The Last Day in Berlin – Museum Island then Iceland

On our last day in Berlin, we headed over to Museum Island, Berlin’s island …of museums. We got passes and walked through a few of the museums including a painting gallery, a sculpture gallery, and a history museum. Just like the Deutsch Museum in Munich, they were really informative. The history museum even went into the history of the museum itself. Apparently a bunch of artifacts were taken to Moscow by the soviets during their occupation of East Germany and Russia still has them. There were several exhibits that brought that fact up. I found it ironic considering the Germans were holding literally hundreds of Egyptian artifacts, but they never mentioned that in the museum.

Pizza and Packing

After an afternoon of hanging out in the museums, Nicole and I got a pizza to share and headed back to the AirBnB to pack. We loaded up our bags and took a tram to a bus to the airport. The whole trip took about an hour and reached the airport right at the 2 hour mark for our international flight. Nicole got us some food while I waited in line to check us in.

Flying to Iceland

Landing in Iceland
Landing in Iceland

The flight to Iceland was no problem. We took off on time and arrived a few hours later in Iceland. I actually slept most of the way. The new travel Austin was finally becoming accustomed to sleeping on long flights. It made the time go by much faster, but at the expense of missing airplane snacks. I made up for it by eating the rest of Nicole’s airplane sandwich when she fell asleep. [divider_flat]

Landing in Keflavik

My trusty yellow bag and a tiny blue shopping cart
My trusty yellow bag and a tiny blue shopping cart

Landing in Keflavik, Iceland’s largest airport, was a breeze, even at 1am. There was absolutely no security or anything, we just picked up our bags from the luggage carousel and walked out. No customs, no declaration forms, Iceland was just happy to have us. I loaded up my trusty yellow backpack into a tiny shopping cart and headed over to the car rental place. The guy I chatted with was really nice. He ended up giving us a free audio CD of the Golden Circle (more on that later) and another CD of Icelandic Folktales. [divider_flat]

Iceland's Keflavik Airport at 1am
Iceland’s Keflavik Airport at 1am

Finding our AirBnB

We got our keys and hopped into our rental car. I used the airport wifi to look up directions to our residence and then we departed. The trip was supposed to take only 45 minutes, but we ended up getting lost in Reykjavik. The trip took about twice as long and involved us stopping at a random house at 2am and almost knocking on the door before we realized we were in the wrong place. Luckily we figured it out and didn’t scare a random Icelandic couple with out late night intrusion. Eventually we found our AirBnB and our room inside the AirBnB. We got inside and brought our bags up to our room before passing out from an exceedingly long day.

Third Day in Berlin – Street Art

We went on an alternative Berlin street art tour that involved some graphic images. There aren’t many, but there are a few graphic images in the gallery towards the middle of the page. Just a heads up. Now, on with the blog…

We woke a bit later than usual the day after the world cup. I know we weren’t the only ones waking up late. The streets of Berlin were eerily quiet leading all the way up to about noon. I think the World Cup victory from the night before kept most people in bed nursing their post-celebration hang overs. However, that was not the case for us. Nicole booked an alternative Berlin street art tour for us.

Street Art Walking Tour…because I’m edgy

The tour met below the Berlin TV Tower around 11. Our guide and the rest of our ragtag group introduced ourselves and we started our trek. The tour was really informative and I’ll do my best to explain the pieces as I remember them in the gallery below.

Lunch with the Germany National Soccer Team

Germany World Cup Van
Germany World Cup Van

That would be cool right? I wish. After the walking tour and getting incredibly lost in a hospital turned art school, Nicole and I found ourselves almost right back where we started, near the Berlin TV Tower. We stopped for a bite to eat. I got some sausages and Nicole got some currywurst. She loves currywurst. In the middle of our meal, this Mercedes van pulls up and a handful of guys in Germany jerseys get out. A few people in the area turn their heads and I notice that some of the people at our outdoor cafe are turning around. There’s some curiosity about this van but not the sort of full-on pandemonium you would expect for a World Cup champion team to be just 30 feet from you. Either way I snapped a photo. Later I saw an article on CNN about the world cup and the same van was in the article picking up players from the airport.

Museum Island

Nicole and I stopped by Museum Island for a quick walk around. Most of the museums were closing in less than an hour so we made plans to come back tomorrow. More on that tomorrow…

Dinner and a Movie

Movie in the park
Movie in the park

Nicole and I learned that Berlin is well known for its outdoor movies in the park.  Lucky for us there was a park
showing Nebraska, in English, right across from our apartment. I don’t mean that figuratively either. The park was literally across the street from us. We packed a small dinner of wine, cheese, hummus, olives, and french bread (German bread?) and enjoyed our meal. It started to rain about halfway through the movie so we sought shelter one of the large umbrellas in the back of the park with a bunch of other Germans. The movie was only a few euros each and the outdoor park/amphitheater was almost empty. It was a great experience.

 

Second Day in Berlin – Brunch, Beer Gardens, and the World Cup

On our second day in Berlin, we actually woke up at a reasonable time. The jet lag from all of our travels was beginning to pass and it was getting to be easier and easier to sleep in the morning. We had a small breakfast/snack of croissants and coffee while we got ready and then headed out to Prenzlauer Berg. Prenzlauer Berg is a hub of bohemian culture in Berlin although it had recently become more gentrified. It’s home to some amazing brunch places, markets, cafes, parks, and beer gardens. Nicole and I went for Brunch.

Brunch in Prenzlauer Berg

A few short tram stops away we arrived in scenic Prenzlauer Berg and walked to a brunch place I’d found online. It was situated right beside a park in a quiet plaza away from traffic and the main roads. We enjoyed a leisurely meal and listened to this kid play saxophone. He looked like he was in middle school or early high school, but he was a very impressive musician. At the end of his set, he walked around and collected some money before heading to another venue.

Mauerpark

After breakfast we walked to Mauerpark, a park not too far away. The park holds a Sunday flea market that had a lot of really cool antiques, clothes, crafts, and live music. I bought some soap for our new apartment this coming year. I wanted to buy more things, but we had limited space and a trip to Iceland ahead of us so I refrained. We saw a band performing at the entrance to the park as well as several other performers, including a man wearing a horse mask playing guitar in his underwear. It was bizarre.

Prater Biergarten

From the flea market we walked over to the Prater Biergarten, a local biergarten in a courtyard. The garden holds several hundred people and they were expecting at least that many for the world cup game against Argentina that night. We saw them setting up more benches and chairs. While we were there, the place was almost entirely empty. There were a handful of Germans and tourists sitting at various tables enjoying the afternoon. It was nice to visit and get a feel for the place before it became so packed that no one could sit down.

The Calm During the Storm

Dark clouds started to roll in while we were at the beer garden so we packed up our things and headed back for the afternoon. That night we went to a brewery turned nightclub and watched the final world cup game: Argentina vs. Germany.

Pizza before the World Cup
Pizza before the World Cup

The dance floor was lined with row after row of benches and packed with people. In the courtyard outside there were dozens of people shoulder to shoulder watching the game as well. All along the street, everyone was tuned in to the game. Streetside cafes set up TVs on spare tables and everyone was watching intently. After the game, fireworks were going off everywhere. The LCD screens at every bus stop were broadcasting the news and the score. Germany won the world cup.

 

First Day in Berlin – Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial

The Yellow Trams of Berlin
The Yellow Trams of Berlin

We reached Berlin around 8am and took a subway and a tram across town to Platz der Vereinten Nationen, where we would be staying. We got lost en route and took the wrong tram a few stops in the wrong direction before we figured it out and went back. Around 9:45 we made it to our new AirBnB, met our hosts friend, and “checked in”. She gave us the key and told us where the apartment was. It was a nice apartment, but a 6 story walkup. We got a lot of exercise while we were in Berlin. [divider_flat]

R and R

The giant door to our apartment in Berlin
The giant door to our apartment in Berlin

After an overnight bus and a bit of a hike getting across town to our apartment, we were a bit worn out. It was nice to relax in the apartment for a few hours and catch up on some sleep, and do some laundry.

Berlin By Foot

That afternoon we took a free walking tour of Berlin. We got a chance to see the Brandenburg gate, several embassies, the holocaust memorial, Berlin Wall, and a number of other sites in the city. We also tried currywurst, a famous Berlin street food. It’s the German equivalent of the chili cheese dog. Its terribly unhealthy but delicious. Currywurst is sliced sausage in a curry sauce. If you’re ever in Berlin, try it.[divider_flat]

Currywurst
Currywurst

After our walking tour we returned to the Berlin wall to snap a few pictures and get some dinner. We had some of our favorite late night food in Korea: Kebabs (not at all Korea, I know). All over Berlin, cafes, bars, and restaurants were getting ready for the World Cup. There were numerous TV sets and viewing parties set up. The plaza surrounding Brandenburg gate was set up to host a giant viewing party as well. We started to plan out where we would go for the game and scouted locations, but I’ll write about that tomorrow.

Day Three in Germany – Nymphenburg Palace and River Surfers

Nicole and I slept in until nearly 10am, which meant I got an absurd 12 hours of sleep. It was grand.  For breakfast we found an 8 euro brunch buffet across from our AirBnB. We loaded up on all kinds of breads, jams, and yogurts before realizing that the rest of the buffet was around the corner. Nicole was already full but I enjoyed some fine meats and cheeses from the newly discovered rest-of-the-buffet.

Breakfast Buffet in Munich
Breakfast Buffet in Munich

Palace Nymphenburg Our Return

After breakfast we returned to Schloss Nymphenburg, the palace near our AirBnB. The weather was agreeable and we enjoyed a walking tour of the palace and a leisurely stroll through the palace gardens behind it.

Nymphenburg Palace was the primary Summer residence of the Bavarian family. It was added onto several times during its few hundred year existence. The palace and palace grounds were neatly divided in several places by an elaborate system of canals. At one time, the canals connected Nymphenburg palace with the rest of greater Munich through these canals. The Bavarian royal family hired gondoliers from Venice to carry them through the canals in the city.

Marienplatz, Munich

After the Palace we returned to Marienplatz downtown, where we’d met our walking tour on the first day in Munich. Near to Marienplatz is a large outdoor food market called Viktualienmarkt. At the market you can get delicious meats, cheeses, wines, fruits and vegetables. We had a beer in the biergarten there and enjoyed a Leberkäs (frankfurt in loaf form) sandwich with a big piece of crackle. I highly recommend it if you find yourself in Munich.

Biertour

After our snack, Nicole and I did a mini beer tour of the different Biergartens around Marienplatz. At the behest of our tour guide the first day, we visited the Augustiner biergarten next to the Frauenkirche. We also visited Andechser am Dom, at the suggestion of my friend Rob. Of those two, I would definitely recommend Andechser. It was perhaps the best beer I had in Munich. The beer is brewed just outside of Munich in a monastery. I wish we could have visited the actual brewery, its beside a lake, Ammersee, and supposedly a very nice day trip, alas, our time was short and a second day trip just wasn’t in the cards.

After our lazy afternoon, we went for a stroll through the Englischer Garten in Munich. It’s a large park within the city, similar to central park in that it has a little bit of everything in it. The park is massive and includes everything from surfing to Chinese towers. That’s right, surfing in the park. Along the Eisbach river that runs through the park, there are several places where artificial waves are formed and surfers can take turns surfing on these waves. Nicole and I stayed awhile and watched the surfers hop in, ride for a few minutes, then fall back and let another surfer take a turn.

Chinesischer Turm
Chinesischer Turm

We walked on through the park until we came to our second destination, a giant Chinese tower, called the Chinesischer Turm, or Chinese Tower in German, original I know. The tower is the central feature of a giant biergarten within the park. It’s one of Munich’s largest. Nicole and I tried some of the garten’s strong beer, or starkbier. It was sweet and delicious with a little bit of a bite to it from the higher ABV.  We also ordered some sausages and sauerkraut in the park. The sauerkraut ended up being some of the best we had in Germany.

This was the last full day we had in Munich and it was a great day at that. India was a fantastic experience, but it took some work and planning. It was really nice to visit Munich and just be able to relax. We were able to see a lot of sites, but at the same time, we could take our time and not worry about having to see “everything”.