‘How am I got get in?’ asked Alice again, in a louder tone.
‘ARE you to get in at all?’ said the Footman. “That’s the first question, you know.’
It was, no doubt: only Alice did not like to be told so. ‘It’s really dreadful,’ she muttered to herself, ‘the way all the creatures argue. It’s enough to drive one crazy!’
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
After enjoying the boutique countries of Switzerland and Liechtenstein, I was ready for something a bit more my style. So Berlin, of course. I had been to Germany before so it wasn’t a new country, but it was my first time to Berlin. I took a seven hour train ride from Zurich and thoroughly enjoyed it…..for the first hour. After the, four children and their two mothers entered my compartment and nothing was to be the same. It soon looked like a demolition zone and the volume was insane. I could dedicate an entire blog to this journey, but I believe it was covered quite completely on Facebook! The one tip the moms did share with me was to take public transportation. And thank goodness they did. Berlin is massive! But cheap. At least compared to Zurich! Despite its size, there are very few cars. The whole of the city must use public transportation.
All over Berlin are reminders of the Wall and the need for the world to remain open. Sections have been left in various locations and many are accompanied by signs that describe how it was built, in many phases, because it turns out humans will always find a way through a wall. They had to fortify the wall many times over as it was never quite enough. The signs describe how families were torn apart, opportunities were lost and humanity rallied against.
My first day in Berlin crossed a lot of the “must see” places off my list. I went first to the Brandenburg gate. The gate is located next to the U.S. Embassy, so I approached with a bit of trepidation, expecting protests. I found only silent protests, candles and signs left behind, I assume. Americans know this gate as the site of “Mr Gorbachev- tear down this wall.” Former East Germans know it as way to see past, but not enter, the land over the wall, a world beyond the Iron Curtain. It now stands as a symbol of Berlin’s unity. Second stop was the Reichstag building, just down the street, a long walk through the Tiergarten to the Victory Column, a pause for some delightful gluhwein and then Checkpoint Charlie, probably the most touristy of all of the places I visited. After all of this walking, I popped into the movie theater where ticket prices are similar to the US, but the combo snack of popcorn and beer is much cheaper than the popcorn and soda option. Of course, I indulged.
In Berlin, there always seemed to be entertainment on the subway. Performers would pop on the train, play for 30 seconds, ask for money and move on. While there were quite talented, I only pay for 60 seconds of entertainment or more so I kept my Euros!
The second day, I went out to Museum Island- an island that houses the Berlin Cathedral, one of the most striking buildings I have ever seen, as well as five different museums, all beautifully designed as well. I had not done my research so I discovered, upon arrival, that the Art Museum is closed on whatever day it was that I was there (I long ago, lost the ability to retain the day of the week- could have been Tuesday, could have been Saturday) so I had some bonus free time. So, I took the U-bahn (or S-bahn) out to the East Side Gallery. This is an over 1K stretch of the East German side of the Berlin Wall with murals painted after the unification of Berlin. Many have been restored by the original artist, but still reflect the feelings of the world at this time.
After the visit to the Gallery, I went to the Topography of Terror Museum as it was cold outside and the museum was free. I got more than my money’s worth. Berlin impresses me beyond belief at the accountability taken for the atrocities of World War II. All over the city are placards detailing what happened on the site of the new buildings and the role that individuals and groups played. Their commitment to honor the memory of the victims is so impressive and I have enormous respect for Berliners.
Unfortunately, my time here was limited, so off to Copenhagen I went.
I had a long list of things to see in Copenhagen and I was determined to walk the entire city. Mother Nature decided to indulge me as she proceeded to provide snow for my two days in here. I was quite giddy as I was missing the blizzard currently visiting the US.
I bundled up and headed out to Tivoli Gardens…where I was presented with a wall. Apparently the Danish do not frequent Tivoli during the winter so it was closed until April. I did manage to talk a few construction workers into letting me inside enough to see what I was missing so I consider it seen. Stupid wall. Instead I walked through the Rosenberg Castle Gardens and saw the Hans Christian Andersen statue and a lot of snow. Slippery snow. Snow that provided me one of my most brilliant falls ever. Both feet in the air in the style of the Three Stooges. Sadly, no one was around to either photograph it or share in my hysterics at how great it was.
My father has had a statue of the Little Mermaid in his den as long as I can remember so I was very excited to find her. One of the beauties of traveling in winter is the lack of other tourists (not to mention the lower prices!). This can also be a downfall as I nearly walked right past her as I was the only person there. I expected to see a pile of tourists climbing and photographing. Nope, just me, her and sideways snow. I have heard she is overrated, but I found the statue quite beautiful and peaceful.
It was nearly noon, so I went to Amalienborg Palace for the Changing of the Guard. Again, it was just me and a handful of tourists. I can only imagine how crowded this must be in the summer. Today, there were more guards then there were tourists. And the guards were blocking my entrance!
Every year, I try to see as many Oscar Nominated Films as possible. While this year is more challenging than years past, I still try. I headed to the theater to get out of the cold. Here, I learned the McDonald’s drive thru is called McDrive. And yes, I will be using that going forward.
I awoke to more snow on my second day in Copenhagen, or as I like to call it, “The Quest for Better Mittens” day. I had been using gloves but they were beginning to show their excessive use so I headed over to Nyhavn to do some shopping. Nyhavn is the image you often get when you see Copenhagen, the houses and sailboats along the canal. I was particularly grateful to see it in winter and even more grateful, because I found mittens. And they were on clearance. And they give tourists an additional 10% off the price. I am quite certain I found the cheapest items in Denmark. I spent the rest of day wandering about town, looking a bit humorous as I turned anywhere that distracted me, often walking in circles as I wanted to see it all.
I really admire the Danish dedication to bike riding. Despite the two days of snow, the slush everywhere on the street and the cold wind, they kept riding. This journey has really taught me that I need less to live happily. However, I will be acquiring a new bicycle when I return home as this adventure has ignited my cycling passion.
I went to bed that night, anxious for a vacation from traveling. I was off to Malmo, Sweden to spend three days with friends met in Antarctica. And I knew that I would be let in.
See you in Stockholm….with my new mittens.