Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
I travel a lot and I’ve never forgotten an important document. In fact I find it annoying at business hotels when the staff ask me to double check if I have everything from the safe. When we were leaving our apartment in Kraków I left in the apartment safe our 4 passports! Even worse, I didn’t remember until more than 24 hours later! My cousin called the apartment front desk for me and they found our passports and kept them in the office safe for us to pick up 4 days later on our way to Kraków airport. I berated myself and was embarrassed that I had lost our most import documents!
At the airport we made good use of the business class lounge despite flying economy class but instead through my platinum level with One World Alliance. We joked about it being thanks to my misery of flying so many times across the Indian Ocean in economy class.
In Berlin airport we picked up our Visit Berlin cards from tourist information and chatted with a British guy travelling alone. I asked if catching 1 bus and 2 trains was sensible versus a cab. He started to praise the public transport then assessed our luggage and that we are travelling with children and reconsidered. We caught a cab with a driver that looked Turkish but was born in Berlin. He spoke English and pointed out the Berlin Wall monument to us and recommended where to go for good restaurants.
We booked our apartment through Air BnB. It’s very spacious with very high ceilings. It was the only option we could find that offered us the use of an apartment but my husband and I find it oppressive staying in the home of strangers.
We rejoiced in the multiculturalism of Berlin on our first day with lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant next door. It was amazing to taste coriander and the fresh flavors of Asia that we miss so much now that we live in Norway.
Our children had fun playing at the large nearby playground that is built entirely of timber. It’s pretty cold here, not in absolute but relative terms presumably because of humidity. I find it a bit oppressive standing in playgrounds without sun in the cold of winter but it’s worthwhile to see our children have fun! At least it’s above 0C!
Today we played at the playground again then walked to the Berlin Wall monument at Nordbahnhof U-Bahn station. I’m in my late 30s so the Berlin Wall was a feature of my childhood that was mystifying but ever present. I had friends in Australia who escaped East Germany, Poland and Hungary and I remember the heady days when communism was on the brink of collapse in Poland and Germany and then the euphoria when the Berlin Wall finally toppled in 1989.
While in Poland for Christmas this year we had discussed with our children the Russian occupation of Poland. So when we reached Berlin I was keen to show them the fragment of the Berlin Wall that’s in place at the Gedenkstätte Berlin Mauer. It’s a strange place to visit because of the chilling history but it’s very nicely laid out. We didn’t visit the museum itself but spent time reading plaques, looking at photos of some of the people who died trying to cross the border.
As interest waned among my family I gave up on visiting the museum and Checkpoint Charlie and instead we caught the metro to the Botanic Gardens. We stopped at the nice warm Österia that’s run by some middle aged women and had lunch before walking on to the gardens. Ordering at the Österia was the first time that I’ve spoken in German in Germany after studying German for 4 years in high school, most recently in 1994! The staff were patient with my imperfect pronunciation and grammar and we received what we wanted.
We used our Visit Berlin cards to receive reduced price entry to the Botanic Gardens. We followed the winter self guided trail and stopped in the sensory garden and outdoor succulent garden then headed into the glasshouses. These were amazing. Set up by geographical region and biome, we wandered through impressive collections of sub tropical plants, Australian summer flowering plants, Japanese winter flowering plants and a beautiful array of cacti and succulents. To keep our children engaged and jolly I played a game of who can spot a different flower. This kept bickering and whinging at bay for half an hour but otherwise our day was liberally sprinkled with both.
We walked through the outdoor Chinese and Japanese gardens and spent a minute of quiet contemplation in a Japanese gazebo in the afternoon sunshine. One type of pink rhododendron was in flower and it was spectacular. Next to these was a bird feeder and we enjoyed watching some tits taking turns sneaking into the feeder to steal a seed before dashing off into the bushes to eat it.
On the way home we spent an enjoyable time in the amazing Rewe supermarket on Invaliden Straße. The abundance of good quality, ethical food options there was enough to make us nearly weep. We desperately miss that in Norway where the vast majority of food on offer is bland, there’s a small amount of choice and ethics are unusual considerations, whether in terms of human cruelty (fair trade), animal cruelty or chemical residues (organic). It would nearly be worth moving to Berlin for Rewe alone!