Thursday, October 20, 2011

Three Generations in Berlin

With Nana & Mom at the Berlin Wall. March 2010.

  It's been a while since I made an entry to the travel portion of the blog. Guess I got a little side-tracked by games, and various other topics. Needless to say, traveling is one of my favorite things to talk about. So we're back in the Euro-travel business today!

  I played in Germany during the 2009-2010 season. And during my eight-month stay there, one of the coolest things happened: my mom and my grandma came to visit.

  My mom (and dad) had last visited me overseas during my second year in Italy (2005). Nana had never been to Europe. She had never even had a passport. So when I signed to play in Wolfenbüttel in July of 2009, we tossed around the idea of the two of them visiting at some point during the season.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
  Wolfenbüttel is a fairly small town located 2-2.5 hours southwest of Berlin (depends on how fast you drive on the autobahn!). Throughout the year, I managed to venture up there a few times. Once in December when the Christmas Markets were open (which were AMAZING by the way -- never experienced anything like them before), and another time when my team had a long weekend off.

  After seeing what Berlin had to offer, I knew it would be on the itinerary once my mom and Nana made it to Germany.

  At our first opportunity (first off day I had), we jumped in the car and headed to Berlin. I probably scared both my mom and Nana on the autobahn, but you know what they say, when in Rome..

  First on the list of sights-to-see was the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. I thought this was one of the most spectacular sights in Berlin.

  Originally built in the 1890s, the church was badly-damaged in a bombing raid in 1943 during World War II. The damage was never repaired, and can still be seen to this day on the old spire from the original church. It's even more incredible to see at night as it's light with purple and blue lights.

Kaiser Wilhelm Church at night.
  Outside of the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate is probably the most recognizable monument in Berlin. It is the only remaining gate of a series through which Berlin was once entered. The gate is the monumental entry to Unter den Linden, the famous street lined with linden trees in Berlin center.

  The plaza just in front of the gate is called Pariser Platz. During World War II, all of the buildings surrounding the prestigious Pariser Platz were destroyed. The only one left standing was Brandenburg Gate (though it was badly damaged, and since been restored).

  In today's Berlin, Pariser Platz has been rebuilt and is now home to the American, British, French, Russian, and Hungarian embassies, along with several museums, banks, hotels, and of course Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts (sorry, couldn't resist).

In Pariser Platz, with Brandenburg Gate behind.
Brandenburger Tor.
  Just outside the Brandenburg Gate, is the 'Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe'. The name leaves nothing to the imagination, and being in the the memorial is equally as haunting.

Inside the Jewish Memorial maze.
  The site is covered with 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern. Some of the slabs can be as tall as 11 or 12 feet (from what I remember), leaving you to feel very isolated and vulnerable when you're inside the maze. The memorial was recently constructed (finished December 2004), and is definitely worth a visit when you're in Berlin.

  A short walk from Pariser Platz and Brandenburg Gate is a portion of the original Berlin Wall in Potsdamer Platz. A plaza that was once bi-sected by the Wall, Potsdamer Platz now a bustling metropolitan area.

  Seeing the crumbling/graffiti-covered portions of the Wall amidst the brand new, modern buildings in the surrounding plaza is quite a sight. It keeps the history of Germany and Berlin (and the world for that matter) at the forefront of your mind.

Inside the memorial with the US Embassy, Brandenburg Gate, & Reichstag behind.
  The day we visited Berlin was a miserable day. It was rainy and cold. Since we only had the one day to sight-see, my mom, grandma, and I pushed through the nasty weather to see as much of Berlin as we could.

  I had already seen most of the sights in previous visits, but wanted my mom and Nana to
experience the same as I had.

The Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz.
  The real fun began when we got caught in a particularly bad downpour as we were making our way from Potsdamer Platz to Checkpoint Charlie.

  The easiest/most-efficient way to travel in a European city is by foot. Traffic and parking becomes too frustrating. So if you're able, your best bet is to walk. When the downpour hit, we had been on the go, and on our feet for most of the morning and afternoon.

  Even as Oregonians who are used to walking in a little rain, all three of us needed a break from the elements. So our eyes were peeled for any place we could take shelter, and rest a bit.

  Just when I think my 80+ year-young Nana had had her fill of walking, my mom spotted a Starbucks a few blocks away. We had found our rest-stop!

Checkpoint Charlie. Middle of a downpour, so no one else was around!
  After refueling, drying off, and getting our game plan together for the rest of the afternoon, we headed back out to see the rest of Berlin.

  Checkpoint Charlie, while not overly impressive, is a must-visit. It was the most-famous Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War.

  It's funny how you hear names of monuments or events when you're growing up, but you really have no idea what they are. This was how I was with Checkpoint Charlie. So it was great to be able to put an image with the name I had heard so much about.

  Our walking continued on to Unter den Linden, the famous boulevard where two pedestrian malls are lined with linden trees. It's a picturesque walk in the heart of Berlin, where you can do some shopping and also visit numerous other sights. Needless to say our day had been a long and tiring one, so our tour was coming to an end.

Mom & Nana on Unter den Linden.
Berliner Dom. Built in the 1400s.

  But we had one last stop to make. You can't visit Berlin without making a stop at the East Side Gallery. The gallery is an international memorial for freedom and consists of 105 murals along the East Side of the Berlin Wall.

  The memorial lasts for 1.3 kilometers, and is made up of beautifully creative paintings by artists from all over the world. One of my favorite murals was the one with the American flag I have pictured above. We thought that was a great picture to take; three generations at the Berlin Wall.

  The East Side Gallery is a place you can probably spend hours, taking in all the paintings. For me, the gallery was one the most memorable things about Berlin. 

  There is so much more to see and experience in Berlin. But when you only have a day to do it, you have to hit the major attractions. The culture and the history that comes together in the city makes for an amazing and memorable experience. It was a special thing to be able to share it with my mom and grandma for the day!

   For me when I'm overseas, it's always fun to have family and friends come visit. They get to see what I do on a daily basis, and how I live while I'm in Europe. I love being able to show them around my 'home' for the time-being, and give them an experience they might not have otherwise had.

  The time I had in Germany with my mom and Nana was as extra-special, and something I won't soon forget! I was so glad they were able to visit.


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