Berlin – December 24 and 25, 2013

Christmas Eve started very early for me.  We had a friend arriving from Texas at 8 am.  By the time baggage was collected, customs was navigated, and we drove home it was around 10 am.

The Germans’ Christmas Eve tradition is that they go to the Budvar bar at KaDeWe.  Several family friends join them in this tiny bar enjoying Czech beers with a great view over the city.

Budvar at KaDeWe

Budvar at KaDeWe

Mr. MM and most of the Germans arrived at the Budvar bar around 10 am to secure the back corner of the bar.  I took the double decker bus to KaDeWe with Texas.  The rest of the Germans, Mom, and Sister met us there after a bit of shopping.  So glad that the Franziskaner bar is just across the aisle from Budvar.

Several beers and a bratwurst later, it was closing time.  KaDeWe closes its doors at 2 pm on Christmas Eve.

The rest of the day found us gathered around the Christmas tree, drinking, and snacking. I find the structure of German Christmas trees very appealing.  Sister, Mom, and one of the Germans in front of our tree (See below).

Look at the spread for snacking!!!  Smoked salmon and trout, deviled eggs with caviar, potato salad, various salads purchased at KaDeWe, various stinky and non stinky cheeses, salted butter (with big flakes of salt) and wonderful crusty bread.

Family and Food

Family and Food

The evening rounded out with presents being exchanged and schnapps being poured.  Growing up, we followed the German tradition of exchanging/opening presents on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Day morning, we all gathered in the Germans’ dining room for a satisfying German breakfast.  The Americans left for 10 am Christmas Day service at the Protestant Berlin Cathedral.

Berlin Dom: After WW2 and Christmas Day 2013

Berlin Dom: After WW2 and Christmas Day 2013

The Cathedral suffered major damage during the bombing of WW2.  The restoration is amazing.  I can’t even imagine the amount of money and manpower it took for this restoration.

Berliner_Dom_Interior

Berlin Cathedral (Dom) interior

Christmas Day service was accompanied by the full choir and was broadcast live on the BBC.  Although the majority of us could not understand everything, it was very moving to be in such a wonderful space for Christmas Day service.

After the service we made our way to the Bundestag (Reichstag) via lunch at Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt. This one was a stop for Mr. MM so he could try beer he hasn’t had before.

Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt

Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt

I had the Berlin Curry Wurst.  As a huge fan of curry wurst, I still prefer the version from a little stand on the Ku’Damm.  The food was decent.  Beer selection was good per Mr. MM.  The prices were what we expected for Berlin Mitte.

Our bellies full and ready to go, we walked to the Brandenburg Gate.  Is it terrible that I kinda miss the ‘cold war’ Brandenburg Gate?  Now it’s just a tourist trap filled with faux Russian soldiers harassing tourists to take photos.  The only decent photo I took of the Gate is below … because you don’t see all the nonsense happening in front of it.

Brandenburg Gate.

Brandenburg Gate.

We arrived at the Reichstag for our 2 pm appointment to explore Lord Norman Foster’s dome.  Wow.  Intense security and screening.  One of my favorite moments was looking at all the historical photos with Mom and hearing her comments / opinions.

L:  Reichstag after WW2 / R: A smooch between Mr. MM and myself

L: Reichstag after WW2 / R: A smooch between Mr. MM and myself

Again, I’m amazed at the restoration of the Reichstag.  On our walk back to the Brandenburg Gate U-Bahn station, through the Tiergarten, we passed another memorial to loss of life due to Hitler’s atrocities.  Texas asked “How many times does one country have to apologize?”.  I would add, why don’t humans learn from their mistakes?  Sigh.

We made our way back to the Germans’ house in twilight.  Upon arrival we were greeted with amazing aromas of Christmas Day dinner.  Traditional German Christmas Day dinner:  roast goose, red cabbage, green cabbage (looked and tasted similar to collard greens), boiled potatoes, potato dumplings, and lots of wine.  Another evening of great company, our wacky mix of translated conversation, and schnapps.

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