We went to Staaken!


Staaken was a border crossing between the former East and West Germany. To make matter confusing, the western part of Staaken (bordering Brandenburg) was in the DDR while the eastern part (bordering Berlin) was in the British-controlled west. Today Staaken is a suburb of Spandau, which itself is a suburb of Berlin. That is, unless you ask a Spandauer.





Inner Harbor, Baltimore

Why, hello there. We’ve been working, going to preschool for entire big kid school days, and trying to hold it together while we slug through this our first year post-grad school.  But let’s not get too down. There’s been some exploring, too.

Before it got too cold, we bought tickets for the historic ships moored in the Baltimore Harbour. The first time we tried to do this the dark, murky water was just too scary for S and so we put the idea away for another time. Then, a few weeks ago, we found ourselves downtown and suddenly the idea of going on a big boat seemed like the best thing ever and could we go today, right now?

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She liked going up an down the steps of the USS Constellation, but deemed the sleeping quarters “creepy.” The USS Torsk, a WWII era submarine, made her nervous. The best part was finding the jellies in the harbor, just below the water’s surface. Unfortunately, they didn’t show up well in an iPhone photo, but S is still talking about them so I’m sure we’ll be back as soon as it warms up again.

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Maybe next time we’ll even be brave enough to go on boat that moves.

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Nixon Presidential Library, Yorba Linda

As you may have seen on my Instagram (check out my new sidebar!), my love for presidential libraries does not discriminate, which is why we took a little trip over to Yorba Linda to check out the Nixon Presidential Library.


Its a small place with not a lot of fanfare. There were maybe seven or eight other visitors when we arrived. S wasn’t particularly interested in our 37th. In fact, the first thing she asked when we went inside was “Where is ‘Rock Omama’?”

We managed to find a little bit of him.


Other than that, her favorite part was the presidential helicopter. She’s certain that every helicopter is actually Marine One coming to say “HI!” to her.


This helicopter – referred to either Army or Marine One depending on the pilot – was used by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. After spending some time in storage, one of Nixon’s former pilots had it sent to the library for display.

While the helicopter was S’s favorite, mine was the model of the East Room.


The museum also has the usual campaign history, clothing worn at historical moments, and of course a hallway devoted to the Watergate scandal conveniently located at the very end of the gallery after the rooms extolling Nixon’s work abroad. To see everything only took us an hour and a half and, despite not being 37s favorite sort of people, a nice way to spend the morning and get out of the usual Orange County scene.


We used the excuse of returning a pile of library books to the library at UniPotsdam to give visiting a palace mit dem Kind  a try. Even though I have yet to make it inside Sanssouci, this trip was devoted to “Friederisiko,” an exhibition celebrating the 300th anniversary of Frederick the Great’s birthday as well as the completion of the renovations on his pet project,  Das Neue Palais.

S LOVED the “Printheth House” and yes, we’re apparently in that stage now. We didn’t have the heart to tell her it was actually for a king. The entrance to the exhibit is by timed tickets, which I was a bit nervous about, but turned out not to be a big deal. There was some miscommunication over the stroller with the women running the info-desk giving us the OK, while the docents at the door turned us back to the Garderobe. There wasn’t room for it anyway. Raised, purple paths have been laid over the original flooring for added protection as well as a way to guide visitors through the exhibit. Step off it and you’ll be the target of some good, ol’ German scolding.

In addition to the path, the palace has been divided into easy to digest pieces – Mode, Spiel, Essen & Trinken, etc – with wonderful results. I kept whispering to Jon how much more I liked it than Versailles, which is something of a cattle-call. There is also a daily violin concert, giving us our first chance to expose S to live music. She was perfectly behaved, except for when she shouted “HI!” to the violinist. It was beyond adorable.

Now that I know how much she loves them, I think trips to Schloß Charlottenburg and Sansoucci are in order ASAP.

PS: I love how Germans celebrate their cultural figures. Because its Frederick the Great’s 300th, we’re having a Friedrich-Jahr, a Year of Frederick. Last year was the 200th anniversary of writer Heinrich von Kleist’s death, so it was a Kleist-Jahr. Probably too nerdy for the states…

samstag in friedrichshain

We spent Saturday wandering around a new Kiez, Freidrichshain. I expected to be be greeted by a neighborhood of gruff old Ossis and squatters. I had no idea how gentrified it had become. I mean, we didn’t even have the biggest stroller at the farmer’s market. Can you believe it? That is some serious gentrification, Leute!

view from Warschauerstr

We started our journey at S-Bhf Warschauerstr where I spotted, but did not photograph, a stunning example of a Hipster Dad pushing a stroller. He was wearing an ironic sweater vest, tweed, and a carefully tied to look as if it had not been carefully tied scarf. When I saw him, I knew I were entering surprisingly familiar territory. We did go to NYU, after all.

rununculus at the Boxhagnerplatz Markt

Our first stop was the Wochenmarkt, which is basically just a farmer’s market that extends beyond meat and produce. We didn’t buy anything, because I kept insisting that we didn’t know how long we would be out and what if our organic buffalo went bad? OMG, WE CAN BUY ORGANIC BUFFALO IN BERLIN?! The yuppie food gods have answered my prayers. While I was thinking about buffalo au poivre, Shoshana was doing this…

Why do so many German playgrounds have giant, completely-intentional, puddles? One day I’ll post a picture of the water-area in our local playground. I like to refer to it as “The Pit of Death.”

Eventually we lured her away and made our way over to Karl-Marx-Alle to check out the TrendMafia Designmarkt and take some pictures.

The boulevard is lined with Stalinist era wedding-cake style buildings. I find the tiles pretty ugly, but there’s no doubt this was meant to be a very grand street. There’s still some of that atmosphere today; although, many of the buildings need a bit of a facelift. Some new tiles here, a power-washing there.

I also like spotting some of the socialist art. The worker above is guarding a door with his sledge hammer.

We were really looking forward to going to the Karl-Marx-Bookstore, because silly us we thought it was still there. No! It went out of business FOUR YEARS AGO and somehow this information managed to escape us. Our hearts are broken. Ok, maybe just mine. Jon is not nearly as dramatic.

At least the sign is landmarked, and the shelves inside were just like they use to be, even if they were depressingly empty. I think some sort of production company works there now. oh, gentrification, you raise me up and you pull me down. sigh.*

*See? I did say I was dramatic. And, yes, I know I’m part of that gentrification, too.

my little valentine

We spent Valentine’s Day at the Neues Museum. It was a bit of an impulse – we were headed to the Alte Gallerie  (wild, I know) – and were so glad we went. Its gorgeous!

Jon and I had never been to the Neues Museum; although, we did see parts of the Egyptian Museum in its temporary home before the renovations to the Neues were complete. The museum is usually only viewable with timed tickets – something I, as a mother of a small child dread. At the very least I can judge her mood RIGHT NOW. How can I tell if a museum visit will be a good idea in another hour or two or three? February in Berlin, however, is pretty devoid of tourists. We were able to walk right in (after flashing our Jahreskarten PLUS, natürlich).

The building was heavily damaged in WWII and only reopened in 2009. The restoration was my favorite part of the visit (Shoshi delcaring Nefirtiti to be “orange pretty” is a very close second!). The architect, David Chipperfield, did a beautiful job using the damaged sustained by the building. Photography is verboten in the most stunning rooms and I forgot my camera, anyway. The photos we did get were taken with Jon’s iPhone.

For the moms and dads out there, the Neues Museum has been the most stroller-accessable of  any of the museums we’ve been to so far. There are ramps up to the front door and large (very large! by american standards large!)  elevators with buttons at toddler height. Sometimes the only way to get S to leave a floor was to tell her that we needed to go press the buttons. The docents were mostly unobtrusive. In some museums, you can tell that they’re ready to pounce on the slightest provocation, but not here.

This is definitely going to the top of my list as one of my favorite ways to spend a morning in Berlin. Visit the Staatliche Museen site for more info on visiting here.

an afternoon at the Pergamonmuseum

on the pergamon steps

Mshatta Palace from Jordan

Ishtar Gate from Babylon

The Pergamonmuseum, named after the greek alter in the first three pictures, is just an amazing place to visit. Huge pieces of ancient art and architecture, pieces I can’t even imagine building let alone relocating thousands of miles, make up the museum’s controversial permanent exhibit. As you can imagine, their countries of origin want them back. Can you blame them?

The Pergamon’s exhibit is absolutely kinderfreundlich.  Shoshana loved looking at and walking around the gates and mosaics. It probably caught her attention 100 times more than than a framed painting hung on a wall. For that reason alone, I say if you can only do one museum on Museuminsel with your kids make it this one. But. Yes, but its difficult with a stroller. The entrance is at the top of some relatively high stairs and while there is a wheelchair lift, I feel awkward using them. Jon and I carried her up in the stroller together. Not pleasant, but if you can do it the museum is worth it. There is a ramp into the “sub-basement” (that’s what the map calls it. Its sort of a vestibule) and an elevator up to the lobby. If you want to see the islamic art on the first floor (the Mshatta Palace is up there, as well as some tapestries and an amazing painted wood room that I can’t remember the name of), you’ll need to ask a docent who will when escort you to the service elevator. A little bit of an inconvenience, but again, so worth it.

Interested? Go here.


baumkuchen, round II

So the other day we found this…

and knew we had to try it. The Konditorei Rabien was once the “Royal Confectioner” of the Hohenzollern dynasty and was once located in Potsdam near the Schloss Sansoucci. Today its in Steglitz; although, we found this slice and a vanilla one in a Mitte shop.

I wasn’t wild about the chocolate ring. I mean, it was cake and it was covered in chocolate and those two things can’t really go that wrong, but this just didn’t really do anything for me. Instead of the usual marzipan flavor, this one tasted oddly minty. It was a little disappointing. Of course, if I had looked closer at the label I would have seen “Gewürze” or “spices” listed and maybe I would have just stuck with the vanilla – glazed ring. Both of us let the baby finish our pieces. She didn’t mind one bit.

The vanilla, which I unfortunately did not take a picture of, was really good. So much better than its chocolate counter part. It was softer, more moist with just a hint of lemon.    Too good to share with the baby. Die Familie Fine is going to be bummed when our easy access to Baumkuchen dries up after Christmas.