some berlin firsts

I’ve had my german cell phone for at least three months now and still I have no idea what my phone number is, or my husband’s for that matter. I did, however, finally figure out how to upload photos from it (It doesn’t plug in like an iphone. Its uses bluetooth). Looking at them, I realized that I’ve documented many “firsts” for Shoshana on it.

Her first time riding the U-Bahn without her stroller

Her first long train trip (Berlin-Dresden)

Her first winter hat

her first pain au chocolat or as she says "pa oh cok-laaaaa"

baby takes… potsdam

October 1st was the official start of the semester at Universität Potsdam where Jon will be studying while we’re in Berlin. He needed to pick up some orientation paperwork, so we decided to make a day trip of sorts out of it. Potsdam isn’t very far away, about 40 minutes from Berlin Hauptbahnhof (main station) to Potsdam Hauptbahnhof on the S7 and trains run every ten minutes.

Why aren’t we living in Potsdam? Is because we CAN live in Berlin a good enough answer? Potsdam is a much smaller and while charming city, we prefer something bigger, busier more, as the Germans say, multi-kulti (multicultural).

While Jon picked up his info, Shoshana and I wandered around a nearby toy store. It was hard not to buy every adorable wooden toy in sight, but in the end, we picked out a magnadoodle to replace the won she loved to death (did you know those things can wear out? in 3 months?!) and a little recorder. The magnadoodle was a lucky buy – it was a lifesaver on the train home. Luckily, grad students are students who kind of aren’t real students, so Jon didn’t have to do much besides declare his presence. He found us before we got to the cash register.

We walked down to Brandenburgerstrasse thinking that it would be easy to find a place to eat there. Its a pedestrian zone (Fußgangezone in German) in between Luisenplatz and St. Peter und Paul, and, presumably, is lined with things that pedestrians and tourists need like restaurants. Well, there were a lot of deli type places with pre-made sandwiches, but nothing that one would want to stop at with a baby. So we wandered up and down. It was hot, the hottest day of the year, we were hungry and tired and anxious about finding something that Shoshana would like/could eat. There may have been bickering and some angry declaring that we should just go back to the train station and GO HOME!

Then Jon noticed a chinese restaurant on a side street.

Chinese food can be, honestly, it can be horrible in Germany. Most chinese food here is a greasy, bland mess, but every once in a while you find something delicious. We were lucky.

China-Restaurant Mandarin is decorated foor to ceiling in cherry wood and gold paint. Its everything a westerner who has never been to China would think China looks like. We ordered our usual first meal in a new Chinese restaurant: chicken fried rice and kung pao chicken (Eirreis mit Hähnchen und Kung Bao). The kung pao was saucy and bland. Exactly what it usually tastes like in Germany, germanized. I think we’re just going to have to give up on ordering scharf (spicy) food and then we won’t be disappointed. The rice, however, was perfect and, even better, baby approved.

We spent so much time looking for something to eat, that we didn’t do much else. I was determined to see the Holländisches Viertel, however. Its just two or three blocks off of Brandenburgerstrasse. When you see the gate that looks like a grey castle, the Nauener Tor, walk towards it and soon you’ll see red brick buildings. That’s the Holländisches Viertel or Dutch Quarter.

Isn’t it pretty? It reminds me of parts of the US east coast. It even made me a little homesick.

The wonderful thing about Potsdam is that its so close to Berlin, we didn’t feel rushed to do more. Of course, if you’re only in Berlin for a short time, Sansoucci is a must. All you need to get there is a VBB ticket for zones ABC. One way (Einzelfahrausweis) costs 3 euro. A day pass (Tageskarte) for all 3 zones costs 6.80.

baby takes… dresden

I seem to be in the habit of saying I’m going to post about something and then taking an inordinate amount of time to actual getting around to it. So I sent the baby to the playground with her Dad and I’m going to stay in front of the computer until I knock out at least two or until I finish watching the second season of Glee online.

We took Shoshana to Dresden and, you know what, it wasn’t a nightmare or even that difficult. Yes, she is a crazy toddler who JUST NEEDS TO RUN, but if you take that into consideration, traveling with a toddler – even if you’re trying to squeeze in an entire city in one day – isn’t that hard.

We left super early, 6:30 am. For some reason, we thought this would make a difference, but I think we could pushed it back an hour or so. It only takes two hours to get there from Berlin Hauptbahnhof and we arrived just before 9 – an hour before anything opened. Shoshana LOVED the train ride. People to look at! Windows! I didn’t even need to take out the stickers.

We realized that if Shoshana got even a whiff of freedom from her 5-point harness, that the rest of the day would be on her terms. So we went to our top priority for the day first – the Cranach exhibition at the Gemälde Galerie in the Zwinger Palace.

Zwinger

The Zwinger is a collection of 4 or 5 museums. 10€ gets you entrance to all of them. With a little baby, however, we prioritized and only did one. I still wanted to get to the Residenz and see the Turkish Cammer.

Next came the toddler-burning-off-steam time and a quick, amazing lunch of chicken Bratwurst in the Altmarkt. Jon and I are still talking about that Bratwurst. A few years ago, it was impossible to find non-pork alternatives, but now we can get poultry sausages and soy alternatives at the local organic supermarket. Its worth mentioning, that the last time we were in Dresden, it was still largely destroyed. Now, there’s this really nice shopping mall right off of the Altmarkt (if it weren’t for the distinct smell of meat, I would have thought we had somehow been magically transported back to the states), all of the renovations were finished and there were people everywhere. Dresden has truly been restored to its former gorgeousness.

Fürstenzug

We finally made it to the Residenz. Like the Zwinger, entry is 10€. A little steep for such a small museum, but worth it. The renovations have been so thoughtfully done and at obviously great expense. As much of the original interior as possible – not much – has been preserved behind glass. The Neues Grünes Gewölbe is included in the price, but the Historisches Gewölbe is not. It’s also limited to timed entries and only a certain number of people a day. We skipped it. There are enough pretty things to look at in Deutschland.

After that, we had an hour to kill before our train, so we took our time for an early dinner at Vapianos (of all places) on Pragerstrasse.

All in all, day tripping with a toddler in tow isn’t hard as long as you make time to play and break up your museum visits. Actually, those are probably pretty good rules for anybody.

**Liebe Readers: the wordpress app is NOT my friend. I went to make a few simple edits and it deleted my original finished post. I tried my best to rewrite it, but if I left out anything, please let me know!**

Injuries can be inspiring, pt. 2

We’re on day three of Foot Watch. The excruciating hobbling has turned into awkward limp and I still haven’t reached my posting goal.

 

The TechnikMuseum was a rainy day choice. I’m not really interested in boats and planes, but it’s within walking distance from our apartment and with our Familienpass it was only 3€. If you like all things mechanical, than this is the place for you.

There is an elevator, so again stroller friendly (well, the main building)! You wn’t be able to view the brewery with a stroller or wheelchair and we had trouble finding the Beamtershaus (Civil Servants House). Otherwise, this museum is very kinderfruendlich, like most science centers. There are demos of printing, jewelry, fabric and paper-making, and kids can climb on some of the boats and most of the trains.

Just a note incase you have very small children or are otherwise oblivious to your surroundings, as I was. There is a train-car on display that was used to transport Jewish families to their deaths. The trains are displayed in chronological order, so it should be obvious specially to a member of the tribe such as myself, but I was completely caught off guard. I have been in these train-cars before. I did not feel the need to do so again, especially with my daughter. However, I will say that I felt the display surround the car was very well done. There was more information about it than any of the other train displays, and it was set slightly away from the line of less morbid trains to allow visitors a chance to take it all in. You may want to prepare your younger children.

Also, the museum opens at 9.30 making it perfect for people whose children do not let them sleep past 6.30.