There is very good reason I have been absent for the last two months. I know its professional suicide in the blogosphere to be missing for that long. But I have the best reason- I got my own domain. I am officially a DOTCOM! Feels good must say. Ok so that now that is out of the way and we are good, I haven’t forgotten my promise. Even though there were no live vacation posts I have decided to go ahead with a synopsis of each of the cities we visited.
Disclaimer: this doesn’t read like a travelogue at all, instead the focus is more on my personal experience of travelling with a toddler. That means we did nothing that an average does or ought to do in Europe. Not a single fine dining restaurant, not a single museum, no artsy stuff. No proper tours. Nada. But here goes, the first city:
With family there we spent the longest stretch here- about a week. Ok so my initial thoughts on Berlin. Having read different stuff (fiction and non-fiction) about the city, and friends and family raving about it at large, I had a LOT of expectations of it. The history – ancient and contemporary, and so very contemporary, the art scene, the architecture so varied, the happening cultural scene, the diversity, the food, the romance and the technology. The wide and varied juxtapositions. The mental calisthenics the city makes you do. My anticipation was monumental and before getting there I almost expected the city to disappoint. A part of me didn’t want to believe any place could be all that. BUT. IT. WAS.
Berlin is all that. And more. What’s best is, inspite of it all, Berlin has humility. Berlin doesn’t need a pimp, it shines like a star all on its own. It serves to please. It doesn’t overwhelm like London, New York, Tokyo. It can give you the bustle when you need it but Berlin will respect your privacy and bestow a quiet corner when you need one. There is lots to see but you are never left with the feeling.. ‘oh we didn’t do that/see that/spend more time there’. Berlin is all that is amazing about the German race- it is cultured and respectful. It is empathic. I can’t imagine saying this about any patch of earth, but Berlin has a soul. History has pock-marked Berlin, slashed it in half, and tormented it a thousand ways. But it has healed, and so beautifully.
I didn’t go up the Reichstag. I really really wanted to. I was busy tending to the immediate needs of a very demanding (then) 15-month old. But the city touched me. I didn’t have the peace to look at any view of the city and to burn it into my memory, to feel it in my veins, but Berlin still spoke to me. It comforted me, it said, ‘there’s always a next time’.
We walked long stretches and even though we happened to visit during the heat wave, we managed a touch-and-go of all the major attractions. With me, the issue is, when I visit a particular monument/structure/building, it is not sufficient to just take a picture. I need to deep-dive into its history in grave detail for me to actually feel like I’ve BEEN there. That merely visiting a place means nothing.
Berlin is beautiful and eccentric, coy and charming but also wildly bold in every expression. There is loads to see but please read up on the city, its history, its people. Try not to visit with young children. But if it means not visiting at all, then by all means go. With my luck, the one day that we planned a visit to the zoo, my toddler decided to sleep throughout. So in the four hours that we explored every corner of Berlin zoo, this guy took his longest nap ever.
We kept a whole day aside for Potsdam, an hour’s train ride outside of Berlin. This is where the Prussian kings set up shop. With collosal palaces, majestic architecture, gardens, fields, squares, riverbanks ‘Sans Soucci’ (means ‘Without worry’) is a must to explore if you are visiting Berlin. The Schloss Sans soucci is unmissable, but remember to go from the New Palace side, the view suddenly creeps up on you and leaves you spellbound. Not quite the same impact from the other side.
Take the sightseeing bus, and do the route twice. Do plan a picnic in the park one day, by the gorgeous lake side, and also have a go at as many gelato stalls as possible. Nothing quite like it. Walk down East side gallery. Visit Checkpoint Charlie and the open air museum next to it. The Soviet Monument at Tiergarten. Windowshop at an upscale mall. Strike a conversation with a random stranger. Ask a German for directions. Stop and appreciate street music and tip them. Have as many cappuccinos as possible. Eat your heart out. And if you don’t like any of this, ask Berlin why. She will say to you, ‘this too shall pass’. And you better believe it because it did for her.