Holiday Season in Berlin
Joining the Foreign Service permits a different kind of travel, by allowing you to become immersed in the local culture for up to three years. We have traveled all over the world, but until this most recent adventure, never had the fortune to stay in a city more than a few days. We have always tried to see as much as possible by “hitting” the highlights before jetting off to our next destination. On my latest assignment, I got my first taste of “slow travel” with a six week temporary duty assignment to Berlin. Fortunately for me, Jennilou and Esmei agreed to tag along for a holiday season in Berlin.
Setting up shop for our extended stay at the Hotel Otto, it was great to have such a fantastic home for exploring the city. With Berlin playing host to over sixty Christmas markets annually, one of the highlights of our trip was getting to experience the shops at our leisure throughout the trip. We also made evening and weekend trips to the Reichstag Building, Brandenburg Gate, Pergamon Museum, The Holocaust Memorial – Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin Cathedral, East Side Gallery, Zoologischer Garten, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Charlottenburg Palace, Television Tower, Sony Center, and Hackescher Markt. The metropolis is certainly charged with political history and reminders of a turbulent 20th-century are everywhere. It seemed the more highlights we “hit”, the more we discovered existed.
For all the fond memories I have of Berlin, the tragedies which took place in Paris and San Bernardino during our posting will forever distinguish the stay. Watching thousands of people march past our embassy to pay their respects across the street to the French at the mounting display of candles and flowers will be unforgettable. I commit to memory the events that evoked an anxiety to bring the girls into crowed Christmas markets. It’s sad to think about giving any space for fear and intolerance to terrorism and it gives all the more reason to stand together as humanity to uphold our way of life.
Exploring more slowly during our holiday season in Berlin allowed us to form a stronger connection to the place we were visiting. With plenty of time, we didn’t feel the stress of attempting to knock out every site in our guidebook. Instead, we stayed long enough to recognize commuting mates, shop in the local markets, and pick our favorite restaurants. I have come to realize that few societies move as quickly as Americans do, and getting the chance to find myself slowing down a bit over time into the pace of the German culture, was a terrific feeling.
For recaps of the weekend getaways during my latest assignment, check out the following posts below: