On the morning of Friday, November 25th, I set out for Berlin. Nine days this time. I arrived that afternoon and made my way down to Bec’s apartment. She was at work so I got settled in. That evening, I met Bec and a few of her colleagues at the Weihnachtsmarkt vor dem Schloss Charlottenburg (Christmas market at Charlottenburg Palace) for some gluhwein and German food.
The next morning, we had one mission, to find a Christmas tree…oh, and some firewood as well. We caught the bus to the nearest hardware store and found a tree stand, lights, a few decorations, and some compressed wood logs. We were laden down pretty good from the bus stop back to Bec’s, but we made it. We then found a nice tannenbaum (Christmas tree) near Alexanderplatz. Although we did see some people walking away with their tree, Bec chose such a large tree that it was going to have to be delivered (OK, maybe it was me). That night, our Danish Nordmann fir tree was delivered as promised but the trunk didn’t fit the stand so I was off on another mission to upsize the stand. In the end, we got it standing and Bec set to the decorating.
On Sunday morning, Bec and I caught the 2 hour train to Dresden, the capital city of the German state of Saxony, near the Czech Republic border. We were going to experience Germany’s oldest Christmas market, the Striezelmarkt. We spent the day wandering the city centre. We made a stop at the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault), renowned as one of Europe’s richest treasure chambers and enjoyed some glühwein near the Frauenkirche. We crossed the Elbe River and admired the skyline at dusk before taking in the Augustusmarkt. The Striezelmarkt was our last stop and we picked up some of Dresden’s famous Christmas bread, Stollen. It took us quite a while to warm up on the train back to Berlin as we’d been outside all day!
Bec had to report in for work that week so I filled my days with Christmas shopping, replenishing the fire wood, eating bratwurst for lunch, and cooking a few dinners. I visited the Designpanoptikum: Surrealist Museum of Industrial Objects and was given a personal tour by the very enthusiastic owner/photographer, Vlad Korneev. I also spent some time at the visitor centre of The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Bec and I worked on the Christmas letter and cards that week as well.
It was the National Day weekend in Abu Dhabi, so our good friends Jenn and Spence flew to Munich on Wednesday, November 30th and spent the night. They flew to Berlin the next afternoon and Bec was able to pop over to the airport to greet them. That night, we lit a nice fire and had cheese fondue in the apartment. Spence and I stepped out for a nightcap at the nearby Berliner Republic while the ladies enjoyed the fire.
On Friday, Jenn, Spence, and I caught the train to Alexanderplatz to join a free walking tour. The tour started at 10:00am and took us past the TV Tower, Marienkirche, Berlin Dom and the Lustgarten on Museumsinsel. From there, we strolled along Unter den Linden and stopped at the Neue Wache and Humboldt University, then south to Gendarmenmarkt. We walked through The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe before ending the tour at Brandenburg Gate around noon. We made the short jaunt to the Reichstag and then stopped for a gluhwein in Potsdamer Platz before our next activity. I had taken the liberty of booking tickets to a museum in one of the few remaining WWII bunkers left in Berlin, the Anhalter Bunker. The bunker was located next to one of Berlin’s finest train stations which was destroyed in the war. Its main front façade still stands as a reminder similar to that of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche. We spent over an hour in the air raid shelter and its new exhibit on the Führerbunker was quite interesting.
That night, we met Bec at the WeihnactsZauber Gendarmenmarkt (yes, another Christmas market) nestled between the French Huguenot and German Protestant churches. It was super busy as it was the first Friday it was open. We toured the market, Gluhwein in hand, and the girls enjoyed one of Jenn’s favorite German dishes, Spätzle, while the boys went for the Bratwurst.
We all went out for a nice breakfast on Saturday at a place called CHIPPS. We made a stop at the Rausch Schokoladenhaus and loaded up on German chocolate. We then visited Checkpoint Charlie and saw a remnant of the wall outside the Topographie of Terror before heading over to the KaDeWe department store. After a full day, we stopped in at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche for the usual glühwein and tried a delicious Hungarian flatbread called langos. It was horrifying to see the lorry attack on the same market just 2 weeks later.
I flew home the next morning but Jenn and Spence stayed for the day to check out one last Christmas market in Alexanderplatz. If one thing can be said about the Germans in December, it’s that they sure know how to get into the Christmas spirit!