The train from Amsterdam to Berlin takes about 6 hours, booking a private carriage turned out to be a wise old move because our kids sense weakness and that day they all took full advantage of us being “under the weather” (i.e. hungover). You can reserve seats for not much extra, which actually just buys you the right to tell everyone else who hasn’t bought a ticket to kindly get out of your seat.
Getting all of us on the train was traumatic because somehow the kids and I got separated from Rohan. He had managed to skirt around a crowd of people and was on the train with all our stuff when I thought he was behind me. Thinking that he wouldn’t not get on the train, I managed to get –
Amelie – who was crying for her Dad scared he was lost,
Ruby – who was throwing herself on the floor for a perfectly timed tantrum
Charlie – the oblivious but really slow one and
Myself – having a slight panic attack
onto the train.
No one stopped to ask if I was ok or needed some help, not even the staff, not even as I was literally throwing a child onto the train one at a time. I am sort of glad they didn’t though because I’m sure I would have started crying hysterically yelling “my husband left us” and that’s all kinds of awkward. Turns out Rohan was on the train, looking frantically for us, and after some terse discussions about what went wrong and how we could improve the experience next time (i.e. I blamed Rohan for the whole ordeal) we were all on the train headed for Berlin.
Being the first guests at the apartment in Friedrichshain is nice for the clean smell but not so nice when the internet situation hasn’t been sorted. Marco the smiley owner, who spoke as much English as we did German (not much) was very kind and organised a sim and wireless device for our stay. The apartment was really nice, big and quiet and very close to the metro.
Friedrichshain had a large Jewish population before the Nazi Regime and on a lot of streets you can find “stumbling blocks”, memorials created by a local artist for Jewish people murdered by the Nazis out the front of the buildings they lived in. It really made me appreciate that period in history because I could see for myself where these people lived as I spent time with my family, exactly as they would have.
Getting around Berlin is really easy with kids, the metro is accessible with lifts at most stations and the trains come every few minutes. I cannot talk about the metro without mentioning the staring. Germans living in Berlin will stare you down like they’ve been practising the “who’ll blink first” game since birth. We are accustomed to stares from strangers since we had twins but this is on a whole other level. I googled it, it’s a thing and it’s most intense when on the metro sitting across from the starers.
Really worth visiting when in Berlin is the Topography of Terror Museum set on the site of the Gestapo headquarters, the SS Security Service and the Reich Main Security Office. It was confronting, graphic at times and overall very hard to even begin to contemplate. There is also a large section of the Berlin wall remaining out the front of the building with information specific to Berlin.
Unfortunately the Checkpoint Charlie Museum is not pram friendly so Rohan went for a wander with the little ones while Amelie and I went. This place highlights the attempts of the people in East Berlin trying to escape to West Berlin during the Cold War, sometimes successful escape stories together with the tragic unsuccessful attempts all highlights how desperate these people must have been.
One thing I didn’t like on the day we went is that they allowed the people trying to get you to sign the fake petitions in. You cannot sneak into this place and when you are in that environment reading terrible stories you are probably more vulnerable to the scammers, so it’s a shame they allow it to happen.
Tiergarten is a large urban park in the middle of Berlin with a very good playground for kids all of all ages. Walking through the park and looking at the statues you can still see the bullet holes from the war. Parts of the park are very dense, Amelie had a great time searching for fairies in the forest.
Pergamon Museum located on Museum Island was interesting with the antiquity, islamic and middle eastern collections. We found the staff there though to be really angry and unhelpful on the day we went. The lift broke after Rohan had taken Charlie and Ruby to the top floor, they shrugged at him when he asked how he was meant to get down.
The Memorial for Murdered Jews in Europe can be visited at the same time as the Brandenburg Gate which was holding a concert for World Refugee Day when we were there. Afterwards we indulged in our currywurst addiction by the Gate and made our way back onto the metro for another stare off with the locals.
We have left Berlin and spent the last week in Prague, packing our bags yet again. This time tomorrow we’ll be in Italy!
But first the Berlin Bears…