As much as I've fantasized about traveling and enjoy celebrating my birthday, it never crossed my mind to mark the occasion by being in another country. When M found out he would be going to Germany for a work trip, I put two and two together right away--if we left a couple of days early I could be in Berlin. For my birthday.
(It's cheating to add something to your life list and then cross it off straightaway...right?)
Because we just got back from a trip to Manila for the holidays, I was burned out. I'm the type who needs a loooot of recuperating time after travel. But I did my due diligence, testing out thermals underneath my jeans to make sure I could still zip everything up (I could, but I felt remarkably sausage-like). I decided that we should each only bring a carry-on to make train travel easier. Even with my planning, the day we left felt surreal. It was the middle of the week, less than two weeks earlier I'd been in Asia, and now we would be in Germany.
Needless to say, it was a wonderful trip. It was different--sobering in a way. While Berlin has a major landmark (Brandenburg Gate) and a German palace (Charlottenburg, and of course Potsdam is an hour away) and Museum Island, it's WWII I was reminded of everywhere I turned. Berlin is a city that doesn't shy away from this part of their history, from the small brass squares embedded in the sidewalks to commemorate individual Jews all over the city to the block-wide Holocaust Memorial. It's a city that made me think in a way that other places have not. Our dinner discussions were very serious at times.
Some take-aways from Berlin? The international food scene is great. Yes, we had curry wurst (M liked it more than I did), and I am totally sold on the German breakfast buffet, but we also enjoyed some really tasty tapas, Saigon street food (not legit but sooo amazing), and Italian. I've never been to Italy, but if the pasta there is better than what the Italians were serving us in Berlin, I expect to leave twice my size. I also wanted to toss out a hypothesis that Berliners love their organic and vegan everything (we even had vegan bath products in our hotel), but M shot this down, insisting that we were just staying at very trendy, hipster places. I'll reluctantly concede on that one. But we both agree: the city is a must-go.