Fair warning now: All Europe posts will be photo-heavy. Some photos will be terrible because I took them from a moving bus. Also, I may not quite remember what everything is, but I am trying my best to look it up if I’ve forgotten and to not incorrectly label things.

The first city on our Baltic Capitals tour was Berlin. We had to take a bus from Warnermünde to reach inland Berlin, but the drive was so nice. We went from the rainy harbor on a beautifully scenic view of some of Germany…

One of the buses picking up tourists from Warnermünde to go to Berlin
I learned that, at least in Germany, European McDonald’s have a separate McCafe, akin to a Starbucks.

… before we arrived in front of Charlottenburg Palace.

Schloss Charlottenburg

We didn’t get to go inside, but it is spectacular just judging from its exterior. It’s the largest palace in Berlin and our first taste of this gorgeous city. Quick shout-out to our tour guide, Theo, who is an Australian ex-pat who showed us a wonderful time.

Fun fact: It was a record-high temperature of 37°C (~99°F) in Berlin the day we visited. 

I loved photographing old juxtaposed with the new all over Europe.
Berlin” is a sculpture of a broken chain, meant to symbolise how Berlin was broken by the wall during the Cold War
The Reichstag, or Reichstagsgebäude, with its glass dome so that the people can always see what their government is doing.
My family at the Brandenburg Gate, or Brandenburger Tor  (Wearing black was a poor choice on my part)

What I loved so much about Berlin is how acutely aware the city is of its history. Germans, and especially Berliners, it appeared, really feel the weight of what they’ve done in the past, both good and bad. The incredibly powerful Holocaust memorial, aka Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is one of the testaments of this mindset.

The design is excellent. It resembles a sinking cemetery built on a slope, and it is designed to make you feel uneasy as you walk through. You must pass between the stellae alone, as it is too narrow to allow a friend. You can easily lose your traveling companion at any turn. As you proceed through the memorial, the stellae get taller and taller, and you get swallowed whole by them. It is difficult to determine where the end is, or how close it is, from the center of the memorial. However, the memorial is a topic of controversy because many other groups were targeted during the Holocaust besides the Jews. This was one of the highlights of our tour and I am very grateful that, amidst our rush, Theo made sure we had time to really allow it to sink in.

19-year-old East Berliner Conrad Schumann jumping the Berlin Wall when it was just a low barbed wire fence in the ground, leaving his family behind.
He later committed suicide.
This is one of many pieces of the Berlin wall that has been converted to art.
The most interesting carpark in the world.
Underneath this carpark is where Hitler’s bunker was. The Allied forces found themselves unable to blow up the bunker (as it was… a secure bunker), so they eventually just filled it and now it’s a parking lot.

We had lunch at a place called Hofbräuhaus München, which had a lunch buffet and a live band playing some German folk music when we walked in. It was definitely way too hot for me to be eating German fare (and I don’t really like German food, to be honest). I did try a little bit of beer, since we were in Germany after all, even though I don’t really like beer. I was just glad they served it cold? I think someone told me once he was only served warm beer in Europe. (Also head cheese scares me.) (But pretzels!) The heat persisted but the fun didn’t stop!

The Berlin Cathedral, or Berliner Dom, is a Protestant “cathedral”, although it’s not an actual cathedral since it is not a Catholic institution and has no bishop presiding over it. Regardless, it’s gorgeous.
Altes Museum (“Old Museum”) is next to the Berliner Dom.

The Humboldt Box is a TEMPORARY structure that overlooks the construction site for the rebuilding of the Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace). The old-looking structure is a little sample of what the finished product will look like. That’s just one little corner. There’s actual quite a bit of debate over whether this is actually worthwhile. Older Berliners want it, a reminder of how Berlin was great, while younger Berliners think Berlin should focus on the future rather than dwell on its history.

“Mother with her Dead Son” by Käthe Kollwitz.
Placed directly under the oculus of the Neue Wache, she is exposed to all of the harsh elements that Berlin throws at her.
She represents the suffering of the civilians during the Second World War. Very powerful sculpture.
A few of the many notable alums of Humboldt University include Otto von Bismarck, Albert Einstein, the Brothers Grimm, Karl Marx, and Erwin Schrödinger.
The famous little stoplight men of East Berlin. (They wear hats!)
Berlin is fighting to keep them, even though most traces of Soviet rule in Berlin have been actively removed.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia because my own photo of this memorial came out a bit iffy.
This is the Nazi book burning memorial at Bebelplatz, and it depicts a room beneath your feet that contains shelves capable of holding the 20,000 books that the Nazis burned.
“Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people”
Checkpoint Charlie, with a McDonald’s looming in the background. Very cool though.
Berlin Wall! Fun fact: This part of the Berlin wall was also the location of an SS bunker.
Berlin Victory Column, or Siegessäule, celebrates the then-Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War and is topped by Victoria (victory)

I had an amazing time in Berlin. I love how much the city celebrates its rich history but is also very cognizant of its darker ages. With this kind of mindfulness of its past and an incredible optimism for the future, you can’t help but feel excited in Berlin.

Next time: Tallinn, Estonia!

(In case anyone was wondering, collages made for free on PicMonkey, which I also used to edit my Snow White Halloween photo.)

Eurotrip 2013 Checklist

I will be leaving a post-graduation family vacation to Europe shortly and I couldn’t be more excited! We visited Southern Europe exactly 10 years ago, and now we’re going on a little cruise around the Baltic Sea, so it’s a whole new set of cities that I have been really excited to visit. Although we’re no longer visiting Amsterdam as our original itinerary included, the freed up space means I finally have the chance to visit Paris!

I don’t know if I will get to see all these sights while I’m abroad, and I’ll probably want to see more than I’ve listed here, but I hope that I get to check off a good number of these items by the time I return. 🙂

London, England

  • Buckingham Palace
  • London Eye
  • Tower Bridge
  • Tower of London
  • Big Ben
  • Westminster Alley
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • British Museum
  • National Gallery
  • The City of London  (Click for a great video on the difference between London, the city, and the “secret” City of London, courtesy of C.G.P. Grey.)
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Brick Lane
  • King’s Cross Station
  • Hyde Park (thanks Katie!)

Copenhagen, Denmark

  • The Little Mermaid statue
  • Round  Tower
  • Rosenborg Castle
  • Christiansborg Palace
  • Kronborg Castle
  • Frederiksborg Palace (basically, if I don’t see at least one castle or palace whilst in Copenhagen, I will be sorely disappointed)
  • Tycho Brahe Planetarium
  • Viking Ship Museum
  • Tivoli Gardens (time permitting)
  • Gefion Fountain
  • Christianshavn

Warnemünde/Berlin, Germany

Bit confused here because Berlin is quite a bit inland, so… we shall see. Mostly listing Berlin attractions.

  • Westmole Lighthouse
  • Berlin Wall
  • Tiergarten
  • Gendarmenmarkt (Deutsch is a real challenge for me…)
  • Olympic Stadium
  • Brandenburg Gate
  • KaDeWe
  • Neue Synagogue
  • Berlin Cathedral
  • Victory Column
  • Reichstag
  • Checkpoint Charlie

Tallinn, Estonia

  • Old Town
  • Kadriorg Park
  • Town Wall
  • Open Air Museum (Rocca Al Mare)
  • Tower Kiek in de Kök
  • Viru Square
  • Russalka

Saint Petersburg, Russia

  • Russian ballet at the Mikhailovsky Opera and Ballet Theatre OR
  • Russian ballet at the Alexandrinsky Theatre
  • Peter and Paul Cathedral
  • St. Isaac’s Cathedral (I am listing many cathedrals on this list. While I’m not religious, I would be a fool to not look forward to visiting these amazing buildings that are a testament to the long history of these nations and to the long history of Christendom.)
  • Palace Square
  • Yusupov Palace
  • Anichov Bridge
  • Bronze Horseman
  • Peter and Paul Fortress
  • Gatchina Palace and Park
  • Cottage Palace
  • Nevsky Prospekt
  • Hermitage Museum
  • Peterhof Palace (thanks for reminding me of these 2 important ones, Barry!)

Helsinki, Finland

  • Church in the Rock
  • Esplanade Park
  • Upenski Cathedral
  • Seurasaari Island
  • Kamppi Chapel of Silence
  • Design District

Stockholm, Sweden

  • Millesgarden
  • Old Town
  • Canals
  • Drottningholm Palace
  • Skeppsholmen
  • Royal Palace
  • ABBA Museum 😀
  • Ericsson Globe
  • Nobel Museum

Paris, France

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Notre Dame
  • Île de la Cité
  • L’Arc de Triomphe
  • Sacré Cœur
  • Champs-Elysées
  • Place de la Concorde
  • Pont Neuf
  • Tuileries
  • Panthéon
  • Louvre
  • Musée d’Orsay
  • Les Invalides
  • Luxembourg Gardens
  • Trocadéro (thanks Alex!)
  • (Can we get to Versailles?)
  • (Maybe Monet’s garden at Giverny?)

So in short, I want to see beautiful parks and squares, castles and palaces, and cathedrals wherever I can, in addition to the places that make each city unique.
I didn’t list many specific museums that I am interested in visiting because I don’t want to worry too much about admission costs and also I don’t know how much time we’ll have to go visit and browse at our leisure. I’m the kind of girl who likes to read all the signs… but I’m usually alone on that. ^^;

I pride myself on being relatively good at articulating how I feel, but I don’t know if I can accurately communicate how excited I am for this trip. Europe is a continent with such a vast and massive history, and so much of it is accessible to the public by just walking around. There is no denying the magnitude of events that happened where I will soon get to walk, taking in the same sights as names I first learned in textbooks did centuries ago.

It’s going to be amazing, no matter which sights I get to see.

What should I see while I’m abroad? What should I pass on? Please leave any and all suggestions in comments! 🙂