We spent last week in Berlin: Doc Sci at a workshop and conference, and the boys and I gallivanting around town. Even though we’ve been to Berlin before, I enjoyed my time in the city.
However, I have to say that it’s time to take a break from traveling. As I schlepped luggage and children to and fro, I couldn’t help but realize, I’m too pregnant for this. So, suffice it to say, I probably won’t be writing any (overnight) trip reports until we go from a family of four to a family of five.
Since I am ridiculously pregnant, I tried to be realistic about what I could and could not handle on my own. I’m not one to ask for special favors or to be treated differently just because I happen to have an over-inflated basketball duct taped to my abdomen. But that basketball does make it rather difficult to carry a hiking backpack full of clothing.
So, I made Doc Sci carry (almost) everything. Except for a small day pack, a camera bag, and a snack bag that I took, Doc Sci carried luggage for four on his back. I love that man. And his muscles.
Our luggage – six days worth of clothing for four people.
From my prior experience in Berlin, I knew that not all U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations have elevators. Last time, I had to rely on my own strength and the kindness of passersby to get our pram up and down the station stairs. This time, Screech is old enough to walk almost anywhere, even if he doesn’t particularly want to. We decided to leave the pram – and the stress of how to get it fro here to there – at home. Instead the boys would take a laufrad (Screech) and scooter (T-Rex).
This is how my boys roll.
As usual, we stayed in a holiday flat. Stay tuned for a separate review of that experience.
I decided I could realistically do one major attraction per day. The weather was iffy, so I chose two indoor activities (Legoland and the Deutsches Technikmuseum) and one outdoor activity (the water playground at Britzer Garten) due to lots of forecasted rain and less-than-I’d-expect-from-summer temperatures.
Ironically, my expectations for each attraction ended up completely opposite of our actual experience. Legoland was poo-pooed in the Toytown forumsbut was an absolute hit with my boys. I have lots to say about Legoland, so I’ll write another post on that soon.
Screech and T-Rex at the Deutsches Technikmuseum.
The Deutsches Technikmuseum had been on my list of things to visit last trip. I failed to check my research notes though, and we visited on a Monday when the museum was closed. Oops.
The ship exhibit at the Deutsches Technikmuseum.
I had read in both the Toytown and TripAdvisor forums that this museum was fantastic, awesome for kids (and only 6 euros for me – the boys are free). I was utterly convinced of this when I read that there were planes, trains, ships, and automobiles to explore. How could little boys not like this place?
Kids could practice steering a ship using this simulator. Unfortunately, the hordes of elementary school students hogged the rudder.
I’ll tell you how: there’s little for small hands to touch and explore.
Swell old Lufthansa aircraft – no touching!!
After our visit to the War Memorial of Korea, we will be forever jaded. The boys now expect to be able to poke, prod, clamber, and climb all over the exhibits. All aircraft was off limits, and only one boat could be boarded. Many of the trains had platforms for viewing, but looking inside the railway cars was difficult for little ones.
The railroad exhibit was the highlight of an otherwise humdrum museum.
Perhaps it was the lack of hands-on activities, my pregnant grumpiness, or the lingering deplorable weather. Whatever it was, the Deutsches Technikmuseum did not make it on our list of favorite places in Berlin. It wasn’t awful, but I wouldn’t patronize the place again nor would I recommend it to others.
The boys also liked this water wheel. Good thing since it was about the only entertaining item on the grounds. The museum also has a Dutch windmill, but it was being renovated.
I held off visiting Britzer Garten until the last day of our trip. That day held the best chance for sunshine and warm weather. After all, what’s the point of visiting an outdoor water playground if it’s not to get some relief from the heat?
The view while walking through Britzer Garten: monotonous and monochromatic.
I had high hopes for this place. The facility charges 3 euro admission for adults (my boys, ages 4 and 2, were free), so I figured this better be a pretty swell park with some nice views. Maybe I just came in the wrong entrance, but I didn’t see anything amazing about Britzer Garten other than the sheer size of it.
The Garten is supposed to have a children’s train that runs through it. I didn’t see the train until just as we were leaving the park. Perhaps that would have been worthwhile…?
Unfortunately, the way to the water playground (Wasserspielplatz) is not well-marked on the garden maps. I happened to find a signpost by accident, and thank God I did or we would have wandered around the massive grounds for hours. What I saw completely underwhelmed me.
Icky water at the Wasserspielplatz.
Not only was the playground a lot smaller than it appears in pictures, but it had several reservoirs of water that had become a murky, yellowish-brown. Gross. I sincerely hoped my son who inherited the majority of the clean genes would refuse to go in. No such luck.
The only other features for children to explore included a few dams and the giant scoop the boy in blue is using.
I should mention that there are two play structures with sand designed to be part of the playground. This means not only are your children going to get seriously soaked, but they’ll be caked with exfoliating grit as well. Bring a change of clothes and a towel (maybe for you, too). At least the bathrooms are nearby.
Sand + nasty water = a nightmarish mess for a mama to clean up.
Though these two activities turned out to be duds in my book, we did squeeze in one other excursion that I thought was totally worth it. We rode a double-decker bus!
Staring down at the passengers riding a “regular” bus.
Berlin public transportation buses 100 and 200 run from Alexanderplatz to Zoologischer Garten and back. They have slightly different routes through Tiergarten, but both will show you major sights such as the Berliner Dom, the Duetsches Historisches Museum, the Staatsoper, Unter den Linden, the Brandenburger Tor, etc. If you’re interested, the 100 passes by the Reichstag and the 200 by Potsdamer Platz. Both buses are double-deckers, and tickets are standard fares for all Berlin public transport. If you have a day ticket, you could make your own hop-on/hop-off tour!
To catch the 100 or 200, look for a bus stop sign like this directly across the street from Galeria Kaufhof (Alexanderplatz) on Karl-Liebknecht-Str. The bus ends at the Zoologischer Garten U-Bahn/S-Bahn station.
The Brandenburg Tor with all sorts of attractive construction going on.
The Siegessäule (victory column) in the middle of Tiergarten.
The entrance to the Berlin Zoo (Zoologischer Garten) is one of the last stops on the bus before reaching the end of the line.
Don’t pay for a fancy schmancy hop-on/hop-off tour. Create your own!
In addition to these main attractions, we squeezed in some time at playgrounds and stuffed our faces with burgers and burritos. The former kept the boys happy, the latter kept us happy.
I really like Berlin even though it makes me realize I never want to live in a city that big. Ever. Instead, I’ll happily hibernate in my own little German city and wait for the next little traveler to arrive before hitting the road again.
Headed to Berlin? Find more posts about this awesome German city here.