I decided last minute (and by last minute I mean 10 minutes before I was supposed to leave to catch my bus) to postpone and condense my trip to Germany. I came to the realization that I valued seeing all the people I have met here a little bit longer way more than going to all of the Christmas markets and sites. I chose to lengthen my time in Berlin and go solely there, joining Tashana on her trip there. Her friend Jordan studies in Berlin and was gracious enough to take us to all the sites even though he has been there numerous times prior always showing his friends the tourist spots. Such a gem.
I ended up getting a hostel in Mitte which I lucked out and it was perfectly situated. We went to Brandenburg Gate and to the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism. We even saw the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby over the balcony. Jordan took us to a restaurant called The District which reminded me of a restaurant you would find off 124th street back home. We went to the East Side Gallery, the most preserved part of the remaining Berlin Wall, and took a stroll taking in all the artwork. 106 artists from around the world have done pieces on sections of the wall and even Canada was represented by an individual from Quebec.
Our first Christmas market we went to was in West Berlin. I got to try my first Glühwein which is mulled wine. We drank it inside this adorable little rustic shed. I still can’t get over how many Christmas decorations Berlin had adorned everywhere! We took another train to go see Charlie’s Gate and I must admit having Jordan there to navigate the transit system was a lifesaver. Never have I had such a carefree experience hopping on and off trains. With a tram, bus, S-Bauhn, underground and rail system all in play I think it would be an understatement to say how overwhelming and confusing it would have otherwise been.
We went to WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt which was beautifully surrounded by Neue Kirche, a cathedral, and Konzerthaus Berlin, a 19th century concert hall. Within lighted stalls in rows offered all sorts of foods and trinkets. In the middle a humongous lighted tree set the Christmas mood while traditional German music was played at a stage. I had the most amazing pumpkin, mango, and squash soup which I followed with a Curry Wurst by strong recommendation of Pati. Afterwards as clearly anyone who knows me knows I love Christmas, we went to another Christmas market. I loved strolling through the precious wooden stalls, taking in all the foreign goodies they offered. Afterwards we hit a more commercial blitzy market which made me think of K-days meeting Christmas. We finished our first night having German beer (because it’s obviously a must) well to be honest I had beer and they had super fruity cocktails that even came with cutout parrots!
The next day we went to Reichstag building and went up to walk the glass dome at the top of the building. The walkways circled the outer glass winding upwards. I was quite shocked to realize that there also was a different walkway for going down. Honestly how they designed that still baffles my mind a bit. Up top we got to take in panoramic views of the skyline, albeit slightly gloomy ones as we had overcast and rain the whole time. In the centre you could look down and through the glass see the members of Parliament in session. It was a super neat and original idea in my opinion. We grabbed lunch at this vegan restaurant called Kiez Vegan. Personally I’m not a huge vegetable person but I will admit I was extremely impressed by the vegetable salad ensemble of a plate we had. It was delicious!
We took a train to Potsdam, which we were told we could take in a little more traditional German buildings and have a more authentic feel. It was Jordan’s first time there so navigating was a tad more difficult but luckily for us it was small. The rooftops were much steeper and the buildings more colourful than I had expected. Of course we had to go to their Christmas market and I got to enjoy a Bratwurst and sauerkraut. We finished the night by going to this indoor food market called Markthalle Neun which was set inside a warehouse in albeit slightly sketchy neighbourhood. It was so cool inside, with all these different vendors offering different foods in the cutest stalls. I of course had my dessert first as it the stall was running out of everything fast (always a good sign in my books). I had a caramel mascarpone cheesecake topped with an almond brittle. Words cannot even describe just how divine it was. Random enough we ran into Sarah who we had met on exchange in Pamplona as we were sipping on our apple mint teas. After we finished catching up we tried Takoyai which are these Japanese balls filled with octopus, pickled ginger, tempura, and green onions and then drizzled with Takoyaki sauce. They were surprisingly good and I finished the night having another Japanese dish called Taiyaki which are fish shaped cakes with various fillings (they can be for dessert or dinner depending on the filling). The one I got had a lemon zest zucchini filling!
From there we unfortunately headed to the station where we had to part ways. Jordan and Tash are headed to Prague before heading home for Christmas while I am destined back to Pamplona. It was a sad goodbye to a much cherished friend but I have to remind myself that it won’t be long until I see her again. I am so glad I am going to Italy for spring courses and travelling Europe again afterwards. Goodbyes would be so much harder if I didn’t have a concrete date set in the future for coming back. It was goodbye for now but not forever but it still was the hardest goodbye I’ve had to say yet on my trip.