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 7 (March 17-18, 2023)
With our travel plans derailed by SAS, our final day of vacation (March 17) was planned on the fly. We took a car with our luggage to the Charlottenburg area of Berlin where we had a room at the B&B hotel. It was not at all roomy for four people, but I have to say that they make great use of the space. It reminded me of a cruise ship cabin in terms of efficiency. The kids had a bunk bed while Amy and I had a double. It didn’t matter too much since we wouldn’t be spending a lot of time here. During the day, we’d be out and about; then we’d have to head for the airport at about 3:30 a.m.
After storing our stuff, we got lunch on our way to see the Charlottenburg Palace. We ate at a restaurant called Trattoria Toscana. It was a fantastic place for lunch, but it was cash only which was a drawback. I’d been making an effort to burn our cash the day before because we hadn’t really needed many Euros for the prior week, and we thought we would be leaving a day earlier. Despite hearing that Berlin was a fairly cash intensive place compared to other parts of Europe, that hadn’t been our experience. I think that may have had to do with our spending most of our time in the central part of Berlin. In Charlottenburg, we saw more cash places. Anyway, we had enough for lunch, but just barely. We skipped the beer and wine that looked fairly appealing, and went with water (which still cost something, because that’s the way it goes in Europe.) The service was outstanding, and the food was good. No offense to the Germans, but I think the best food they have is from other traditions.
Following lunch, we made our way up the street to Charlottenburg Palace. My family loves a good palace. The palace was commissioned by Sophie-Charlotte at the end of the 17th century. This captured my interest since she features somewhat prominently as a character in one of my favorite series, Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. He highlighted her relationship to Gottfried Liebniz who was an all around genius. One of the reasons I love the series is that Stephenson underscores just how much of our modern world in terms of things like science, industry, banking, economics, and communications were given form during the hundred years or so between 1650-1750. That appreciation fed into my enjoyment of Charlottenburg.
The palace itself is the scene of some of the activity in the story. The palace is baroque and busy and, we joked, has a lot of anterooms. “It’s anterooms all the way down!” My favorite part of the palace was the palace chapel which includes an impressive looking organ. Much as I enjoyed our tour, I probably would have preferred more information about the history of the palace residents and maybe less information about the furnishings. During the tour, I was stopped to take a survey about our visit, our reasons for coming, and our impression of the palace. Most of the survey was a matter of picking one of the pre-written answers, but there was a spot where you could offer any thought you wanted, and mine was out of left field. There was a great deal of Chinese imported or influenced material that struck me as dating from earlier than I would have expected much commerce. Not based on any real solid chronology, but I wouldn’t have expected too much of that until the late 1700s, early 1800s. But I think I was seeing Chinese themes from the early 1700s and I suggested that maybe they could provide information about Sino-Prussian relationships in the early 18th century.
After a good long time in the palace, we exited onto the grounds. They were beautiful and impressive, but suffered (as any place at that latitude does) from it being mid-March. A few weeks later would have been stunning. At a pond with some ducks, Harper was having a great time and getting silly and giggly which, from my perspective as a Dad, is just the best thing ever.
After Charlottenburg, we took a break at Cafe la Mouche, got some coffee and spent the absolute last of our cash. Properly fortified, we made our way to the Computer Game Museum. As I recall, Amy and I were maybe a little low on energy. It had been an active week and the change in travel plans had thrown a wrench in the works. The Computer Game Museum is about 45 minutes away from Charlottenburg using public transit, and it seemed like a bit of a journey. Cole, in particular, however really wanted to go. And I’m glad we did because it was a great place.
I grew up with video games and video game hardware in the 70s and 80s which was really the focus of this museum. In addition to the exhibits and plaques, they have a couple of arcades and some of the exhibits are playable. I think we all had a good time. I played some old school Asteroids and Paper Boy. There was some trick to getting Pac Man to register credits that we never quite figured out, but eventually the kids were able to piggyback off of someone else who got the game going. Also, as luck would have it, I had my WELL sweatshirt on. I’ve been a member of that community for about twenty-four centuries. So, it was great to see a quote on one of the exhibits by Howard Rheingold (who goes by <hlr> on the WELL) at one of the exhibits.
After a couple of hours of video games, we were ready for dinner. Amy found us a Greek place nearby called Kos House. We walked the quarter mile down Karl-Marx-Allee to the restaurant. (And, yes, I included the name of the street because having a respectable street named after Karl Marx in the U.S. would be unthinkable!) One of our waiters spoke no English, and I’m not entirely sure his German was too strong. Cole sent the waiter running when Cole botched a German word or two. There were plenty of people who spoke English at the restaurant, but it was a good reminder that we were visitors. Cole and I both got Mythos beers. Not German, but neither of us had had it before. It was a pleasant lager. The whole family ordered gyros. Not terribly exotic, but maybe we were getting travel weary.
Following dinner, we headed back to the hotel to catch a few hours of sleep. It was probably 10 p.m. when we got to bed and the alarm was set for 3 a.m. There wasn’t an outlet near my side of the bed, so when I woke up in the middle of the night, my phone and watch were not within arm’s reach. I couldn’t get back to sleep because I kept wondering what time it was. Eventually, I got up and looked. It was 2:30. I had received a text from Mom that #1 seed Purdue had lost to #16 seed Farleigh Dickinson. (I come from a die-hard Hoosiers family, so Purdue falling on its face was a subject of some schadenfreude.) I don’t think I got back to sleep after that. I let everyone know about the Purdue game first thing when the alarm went off. We had ordered a car that picked us up promptly – was, in fact, waiting for us – when we got down to the street at 3:45. We traveled to the Berlin airport. The security folks were unnecessarily gruff about their arbitrary rules for how many trays your computers and liquids and metal objects need to be distributed among. I guess they can be like that anywhere in the world.
There was no lounge we could use with our fancy-pants travel card, but it did get us a certain amount of credit at a particular cafe in the airport. We weren’t really all that hungry at that hour of the morning, so we weren’t coming anywhere close to maxing it out. This offended the sensibilities of the lady running the cash register, so she piled us up with extra candy bars and whatever was within arm’s reach that could get us closer to the limit. Cole and I both got breakfast beers, because who the hell knows what time it is anymore? We were following the late night (back home) IU versus Kent State game and were happy to celebrate that win.
Our first leg was a short flight to Brussels. We were trying not to check bags but, claiming limited overhead space, they made us do so. I’m sure they had their reasons, but there was a *lot* of available overhead space. Once in Brussels, I think we had a two hour layover before the flight to Chicago took off, but between clearing passport control and a bonus passport check by United, they were boarding by the time we got to the gate. In Chicago, customs and baggage claim couldn’t have been easier. Our bags were some of the first ones out and were already on the carousel by the time we reached it. The guy at customs barely looked at us. Drove home and arrived at 4:30 p.m. local. The dogs were very happy to see us! Our total travel time had been a little over eighteen hours. Amy crashed at about 8:30 that night; I managed to stay awake until 11; and the kids had friends over until about 1 a.m. (Although Harper and Cole seem to have been dozing off on their guests from time to time.) It was good to sleep in our own beds.