The Berlin Series:
- Berlin Day 1: Travel & Copenhagen
- Berlin Day 2: Brandenburg Gate-Reichstag-Checkpoint Charlie
- Berlin Day 3: Food Tour, East Side Gallery, and the Hasselhoff “Museum”
- Berlin Day 4: Museum Island, River Cruise, and the Ice Bar
- Berlin Day 5: Trip to Barsinghausen
- Berlin Day 6: Tempelhof Airport and Adjusted Travel Plans
- Berlin Day 7: Bonus Day in Berlin and Travel Home
Berlin Day 1 (March 10-11, 2023)
Traveling has become a bit of a focus for our family. There are plenty of people who go to way more exotic places, but for a humble Midwestern family of four, we’ve been to some cool spots. We could use our budget in other ways – putting more in retirement, kitchen renovations, etc. – but travel has lately been a luxury we’ve permitted ourselves.
Years ago, the “big” vacation was an every-other-year event. Then as the kids got older, we were willing to go every year because we figure time is running out. Then COVID hit and put us on pause for a couple of years. Now, scheduling is our limiting factor. Cole went to college last Fall, and we were pretty excited when we found out his Spring Break lined up with Harper’s.
I don’t entirely recall how we landed on Berlin as this year’s destination. But, I know Amy offered up a few suggestions, including warm places like maybe another trip to Hawaii. Cole took several years of German, and we’ve wanted to see more of Germany, so Berlin became our destination.
Cheap airfare is kind of Amy’s jam, and routes with long layovers end up being less expensive. So, the itinerary involved an overnight in Copenhagen on the way out and an overnight in Stockholm on the way back. (The Stockholm stop was not, ultimately to take place – more on that later). Those visits of something less than a day with an overnight end up being a great way to see a little more on your trip, so we see them as more advantage than detriment.
On Thursday, March 9th, Amy did the marathon drive down to Bloomington and back to retrieve Cole. On Friday the 10th, we were able to work most of the day, get things squared away, and then head for Chicago O’Hare for the 11 p.m. flight. Everything closes down at the international terminal at about 9 p.m, so just like the beginning of our Portugal trip, we got drinks and snacks from a little kiosk and set up at a big table in the food court. (The same table as before Portugal, if I’m not mistaken.) Through the magic of modern technology, we were able to watch IU play in the Big Ten tournament on Amy’s computer. They sealed the win over Maryland just as we were taking off.
The flight was smooth, everyone got at least a little sleep, and we arrived in Copenhagen at something like 1 p.m. local. (I bettered myself, intellectually, by watching Orange County and Hobbs & Shaw on the flight entertainment center.) We checked into a Clarion next to the airport, had a bit of a rest, and then took a train into the city center. A bit of entertainment on the train as the conductor cited a girl for not having a valid ticket. I didn’t understand any of the words exchanged, but from tone and context, I got the idea that the girl gave the conductor a pass she knew was expired; and, when that didn’t work, she pretended not to understand how the system worked. After the conductor cited her, he stopped checking tickets, so ours never got scanned.
When we got to the city center, we briefly walked along the Strøget, a pedestrian mall, but pretty quickly turned around and walked over to Nyhavn, a waterfront canal district with shops, entertainment, and colorful houses. Cole & I got a hot dog from a street vendor that was served in a sort of baguette while Amy & Harper went for some fresh made churros. For bonus points, a street vendor was handing out free glogg samples while we were waiting for the girls to get their churros.
Not really having any firm destination in mind, we decided to make our way to the famous Little Mermaid statue which was about a mile walk. It’s at this point, I’ll note the Danes’ commitment to cycling. The weather was not great. It was pretty cold, a little windy, and occasionally had some light precipitation mixed in. There were still a lot of cyclists out there. On our way to the park, we happened across the Amalienborg palace with its imperial guards. These layover tourist excursions make us more superficial than usual, so I know we left a lot of history on the table, but just coming across this sort of thing without expecting to is very cool. At the Little Mermaid statue, we took our turn amongst the significant tourist presence – even with less than ideal weather in March – and got a picture. Not having much more to do in that area, we headed back toward the City Center where we had reservations at Restaurant Karla for some traditional Danish food. The walk was another 2 miles, so we were foot sore, cold, travel weary, and ready for some nourishment!
Even though we were a bit early, there was a table available. The place is cozy and has the feel of a place that locals probably go to. Along with a house pilsner, I got the roast pork, and it was delicious. Sometimes pork can be hit or miss, tending toward the dry if you’re not careful. This was perfect. I was feeling a little unsettled and maybe not as ambitious with my food choices as I might have otherwise been. I chalked it up to travel, but I think I was shaking off the remnants of a cold or some other ailment that I thought had mostly passed me by the previous week. I will say that it was not cheap. Our family of four managed to drop what amounted to $200. We weren’t being any too cautious with our ordering – getting drinks and desserts on top of everything else. And the use of the Danish krone made the prices a little more obscure to us, clocking in at $0.14 krone to the dollar. We called it monopoly money since the conversion required a little mental math. That said, I don’t regret it at all. Great food and service in a place that we may never visit again.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel. After some navigating some geographic restrictions on broadcasts, Amy set up the IU/Penn State game on her computer, streamed onto the hotel TV. Despite working hard to secure the broadcast, Amy fell asleep before a minute of game time had played out. The Hoosiers started hot, fell frustratingly behind, and clawed their way back to even. But, with about seven minutes left, the momentum shifted back to Penn State, the stream froze on me, and rather than trying to fix it, I decided to call it a night. Excellent call on my part, we lost by four! Everyone fell asleep easily. We’d had plenty of exercise and, even though it was probably only about 4 p.m. back home, we had mostly skipped a night’s sleep on the plane. We had an early flight to Berlin the next morning.