Thursday, April 18, 2013

The New Berlin

Berlin was a city full of surprises for us, mostly because so much of it has been reimagined, reconstructed, or redefined so recently. It's full of contrasts of the ancient and modern.

We expected to be eating mostly bread in Germany, where vegan food wouldn't seem to be the norm. But in Berlin, alternative culture is thriving and we visited several all-vegan restaurants, including a bar with great atmosphere that we highly recommend, Wind Und Wetter, and a German classic, Sunday brunch all-you-can-eat buffet at Cafe Vux.

We also ran into a “San Francisco burrito bar” called Dolores that indeed reminded us of hanging out in the Mission. A little more expensive than Pancho Villa, my favorite cheap taco place in the San Francisco neighborhood that offers some of the best California Mexican food, but nevertheless it felt like home, and with food choices for every preference. Also recommended!

It's possible to take advantage of both free walking tours and affordable public transit to explore the many interesting and historic sites in Berlin. Despite the excellent transportation system, our feet were really tired after a few days here because there is a lot to see-- from the Berlin Wall, churches and universities to the Ampelmann (unique streetlight crossing signal design) and contemporary architecture. Of special note is the Pergamon museum with seriously impressive large-scale ancient treasures that give insight in a new way into those periods of history. And, we were really lucky to experience the first day that felt like spring after this epic winter and celebrated with gelato, along with many other young people filling the parks and plazas!

Two new and especially impressive places you can visit (for free!) are the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Parliament building dome. I felt they were both very impactful because, as public art pieces, they invoke different impressions and thoughts for each person who sees them. They make it seem like the people of Berlin take seriously a responsibility to reflect on their past, grow from it, and model their future in a way they'll be proud of. Although I don't think I'd ever want to live in Germany, this visit really made me respect and admire their style in Berlin.

As a final note, after living almost completely without pastries in Asia, we have returned in full force to enjoying oven-baked glutenous treats. The muffins in this part of the world are fantastic, and easy to eat in the large proportion of our time devoted to waiting for and riding on trains!

CURRENTLY: Arriving in Amsterdam
NEXT UP: Paris then Munich

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