are the same as the ones we’d seen earlier, but in the middle of market there is a ice rink built around a fountain statue of Neptune. Beside the ice rink there is a little gluhwein stall with an heated indoor section, so for us it’s a no-brainer... given it’s below freezing outdoors - we head in and pull up a seat.
Eventually we do head off and make it to Alexanderplatz but it’s late and cold, so we jump on the train and call it a night.
First thing on Sunday morning we figure we’ve got a chance of beating the
From the front...
crowds to the Reichstag. In our favour is that it’s Sunday and it’s bitterly cold (the weather forecast is a top of minus 2 today, which must make it about minus 4 now). Nice theory, but arriving at the Reichstag there’s a good half dozen buses parked along the street and the line to get in is twice as long as it was yesterday when we where here. The irony...
Anyway, we bite the bullet and join the back of the queue. It takes us about an hour or so of standing around on the cold before we eventually make it inside but when we do it proves worth the wait. The dome fitted to the roof of the Reichstag was designed by a British architect as part of the refurbishment and as far as architecture goes it is really quite fascinating. There’s an intricate series of mirrors that direct natural light down into the interior of the building plus an exhaust air reheat system - all mounted centrally within this massive glass dome. Cool.
After the Reichstag we’re keen to see some more sights of Berlin and head towards the S-Bahn via the Jewish Memorial. Row upon
Berlin Wall Remanent
Complete with apt graffiti
row of tomb like pillars fill the space. On a warmer day we would have liked to wander through them for a while but the frost is nipping at our heels so we head underground and off in the direction of Check Point Charlie.
From Postdamer Platz we set off towards the check point following the brick footprint in the road indicating where the Berlin Wall once stood. About halfway there we reach a section of the wall itself - the largest remaining section of the original Berlin Wall. It’s covered in graffiti and the buildings around it are filled with bullet holes. It’s a sobering sight.
We visit some more of the key locations around the area and take our time reading the detailed information posted up for visitors to learn more about the city’s history. We’ve visited a lot of famous places in Europe so far and read many tragic stories but these are rarely as recent as the Berlin wall- which, this year, is commemorating 20 years since its fall.
While warming up over lunch, we read some more about the Christmas markets around Berlin and decide to travel to Charlottenburg where the markets
are based around the palace grounds.
These markets are incredibly well put together, very romanic and filled with lovely home made goodies to inspire the savvy Christmas shopper. However, the welcoming atmosphere of the markets we visited yesterday is somewhat lacking so we decide to move on before it gets too cold to see what the ‘most popular markets in Berlin’ have to offer.
These are based around the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church which was badly damaged in a bomb raid but has since been partially rebuilt in to a grand memorial. It actually makes a great setting for some festive cheer and we find a booth tucked away inside a makeshift restaurant to enjoy curry wurst (Berlin’s speciality), Bratwurst and more Gluhwein. There’s a different bunch of sweets on offer so we share Dutch pancakes covered in icing sugar for dessert. Yum.
Satisfied, we agree we’ve really had our fill of German markets and are content that we’ll recall these happy Christmas memories here for many years to come.
Merry Christmas everyone!!
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