Friday morning we had planned another full day. After another delicious breakfast at the hotel, we headed out.
Before we did any exploring, we went to the presentation of William and Jacob’s video at the conference we were in Berlin for. They did a great job with the video, raised interesting research questions and receive great feedback from attendees of further dimensions to explore.
The first place on our day’s itenerary was the Topography of Terror Museum. This stands on the location of the Gestapo headquarters. While the original building has long since been destroyed, part of the foundation of the basement still stands below a remaining section of the wall. The basement is where countless terrors were committed against those detained by the secret police of the Third Reich. There now also stands a very modern looking building that is a free Museum that educates visitors on what all took place there, how the Gestapo were formed, how their power and influence grew, the different groups of people who were targeted and overall just the terror that permeates not only Berlin, but all of Germany and their conquests from the rise of the Third Reich to its downfall at the end of World War II. It was such a somber and sobering way to start our day, but something I really wanted to see while in Berlin.
After leaving the Topography of Terror we headed on towards Checkpoint Charlie which is such a tourist trap! We saw it from a distance, took a picture and promptly went on our way to find the Ministry of Finance building.
The Ministry of Finance building is one of the few buildings to survive WWII intact. During the war it played a role in the German Air Force, and after Berlin was taken over by the Soviets, this building became the meeting place of the first East German government. One of the exterior walls of the building still has a communist era mural intact showing the ideal they hoped to achieve. In the sidewalk a hundred feet or so away is a photograph of the reality of East Germany under the communist regime. Definitely something I would have never known to find on my own, but an interesting piece of history!
After looking at the mural, we grabbed some doner on our way to the Gendarmenmarkt, where there are twin churches – French and German. Doner is a Turkish street food that we were told we need to try in Berlin and was one of my favorite things I ate! This is also a site of a large Christmas Market closer to the holiday season.
From there we grabbed a taxi to the East Side Gallery to see the art on the wall and walk to Burgermeister to grab what is probably the best hamburger I’ve ever had. In planning for our trip, this restaurant kept coming up and then Andrew Zimmern did an episode of his Driven by Food in Berlin where they ate here too. It’s a small burger shop under a bridge in an old public restroom building. It was packed the whole time we were there and the food was delicious. We’d definitely recommend it!
From there we grabbed another taxi to KaDaWe, the second largest department store in Europe. We did a quick tour looking at every floor and deciding we’d come back for lunch the next day to try a couple of the bars on the food floor.
After KaDaWe, we found our way to Kathe Wolfhardt, a Christmas store full of ornaments, nutcrackers and other treasures. When my dad travelled to Germany for work while he was in the Air Force, he’d always bring us back ornaments from this designer, who has storefronts all around Germany. We found a sweet Nutcracker baker, a fun olive wood star with a reindeer in the center and a snowman holding a lantern that says “Berlin 2016.” We also got a beer stein magnet/bottle opener to join our Papa Francesco magnet from Italy!
Once we’d selected our treasures we began our walk back to the hotel. We passed the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was never repaired after the war. It was interesting to see the juxtaposition of the old, destroyed architectural remains of the church surrounded by the new modern shopping district.
Once we got to the hotel, we decided this would be the night we’d go to Harry’s New York bar and try a few drinks from their extensive menu. It was a fun date night and way to relax and unwind after walking 8 miles that day. I had a Hemingway Sour and a Mizner’s Dream, both gin based, and William enjoyed a Horse’s Neck and a Gin Fizz.