[Berlin, Germany] Celebrating Christmas in the City of the Ampelmann

With dreams of a “white Christmas” vacation and images of lively Christmas markets in mind, we boarded our flight to Berlin in December 2013.  Well, although snow didn’t make an appearance during our trip, we ventured out in (almost) freezing weather to experience the warmth of Berlin’s Christmas markets. The gaiety, bright lights, colorful stalls, and variety of food and drink lent a magical, festive touch to the city.

In the capital of Germany, we explored the Christmas markets, visited historical monuments, learned about the Ampelmann, spotted colorful bears (the bear is Berlin’s symbol),  and spent solemn moments at two memorials.

At the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt. Berlin, Germany

At the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt. Berlin, Germany

Festive Cheer at Berlin’s Christmas Markets
Germany’s Christmas markets featured on many blogs that I read. After all the “armchair” travel, here I was in Berlin for the real experience.
From the market at Alexanderplatz to the buzzing activity at Gendarmenmarkt, we hopped from one Christmas market to another. Junior enjoyed a ride on every carousel and little train that he could spot. B and I immersed ourselves in the festive spirit at each location. The glittering lights, the warm comfort food and drinks, friends and families braving the chill to enjoy the outdoor markets – it was a very pretty picture indeed!
Glittering Christmas Lights. Christmas Market, Berlin, Germany

Glittering Christmas Lights. Christmas Market, Berlin, Germany

Nativity Scene. Christmas Market, Berlin, Germany

Nativity Scene. Christmas Market, Berlin, Germany

Shining Stars at Gendarmenmarkt. Christmas Market, Berlin, Germany

Shining Stars at Gendarmenmarkt. Christmas Market, Berlin, Germany

Tracing Berlin’s History through its Monuments and Buildings
Berlin is dotted with majestic monuments and buildings that narrate stories of its tumultuous history.
As we explored the city on foot, one of the first sights we encountered was the imposing Reichstag/Bundestag building.
The magnificent Reichstag/Bundestag building. Berlin, Germany

The magnificent Reichstag/Bundestag building. Berlin, Germany

Then, we continued onward to the beautiful Brandenburg Gate. This triumphal arch is an important icon of Berlin, and Germany, in general.  As numerous tourists posed for pictures in this pedestrian zone, we wondered about life in the former East Berlin and West Berlin. Today, the Brandenburg Gate is a popular tourist attraction and a venue for several major events.
The majestic Brandenburg Gate. Berlin, Germany

The majestic Brandenburg Gate. Berlin, Germany

Solemn Moments and a Heavy Heart at the Memorials
While the Christmas Markets brought many a cheer to our hearts, we spent solemn moments at the Berlin Wall Memorial. This memorial brought back memories of extremely tough times in the past, of hard partitions within a country, of a dividing wall and its eventual downfall.
The Berlin Wall Memorial. Berlin, Germany

The Berlin Wall Memorial. Berlin, Germany

I was greatly moved at the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe. The deafening silence at the memorial, the gentle ripples in the pond, and the lone flower that seemed to represent loss as well as hope painted a complicated picture, one that left me with a heavy heart.
Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe. Berlin, Germany

Solemn Moments at the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe. Berlin, Germany

A Pleasant Evening Stroll in the Nikolai Quarter (Nikolaiviertel)
The Nikolai Quarter (Nikolaivertel) in Berlin is the perfect neighborhood for a relaxed evening stroll. This old residential area was destroyed during World War II but was later rebuilt to resemble the original area.
We ambled along the quaint streets and gazed at the twinkling Christmas lights. The imposing statue of St. George and the Dragon is located along the river. Attractive shop windows and other small statues lend a special touch to this picturesque neighborhood.
The charming Nikolai Quarter. Berlin, Germany

The charming Nikolai Quarter. Berlin, Germany

This and That in Berlin
The bus route 100 goes past many tourist attractions. Junior thoroughly enjoyed our ride on the top deck of the double decker bus. For our little transport enthusiast, the sight of the Berlin tram was icing on the cake.
Speaking of little men, we discovered the Ampelmann at the traffic lights in Berlin. If you visit the city, you will spot these men everywhere! For the enthusiasts, there is even an Ampelmann store, complete with all the special merchandise. Yes, we hopped into the store for a quick tour.
The special man, the Ampelmann. Berlin, Germnay

The special man, the Ampelmann. Berlin, Germnay

We rounded off our visit to the capital of Germany with an “up close and personal” look at the towering Berlin TV tower (Fernsehturm) and the Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church) near AlexanderPlatz. Junior, who isn’t very impressed by tall buildings (do they have wheels?), played to his heart’s content at a nearby playground.
Towering above all. TV Tower, Berlin, Germany

Towering above all. TV Tower, Berlin, Germany

Useful Information:
– The SBahn and UBahn provide excellent connectivity in Berlin.
– Bus routes 100 and 200 go past many tourist attractions in Berlin.
– For more information: http://www.visitberlin.de/en