Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Berlin Christmas Markets

Since the teenager's American school here in England didn't have classes on Thanksgiving Thursday or Friday, we decided to visit Berlin for the long weekend. I must admit I wasn't as impressed with the city as I was with Cologne, but that's probably because we bombed the hell out of Berlin during the war. And then that whole wall and cold war era certainly didn't help it rebound. Per our tour guide, the communists levelled many of the old buildings on their side, so much of what we saw had only been built since the wall came down in 1989.

Checkpoint Charlie, above and below

Our tour guide told us about the Trabi Cars, made from plastic rather than metal. You can't miss them - they sound like a sickly lawnmower and put out quite a lot of exhaust.

One of the few remaining sections of the old Berlin Wall

Below is the most famous parking lot in Berlin, the site where Hitler's bunker was located and he spent the last days of the war hiding underground like a trapped rat before committing suicide.

Berlin's Holocaust memorial above and the Brandenburg gate below

Above is a picture of the Reichstag

The Christmas market we most enjoyed was Gendarmenmarkt, just a couple blocks from where we were staying in what was East Berlin.

As expected, I worked in a bit of retail therapy at the Kathe Wohlfahrt store. And added another gluhwein mug to my collection I started last year in Cologne.

Planning Ahead

Three guesses where the teenager and I are going for spring break, and the first two don't count! 

The Waterloo Loop

On their last full day in England, I took my sister and niece on what I refer to as the Waterloo loop. Disembarking at Waterloo station where we arrive on the commuter train, we crossed the street for them to ride the London Eye.

Then we crossed the bridge to check out Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. After a stop at one of the iconic phone booths, we strolled through St. James Park and ended up at Buckingham Palace for them to get a gander at the queen's residence that will soon be covered up in scaffolding for a reno. 

Then we headed up the Mall to Trafalgar Square where we visited the National Gallery. 

Just like the British Museum, we were treated to lots of butts, boobs and penises on display.

On our walk back to Waterloo, we stopped for a photo in front of the horse guards. Dontcha love the sign? It makes me sad that not everyone is polite and respectful of these soldiers and their horses. I can't help but wonder how many obnoxious tourists have been kicked and bitten over the years. I've seen lots of idiots get really close and the soldiers have had to tell them to back away. So yeah, if you're ignoring the warning and making an ass of yourself, you deserve whatever treatment the horse decides to dish out.

The Family Highlights Tour

While my sister and niece were here visiting, I tried to mix up the touring schedule. One morning we visited the British Museum, then headed over to Harrod's in the afternoon for a little retail therapy. My favourites at the British Museum are the Ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman rooms, with all of the amazing mummies and statuary. The Brits were quite adept at finding fabulous things and then stealing shipping them back home.

We spent another day in Windsor touring the castle and having a lovely late lunch at the Duchess of Cambridge pub, complete with a roaring fire and Christmas decor in addition to a nice view of the castle ramparts.