Monday, November 29, 2010

The ultimate travelling tot packing list

No doubt travelling with toddlers and what is considered a ‘must have’ to take is completely dependent on the child and the destination.  My best advice would be to do as much research beforehand as you can. Forearmed is forewarned!

Things we took which turned out to be indispensable:

  • Robust pram – with cobble stones and stairs ours copped a caning so it is better to spend a little more in the hope that it will last.  Our extremely light and compact pram (Quinny Zapp) came with a travel bag which was great for check in, extra protection and ease of carrying when not in use.
  • Ergo Baby sling carrier – the toddler carrier we bought was terrific.  It could be worn on the front, hip or back and the short one loved it.  Around Amsterdam, prams were almost impossible, with little or no footpaths, cobble stones, canals, bikes and pedestrians, it was just a formula for disaster.
  • Sandwich and snack boxes – some sort of plastic ware to contain food for lunches and snacks throughout the day.  We took a couple of slices of bread, fruit and yoghurt from the hotel  breakfast buffet each day and made a sandwich for the short one’s day of sightseeing.
  • Refillable toddler drink bottles – one for milk and another for water
  • Toddler/baby cutlery – at least one plastic spoon, fork and knife and a small plate
  • Washing liquid – for hand washing clothes
  • Dish washing detergent and a few chux wipes – for washing bottles, cutlery and dishes and the inevitable spill
  • Individual popper sized UHT milk – we found ‘fresh’ milk, particularly from Germany, curdled in the baby bottle by the end of the day, despite the cool temperatures. Not all hotel rooms have mini bar fridges.
  • Mini library books, stickers, pencils, scrap books – these were very popular, but not as popular as the hotel room telephone – just make sure you disconnect it first to avoid expensive international phone calls!
  • Mobile phones – purchase pre-paid SIM cards once overseas. This works really well if you are mostly in the one country. Even out of the country of origin the rates aren’t too bad. International roaming rates are very expensive if using your SIM from home.
  • Skype account – when you have access to free wireless, you can phone home for very little.
  • Netbook – small laptop to access email, internet, blog updates, downloading photos each night!  It was also used for watching Playschool ad nauseum!
  • Travel insurance – non-negotiable!  And as we discovered, invaluable.
  • Nappies – take as many as you can manage. We found the quality and variety available in Europe is sadly lacking.  We had many leak quite badly!
  • A good backpack – pay a little more for an ergonomic and practical one.  Ours had a chest and stomach strap as well as a back brace – it was very comfortable and could comfortably manage quite a bit of weight.
  • Basic first aid kit – panadol for the short one, as well as the taller ones; bandaids; all purpose first aid cream; nail clippers.
  • Guide books – we took one, including a pocket map, for each of the cities we were visiting – they were invaluable.
  • Fold up 'green' shopping bag – many grocery stores either don’t have plastic bags or you have to pay extra for them.
  • Baby toiletries – bath soap, body cream (the cold is very drying on the skin), lip balm, nappy rash cream, wipes
  • Baby sleeping bags – (Grobag or similar) We took a lightweight and a medium weight bag.  They were very useful for maintaining that ‘going to bed’ routine.  They even worked on the plane and train!
  • A comfort toy or three – just don’t leave it on the first plane that you take to leave the country! Fortunately the short one has never mentioned ‘Babs’ again and was quick to take on ‘Mima’ and ‘Big Ted’ from Play School as her new sleeping buddies! The back-ups came in handy in the end!
  • A travel change pack – small zip lock bag with everything needed for a couple of changes. Include a change mat, couple of nappies, small pack of wipes, nappy bags. It made for a quick and convenient pack to take when out and about.
  • Power point adapters – Euro for Europe obviously, British for UAE – for all those chargers that you need eg mobiles, laptop, camera batteries etc
  • Playschool, Playschool, Playschool...on the iPhones and the laptop...they were an absolute Godsend!  When the short one started to get fractious while going through museums or exhibits, Playschool came into its own as in-pram entertainment!

Things we could have done without:
  • The number of activities/games – each and every day presented itself with so many new and exciting experiences that many went untouched, but I think I would still take them anyway, just in case! The activity packs that children get on the planes are not always age appropriate.
  • Disposable bibs – ended up using the couple of cloth ones that I took and washing them each day – I found the disposables that we did use weren’t very big nor absorbent
  • Money/passport pouch - daddy had the best coat that had more hidden pockets in it that we couldn't even get into.  We didn't even end up using the pouch at all.

Things that would have been handy:
  • Small plastic bags for rubbish – particularly on the plane

Sunday, November 28, 2010

At the movies

Few people realise the benefits of a long haul when travelling with toddlers.  Onboard, on demand entertainment has long been a feature of air travel.  New release movies help the passenger while away the endless hours.  Passengers, if interested, are able to ensure they are up to date with any number of silver screen offerings, all in one sitting.
That is of course, unless you are with child, and herein lies the have a whole 15 – 16 hours to see at least one 1 ½ hour movie.
Being that I haven’t seen a new release movie since the short one was a new release, it was a novelty for me – even the collection of rewind movies (old favourites) were all new to me, I was spoiled for choice!  So I was thrilled to see 2 whole movies – Angela Jolie’s new movie, ‘Salt’ and the older new release, ‘Letters to Juliet’.
And the good thing is, watching movies with noise cancelling headphones, you can’t hear travelling toddlers!
What did you say?

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Our stopover in Dubai included a City of Merchants tour around this fascinating city.  Much of the development of this city has been since 1980.  Driving around, you are immediately hit with an overwhelming sense of consumerism, opulence, multiculturalism, excess and immediacy.

City skyline including Burj Dubai, tallest building in world at 828m
Bigger is better, hence why the tallest building in the world calls this place home.  Whilst modern Dubai is still in its infancy, there is a feeling of great urgency to get this place built. The rate of development is astounding, as is the variety of architectural styles.  Old mixes with the new, rich with poor, Muslim with Christian, traditional spice and gold souks with the biggest and most modern shopping centres in the world, desert sands with rolling grass fields.  This is a place of contrasts.

Burj al Arab hotel
One thing that struck me about this place was the concept of citizenship.  Only the true indigenous of Dubai can claim to be citizens.  Everyone else is considered an ex-pat.  To live in the Emirate you must be eligible for a visa, and for that you must be employed.  As soon as you are out of work, or retire, you must leave the Emirate and live elsewhere.  Amazingly, our guide, who was born in Dubai and lived there all his life, is not considered a citizen and assumes the nationality of his parents.  He renews his contract with Emirates airlines every three years.  When he is no longer able to renew his contract or chooses to retire he will have to leave his home and immigrate elsewhere. I suppose this is the compromise you take for living tax free.

Bedouin camp
Only 19% of the population are considered citizens.  True citizens are well looked after by the government.  They receive a very nice house for free, many in the wealthier Jumeirah beach area, as well as many other social services. The government consider citizens as the heart of the Emirate; ex-pats the blood.

Merchant houses
Ninety-six percent of income for the Emirate is generated through tourism, whilst the other 4% mostly comes from oil.  This place appears to have been designed with that statistic in mind.  It is geared to the tourist dollar with more hotels per square kilometre than you would care to mention, as well as a plethora of tour companies, amusement parks, museums and shopping malls.

Spice souks

A city of contrasts indeed...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The long journey home...

The day had arrived for us to start our long journey home.  With the luggage re-sorted and aircraft ready, we made our way back to Munich’s Franz Josef Strauss Airport for our Emirates flight back to Dubai.
Security was in overdrive here as well, and it was a little more comforting to see that most of them were upright at least.
The first leg of our flight from Munich to Dubai was just over 5 hours long.  We were designated bassinette seats again but chose to stick with them this time due to the leg room and ability for the short one to stand in front of the seats and move around, all be it limited.  Fortunately daddy’s request of the check in staff to flag us as ‘smelly’ ensured the third seat on our row remained empty, leaving the short one with a seat of her own.  Unbelievably, she fell asleep immediately after take off and we were even able to watch a movie!
Dubai airport proved to be family friendly yet again, with express passport control and complimentary airport strollers making life all that much easier.
Finally arriving in Dubai around midnight, after a couple of delays, our transfer had us arriving back at the Novotel after 1am – remarkably the short one was still standing and even somewhat convivial, more than we can say about German security!

Wiedersehen Germany

Checking back in to the Holiday Inn Munich was a little like coming home – staff warmly welcomed us back. The short one was also keen to show off her newly acquired bilingual skills by announcing to all who cared to listen and even those who didn't, "Guten morgen" - regardless of the time of day! 
In our absence, they had set up the foyer area as a German Beer Hall, a mini Hofbrauhaus!  Celebrating their new beer on tap, the Hofbrau, we were able to enjoy a somewhat simulated beer hall experience with 2 Hofbraus and 1 glass of milk. (The milk was served in a Chivas glass no less!)

For our last day in Germany, we ventured out into the cold (3 degrees) and made our way back to the Viktualienmarkt.  Sitting alfresco, overlooking the Christmas markets, drinking hot chocolate and watching the first snow fall of the season, I realise that while my insides were being nicely warmed by the chocolate, I had long lost all feeling in my hands, feet and face.  As romantic as it was, al fresco is perhaps not as practical in the northern hemisphere!

Fast train to Munich

With a 4am start, we were well positioned for a long day on the train!
Our 7am train from Centraal Station, had us loitering around for nearly an hour waiting on our platform  announcement.  Amsterdam Centraal Station is probably not the sort of place you want to loiter around, mind!  Not unlike Prague, the station is very unappealing, cold and full of undesirables, particularly those sheltering from the cold after a big night!
Our train from Amsterdam to Munich had a changeover in Frankfurt.  This was our opportunity to try out the ICE – the super fast Inter City Express.  The ICE, whilst comfortable and modern, was nowhere near as good as our other trains in terms of child friendly space.  It did however,  get up to speeds of 302 km per hour!
It was clearly evident at Frankfurt and Munich stations that security measures had been ramped up considerably in light of the latest security advices on terrorism threats in Germany.  Police were a very visible presence, all sporting extra large machine guns.  Despite being confronting, it did present one with a sense of increased confidence – particularly the two police officers travelling on our train, who snored most of the way.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Amstel Dam

Our last day in Amsterdam meant that today we would check out from where this beautiful city got its name.
At its heart is Dam Square, which marks the site of the original 13th century dam of the Amstel River.  While Dam Square is reportedly the heart of Amsterdam, it did little for me.  The vibrancy, soul, ambience and vibe experienced in Prague’s central square were largely missing here.

Walking south down Rokinstraat we headed for the banks of the Amstel.  Along the way we stumbled across Rembrandtplein, a former butter market, now a Winter Wonderland with Christmas markets, ice rinks and Christmas stalls.  It was here that we spied a beautiful carousel, complete with ‘horseys’ of course, daddy and three euros part company and the short one delightedly enjoys her first amusement ride! 

Daddy enjoyed it too, for the record.

Amsterdam Coffee Shops

Maybe the older I get, the less tolerant I become, but honestly, some people just never fail to amaze me!
Amsterdam conjures up many associations; pushbikes, canals, Red Light District, magic mushrooms and ‘coffee shops’.  Whilst Amsterdamers are quite liberal in their attitudes towards soft drugs and the oldest profession in the world, many visitors to this beautiful city take this as an invitation to flout the regulations, all the while causing great offence, not only to the locals, but also to their fellow visitors, those with half a clue!
Whilst smoking cannabis is acceptable in certain ‘coffee shops', in general it is not acceptable outside of these establishments.  Try telling that to the few tourists who think that translates to carte blanche and that it’s cool to walk around sucking on a joint!
Yesterday, we were absolutely amazed at the stupidity and ignorance of one of these tourists who thought it was acceptable to smoke hashish on our canal cruise, inside the enclosed cabin! When the unmistakable aroma hit the olfactory system of the cruise captain, he went on the hunt for the culprit, announcing to all passengers that if he found out who it was they would be subjected to a traditional ‘Dutch kick up the ass’ whilst unceremoniously being removed from said vessel.
Here’s a tip...if you want to partake in some recreational smoking activity, head to any one of the many ‘coffee shops’.  They are usually unmistakable – all you need do is walk past, and if you are still standing once past the doorway, you are probably guaranteed it is somewhere where you could get yourself a nice latte.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Van Gogh Museum

Today we thought we would venture onto the obligatory Amsterdam canal cruise.  Seeing we had covered all other forms of transport this trip, we thought we might as well add the aquatic version into the mix.
Canal cruise
Our cruise started outside Anne Frank’s house and took us to Leidesplein, where we disembarked to take a leisurely stroll down to Museumplein.  This area includes the famous Rijksmuseum, as well as the purpose built Van Gogh Museum. The area also boasts a delightful children’s playground, large grassed area, water feature and cafes.


Mueumplain with Rijksmuseum in background

Museumplein playground

 Heading over to the Van Gogh Museum, we were ecstatic to be walking right past the incredible queues to get in as we had arranged pre-purchased tickets through our hotel, affording us immediate access.  Many museums in Amsterdam provide online ticket facilities. As long as you have a printer service in your hotel, as you do need to print the tickets if purchasing online, it is certainly the best way to go.  We did this for Anne Frank’s House, and after seeing the line down the street and around the corner we were pleased we did.  Child or no child, waiting in a queue for an hour is not my idea of fun!
The Van Gogh Museum houses the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh’s works, including paintings and sketches. It also contains works from Van Gogh’s contemporaries, many of whom had a great influence upon him, such as Monet, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Rodin.
Seeing the paintings that have become synonymous with Van Gogh, such as the Sunflowers, I would have to say my favourite is probably one not as well known, Daubigny’s Garden.

Daubigny's Garden
This Museum is amazing – and well worth a visit. The pure genius that is Van Gogh leaps off each and every canvas;  and to think that this prolific painter lived such a tragic life, dying prematurely at his own hand, and was never really able to realise his own true worth.

In his own words... I put my heart and my soul into my work and have lost my mind in the process...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Anne Frank

Today we headed off to visit one of the most moving museums I have ever set foot in...Anne Frank’s House. 

It was over 10 years ago when I first walked through the doors of this incredibly moving exhibit and today was just the same.  Whilst the museum surrounds are much bigger today, with the acquisition of adjoining buildings, it was just as moving today as it was so many years before.  It is amazing to think that Anne’s father fought to preserve the secret annex during the late 1950s, as it had fallen into such disrepair that it was earmarked for demolition.
Seeing the infamous bookshelf concealing the doorway to the annex; climbing the steep, narrow staircases;  pouring over the photos and postcards still pasted on Anne’s bedroom walls; deciphering the pencil marks on the wall detailing the growth of Anne and her sister Margot; actually seeing Anne's perfectly formed script within the pages of her now famous red checked covered diary; soaking in the atmosphere within the darkened, confined spaces where the family was in hiding for nearly two years...this place exudes pain, isolation, innocence, persecution, hope and ultimate betrayal...

Anne Frank's house

Dutch Tour Guide

Humouring daddy, I relinquished the map today, so that he regained some of his perceived control over the holiday!  Little did he know, I was still managing proceedings!  Whilst I still came up with the itinerary - he just had to get us there.

Today’s plan included taking in the flower markets.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have a great love for flowers and always have fresh bouquets in the house.  My favourite flower of all time would have to be the tulip...and here I was, in the native home of the tulip.
Tulips are everywhere in Amsterdam; fresh, plastic, silk, wooden; on tea towels, coffee cups, napkins, magnets, keyrings, bags...the list goes on and on and on.
But, I am only really interested in the real ones!

The flower markets line one of the canals behind our hotel. They sell all manner of bulbs, fresh flowers and souvenirs.  I have never seen such a collection of bulbs in all my life – ones for every imaginable colour of tulip and even those unimaginable!  I don’t know that I could take to the black ones...
What probably amazed me more than anything were the prices.  Most bunches of tulips were sold in bunches of 50 (yes, 50!) for only 10 Euros.  You are flat out getting half a dozen back home for that price!  Whilst it was very hard to resist the temptation, I did manage to just admire them from afar.

What was also of interest was the ‘bulbs in a can’ concept  – supposedly export quality...I am not sure though (export quality or not) that cannabis in a can would make it through Australian border control!

Going Dutch

Some regular readers may be beginning to think that this blog is becoming an expose of European WC facilities, and you would not be far from the truth.  Let's be honest here, one has to be practical, particularly when travelling with children.
Today, I was introduced to the Dutch version, the urinoir.

Being somewhat experienced in visual literacies, I was pleased to see the international symbol being used on the street sign - just in case there is any mistaking the structure for some other purpose!

Whilst males are somewhat catered for in terms of public facilities (and I mean PUBLIC), women and children are pretty much left to their own devices...though...retro-fitting a change table to the urinoir could be quite handy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hotel Ambassade

Out of our accommodations woes, we have had a small gain.  With our original hotel bumping us, we were lucky enough to find a room at the Hotel Ambassade on the beautiful Herengracht Canal.  Our gorgeous hotel is made up of ten 17th Century canal-side terraces.  With under 60 rooms, the service is personal and attentive.

The Hotel is actually listed in our guide book as one of the top ten hotels of ‘character’ in Amsterdam.  The Ambassade has been favoured by authors over the years, and as a result the hotel boasts a library collection of over 2500 signed books.

Fresh flower arrangements are scattered throughout the hotel, including one stunning arrangement at the entrance.  Beautiful 18th century antiques and original artworks also grace the hotel, making for a truly cultural experience! The breakfast even includes French champagne.

We were delighted to discover on check in last night that the hotel has a lift – as many canal-side buildings in Amsterdam are tall, narrow and full of ankle-breaking circular stair cases and few lifts.  This was a bonus we thought, until it broke down today and we have had to discover muscles in our legs that weren’t even there previously.  Lucky for us, we are on the top floor, as it is so much more convenient with a toddler!

Ambling around Amsterdam

Pre-purchasing guidebooks for each of the cities we were to visit afforded us with some very useful and interesting information on each of our destinations. 

On our train trip to Amsterdam, I spent considerable time going through our next book and studying the map.  The guidebook was very informative, especially detailing areas of Amsterdam that should be avoided at all costs - areas that are particularly seedy and known for pickpockets and other not so savoury characters!  I even went to the trouble of locating and marking these areas on our pocket map, as well as showing daddy.
Our first day in Amsterdam today, we thought we would just amble around aimlessly and discover our local area; the whole time, keeping the district in mind that we should avoid.  We made our way from the hotel to Dam Square, Amsterdam's main square, from where the city arose. With map firmly in pocket, as opposed to hand, I very carefully steered Team O’Connor to a district off Dam Square that was reminiscent of something.  After some time, daddy instructs us to stop and actually consult the map to find out where we were. 
With several map turnings, street sign consulting, mummy had to sheepishly admit that she had very carefully orchestrated the Team into the heart of the no-go zone!  No wonder it rang a bell!  With some carefully executed manoeuvres we quickly removed ourselves from said area!
I suppose the lessons in this for everyone are:
a)      Don’t ever leave mummy in charge of a map
b)      Actually consult the map, as opposed to keeping it in your pocket
c)       See first lesson
NB  For those of you who were privy to my Kensington Palace foray, you would think daddy would have learnt by now!!

Daddy’s Note:
I would like to make it quite clear that everywhere, except on the first day in Amsterdam, I have held the map, and controlled its use. Also please note that during these times we never got lost or went anywhere near places that we should avoid.
Needless to say I now have the map back!
And for those not in the know... when we were in London some years back, we stayed at a hotel five minutes walk from Kensington Palace.
Instead of going right to the Palace, on said person’s advice, we went left and three suburbs and two hours later, she admitted that perhaps I may have been right in this case.

Mummy’s Note
It must be so hard being so perfect...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Berlin Hauptbahnhof

Time for us to make our way back to the most incredible train station I have ever seen, Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof.  This futuristic building houses 3 levels of platforms, a shopping mall and even a DB (Deutsche Bahn) Lounge -for those frequent train flyers! Whilst it actually looks like an oversized meccano set, it is a very tourist and pram friendly facility.  However, be warned - if you need to go to the toilet or change a nappy it will cost you 80 Euro cents to get through the door!

Today we were making our way to Amsterdam on the ever efficient IC (Inter City) Train.  One thing can be said for the Germans and their engineering - it’s fast and efficient (OK,  I can’t count!)

We were excited to discover our first class seats were in a 6 seater cabin with its own door, again.  With no other passengers booked alongside us, we were able to spread out and give the short one some wings.  For the 7 hour trip that lay ahead, this was indeed a blessing.

The rhythmic jostle of the train lulled the short one into the Land of Nod as we settled in for our ride to the Netherlands.  With a little man coming around asking us whether we would like a coffee and something to eat, you couldn’t imagine it getting any better! 
Well...actually...I could now that I think about it – a half decent cup of coffee would be good, thanks!

Berlin’s Zoologischer Garten

Our last day in Berlin and we thought we would do something a little more uplifting.

self portrait

Seeing our hotel was pretty much on the doorstep of the oldest zoo in Germany, we thought it was a clear message to take the short one to a more child friendly venue!
Despite the day being cold and wet, we headed around the corner to check out one of Germany’s most amazing tourist attractions. Animals have been kept and bred here since 1844. With over 15 000 animals living in the zoo, spread out over 84 acres, we were in for another long walk today.

Probably the zoo’s most world famous resident is Knut, the orphaned polar bear, raised by zookeepers after being rejected by his mother.  Aside from Knut, celebrity spreads to the only Giant Panda held in captivity in Germany,  Boa Boa.
The zoo has a number of buildings peppered throughout the park, built in a style reminiscent of the homeland of the particular animals on exhibit within the confines of the building.  As much as possible bars and fences were removed and replaced with moats in the 1930’s, making for a very up close and personal experience with the various species.  Sadly during air raids in the Second World War, the zoo was all but destroyed.  Committed self-sacrificing zookeepers managed to save 91 of the animals including ‘Siam’ the elephant and ‘Knautschke’ the hippo.

Out of the tragic remains, rose an even more committed and determined staff to rebuild, bigger and better.
And it was all so worth it...just to see the face on the short one as she got close to the baby elephant!  That for us was definitely the winner!

Though, in all honesty... now...we are actually a bit over hearing about the baby elephant!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A hard day's work...

What else is there to do after a hard day visiting page after page of history?

Weary travellers relaxing in front of the TV!

Deutches Historisches Museum

Interestingly, we thought there was a dearth of public exhibits pertaining to the Second World War in Berlin.  Perhaps we were just looking in the wrong places, but there is a distinct feel that John Cleese from Fawlty Towers may have just been onto something!
We persevered and discovered that the Deutches Historisches Museum had an exhibit running currently dedicated to all that was the rise and fall of the Third Reich.  The exhibit set out to answer many an unspoken question – such as how did Hitler rise to such supreme power, by means of exploring the current political and social climate.  A fascinating display!

Seeing first hand numerous artefacts from the war certainly brought home the extreme horror and sheer despair suffered by thousands at the hands of the National Socialist Party.
Moving on from this amazing Museum, we ventured over to the Neue Wache – the central German memorial to all victims of war, created in 1816.  This historical building strongly contrasted with that of the more modern interpretation further down Unter den Linden.

Neue Wache
The Holocaust Memorial is a stark reminder of all the Jews that lost their lives throughout Europe.  Completed in 2005, the dark grey columns of varying heights symbolize the six million Jews and others that were murdered by the Nazis in Concentration Camps between 1933 and 1945.
Walking amongst the columns towards the deep centre, you couldn’t help but feel the extreme cold, damp, and darkness.  Walking back towards the light certainly helped to lift the sombre mood, making it all the more moving considering this was never an option for those to which this structure is dedicated.

Holocaust Memorial

In the words of the Roman Philospher, Aurelius Augustinus, ‘The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.’
This is one page in history that should never have been written.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Berlin of old

Armed with a little more historical understandings and knowledge of what this amazing city has to offer we were well versed in taking on the East today.
Catching the Berlin U-Bahn was an experience!  This underground was first constructed in 1901, the fifth in all of Europe.  We disembarked  just a short walk from Checkpoint Charlie, a former crossing point for the Allied Forces. Many a soul was lost here trying to escape from the East to the West. 

Checkpoint Charlie

From here we headed down Friedrichstrasse to Unter Den Linden, Berlin’s most fashionable street. This tree lined avenue evokes all that is Berlin, culminating in the magnificent Brandenburg Gate.  At this very point many significant historical events have transpired.  The Gate now stands keeping watch over many embassies and the famous Hotel Adlon.
In front of the Gate, modern buildings form a semi-circle around the Pariser Platz, a semi-circle only just completed as recently as 2008.  The last remaining gap was earmarked for the US embassy, but several years of the US going head to head with the Berlin Senate delayed the building.  So what were they arguing about?  The US Embassy effectively wanted Berlin’s most significant tourist attraction and historical strip to be moved in order to satisfy security requirements.  I mean, not much really!
Needless to say the US lost!


Next stop on our walking tour was through the Gate around the corner and there before us was the most mighty structure I have ever seen, the Reichstag.  Constructed in 1884, the building is a proud manifestation of the power of the Reich.  Destroyed by fire in 1933, bombed during WWII, it was finally transformed in 1994 into one of the most modern parliament buildings in the world. The marriage of old and new has been an architectural success story.

Brandenburg Gate
The time had come for our own little success story to head back home, this time on the more modern S-Bahn!

The Story of Berlin

After dedicating ourselves to all that is consumerism, we thought we had better go and see what we came for; history, and what a lot Berlin has to share.  We started off by visiting the Story of Berlin Museum conveniently located across the road from our hotel.  This museum takes you through the full history of the capital’s development; from its trading centre days in the Middle Ages to the fall of the Berlin Wall.  The Museum also includes a tour of an authentic nuclear bomb shelter. 
By the time we had wandered through 8 centuries, the short one was beginning to fade and fast.  I suppose when you are only one, 800 years is a VERY long time!  The time had come for mummy and the short one to retire back to the hotel while daddy checked out the bunker built during the Cold War underneath our very street.  The shelter has the capacity to shelter almost 3 600 people and is still operational.
Supplies of tinned bread, consumed with water, in the bunker

I am sure daddy would have fleetingly thought about staying there the night, tempted by the guaranteed uninterrupted night’s sleep, but he must have thought better of it, as he returned to our digs in the end.  Mind you after last night’s efforts, I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes back and makes some enquiries!

Kitchen in the bunker