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.