The Gift of Travel – Berlin Overview – A Photo Essay

From the earliest days of our marriage, travel has been a high priority for us.
Eight months into this adventure we’ve shared, we climbed aboard a freighter
and spent 18 days on the Atlantic Ocean to begin our two years of life in Zambia.
Every year since then, we’ve tried to see something of this great world
we live in, and we have never regretted one moment of it.
(Well. . . there was that 2-week camping trip when the weather
never allowed us to set up the tent. . . but even that was fun!)

Since our 25th anniversary, we’ve tried to go to Europe about every five years,
and about 8 years ago, we discovered river cruising.

Now this is a grand way to see things!
At years 25, 30 and 35, we rented cars in England, Ireland and Italy
and, for the most part,
enjoyed exploring those lovely lands from the front seat.
But sleeping on a barge (a very large barge, but still. . . ),
viewing village and city life from the vantage point of the rivers that run
through them, unpacking only once,
and enjoying walking tours
in every port?


This trip took us from Berlin to Prague with three days
in each of those great cities on either end, and
seven days on the river between them, The Elegant Elbe.

We flew into Berlin early on the morning of May 9th, having left LAX at 7:00 a.m. the previous day. Our room was ready, even at 9:00 a.m.,
and we crashed for 5 hours,
grateful for every single amenity of the Hilton Berlin,
beginning with the upside down bear at the door —
the first of many such bears found all around the city.

Our hotel was located across the street from one of the most beautiful
squares in the entire city and
we enjoyed walking this neighborhood each day we were there.

We took a long walk that first afternoon, right down to
the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, or parliament building.
Dick had been to this area 50 (!!) years ago as a college student,
just months after the Berlin Wall went up.
It was a joy to see this city wide open on this return visit.



Berlin’s river is not actually the Elbe, but the Spree, and it meanders
everywhere. We loved the bridges and the boats and the sound of water nearby.

This double wide row of bricks winds its way around Berlin,
a tangible reminder of the wall that once stood
between east and west.

 Fun touches of whimsy abound in this city,
from eyelashes on cars to silver painted street performers,
to wildly colored architecture, balloons in the park and wildflowers through the fence.

And speaking of flowers,
by some stroke of divine luck,
we arrived just in time for lilac season.
Oh my, they were gorgeous and filled long stretches of
city streets with their sweet fragrance.

 We dined alfresco each of the three nights we were on our own,
enjoying a few Berlin favorites (like weinerschnitzel and curry wurst)
and finishing each meal with a scoop of apricot gelato.

There were reminders of Germany’s hideous 20th century history here and there,
with this stark holocaust memorial the most prominent.
(We also toured the Jewish Museum – but more on that in the next piece in this series.)


Visiting this thoroughly modern and very prosperous city,
it was hard to imagine the horrors that were concocted here,
the cruelties and outright evil deeds that occurred during
the twelve years of the Third Reich.

This is a growing city, with new construction dotting the horizon everywhere.
People are friendly, conversant in English and very aware of
the history that haunts them.

This gorgeous chapel is built next to the bombed out ruins of
the cathedral (now under repair, but not being rebuilt.)
We ducked in here and were stunned by its beauty and simplicity.
That figure of the resurrected Christ visits my thoughts
and dreams a lot these days.

 Most of the wall has been broken into bits and sold as souvenirs,
but here and there are remnants.

 This is what the wall looks like now, rotting and slowly disappearing.
But along one stretch of the river, a large chunk
has been preserved, artists have been commissioned,
and the entire structure is covered with brightly
colored paintings and sayings.

I think both images are representative of Berlin in 2013 —
a city with a most definite past.
But also one that seems to have a vibrant present and bright future.

 There will be several more installments to this series over the next week or two; it was a wonderful trip and I’d like to share it with you as I’m able.

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  1. Sheila Dailie says

    Diane, we visited Berlin last November and early December. Such fun to see photos of places we’ve been. I’m looking forward to future installments.

    • You were brave to go in the heart of winter! We were COLD the first few days of our trip and grateful that we had packed layers. We enjoyed the variety of weather we experienced over our 14 days but were really grateful that variety did not include freezing temps! Thanks for stopping by Sheila.

  2. Diane, what a beautiful piece! As it happens Berlin is my hometown, and though I am currently not living there, I love to hear what others have to say about it. You said you loved the water and the bridges, did you know Berlin is supposed to have more bridges then Venice?

    I’ve been stopping by your blog quite regularly for a couple of month now. I enjoy your posts and was glad to come across this today!

    • Thanks so much for un-lurking and leaving such kind words, Claudia! I loved your hometown and will post a few more photos in a day or so, focussing on the two museums we were able to visit while we were there. Gotta be one of the best museum towns anywhere on the planet! And no, I did not know that Berlin has more bridges than Venice – what a cool little-known fact!!

  3. Love so much about this – looks like there’s a lot I would enjoy about Berlin! I could almost smell the lilacs in those pictures… they’re one of my favourite flowers, and I’m waiting patiently for spring when my solitary lilac will hopefully flower for the first time. Love that the path of the Wall is still visible, and loved that beautiful bridge – stunning!
    Looking forward to seeing more 🙂

  4. Diana – I’m just beginning this series – and I must say, I’ve never been intrigued to visit Berlin until now. Just lovely – and a new inner perspective – as I’ve always pictured Berlin with grey skies. What new blue-sky-light you’ve brought to me!

    • Thanks, Sue. Berlin was never on my list, either, until our son and his wife came back from there raving about it several years ago. Then when we saw this cruise on the list, we grabbed it – and we’re so glad we did. Always glad to bring some blue-sky-light anywhere. :>)

  5. I’m so far behind in my blog reading, but I simply had to come over here and read your travel posts. It looks like there are crosses in the windows of that coloring building. Something about this post makes me sad – and I think it must be that I’ve never thought before what it would be like to live in Berlin today – to be humbled by her history.

    • What an eye, Patricia! I had not noticed – thank you! I agree about that pervasive sadness underneath things. It’s definitely there. But there is also a sense of forward momentum, constant rebuilding and hope. And for that I was grateful.