Saturday, October 3, 2015

Day 51: 25 Jarhe Deutschen Einheit

Oh, you naive Americans. Didn't you know that German Unity day is the only national holiday in Germany? Sure, there are regional holidays, but this is the only national holiday. Translate = big. Before you researched, how did you know what national holiday meant? By suiting up to go to the farmers market and finding no farmers market? Finding that all grocery stores, no, ALL STORES, are closed! Doh! Back home, empty handed.

Proof that Google knows its audience (I used software to sign into both local and US VPNs)
German Google-Doodle (left), small Google with German country in German colours (middle)
And a U.S.A. Google-Doodle from the same day (right)

Yes, so, just when we think we have it all figured out, a national holiday throws us for a loop. All our shopping plans were impossible. Not to mention that we all slept in and we're getting a very late start to the day. And, you'll see later, the trams we've all grown to know so well... throw us for another loop!

So, to recap: no food for us. We must survive on what's in our refrigerator (hint: not much) and surrounding restaurants (because they are still open, phew).

In the meantime, Chris left for a quick run around town while the kids played in the backyard with our two neighbour girls (Abby from below and Margo [edited] from above, both around 7 years old). As much as I hated to break it up, as they were playing so nicely, it was getting late (closer to 2pm than not) and I needed to feed the kids (instant soups) so they wouldn't starve.

Before heading to the festivities on Stra├če des 17. Juni (the street west of the Brandenburger Tor), we decided to check out Volkspark Friedrichshain (the oldest park in Berlin, and the third largest park in Berlin). Chris ran through it on his midday run and wanted to show us its beauty and fun "stuff" (like a zipline!) Easy peasy, right? M1 to Bus 142. We catch the M1.

The Fairytale fountain is one of the structures in Volkspark
Friedrichshain that survived the Allied bombings of WWII.
But, after a block or so, we notice the tram is going the way of the M12, not the M1. We double check, we are on the M1... but the digital displays is not the stops on our route, or even where we're stopping, but a name beyond where we want to be... what? As this is occurring, the driver keeps getting out at different red lights to turn a key on a light-post. As soon as our brains can process that our M1 is going way off course (and the driver must be setting the tracks for their "off course"-course?), we get off to reset our own course.

Perhaps they said something over the burbly-sounding intercom, or perhaps there was a notice... but, seeing as we aren't fluent, and we're just assuming business as usual... we still do not know why this happened. But it did happen and we must now figure out a new way to the park.

Of course, we got there. Just needed to do a different bus and a little walking. But we got there.

At the Fairytale Fountain, Venice gives the little dude a "high five" (left)
Diana gets comforted (middle) and Xander rides a turtle (right)

Another beautiful park. Lots of paths, lots of trees, lots of space. There seems to be so many green spaces in the city that it never feels crowded when you're looking for a quiet spot to enjoy the outdoors. The park is definitely not empty, but there is a lot to see and places you can roam to be away from others.

As we explore, one such path, we came across the Japanese Peace Bell (fortuitous!) A beautiful memorial to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki The placards, that also included death and casualty counts for the respective cities, read, "Erinnerung und Mahnung" (Remembrance and Reminder), while the bell had the inscription, "WELTFRIEDEN" (World Peace).

Close by to the Peace Bell, is a little, babbling brook. Other kids were exploring the rocks and water as we walked by, even though it was a bit chilly.

Chris really wanted us to find the zip-line. Even though he had just run here this morning, he was having trouble relocating the place.  While we explored to find the location (and eventually, Chris pulled up his Strava map of his morning run), we enjoyed the beginning fall colours.

Strava map to the rescue! Chris found the zip-line. And crazy, no one was on it! There were a few teenagers "hanging out" in the little section that holds the zip-line, but they were just "hanging out". A father and his two sons arrived just as we did, but other than that, it was mostly just us. The kids immediately took several turns. Then allowed the other boys to take some turns. But after a few minutes, the teenagers left and the father and his sons left. The zip-line... was ours! Countless turns. Chris tried. I tried. Now the kids are going backwards, trust falling, standing, bouncing... really putting the cable to the test. I just decided "to believe" it was safe and was just inspected a few days ago by someone who understands civic engineering, physics, and the age and limits of the cable. Once you "believe" it's all safe... it was a lot of fun.

The good news is that we made it to the park and had a blast on the zip-line. The bad news... the sun was close to setting and it was dinner time. To find a restaurant, eat and get to the Brandenburger Tor was not going to happen in time for a decent bedtime. If we didn't get food soon, family members would mutiny. And if we went to the celebrations too late, I think everyone would be too tired. So, to my great disappointment, we decided to not go to the German Unity celebrations today, but to go tomorrow when we have more time.

We decided to eat in a pizza restaurant that is in the middle of the park. Sounds super yummy.

Haha! Jokes on us! As we get seated, turns out, it's a super fancy restaurant! The pizza (as far as we can figure out) is served out on the deck during the day. Now that it's nighttime, we are sitting inside the fancy restaurant, looking at €15-20 entrees. Yay!

Late-afternoon sky (left), Park lights coming on (middle-left)
From within the water feature at the restaurant (middle-right)
Chris and Venice in the water feature (right)

One of the dishes was described as seasonal vegetables... we thought this sounded really good. I had green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. in mind. Nope! It was roots, roots, roots! Beets, turnips, pumpkin, sweet potato. I will eat some of these (the second half of the list) but... they were all cooked al dente... or basically, not at all. They chewed like an apple. I ate off of other people's plates and got full on things that didn't really please me. Oh, the bright spot, we did get ice with our sodas. One cube each. Remember, you don't normally get ice here, so one cube is fancy! Sigh.  I'll hold onto my hopes for tomorrow... no pressure...

We have seen a lot of places at nighttime and I love it. However, a park, at night, with little to no lighting... is creepy. We bee-lined it to the nearest street to walk with more lighting until we got to a bus station.

Another Buddy Bear

We really don't ride buses that much. I don't think they are like this all the time, but we couldn't get on the bus in the middle, we had to get on at the front by the driver. I think this is only because it was evening. But maybe not, maybe buses are always enter at the front?

To a club?

Speaking of the white rabbit, I sure felt like we were in Wonderland today. With so many of our plans turned upside down.

Things will be "normal" tomorrow....

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