Bratwurst & Babies
Traveling to Germany for the first time seemed like a brilliant idea.
*Actually... it was kinda my third time... if you count a 14 hour layover in Frankfurt Airport in 1992 and a passport check as I passed from Switzerland to Austria on a train... in the middle of the night... in 1999.
So... technically, yes, it was my first real trip to Germany.
On multiple occasions, prior to my trip, my German friends asked me what I wanted to do in Germany.
Hmmm.... I don't know...
I’m ashamed to admit that I really didn't know a lot about Germany.
How do you plan an itinerary around that?
So I did what any trying-not-to-be-burdensome person would. I asked if we could eat Bratwurst. Seemed reasonable and easy enough?
Obviously, I'm no stranger to Bratwurst. These colossal German sausages are available in Canada. Am I a fan? Not particularly. I wouldn't turn one down if it was offered... but I also wouldn't seek it out as a meal. Anyway... when in Germany, right? Bratwurst, it must be!
On my very first afternoon, we feasted on traditional bratwurst, sauerkraut & potatoes ~ ✔️
Carolin and Joni were the lovely couple I met when I was in Costa Rica. They were traveling with their sweet little boy, Liam, who was 1 at the time. I remember being in absolute awe of anyone who could even consider traveling with a baby. They managed to not only pull it off, but make it seem fun and effortless. I couldn't do it.
No way. No how.
Anyway... they had always extended a sincere invitation to visit them in Germany, should I find myself in that part of Europe.
So along comes me... in Europe...
I hadn't originally planned to include Germany in my trek across this portion of the globe, but I also didn’t want to ignore such a gracious invitation and they were quite insistent on me visiting. Flights were reasonable and I managed to easily squeeze it into my itinerary. I figured it would be fun to see them all again... and tick Germany off (for reals) on my list of visited countries...
And I did just that.
I flew to Berlin.
As soon as I stepped out into the brisk German air... I nearly froze in my tracks. I don’t think it matters how many times I am taught a harsh, harsh lesson about wintertime in Europe, I just don’t seem to be able to grasp the fact that it's brrrrrrrrrrr cold. I'm never prepared.
Germany is cold. Cold.
Carolin and little baby Milo picked me up at the airport and whisked me away to her hometown of Luckenwalde, about 45 minutes away. Joni had been on the road with a semi-famous singer, Finch (?), and had just arrived back home the evening prior, so he was resting at home with Liam.
Milo was new since I'd met them in Costa Rica.
He was six months old.... and teething.
I repeat, teething.
Teething does not necessarily make for a joyful, peaceful visit.
As someone without children, I've never had to experience this diaper-days delight, but a little bit of online research educated me quickly. Babies can become cranky or irritable as they experience tooth eruption. Funny that, because I discovered that I too can become cranky or irritable due to their tooth eruption. Slightly different, yes... but basically same same, though I'm ever so much quieter with my irritability.
The boys were adorable, but unfortunately the shrieking could be almost deafening. Carolin and Joni were visibly exhausted and I really wish I could have done more to help them out. I did try... but...
On top of it all, the weather was horrendous. It even snowed. True story.
Despite atrocious weather conditions, which consisted of gale force winds, glacial chill factor, dismal overcast and the constant threat of torrential downpour, we all bundled up and headed into Berlin for the day. The sun did make a momentary appearance a couple times, but I really don’t think we could have picked a more frightful day to play tourist.
We were going to take the train in... but there was a strike.
Of course there was.
Like most cities, Berlin offered the usual double decker city-sightseeing bus, but Carolin and Joni figured it might be a cheaper option to take the Bus #100. This bus took you from the Zoologischer Garten to Alexanderplatz... the exact inner-city touristy route offered by Big Bus... though for significantly less.
Because it was just a public bus.
Sure... it drove past notable sights such as the TV Tower, Berliner Dom, Museum Island, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Bellvue Palace, Victory Column, Tiergarten and Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church... but that's it. It just drove past. At a few points I was either so squished in with passengers, gripping the grasp rail for dear life or else seated at the window covered in decals, making it impossible to see anything outside.
I did appreciate the warmth it offered.
That was definitely an appreciated bonus.
The Holocaust Memorial is a memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. At first, I assumed the monuments were a series of coffins, a field of 2711 concrete steles.
I would have liked to have visited the Museum and the Information Centre, but it was hardly a place to take a baby and a toddler.
Checkpoint Charlie, a symbol of the Cold War, was a famous crossing point between East and West Berlin. It's only a tourist attraction now, but definitely worth the selfie!
The Berlin Wall was a guarded concrete barrier that encircled West Berlin, separating it from East Berlin and the German Democratic Republic. Of course, it came down in 1989, but traces and remains of the wall are still around the city to see. There were so many outdoor display boards, chronicling past events, as well as notable people throughout history, but I could not bring myself to stop and reach all the information that was available. It was too cold to stop. Nothing is even remotely interesting when your entire body is going numb. That's how bitter it was.
I was freezing.
Imagine how those little babies felt!
No wonder they screamed … and pooped in their pants.
I almost did too.
After walking a ways, we had to take refuge in the Mall of Berlin.
No... not the WALL... the Mall...
I never really thought I would hear myself say this, but the mall was welcoming.
It was warm.
It was a shelter.
There were shops to browse while diapers were being changed.
And there was a food court... where I tried my first currywurst.
Carolin and Joni went out of their way to make me feel welcome. Throughout my trip, I have discovered that some people just don't know how to be a tourist in their own country. They made a valiant effort to cater to me, despite my insistence that I was there to see them. It was very nice... but… in addition to everyone already exhausted, being or getting sick, as well as the burden of two very small children... It was probably not the ideal time for an overseas guest. Especially one who was essentially a stranger. Back to lessons learned in overstaying your welcome. Three nights was probably too many.
Despite the crap weather, the teething, the shrieking, everyone sick, the exhaustion, the horrendous plumbing... oh... did I mention the humiliation I endured, somehow managing to clog up their sink, their shower drain AND their toilet with ONLY a #1????.... man, oh man... it was nice... and perhaps more than a bit of an epic fail.
I ate spaghetti ice cream.
I ate bratwurst and sauerkraut.
I tried currywurst for the first time.
Luckenwalde was a small, sleepy village, but they apparently had a great Italian restaurant. So on my final night, I took the family out, as a way to thank them for their hospitality. It wasn't exactly pretzels and spätzle and stollen... but it did the trick.
You know what else I didn't have in Germany?
*Must come back!
The following morning, I was supposed to take the train into Berlin airport to catch my early flight. I figured it would be easier on them, not having to drive me all over Germany at such an ungodly hour. But as luck would have it... my train was cancelled.
If it's not a strike... It's a cancellation.
I felt so bad because Joni ended up having to drive me all the way to the airport at 5:30Am. He had been awake all night with a teething, screaming baby.
You may wonder how I know this?
I was awake too...