Berlin: Bells of Berlin

Cathedrals and churches in Germany tell stories. They tell the stories of the people that visited them; the hopes, dreams and prayers of those who attended, the gifts the rich devotes could gift; the scars from war, the special things that were saved in times of crisis; the miracle that some have been unscathed. They tell the story of Roman and Gothic architecture, of how people dealt with death and loss, of our amazing history of mythology and imagery and iconography and art.

What a great way to spend time with your child! And affordable to boot. We always look for local churches to check out in the neighborhoods we stay in while we are in Europe. We have interrupted mass in Galway, Ireland, discussed Game of Thrones with a Monk (also in Ireland), talked art with a nun in Scotland, listened to prayers from the devout in Germany… all without every being given a stinky eye or sharp word. In general, you will find that European churches enjoy young, well behaved, curious children. Well behaved is key – a church is a place of serious, devout worship and should always be treated with deep respect.

In Berlin, we went to the Parochialkirche in Mitte, the oldest (1695) protestant church in Berlin. It just so happened there was an exhibit on the Sistine Chapel, where large (huge!) reproductions of Michelangelo’s art was blown up so that every inch could be dissected into intent and backstory and meaning. Little had to be dragged out of this church exhibit; he couldn’t learn enough.

TV towerWe visited Mariankirche by Alexandreplatz (1270) which was not destroyed in WW2 so holds much of the local church artwork from the churches that were destroyed. There is a wonderful medieval fresco called “Dance with Death” that was painted in the entrance, wrapping around the walls showing how all members of society dancing with death, a white-cloaked specter.

Nikolai Kirche is an 800 year old double-spired landmark and who’s who of Berlin families, judging by the tombs. In 1939 it was turned into a public office and is now a city museum and concert hall. It’s the center of the Nikolai Viertel, which is an adorable

NikolaiKirche
Nikolai Kirche – Berlin

neighborhood with cute shopping and a ton of authentic German restaurants.

Berlin Dom – this is Berlin’s Cathedral and can not be missed. It does have a small entry fee of 5 Euro but it so worth it. The inside is spectacular and the crypt should not be missed. Little was fascinated by the tombs and caskets which are on display in the crypt and 500 years of Prussian burial history – so many little princes and princesses buried there in ornate boxes with crowns on top.

It’s a little uncomfortable jumping into the conversations to be had about God and death and ritual and history – and you can’t avoid those conversations when you spend time visiting churches in Europe. But be prepared for how you want to handle these conversations and the experience will be well worth it.

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Berlin: Walking In Berlin

What to see? There is never enough time to do all the things I want to when we visit a place little hasn’t been before. We try to research beforehand a few “sure thing” places we know that all members of our family will enjoy and vet them with our group but also have back up museums if they happen to be closed or too busy or farther away than thought. In general, I make a list on google docs beforehand that I can quickly access with details; so any plans can be changed on the fly with a quick check on my phone of other nearby awesome places to check out.

Berlin has almost 200 museums, from the Currywurst MuseumCurrywurst Museum to the Mauermuseum (Wall Museum) to the Ramones Museum, there is  truly something for everyone. Our “short list” included:

DDR Museum: This highly interactive museum looks at life in the DDR before Germany reunited. There are 3 sections: Public Life, the State, and Private Life. This exhibit is great for kids because it really shows them the details: you can drive a Trabi car in an interactive exhibit, or explore an entire DDR apartment, flushing the toilet, opening the fridge and learning about common food, seeing what different outfits might look like on you (and learning about blackmarket Levis.) This museum is fabulous and stays open late so it’s a great addition to the day when most other museums begin to close. Good for all kids and adults. Be aware though – there are references to aspects of adult daily life that some kids might pick up on and a whole display about nude bathing.

 

Altes Museum: Altes Museum is on “Museum Island” – where you can find 5 of the major Museums. We chose Altes because of little’s love of ancient Greek and Roman times and Indian Jones. It’s probably not a good place for really young kids, kids that run around or love to touch. It’s a traditional museum with Greek statues and antiquities. If your child wants to see helmets, statues of Aphrodite, ancient jewelry, sarcophaguses, etc. then don’t miss this one.  Kids Free with adult entry!

NikolaiKirche.jpgNikolai Kirche:Nikolai Kirche: The Oldest churh in Berlin (13th century) is actually a city museum (Stadtmuseum) where for 5 euros you can learn a ton about Berlin’s most famous 17th century citizens. A bit boring for most young kids and certainly a place where you need to mind your manners and be quiet, our little loved it because of the audio tour (free with admission) and the really neat items that were excavated during renovations – basically, tomb raiding. Kids free with adult admission.

LegoLego Discovery Center: This is a big indoor playground in Potsdamer Platz with 2 rides and a couple activity areas. There are areas to play, design, climb, watch fun movies. This place is a good stop for kids to blow off some steam and be creative; but it is packed (!!!) with tons of kids running everywhere. It’s a good respite from the serious museums.

Of course, we wanted to see so many more museums but there is only so much you can cover in a few days. Just makes the next-time list that much smaller – only 165 museums left to go!

 

 

Berlin: Where are we now?

German food! Pretzels, Brötchen, Nutella, Pommes Frites, Kinder eggs and all the chocolate, wursts – what’s not to love? Here are some tips to eating in Germany with kids:

BreakfastFrühstück! Most hotels, BnBs and Hostels will include a traditional “frühstück” which is something that shouldn’t be missed. It’s usually a buffet of meats, cheese, tomatoes and cukes, with different types of breads, the best of which is called “Brötchen” (meaning “little bread”), a soft-on-the-inside-crusty-on-the-outside treat. You’ll also find fruits, yogurts, cereals, muesli (granolas) and spreads like Nutella and jams. The traditional breakfast would be to make a little sandwich, often open faced, with a yogurt or cereal as a side and some fruit. This is a hearty breakfast that will hold you over for a light lunch and every picky eater will enjoy something. Look for accommodations that include Frühstück – little looked forward to choosing between all the options and filling his plate (and belly) full every morning.

Pommes Frites: traditional European French fries, often covered with Mayo, Paprika, Curry ketchup or dry, you can grab these at an Imbiss (snack stand) almost everywhere. Look for sandwich boards that say “Imbiss” and usually have an arrow pointing. You can usually find a sausage or “wurst” at the same stand – this is usually a hit with kids. You will order your sauces as opposed to putting them on yourself, so remember that, and often you will be standing while you eat as these places don’t often have seating.Pizza

Italian food: Okay, it’s not German. But German’s proximity to Italy and open borders mean there are an abundance of super great Italian places that accommodate families and are inexpensive. In the states, Italian food is either Olive Garden or fancy, expensive and not always kid friendly – that’s just not true in Europe. So while in Germany, know that you can always have a hearty, delicious sit down dinner with your kids at a local Italian joint (link to Berlin’s Piazza Rossa). Bonus if they serve Spaghetti Eis (see below).

Eis Café: Oh. My. Heavens. The Eis Café has evolved from when I was little and you would find some scoops, some special ice cream dishes and some sweetheart chairs in a tiny shop. You can now go to fabulous places with extensive menus that will cost as much as dinner but what a wonderful memory you will have. In Berlin, our friend Laura took us to Caffe e Gelato. I wanted Spaghetti Eis: a sweet dish where vanilla ice cream is run through a machine to look like spaghetti, a strawberry sauce on top to look like marinara and white chocolate shavings to look like parmesan. It’s just so delicious and as precious as it comes! The café Laura took us to also offered Eis Hamburger, Eis Sushi, and all the fancy desserts parents would like as well. This is a treat that shouldn’t be overlooked!

Traditional Dinner: Most traditional German places have a kids menu and welcome children but be prepared for traditional foods like schnitzel and spätzle. If you have an adventurous eater, you can easily find yourself in a 700 year old building eating authentic German dinner with a Berlin Pils.

Candy: Don’t skip a stop to the grocery store, where you can pick up for less than a Euro Gummis in every kind – today, we found Fairies, Dragons and Enchanted Trees. You won’t find these Haribo in your local American grocery store. Milka bars with flavors you can only imagine (plus the Milka factory here where you can design your own bar) and of course, the legendary Kinder Egg, mythically banned from the United States since the 1920s. Or 1992. Or 2010, depending on who you speak to. If you bring them home, you may go to jail. Or have them confiscated or pay a fee. Or just bring them home – I have yet to hear a consistent story. But the chocolate is delicious and the toys always a fun surprise!

KinderEggs

Guten Appetit!