August, 14, 2014
At the start of our Europe trip, all six of us arrived in couples, separately. When we touched down in Berlin it was 3:00 in the afternoon. Mitch and I made a beeline for the airport info desk, bought a 5-day transportation pass and took the U-Bahn to our hotel to meet the rest of my family. I think the key to staying just on the other side of jet lag is to adopt the local schedule the very first day you are there - so for us that meant staying awake as late as possible that first night, in hopes that we could sleep soundly.
Our first meal in Germany was dinner at a restaurant called Augustiner, that served traditional German food in a, cozy setting. We all sat around a big wooden table and ordered large beers, grilled sausage with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut and big pretzels with mustard. My mom ordered the meatballs with a rocket salad and my brother had the goulash over pasta, to which the waiter replied "ah zee lady will have zee veal balls" and to my brother, a smile and "a man's meal".
After dinner we walked to the Brandenburg Gate to see it lit up at night, and we were some of the only people there. I would recommend going after dark - the lighting is really stunning and getting to see the gate with so few people around is a really different experience than during the daytime with hoards of tourists.
The next day we slept in (having fulfilled our plan to stay out late and sleep soundly), and met my parents at the Checkpoint Charlie museum, filled with odd memorabilia and objects used during escapes across the wall.
After grabbing a bite to eat at a cafe around the corner, we made our way to the Pergamon museum on Museum Island where we saw both the Ishtar Gate of Babylon and The Great Altar of Pergamon.
Eager to rest and recharge, we stopped at a cafe by the river for iced coffee drinks with whipped cream (mine lasted .2 seconds) and mapped out the next leg of our tour-de-berlin. We followed the Lonely Planet "Royal Berlin Walk" leading us to the top of the Berlin Cathedral and then back towards our hotel.
I think my favorite sight from the day was the Berlin Cathedral, the largest church in the city. The inside is spectacular - gilded with carvings and stained glass everywhere you turn. And the view from the top at sunset was a highlight of our trip. I loved the pattern the people on the lawn below made with their colorful shirts and bicycles.
After the walk (we were exhausted at this point) we returned to our hotel for showers and then took the U-Bahn to Prenzlauerberg, a darling little cafe-filled neighborhood for dinner. We scarfed down enormous pizzas, carbonara, gnocchi with mozzarella and basil and a big arugula salad with shaved parmesan at the Italian restaurant "Pasta & Passione" and called it a night.
After dinner we rode the subway home all the way to my mom's stop and then back again to our hotel, which was at the Spittelmarkt stop.
We did SO much while we were in Germany, it is crazy thinking back on it now to see how much we accomplished in just one day. Here are my top things to do in Berlin from day one of our sightseeing.
THINGS TO DO IN BERLIN
- Eat a German meal at Augustiner
- See the Brandenburg Gate at night
- Visit the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and revel in all the odd memorabilia
- Drink iced coffee milkshakes by the river at a table in the sun
- Climb to the top of the Berliner dome at sunset
- Eat an amazing Italian dinner at Pasta & Passione in Prenzlauerberg
What are your favorite Berlin things to do? Let me know in the comments, below.