March 15, 2019

Things to do in Berlin

Things to do in Berlin

Guten Tag!  So living several months in Germany means going to Berlin is a must! Thankfully, my program actually included two week long school excursions to Paris and Berlin. After Berlin was our fall break too, so essentially it was like getting 2 free weeks of vacation (I know, I know you're probably wondering if I ever actually did school work. I promise I did!).  Berlin is amazing! It is rich in history! Apparently, it has also officially past Rome as the third most visited city in Europe. Plus there are so many things to do in Berlin

Now, because it was a school trip, it was pretty go go go for us. A lot of our destinations were also landscape architecture based, which was really nice!  I love being able to go see how different examples of landscape architecture are accomplished. However, I wish we could have had more time to and explore the museums, but that just means I'll have to go again! Since I am on a role giving y'all my European destination itineraries, I thought I would also share the fun things to do in Berlin when you travel there!

Text and city skyline

1. Berlin Wall: Oh you knew this would be on the list.  The Berlin Wall is such a part of Berlin that it would be hard to miss it if you're in the city. It's really interesting to walk around the city and see were the wall once was.  Standing over the line with one foot in East Berlin and one foot in West Berlin is such a surreal experience. The East Side Gallery is collection of over 100 different paintings on a stretch of the wall. It is super cool and I highly recommend seeing it. 

Standing over the Berlin wall marker

Piece of Berlin Wall

Touching the Berlin Wall

2. Amplemann Pedestrian Cross Lights: Speaking of East and West Berlin, wanna know how to tell which side you are on? Look at the pedestrian cross lights! If the lights have the iconic amplemann then you are actually in East Berlin! These guys are an iconic staple of Eastern Germany during the DDR I was told. They are really neat!

Pedestrian Crosswalk light in Berlin

3.Check Point Charlie:  Check Point Charlie was the infamous passing point between the American West sector of Berlin into the East Berlin.  The stories from some of the stuff that happened at the check point are crazy.  Our guide told us that one person modified the engine of their car so that the fuel tank could hold a person.  He apparently had exactly enough gas to cross over and cross back with no delays. Others would would wait for hours in the building, just to be denied entry. The original building is actually at a museum, but there is a photo opportunity where it once stood. 

Sign leaving the American sector of Berlin

Check point charlie building

4. Brandonburg Gate:  Historically, this is the old city gate and was the back drop for where President Regan told Mr. Gorbachev to tear down the wall.  There is so much history surrounding this one piece of architecture, it is surreal.  Plus it is a great instagram photo op!

Brandonburg Gate at sunset

Statue on Brandonburg Gate

5. Hotel Adlon: Conveniently located right next to the  Brandonburg Gate, is the hotel that Micheal Jackson famously, or should I say infamously, dangled his baby out of the window.  Honestly, its a giggle worthy must see. 

Hotel Adlon

6. Holocaust Memorial: Not too far from the Brandonburg Gate is the Holocaust Memorial, or the Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe. It was designed with the intention to make one feel uneasy, trapped, and lost as you walk through it.  I think this is a very powerful memorial to encourage reflection on what took place.

Holocaust Memorial stones

7. Hitler's Bunker: Ok, so this isn't actually something you can go see, but across from the memorial is a parking lot.  That parking lot was the location of where Hitler died supposedly. Interesting fact but lets move on to better things to see...

8. Explore the Museum Island:  The Museum Island is actually a UNESCO world heritage site with the Pergamon Museum, Bode-Museum, New Museum, Old National Gallery, and the Old Museum.  of course just across the river is other museums such as the DDR museum (100% recommend going there)

9. Explore the architecture:  Call me an architecture nerd, but there is a lot of amazing architecture around Berlin.  From the Cathedral to the New Guardhouse there is a lot of nice building to see. Also, if you look closely, a lot of the buildings will have hole shaped damages to the exterior.  These are bullet holes from World War II.  It's pretty interesting how history shows itself everywhere.

Church roof

Berlin Cathedral roof

Parliment building in Berlin

Berlin skyline

Humboldt University building

Roof of mall

Sculpture in pond

Damage from bullet

10. Alexanderplatz:  When you think of Berlin I am sure that the TV Tower comes to mind.  Chances are you'll end up at Alexanderplatz no matter what because it is the transportation hub for the city center. Funny story for y'all: During some free time we decided before heading over to the DDR museum we would grab a quick bit at the train station.  This beggar comes up to us and ask for money, and my friend tells him no. He got SO mad!! We all had to just start running!! I'm sorry, but I am definitely not going to give my money to someone who threatens me!

Alexandraplatz sign and tv tower

subway in berlin

Sign of Alexandraplatz

Tv Tower in skyline

Tv tower at sunset

11. Tempelhofer Feld:  This abandoned airport, is now a very unique park in Berlin.  There is a lot that takes place at this park from kite flying, skate boarding, mini golf art instillations, children's circus, you name it chances are its there! One aspect that really stood out to me was how they were also utilizing the space as an area to help house refugees.

Field at park

Old airport entrance

Mini golf outside

12. Park am Gleisdriek: This park was pretty modern and interesting.  There was a skate park, exercise areas, community gardens, built in trampolines (yes these were as fun as they sound).  The graffiti also added a nice touch surprisingly.  I found a drawing of Finn from Adventure Time on a bench even!

Finn from adventure time

Berlin Train in sky

Skate ramp

Girl bouncing on trampoline

13. ufa Fabrik:  This area was our last stop in Berlin before we headed off for Fall break.  The ufa Fabrik is a sustainable cultural project in the Tempelhof district.  The community places emphasis on green infrastructure such as solar panels, green roofs, and water re-use.  We got to tour the top of one of the green roofs to see how it was working.  If you're interested in green infrastructure I would check out this community. They even have restaurants that you can eat at.

ufa fabrik site plan

ufa fabrik bike on wall

green roof

14. Festival of Lights: Finally, I'm gonna this post was a bright bang! (see what I did there?) We happened to go to Berlin in early October when the Festival of Lights was happening. Essentially, this festival invites artists from around the world to display their light art instillations on to different landmarks around Berlin.  Most of these lights tell a story, so you can sit and watch as a story unfold on the buildings.  If you can arrange to go to Berlin in early October, I recommend doing it! I will never forget what it was like to see the city glowing beautifully with art. 

building lit up

humboldt university lit up

staue lit up

europe is for lovers

festival of lights sign

girl with light on face

berlin letters

I hope this helps give you some ideas of things you can do in Berlin if you go! Let me know in the comments if you have ever been to Berlin, and if so what is your must see place!

March 14, 2019

48 Hours in Brussels

Howdy! If you ever find yourself living in West Germany, take a train to Brussels. It's a pretty inexpensive train and not very long ride.  I actually missed by first train and had to buy another ticket which wasn't too pricey (although don't be like me and miss your train). Important to note: if you buy an ICE train ticket make sure it is the flexible one. It cost around 12 dollars more but it's worth every penny. Anyways, Brussels doesn't have a lot of tourist attractions, which actually made it very nice because there wasn't as many people around.  With that being said, my friends and I definitely had a lot of fun doing some activities around the city.  I wanted to share with y'all the perfect ideal weekend in Brussels on a budget of course!

1. Manneken Pis: Honestly, you can't go to Brussels and not go see the Manneken Pis (additionally there is Jeanneken Pis).  The Manneken Pis is a water fountain of a little, naked boy peeing! The city even dresses him up in different costumes. There is always a pretty large crowd around him, but there is a female version a few street overs and she doesn't have quite as much of a draw from what I saw.  You can buy a lot of souvenirs of the Manneken Pis. 

2. Belgium Waffles, Fries, and Chocolate: Belgium is pretty famous for three foods, all of which you can eat in Brussels!  Belgium waffles are truly live up to the hype. There are lots of different places where you can get these waffles at, but we went to this one place where we could customize the waffle with fruit and Belgium chocolate. Speaking of Belgium chocolate, you must try it! To be honest, it was better than Swiss chocolate! There are shops everywhere that sell Belgium chocolate, so no worries about finding a particular one. Of course, let us not forget the fries! Fries with mayo (don't knock it till you try it) are a staple in Brussels! I believe after all, that fries were invented there!

3. Comic Book Route: The comic book route is essentially a path with wall murals that celebrate different comic book artist from Brussels. Did you know the Adventures of Tintin are Belgium?! You can find a lot of different tours within the city or on Airbnb that will walk around the route so you can see all the murals.  If I were to go back to Brussels I would 100% spend more time doing that.

4. Atomium: This Brussels landmark was built for the world fair in 1958 and depicts an atom.  It's super cool to look at, and it is nearby several other big tourist attractions and the convention center (although we just went over to look at Atomium, because everything else was more pricey) You can go up into Atomium as well and get a really nice panoramic view of the city! 

5. New Chattouille: This cat cafe was hands down one of my favorite things I did in Brussels. Y'all know how much I love cats.  You can order a delicious latte with a paw print, and pet kitties as you drink! Does life get better than that? Also, the prices were pretty affordable, and if you happen to really fall in love with one of the kitties you can adopt them! 

6. L'Atelier en Ville Cafe: This cafe was one my host mom suggested. She told me their frappes were to die for and that she had a friend she met who works there. She was spot on with this suggestion! The cafe was so cool! The drinks were good! Plus the sold cool art and clothes in the cafe. I purchased this really beautiful wood print for only 10 dollars. I wish I had a picture of it to show, but its on my wall. There is also a nice little outdoor courtyard, but the weather wasn't great while we were there so had to pass on that.

7. Vintage 15 Cent Clothing Store: We just happened upon this store next to L'Atelier en Ville.  It was a resale shop where every kilogram was 15 cents.  I found the cutest Inuit sweater for only 2 dollars.  It is an interesting find for sure. I think I could have spent a lot more time there (and money lol)!

8. Elevator to the Sky &  Long Red Bench: After leaving this shop, we went down an elevator to the "downtown" part of the city. The elevator is completely free. From the top you get a really nice panoramic view of Brussels. After exiting the elevator on the bottom, there is the really neat long, red bench. Not the most practical, but certainly very cool!

9. Palace: The palace in Brussels is absolutely gorgeous. Not too much of a tourist attraction, but there is also a very nice park right next to it.

10. The Grand Place: Of course you have to go to the Grand Place! It is the central square of the city and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Our Airbnb was very close by, so we walked around for a while.  There was even a singer and fiddler out in the rain preforming and everyone started dancing and singing to them! If I remember right they performed "Celebrate". It is a memory I am very fond of.  Apparently, spontaneous performers are pretty common too.  Several other classmates had similar experiences at the Grand Place.  If you are a beer drinker, there is a pub on the square that you can get a whole spread of drinks to sample.  I don't drink, but my two friends got it and the beers were apparently very good from what I was told.  Also there seems to be a lot of festivals that go on just behind the Grand Place. We happened upon one, along with a festival food market.  It was a ton of fun!

11. McDonald's: This suggestion is for the Americans.  If you're missing ice in your drinks, go to the McDonald's in Brussels. They will actually give you ice! Not a single other place I went in Europe gave ice with drinks. Plus you can get cheap and good macarons.