20 Years of Travel #5: Berlin, Germany


Next up on my 20 Years of Travel series is one of my favorite cities: Berlin. I first visited Berlin when Germany hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2006. I cannot even begin toBerlin Pictures 106Berlin Pictures 107 describe how vibrant and alive the atmosphere in Berlin was during this time. Welcoming us to Berlin as we disembarked the train at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof train station were crowds of Germans singing and cheering, for their team had just won their game. I knew right then that our time in Berlin was going to be a wild ride. We got to see the Brazil v Japan game, which was an amazing experience. I loved every minute from the energy of the city to all the friendly people.

Berlin Pictures 042

Things to see and do in Berlin:

  • Visit the Reichstag (see photo at the top of the page) – The Reichstag is the German Parliament building. On the right side of the building (if you are facing the front of it) is a moving memorial to all the political leaders who were assassinated for fighting against the Nazi party. You can reserve your visit to the Reichstag by visiting this page.
  • Berlin Wall – What remains of the Berlin Wall that divided Berlin into East and West 1780750_10151950832792986_1162444489_nBerlin after WWII has now basically become an art installation with displays of political statements, as well as statements of love and peace.
  • Brandenburg Gate – This monument was built in the 18th century and has since been the site for many historical and significant political events.


  • Checkpoint Charlie – After WWII, Berlin was divided. The Soviet Union took control of East Berlin. This is how you can still tell if you are in East Berlin…check out the pedestrian traffic lights:
    The United States took control of West Berlin. They set up a border check called Checkpoint Charlie, which is now an outdoor museum display.


  • Museum Island – This is a tiny island in the middle of Berlin that houses five museums, which are all worth a visit:
    • Altes Museum
    • Alte Nationalgalerie
    • Neues Museum
    • Pergamonmuseum
    • Bode-Museum11209378_10152871875932986_239430252201884767_n
  • Berliner Dom – This is a church that honors the reformationists of the 16th century, which include martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin. The Dom is located near Museum Island.
  • Gemäldegalerie – This gallery houses stunning artwork by famous painters such as Raphael, Rembandt, Caravaggio and Vermeer.
  • Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – One of the things that makes Berlin such an interesting and special place to visit is that it does not deny its horrific past. I believe the memorials, such as this one, represent a peaceful future where we learn from the evils of the past.


  • DDR Museum – This is an interactive museum that represents life in the Soviet East Germany. It is located near Museum Island and is definitely worth a visit.Side trips from Berlin:

Day Trips from Berlin:

  • Dresden – The city of Dresden is less than 200km outside of Berlin and accessible by train. During February 13-15th in 1945, Dresden was heavily bombed and almost10830921_10152770679987986_4315638381600018905_o complete destroyed by the Allies. Almost every building was damaged or demolished. This includes the three sites we visited: the museum complex called the Zwinger, the Royal Palace (pictured below) and the Frauenkirche (pictured on the right). The Zwinger includes a picture gallery, a porcelain collection and the royal cabinet of mathematical and physical instruments. Fortunately, even though the Zwinger was destroyed, the collection was removed prior to the bombing and saved. The baroque architecture gives Dresden an ashen look, which I find fitting after the WWII bombings.


  • Sachsenhausen – During WWII, this was the site of a concentration camp that held mostly political prisoners. During the war, this camp housed a few notableBerlin Pictures 082 individuals including Stalin’s eldest son, who ended up dying at this camp under uncertain circumstances. However, our guide leans toward the theory that Stalin was offered a trade – his son for two high-standing Nazi officials that had been captured by the Russians. The theory states that Stalin refused this deal, and his son was dead a short time later. Another individual that was held at Sachsenhausen, Martin Niemöller wrote the following quote that has been immortalized in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Berlin Pictures 083
  • Potsdam – This town is a short train ride just outside of Berlin. It is home to the Sanssouci Palace. This was the summer palace of Frederick the Great, who was the King of Prussia from 1740-1786.


As you can see, there is so much to do and see in and around Berlin. It is a city rich with culture and history. My husband and I have been to Berlin multiple times and each time we have an unique experience. This is a very special city and 100% worth a visit.


BERLIN, GERMANY (January 2014)



The adventures continue with a long weekend trip to Berlin, Germany. My husband and I wanted to go and visit some friends there. I had been to Berlin only once before during the FIFA World Cup in 2006. I was hoping to see a bit more of Berlin than I was able to the last visit, and I was not disappointed.

After arriving and checking into our hotel the first evening, we were greeted by fireworks as we walked toward the Reichstag, which is the German Parliament building. I always see fireworks as sign that you are exactly where you are meant to be. We had advance tickets to walk inside the dome of the Reichstag. It was gorgeous. We could not go into the meeting rooms, but we could see inside them. From there we went to grab food and beer at Potsdamer Platz. I was secretly wishing that we had had more time, so I could see Gravity at the IMAX theater there. We don’t have an IMAX theater where we live in Lucca, Italy. Alas, that was not part of our plan, but we enjoyed dinner and drinks with our friends just as much. German beer continues to be as delicious as ever!

Before I mention what we saw on our second day in Berlin, let me tell you how bitterly cold it was. We were so unfortunate with the timing of this trip. Temperatures definitely dipped below 0 degrees every day we were there. We just could not do a lot of the walking outside, so our second day was spent mostly inside. We went to Museum Island and visited the Pergamon Museum. The Ishtar Gate and the Pergamon Altar are a couple of main highlights of this museum and well worth seeing. We took a museum break to appease my addiction for literature by visiting a large bookstore that had books in all different languages including English. I could have spent the whole day in there. After lunch we went to the DDR Museum. It is a unique museum. If you have ever been to the Spy Museum in Washington, DC, this museum is very similar with lots of interactive instruments to help you learn a bit of what life was like living in the GDR. It felt a little too romanticized for our taste. We braved the cold to walk the East Side Gallery before dark. It is very impressive with all the artwork, but the negative temperatures forced us inside quickly where we consumed more delicious food and drinks.

Our final full day in Berlin was another cold one. We started by going to the Gemäldegalerie. I have learned to love art like never before and truly enjoyed this art gallery. We spent many hours there. I enjoyed seeing so many paintings by German artists. I haven’t seen much by German artists before. My favorite German paintings were done by Albrecht Altdorfer and Lucas Cranach. I also enjoyed work by Aert van der Neer and the paintings of Rome by Giovanni Paolo Panini. Three main highlights would be Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Nederlandse Spreekwoorden (Netherlandish Proverbs), Johannes Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Pearl Necklace, and Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn’s Self-Portrait with Velvet Beret. I enjoyed many other works as well, but I will let you go experience them for yourself. We then spent the afternoon braving the negative temperatures again to see the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, the site of Hitler’s Bunker, and Checkpoint Charlie. It took a while to dethaw after that adventure.

The next morning it was snowing as we left Berlin. We haven’t had much of a winter in Italy, so it was a little nice to see snow, but one weekend of it was enough. The cold was too much. Hopefully we will see Berlin again when it is warmer.

East Side Gallery - Berlin Wall

East Side Gallery – Berlin Wall