Last weekend was a Berlin treat! It was freezing, but the Christmas Markets saved the day (every day). There are about 100 markets open all over the city right now. The glow from their white, twinkling lights is visible from trains and sidewalks and when you’re stepping up from the subway. Nutcrackers of every shape and size (and costume), chocolate covered bananas and pineapples, candied almonds and salted peanuts. There is a constant flow of Glühwein, which you get to drink from a real! clay mug whilst wandering through the market… looking at mittens for sale or Santa ornaments. There are merry-go-rounds and huge ferris wheels, too. Can you tell we went everyday? Because we did. The meat-lovers in our group (which was, uh, everyone but me) drooled over German sausage and bratwurst. I’ll admit, of course, the smell was delicious! So was my sandwich… yes, I did have the same one 2 nights in a row… full of warm sheep’s cheese, sauerkraut, tomatoes, all between fresh baked German bread. I think we were the year’s best food-vendor patrons.
Stepping away from the Christmas Markets, Berlin is urban, a big city, and unapologetic. The war does hang in the air; the city and its country holds that heavy history. And that fact makes you feel odd at times. But it also makes Respect well up inside you – almost like its humbling to walk the streets of a place that knew a lot of heartache.
I was grateful for the second-hand shops and the array of funky restaurants and those cute alternative Berliners who walk the streets in real time. There is grunge in Berlin, smart grunge. From the hostel to the subway to the Memorials, unapologetic was the vibe I got. A little off-putting at first, but then really like-able. Or maybe understandable?
When the sun set, it was always back to the Christmas Markets. Frank Sinatra playing in the open air with a mug of mulled wine between your fingers? Europeans have the Christmas spirit figured out.
[My days here have turned into numbers – and that is a sad and happy, exciting and nerve-racking, familiar and yet brand new thing. A speedy trip to Brussels and Brugge begins tomorrow and ends the following evening. Detroit is the destination after that. Ohhh, it’ll be good to see ya.]