Dem Deutschen Volke

Tip for visiting Berlin: book the Reichstag visit online. We didn’t, so we waited for close to an hour in the freezing cold to get a ticket for the next day. It was worth it.

The Reichstag houses the German parliament called the Bundestag. The building was used from it’s opening in 1894 until 1933, and sat unused until reunification in 1990 when it underwent a massive renovation. It reopened in 1999 with a new visitors dome. From the dome we could see the entire city, and the view was beautiful. The ramp along the dome affords a downward view into the parliament chamber, an example of government being transparent. Definitely a highlight of the trip.

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Crossing the border

Checkpoint Charlie was, perhaps, the most famous border crossing in Berlin. Now it’s a tourist attraction where you can pay a couple euros to take a photo with a fake soldier. Nevertheless, it’s historical significance warrants a visit.

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Painting on the Wall

Just a few stops east of Alexanderplatz sits a 1.3 km section of the Berlin Wall called the East Side Gallery. Considered one of the worlds largest open-air galleries, the wall was painted by 105 artists in 1990 and is an international memorial to freedom.

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Pergamon is closed

One of the highlights of Berlin’s collection of museums is the Pergamon Museum. Named after a giant altar from Turkey that was excavated and purchased by Germany in the late 1800s, the museum specializes in ancient architecture.

The Pergamon Altar is the highlight of the museum, and the reason why many people visit. Well, as we entered the museum we saw the numerous signs informing us that the altar is closed until 2020 for renovations. The museum was included in our Berlin Museum Pass so we went in anyway.

There are thousands of amazing pieces of architectural history throughout the museum. Another popular exhibit is the Ishtar Gates of Babylon. The gates are made of vibrant blue tiles, and numerous animal friezes meant to intimidate visitors.

The gates are definitely worth seeing, but it would have been a much better visit had the altar been open. We’ll have to come back in 2020.

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Dinner off the beaten path

When we travel Craig does the sightseeing planning and Ryan takes care of meals. For our four nights in Berlin Ryan “accidentally” booked pricey restaurants. So in an effort not to break the bank he did a last minute change for our first night.

Schoeneberger Weltlaterne is a charming, kitschy traditional German restaurant near Viktoria-Luise-Platz. They hardly spoke English but with some hand gesturing and a limited understanding of each other’s languages, we managed to order beer and dinner.

Craig had a perfectly cooked fish dinner (not sure what kind) and Ryan had a veal steak. Both dishes were piping hot and extremely delicious!

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Guten Tag Berlin

Not an hour after arriving in Berlin were we enjoying the first of many German Christkindlmarkets! Can’t think of a better welcome than Gluhwein and German meats.

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Hungry no more

Hungary has amazing food; every meal was delicious. Ryan picked out Kispiac Bisztro for our second night in Budapest. The dining room was smaller than our living room, seating just 16 people. We started with a creamy soup topped with truffle oil. For this trip we decided not to be vegetarians. Ryan had the pork ribs and Craig had the lamb shank. Both were so moist they fell off the bone. Nothing beats a simple, stick-to-your-ribs meal!

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Exploring Hungarian wine

Hungary and wine are two things not normally associated with one another, but they should be! Faust Wine Cellar is located beneath the Hilton in the Var neighborhood. The cellar is the cloisters of a former monastery, and only lit by candles. A husband and wife team operate the shop. Our tasting of nine wines came with freshly baked biscuits. We tasted wines from all over the country; white, rose, red and sweet. Each pour came with a lengthy and informative explanation of the wine, the grape’s significance in Hungary and the winery. Nearly all of the wines were small production, with 1000 or 1500 bottles total. Many of the wineries only sell to Faust. Hungarian wines are extremely good, rivaling those of other wine regions. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

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A sweet lunch

The oldest bakery in Budapest, Ruszwurm was founded in 1827, and the same shop sold gingerbread in the Middle Ages. The cakes make for a great snack, or in our case, a replacement for lunch. These cheese and apple pastries gave us the energy needed to finish touring the Budapest castle neighborhood.

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