Some good food recommendations should you find yourself in Berlin in the near future: Hartweizen Italian (great wine, friendly service, good pasta dishes, cool artwork); Good Morning Vietnam (excellent noodle and curry dishes); Café Gorki Park (great Russian breakfast with neat architecture); Herman Belgian Bar (wide, wide selection of Belgian beers – not on tap, but still great); and, just in case you get a hankering for some food from home, the “California” burrito place Dolores. We also at Japanese, Indian food, and of course some German fare, illustrating the diversity of options, but these were nothing to write home about!
Other notable sights that we took in during this first week include the Olympic Stadium and the Pergamon Museum on Museum Island. The Olympic Stadium tour was fascinating as it charted the venue’s use first as a horse racing track, then built for the 1916 Olympics (which never happened), then greatly expanded to show the power of the 3rd Reich for the 1936 Olympics, then remodeled in the 1970s for the FIFA World Cup, and finally, completely gutted and remodeled for the 2006 World Cup. We (unfortunately!) had just missed the UEFA Champions League Final, which had been held at the Olympic Stadium the week prior, but it was cool to see the locker rooms, the press rooms, and to sit in the chairs of the elite. Also, the surrounding areas were neat with a training field, smaller stadiums and a swimming pool that has since been converted to a public swimming area (a great idea for kids for a hot summer’s day – just don’t let them climb on the pool’s stadium seats, which are not up to code since they have not been secured since the 1970s). The Pergamon Museum was great as well (make sure to get tickets online before arriving – no wait time!). While it was under construction when we visited, it had amazing large-scale architectural reconstructions of famous historical sights, including the Babylonian palace of Nebuchadnezzar and the Market Gate of Miletus (and the Pergamon altar which we didn’t get to see). While these items were stupendous, it was a little disappointing that many of the other items in the museum were in fact replicas of artifacts rather than originals. Overall, I would still recommend a visit to Museum Island because the churches and museums are stupendous in scale and grandeur, even if you do not venture inside. An interesting observation from Cameron – these buildings exemplified the scarring and pockmarks, which bear the atrocities of war in their bullet-torn facades.