I almost did not make it to Europe....no lie. I sat on a plane they were trying to fix for 3 hours (in DFW) until they finally decided MAYBE we should fly across the big pond in a more reliable vehicle....so then I, along with the other passengers, were stranded until they found a new plane. We arrived 4 hours late in London, 2.5 hours after my flight to Berlin. So I had to WAIT in HEATHROW all day...with 3 hours of sleep and missing a day of my hard earned self paid vacay.
On top of that...I had to leave my hot winter coat on bc I broke my zipper on my jeans. Yes its true, it got caught on the fabric and i ripped to hard to pull it up and I broke it so I had buttoned unzipped jeans with NOTHING else to change into until 9:30 that night when I finally arrived in Berlin at our hotel in Berlin. This was of course, very frustrating, BUT VERY VERY par for the course in the travel life of Katy Braden.....ha, I get used to these silly set backs.
In Berlin, I was determined to NOT waste an entire day and I had recently slept all the way from london to berlin so I had a short second wind....I met up with Ann Kirk and changed before walking through the Kurfurstendamm neighborhood of West Germany to find a cafe to eat at. (Ku-damm as the locals call it is like the Champs de lysee in Paris or the Miracle Mile in Chicago...shopping area, very vibrant and feels safe since so many people are there. Glad we chose to stay here. We found this little cafe I had read about called Schwartz Cafe....a 24 hour artsy very local cafe. I had eaten lunch at 3:30 (thank you time change and how it affects eating/sleeping habits) so all I wanted was desert and I ordered this delicious apple strudel with vanilla ice cream. AK had a hummus dip. We had a great conversation and I immediately realized a years worth of emails/gchat has not done our friendship justice.
The next day, we got up and went to an adorable little restaurant for breakfast that AK found (riendharts) When in Europe, even coffee, toast and eggs seems fancy. We then went to see the Brandonburg Gate where Ronald Reagan said his famous words. I had my private memorial for him. We walked around the neighborhood, went to a market and a chocolate store then met for the "free berlin tour" (tips only) Usually I think that tours can be cheesy but this was the only way to see a city as large as Berlin in 2 days. We saw the Holocaust memorial, where Hitler shot himself, a piece of the Wall, Communist sites, etc. It was a good way to get a lot in and our guide was very good -- an Aussie who has moved to different European cities to give tours....we both agreed he was very good in history and we hope when he gets his wanderer phase out of him, he decides to teach high school or college.
Then we sat at a cafe and hot hot chocolate to warm up (it was bitterly cold that afternoon) before catching the U-bahn to go see the East Side Gallery. This is the largest remainder of the Berlin wall remaining. Several artists (particularly alternative or street art) were called in to paint pictures of freedom on this wall. So 1.3 km of wall are painted with pictures of what freedom means to commemorate communism. We then went back to the hotel to change for dinner--a wonderful Turkish meal (Berlin has the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey so this is a very big part of their culture) AK had written her thesis on Turkey's possible admission to the EU and she wanted to try Turkish food. The guy was very helpful in showing us what to order and also surprised us with Turkish tea and cookies.
The next day we saw the Riechstag, climbed to the top of the dome, went to see the Babylonian gates at the museum, and ate lunch at a cute little restaurant. Before leaving, we walked up and down Ku-damm and saw KaDeWe, the largest department store in continental Europe. I also was adomant that I try a currywurst like Samantha Brown did and my reaction was just like hers-- gross. I have now tried it and will never tried again.
After lots of almost failures (another blog entirely) in making it to Krakow (we serve a Big God who was watching out for us), we made it this morning, having slept fairly well in our sleeper cart. We checked into the hostel before heading out on the town to see the sights and see the mourning of the President's death. More on that soon, hopefully....I will update you on our wonderful day today, wonderful food and our upcoming trip to Auschwitz today.