Last week El Niño had a swim meet in Berlin, which we used as an excuse to spend several days exploring. Berlin is newly minted as one of my favorite cities in the world. It has so much character and style and the oddest charm - kind of communist chic. So much of the old Soviet style is evident in the Eastern section, but modern sensibilities are taking over and making for a fantastically unique mix.
I need to warn you now that we did not visit Checkpoint Charlie or Das Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) or see any remnants of the wall or any of the new memorials to opposition politicians or Holocaust victims. It's not that I'm not interested in history or Nazi sites. It's just that I'm that tourist. I will go to Paris and never see the Eiffel Tower. I only saw the Mall in D.C. briefly and because I tagged along with others for whom it was a priority. I have an interest in visiting a place like Auschwitz where I believe the experience in person will be completely different than what you get from a printed account. But, to stand in line to look at the outside of the building where a handful of nutjobs dreamed up The Final Solution? Or to scurry all the way across town to get a glimpse of a place where there used to be a wall? No, thanks.
I was more interested in exploring the fabulously hip Prenzlauer Berg district and Berlin's storied flea markets. The kids were far more interested in checking out the zoo. So, we did what we wanted to do and we had an absolutely lovely time. I took a pathetic number of pictures, but here they are:
The sheer amount of graffiti - particularly in East Berlin - was astounding. And the quality was fantastic. I loved the way the artistic youth have absolutely reclaimed their city. Without it, the whole place would still look a lot like this:
Some people seemed determined to keep their spaces art free, and they were lovely too. I can't imagine the battle it requires, though.
There were so many cute shops and little cafes and restaurants of all different world cuisines! I wish I was less self-conscious about taking pictures inside establishments but I have a thing, what can I say.
Suffice it to say that El Niño got his sushi fix, I got my adorable eclectic shop fix and Cheeseball got very tired. After that, we hopped over to the slightly more tony Hackescher Markt. There was a cool Japanese department store called Muji of which I again took no pictures, but we loved exploring all the stuff. Their selection was definitely of the modern, sleek stylish Japanese variety rather than the kawaii, colorful adorable Japanese variety. Less interesting for the kids, but I loved it.
We wandered by this gorgeous synagogue, guarded by three fully armed Polizei.
Then stumbled on this beautiful building on the river.
And that was day one!