And Now For Some More Germany

I must say one thing about Germany before I say anything else: they have got this whole sleeping thing figured out. They have a great many other things figured out better than the rest of us, of course—beer; knives; punctual public transit; gummybears—but it is in the area of beds that they really excel. To wit: did you know that when you stay in a German hotel with a double bed that it's not actually a double bed but two single beds pushed together? And that instead of getting one large duvet between the two of you, you each get your own single duvet?

I knew this, I have to admit, but because I had hitherto only visited Germany as a single woman on my own, the significance of this—the absolute gloriousness of it—had escaped me. On this trip, however, I saw the light and lo, the light was wonderful. No more tugging and fighting for the duvet! No more I'm-cold-well-I'm-hot-well-just-kick-it-off-then petulance. No more shivering in the corner because someone did a gymnastic flip worthy of Makayla Maroney and took 90% of the covers with him. 


See that line down the middle? ONE EACH.

Somewhat facetiously, I looked up the divorce rate in Germany and whaddya know, it's far lower than it is in the US and the UK. Draw your own conclusions, friends. Draw your own conclusions. 

We started out in Munich, which I had distant memories of visiting with my German exchange's family in 1997—shout-out to the Fuchslochs from Schwabisch-Gmund!—and kicked it off (not-at-all) authentic-style with a visit to the Hofbrauhaus, where we sat behind a table of incredibly drunk Greek teenagers, one of whom was actually passed out underneath the table for the majority of our visit. Sean consumed a beer that was at least twice the size of his head and ate something that was literally a ball of potato—it actually skidded off his plate at one point and bounced onto the floor, its spherical shape doing it no favors, except to signal the end of the meal—and we were both mildly startled every twenty minutes or so, when the entire restaurant rose up out of their chairs and began to sing along drunkenly with the oompah band. Everyone except the Greek teenagers, anyway. They climbed up onto the table to do it.  

 
We came, we saw, we drank the entire day's calorie allowance. 

The next morning, after a fantastic German breakfast—another thing the Germans excel at: breakfast—we boarded a train and then a bus to the Dachau Memorial. I know what you're thinking—a concentration camp? Wow, cheery vacation activity, Holly, did you book a double root canal next?—but I think it's so important, when one is in a country with a grim and unpleasant history, not to ignore that history, but rather to explore it, to educate oneself about it, to confront it head on and say yes, this happened, now what can we learn from it? How can we make sure this never happens again?

Our visit was harrowing, of course, but it was also incredibly stirring. Our guide was immensely respectful and well-informed, and we both left not just with a broader understanding of the atrocities of Dachau and the regime that built it, but also with a heightened sense of perspective for all the things in our lives we think are worth complaining about. (They're not. Not a one of them is.)


Sean on the train to Dachau.

 
Munich, shortly before we left it, but right after we ate all of its schnitzel in a cafe on this square.

Once we got to Berlin, the brief flash of afternoon sun we'd seen in Munich seemed like a long-distant pipe dream because Berlin was cold and gray and rainy and entirely bereft of any natural sunlight. I'd been to Berlin once before and fell deeply, madly in love with it, but that was in June when the evenings were long and light, and not in early January when the days started at 8am and fell dark again around 3:45pm.

 
Me at the Berlin Wall. Three o'clock in the afternoon. 

But what's a little winter weather between friends? Berlin and I rekindled our old love affair and this time I brought Sean into it (ooh, that came out a little more risqué than I meant it to.) Over a packed two days, we visited the Tranenpalast—the Palace of Tears, which I'd admired from the outside on my last visit but never ventured into—and the German Historical Museum and the Kaiser Wilhelm Church. We climbed to the dome at the top of the Reichstag....


....and shivered in front of Brandenburg Gate....

....and shivered some more at the haunting Holocaust Memorial....


...and spent a few twilit hours wandering around what was left of the wall.

We had dinner with Marguerite and Luisa at a wonderful restaurant called Renger Patzsch—rule of thumb: always let the food bloggers pick the restaurant; just show up where they tell you to—and stayed until long after the waiters probably wanted us to leave, just because we couldn't stop talking (well...or eating, but they can't blame us for that.) We had lunch at the KaDeWe, a department store with a fancy buffet beyond your wildest dreams, and spent most of our mornings in bakeries, eschewing the pricy hotel breakfast in favor of ordering strong coffee and apple-filled pastries in halting German. On our last day, we had lunch at Lebensmittel, upon the recommendation of Marguerite, where I ate this:

And Sean ate this:

And then we both had to sit there and rest for a little while because neither one of us could contemplate moving our bodies ever again.

(Food in general: another thing the Germans have down.)

So while I probably wouldn't pick January as the prime time for you to visit Berlin, I certainly wouldn't discourage you from doing it either; this, after all, is why someone invented hot chocolate, the German word for which I became very familiar with during our stay (eh, okay, it helps that it's pretty much the same as the English word, don't go calling me Rosetta Stone just yet.)

In fact, the only thing I would caution against if you're visiting Berlin is...uh....maybe don't tell anyone you have a blog. You know, just to be safe. Why? Hmm, I don't know. Just a feeling.  

Ouch, Berlin! Tell me how you really feel.

Oh, you're going to? 

Huh. Okay then! Well, I'm glad we understand each other. Good talk. 

1
Amanda
Jan 27, 2013

Holly, you are a beautiful writer. Really and truly, I feel like I can jump into Berlin through your words.

And also, those signs and shirt are hilarious! (And a little hurtful.)

2
Liz
Jan 27, 2013

Those signs and shirt are hilarious! I love reading about your travels.

3
Laura
Jan 28, 2013

Holly, your blog is wonderful! I enjoy reading it so much.
I think you'll like this: http://venturevillage.eu/how-to-be-german-part-1
I've been living in Germany for the past two years and you are right, breakfasts are magnificent! And the single duvet thing? Just perfect.

4
Bailie
Jan 28, 2013

In Sweden the two duvets is a thing too and my in-laws were so puzzled when I wanted just one giant one for my husband and I. I am pretty sure my mother in laws words were along the line of "well that is different"!

5
Blanche
Jan 28, 2013

You make me want to go back to Berlin and re-visit all the places I didn't fully appreciate during the 2 weeks I was there with a school-exchange program!

If you ever get tired of the writing thing, you could always plan trips for those of us who are less inspired.

6
Anna Louisa
Jan 28, 2013

Ha! Who knew there was so much deutsch-blogging-angst?

www.anna-bird.com

7
Lis
Jan 28, 2013

My family is German and we've done the whole two duvet thing my entire life, my husband thought it was odd initially, but upon realizing how glorious it is to not have to share covers he's a convert and it is so much better. Really people, just try it once, you'll never want to go back.

8
Cass
Jan 28, 2013

My husband and I went to Munich for Oktoberfest last year as part of our honeymoon, so I loved seeing this post. The idea of the two beds together is great in theory, but as a honeymooner that feeling of snug as a bug in a rug was not really what we were going for. :-)

9
ChrisB
Jan 28, 2013

I am so glad you had a good time in my home country, even in January. I grew up in Duesseldorf, went to University in Munich, and my dad and stepmom live between Berlin and Hamburg (another fun city) now.
These days I always laugh when I see the single beds pushed together. It is SO German!!! Just like the big meals and beers.
PROST!

10
Megan
Jan 28, 2013

My husband and I are also side by side duvet converts after reading about it. It seems so unromantic in concept but oh my gosh I like him so much better after not waking freezing morning after morning.

11
Julie
Jan 28, 2013

Who even knew the whole two-single-covers operation was a real thing? I thought I was just being anti-social, but the gymnastic vaulting is a real and terrible thing. Freezing feet ruin marriages, man.

12
Michelle
Jan 28, 2013

You're making me nostalgic for a few Christmases ago, when my sweetheart and I spent the holiday week in Berlin. We had horrible jet lag, and they have food down so well that our lunches stretched to the two-hour mark (especially around the holidays), so the sun was almost always setting by the time we made it outside to start our day. Almost our entire trip was lit by candlelight, which of course because we were on vacation was uber-romantic.

Everyone kept telling us that we must come back in the summer, and they were always so surprised when I replied, "But it's so lovely right now!"

13
LindseyO
Jan 28, 2013

I visited Dachau when I was in Germany in 1992 - it is one of the most sobering experiences I've ever had. I saw that picture of the "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate you posted and it brought up those same feelings again. Agree w/ you - not really a happy thing to see on vacation, but definitely worthwhile. It's something I've never, ever forgotten and 21 years later it still makes me gasp.

That said, I really loved Germany: Munich, Berlin, Garmisch-Partenkirschen, Frankfurt... all were wonderful. I can't wait to go back!

14
Sonja
Jan 28, 2013

I'm a German ex-pat living in CA, and I'm glad you had a good time in Germany even in the January cold! Every time I go home for Christmas, it seems colder to me - I guess that's what you get for living in this perpetual heat.

15
Kate
Jan 29, 2013

Ha! Nobody reads your fucking blog----I love that! Makes me wanna stick my tongue out and say "nyah, nyah, then how do you know I have one?" Because I'm a child. Anyway....going on 15 years of marriage in which I have never shared a blanket/quilt/duvet/covering with my husband. That's probably how we've made it so far.

16
Roxanna (miguelina)
Jan 29, 2013

I loved this. I always sleep well in Austria, and it MUST be the two duvets. Never put two and two together before. Also, I must agree on the breakfasts and food in general. I like it! And they (well, the Austrians at least) are so apologetic about their food.

My favorite German word is konditorei, followed closely by bäckerei.

17
Kate
Jan 29, 2013

My family is from Berlin and there are no only a few of Oma's siblings left living now; I've never visited, but this trip of your makes my heart ache to see it.

18
Jess
Jan 29, 2013

It is so funny to me that you adore those German beds, because I can't stand them. My husband is German and every time we go visit his parents we have to sleep in a bed like that and I can't stand it. I like a nice big blanket that isn't too narrow so that you don't end up with cold air coming in from the sides, and I like being able to roll over without ending up on a large crack. So maybe I'm just a bed hog but my husband hates the German style beds too so I will presume otherwise. Seriously, I love everything about Germany except their beds so it is really hilarious that you love the beds so much that you started this whole post with an ode to them. At least I know that someone enjoys them and they aren't a complete waste.

19
Mandy
Jan 29, 2013

Greetings from Germandy, Holly! :-) I always find it very interesting to read how foreign people experience things I don't even think about ;-) And it may surprise you: we have one single duvet in our bed! But I admit, it's a very big one, so no fights during the night.
Next time you're in Germany I recommend visiting Leipzig. It' not that far from Berlin, has a lot of flair, too, and the people are just really nice. Dresden is also worth visiting and just around the corner.

Btw - these bloggin' statements are just great :-D

20
Mandy
Jan 29, 2013

Funny mispelling....obviously, i meant Germany ;-)

21
Rachel
Jan 29, 2013

This makes me want to go to Germany SO BAD!

But I also have to weigh in on the duvet/bed thing. I once stayed at a hotel in Helsinki with a regular double/queen-sized bed, and then the two duvet situation on top. It seemed rather ideal: no crack in the middle of the bed for bed hogs (like myself), and it also allows for more comfortable snuggling (etc.), and then everybody gets their own blankets and nobody wants to commit midnight murder when they wake up frozen and blanketless. All win.

22
Cynthia
Jan 29, 2013

Love these posts!

I'm chiming in with Rachel...the double duvet situation is pan European (though not everywhere).

You'll find them in Poland, France, sometimes in Italy, Germany (Scandanavia), etc.

Lov'em! I'm going to make some for my king bed with the hubby.

Also, my friends...as one who has crossed the 50th b-day line, sleep comes easier with a little distance and your own blanket!

Ciao bella.

23
Shelley
Jan 29, 2013

I love when you go places I've also been! Although when I was there last ... I think there were two blogs total online. Certainly no pop culture t-shirts about them. Ha!

24
Barb
Jan 30, 2013

Just found yoru blog and love it. i have to sayt hat after living seven years in Frankfurt that I scandalize my family by sleeping only under a duvet with no sheet-heck even a comforter with no sheet. And how I miss windows that open inward instead of upward.............

25
StampyDurst
Jan 30, 2013

I must concur with the hidden joy that can be found on a winter's vacation to Germany. I visited Frankfurt in December. It was cold and rainy and very dark. And also - time for weihnachtsmarkt! The Christmas markets with their Gluhwein and sausages and open fires were amazing. We went from museum to wine kiosk to architectural gem to wine kiosk to...you get the idea. I still use some of the gluhwein cups that I forgot to return. We did eat breakfast at our hotel, though. They had a fabulous buffet that included booze that eased the transition from night to day. I have mixed feelings about the beds, however. Loved the two duvet situation. Hated the two mattress/crack in the middle arrangement. To each his own! Thanks for the reminder of a fab trip!

26
Susie
Jan 31, 2013

Sean was at Hofbrauhaus
He wept and he wept
He lost his potato ball
While a Greek teenager slept

It rolled off the table
And right to the door
And still that Greek teenager
Just slept on the floor

27
jill
Feb 01, 2013

Please. They clearly haven't read YOUR blog.

28
Jess
Feb 01, 2013

I like your fucking blog. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Germany

29
Nicolien
Feb 05, 2013

I love the large duvets! Can't sleep with my husband under 2 single ones, because we inevitably end up under only one of them and then we just get really, really cold on both sides... guess neither of us move a lot in our sleep.

On another note, the hotel i worked at (in the Netherlands) only had single duvets because it takes less time for housekeeping (me) to change 2 single beds than 1 kingsize with a large duvet. So no humanitarian or marriage-saving philosophy behind that situation :)

30
San
Feb 05, 2013

I always LOVE to hear people talk about traveling through my home country! Yes, I agree... we do have some things down (others maybe not so much ;))

31
Luisa
Feb 05, 2013

Don't listen to those German hipster tees! Loved reading your dispatch on Berlin - I still remember your post about Berlin in June and how homesick it made me all those years ago when I was still in NYC! It was so much fun having dinner with you two. xo

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