Saturday, July 5, 2014

Stueckrath & Schnell Vacation: Berlin

Our house is open to any visitor's anytime!  We are always excited to have people visit and will cater to whatever you need!  We are glad to be your starting & stopping points; will happily pick you up from the airport; meet up here and there during your visit; point you in the right direction; just meet for lunch; or tag along for your entire trip- whatever it is we are just happy to see a familiar face and help you have a really great vacation!
When Eric's family came to visit in October they went to Ireland first and met up with us in Germany a week later.  When my friend Shannon and her fiance came in May we were their starting & stopping points.  And for our most recent visitors, Eric took 10 days of leave and we tagged along with them for their entire visit!

Most of you reading this probably already know the Stueckrath family, but for those of you that don't, I'll explain:  (It gets a little confusing because I'm talking about two Eric S's)  Eric and Shilo Stueckrath are a couple of my husband's best childhood friends, they are married and have two daughters.  My husband is like me and is still very close with his same group of friends from elementary school/high school.  Eric was a groomsmen in our wedding, and to this day my Eric has no idea why he didn't make Shilo a groomswoman... I'm not sure either, Shilo!
We've been back and forth with them for the last few months helping them plan their vacation, they hoped that we could come with them for as much of their trip as possible (you don't have to ask us twice!).  So this is the itinerary we all came up with:
  • Pick up the Stueckrath's from the airport in Berlin then train to Denmark!
  • The Stueckrath's were going to visit a friend at his home in Odense, Denmark for a day, so we took this opportunity to go to Copenhagen!!
  • Meet up again in Hamburg, Germany and train it back to Kaiserslautern.
  • Spend 4 days showing them our area: Rhine River cruise, Rothenburg, K-town festival.
  • Train back to Berlin where we'll spend a couple of days exploring Berlin before the Stueckrath's fly back home.
With this kind of itinerary we knew we would get to see SO much and it was sure to be a blast! 

Since the Stueckrath's were flying into Berlin on Tuesday morning, we decided to go a few days early to see some of the things we knew we wouldn't have time to in the 48 hours we'd be there with the Stueckrath's.  I took 1200 pictures during our two week vacation, we drank a bit of alcohol, and saw lots, so I'm just going to break up our trip into a few separate blog posts so I don't jumble it all on here and confuse y'all.

First: BERLIN!

We took a train to Berlin and arrived mid-afternoon, their subway system was a cinch to navigate and we made it to our hotel early enough to do a little exploring and eat a nice supper.  We wanted to celebrate our very first day of vacation with a beer at Hackescher Markt.... beer, steak, and vacation is probably one of the greatest combinations ever!

 We had two full days in Berlin before leaving for Copenhagen so we set an easy pace and didn't stress about a time schedule.  There is SO much to see in Berlin, we wanted to save as much as we could for when we were there with the Stueckrath's, so we decided to spend one day visiting the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.

Around 200,000 people were imprisoned here- they mostly included ethnic minorities that the SS deemed inferior.  With its proximity to the capital, it became the premier training camp for guards and where they tested new procedures.  It wasn't a death camp in the way that they had gas chambers that killed thousands of people in a short amount of time, it was more of a labor camp, but even so, tens of thousands of people died here and were subjected to torturous treatments and horrendous conditions.

The crematoriums- outside of this is a burial ground filled with the ashes of the victims. 

We spent the entire morning touring the concentration camp and paying our respects, so then we had the afternoon to explore Berlin.  Eric suggested a flea market at Mauerpark because Isabelle is on the hunt for pants that she keeps seeing people wear here in Europe- they kind of look MC Hammer pants- and he thought maybe she'd find what she's looking for.

Isabelle did not find the pants she was looking for here (she did find them the next day in Potsdam, I'll tell you about that in the next post), but this is where she bought teal colored nerd glasses- you'll start to see those off and on for the rest of our trip.

We did not fit in at Mauerpark at. all!  I don't know if I am just too girly, or too much of a small town girl, or whatever, but the crowd at the flea market were.... eclectic.  All we needed were mismatched clothes and dreadlocks &/or neon hair color and we may not have stood out so much.

We ate supper at Mauerpark, drank a few beers, and then made our way back to the hotel.  On the way we walked down Bernauer Straße which is the street that the Berlin wall ran along to separate the east from the west.

The poles symbolize the outer portion of the Berlin wall. 

I'm standing in front of a portion of the original inner wall.

Seeing the Berlin wall has been on Isabelle's bucket-list ever since she saw a part of it at the Smithsonian, and since Eric and I are hoping to instill a little adventure into her spirit we are thrilled to help her achieve her goals and get to be apart of her reaction.  This wasn't the actual Berlin wall memorial, that came later, but she was just happy to see what she had to be reading about for awhile now- she hit Eric up for as much history as he could tell her (it was adorable)!

Alright, well, I'm not sure I can fit another picture into this post and I still have to tell you about our day in Potsdam!  So, I'll save that for another post.  Even at an easy pace we saw SO much!

Right now both the Schnell's and Stueckrath's are vegging on the couch after a really great 4th of July!  It's about 3:00 in the afternoon and we're just starting to peel ourselves off the couch.  Eric spent his 36th birthday cruising the Rhine River with a couple of his best friends and loving the birthday wishes on Facebook.  And since I won't be able to blog about our 4th for another week or so I'll just say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABE now!!!

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