Berlin last winter

| January 20, 2014

As Christmas passes, I am reminded of the Berlin visit that I did not blog last year.  When my mother and Randy came for Christmas, we surprised them with a road trip to Berlin.  It was not quite the trip we’d hoped on Day 1, but things improved on Day 2…

This was to be an overnight trip: arrive early afternoon, spend the afternoon and evening seeing the sights of Berlin, spend the next morning through early afternoon seeing more of Berlin, then head to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp before heading home in the evening.

IMG_2417We rose very early in the morning to head up to Berlin for the day.  My mother was feeling queasy but didn’t want to cancel the trip.  She and Sequoia and I sat in the back seat, my mother looking green for quite a while until finally she informed us that it was time to pull over.  Fortunately we were passing a rest stop.  Mom and I rushed into the convenience store, leaving everything behind.  As we approached the bathroom, I spotted the turnstiles and realized that these were pay toilets.  I flew back to the car, everyone floundered for change, I returned and let mom in.  To barf.  We then purchased crackers and water for her, other snacks for the rest of us, and continued on to Berlin.  The ride consisted of Paul and Randy in the front seat, admiring the view and chatting about Germany; my mother in the back seat trying not to vomit; and me and Sequoia in the back seat, hoping that my mother did not vomit.

IMG_0770When we arrived in Berlin, we located the Courtyard City Center.  The Courtyard defined “city center” as “down some side streets, past some scaffolding, with a view of a street and a fence”.

We were hungry and hoping to see some of the sights, so we set off for Checkpoint Charlie.  It was not far on foot, past some remnants of the Wall

IMG_2426 IMG_2425

We first visited an outdoor exhibit on the Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, with large panels depicting a timeline and chilling photographs of the consequences of attempting to cross the wall.


Next, Checkpoint Charlie itself before heading to a restaurant for lunch.


Unfortunately, during lunch, my mother paid another visit to the bathroom.  Management was quite concerned that it was an issue with her food, but I assured them that barfing seemed to be the day’s main event.  Mom and Randy headed straight back to the hotel while we finished our food.  Paul and Sequoia and I wandered around the checkpoint after lunch,


but Sequoia was falling asleep from the exhausting trip up, which involved nothing exhausting, so we headed back to the hotel.

It’s a good thing, because that’s when my periodic endometriosis popped in for a visit.  Picture Paul, with barely a word of German, wandering the streets of an unfamiliar city in search of 1) a store that carries feminine products, and 2) a package indicating heavy flow.  To recap: Paul wandering the streets in search of pads, Sequoia asleep, me in misery, my mother vomiting, and Randy watching my mother vomit.  There was not a carefree one of us in Berlin that evening.

IMG_2439In the morning, we all met up for breakfast.  The Courtyard offered an amazing breakfast buffet, the best of any Courtyard I’ve ever visited (which I believe has been only American Courtyards, but probably close to 20 of them).  Everyone was feeling better,  so we discussed our options.  We learned during the research I’d put off until that morning that Sachsenhausen’s winter hours were abbreviated, so we would have to do Berlin pretty quickly.  Randy suggested the hop on-hop off bus, which would have been an excellent plan if not for timing, seeing enough sites, and where the car would be parked when we were finished.

First up: The wrong church.  I had intended to take Mom and Randy to the Berlin Cathedral, where I’d once seen awesome crypts.  Instead, we ended up at the German Cathedral (and the French Cathedral; but not the Berlin Cathedral).  There, we were excited to see the Christmas Market tents set up.  Being that it was morning and luck was decidedly not with us, the market was closed.


IMG_0314While driving, we noticed what appeared to be giant, granite dominoes.  We pulled over and learned that we were looking at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews.  Mom and Randy and I visited the phenomenal little underground museum while Paul remained above with Sequoia.

We checked out the Brandenburg Gate from the car since the street was packed.  We drove that street twice, because we loved the traffic jam and couldn’t get enough of it.

Next up: The wrong museum.  I had intended to take Mom and Randy to the Altes Museum, which had impressed me and Paul years before.  Instead, we ended up at the Deutsches Historisches Museum.  It was interesting enough (what I have to say about these and other museums), but wasn’t what I was looking for.  Again.


After exiting the museum, we found, just out back, both the Altes Museum and the Berlin Cathedral.  By then, there was no time to stop.

IMG_1360berlin cathedral

We hit Sachsenhausen in mid-afternoon, as darkness and closing time both were near.  We hauled ass to the visitor’s center for a map, then walked around the grounds.  I made sure to show them what are to me the most powerful rooms—the medical and pathology buildings.

IMG_1366Germany 2006 post-Bavaria 009

sachsenhausen concentration camp

Paul wandered around with Sequoia during those buildings.  (For info about how we handle these kinds of sites and memorials with Sequoia, see an article I wrote for Germany, Ja!).

After Sachsenhausen, we zipped home in the dark, with little sightseeing, just the occasional castle lit up atop a hill.  No one vomited.


Category: Activities, Family Travel, Germany, Hotels, In Germany A Broad blog, Museums, Shits & Giggles, Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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