After a whirlwind of a process trying to get to Germany we finally touched down in Berlin at 11:30pm on a Tuesday night in mid December. Berlin has an awesome public transportation system, but Tegel airport is pretty far out of the city center. For our family of 6 with 4 of those being 4 years old and under, getting to the nearest bus stop that late at night with 4 toddlers was not worth my sanity. Instead we opted to walk 5 steps out the door to a waiting taxi. One of the things I loved most about Germany’s public transportation is that their taxis have car seats and booster seats! Yep, you read that right! Germany’s taxis are all ran by one company, I think it may even be controlled by the government. Anyway, they have convertible car seats and booster seats. We obviously needed a van to fit 6 people and never had a problem finding one with multiple car seats! I had read this ahead of time but wasn’t sure if it was really true or not. I’m here to tell you now I have experienced it myself and their taxis really do have car seats. We had to use a taxi 3 times during our trip and 2 of those times were in different cities. Each time we were able to find a van with multiple car seats for us. This was a huge relief since we didn’t have to lug all the kids car seats with us! Our trip to and from the airport to the city center was €31 and it was the same price when we went back to the airport 2 weeks later.
We spent 3 nights in Berlin in an Airbnb apartment right in the heart of the city between the popular Potsdamer Platz and Alexander Platz. We were in walking distance to Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, The Memorial for Murdered Jews, pretty much everything you want to see in Berlin we could walk to it.
Day 1 we walked across the street for breakfast at Hashtag Coffee Shop. It was a hip little cafe right outside our apartment. The staff spoke great English! Actually, pretty much everyone we encountered in Berlin spoke excellent English. All the signs in Germany are in German and English also. We had no trouble navigating the metro system as it’s well marked with English signage.
After breakfast we walked down to Checkpoint Charlie which is where the military crossing for the Berlin Wall which separated East and West Germany was located. I don’t want to get into a history lesson here but the Berlin Wall History is worth a quick internet search.
Next we made our way around the Christmas market in Potsdamer Platz. We had the best traditional German lunch there where I discovered my love for Goulash! We bought a few little ornaments and the kids rode the carnival swings. This is also where Andrew let the kids take a picture up next to part of the old Berlin Wall before we realized it was covered in old chewing gum!
Right up the street from Potsdamer Platz is the Memorial for Murdered Jews. It caught me off guard and we had no idea what it was when we first walked up on it. It was on my list of places to visit but I didn’t know what it looked like so it was not what I expected. It’s not enclosed, there’s no signage on 3 sides of it, and it’s huge. We had to walk through the entire thing before we made it to the information area and realized what it was. Honestly, I think it’s a pretty major design flaw that there’s nothing denoting it from the rest of the street and construction around it.
We stumbled upon the Murdered Jews Memorial on our way to the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag building. The Brandenburg gate was built in the late 1700s at the site of the old Berlin city gate. It’s huge and beautiful and barely survived WW2, but has been restored to its former beauty. On a side note, one of my favorite parts of our time in Berlin was all the WW2 history! Germany has triumphed over their dark past, but many buildings are still riddled with bullet holes, some patched and others left as living battle scars. Just a block over from the Brandenburg Gate is the Reichstag building which houses the German Parliament. It is an absolutely beautiful work of art!
That night we had dinner right across from our apartment at Fontana di Trevi and it was wonderful! Our server didn’t speak English but she understood us well enough to provide excellent service and we had an excellent meal. The kids had a Margherita pizza which was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. Andrew had lamb and I had salmon pasta in a cream sauce. The food was perfect!
One of the things Rhett was most excited about for our Germany trip was seeing the dinosaurs in Berlin’s natural history museum. They have the largest full skeleton brachiosaurus in the world along with several other Dino’s on display. Rhett was absolutely amazed! The entire natural history museum was awesome! I thought we would pop in to see the dinosaurs and then head out but we ended up spending several hours covering every inch of the museum because the kids and adults loved it all!
After spending the morning in the museum we headed over to Alexanderplatz to their big Christmas market. They had tons of vendor and food booths, an ice skating rink, several kids carousels, and a big Ferris wheel. It was an adorable Christmas market delight! We filled up on bratwurst and candies while we played and browsed the rest of the day!
Berlin was our first experience with public transportation and metro systems. All the signage is in English and it’s very easy to navigate. The DB Navigator smartphone app shows you all the train, metro, a bus schedules for all of Germany. You can select your departure and arrival destinations from a map and it will show you all the ways you can get where you’re going. It’s an absolute necessity for getting around using public transport!
There was a lot more we wanted to do in Berlin but since we missed our first day there we had to narrow it down quite a bit. I think 3-4 full days is enough to cover everything though.
Leaving Berlin we took a high speed ICE train to the other side of Germany to the city of Köln. Berlin’s main train station is huge and since it was our first experience with the train system there we were pretty confused how to find the correct platform. We were making it way harder than it was though because every train is assigned a numbered platform and there are no two platform numbers the same regardless of which type of train it is. For example the different train types include ICE, RE, S, U, trams, and buses and they all share the same station. If your ICE train is assigned to platform 8 it may have an ICE train there now and a RE train next.
Berlin and Köln are on opposite sides of the country, but the ICE train between the 2 is only about a 4 hour ride. Train travel is so nice because you can sit back and relax, move around as you please, use the bathroom as needed, or visit the train restaurant all while making it quickly to your destination while taking in the scenery!