Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Day Trip {Grazalema & Zahara de la Sierra}

This past weekend we took a day trip to two more white hill towns of Andalucia -- Grazalema and Zahara de la Sierra.  Both are gorgeous and worth a visit* but I highly recommend going to Grazalema during their Sangre y Amor en la Sierra festival (Blood and Love), usually in early October.  The whole town reenacts the life of a famous bandit -- Jose Maria Hinojosa or El Tempranillo.  He wasn't born in the area but carried out most of his famous criminal acts in the area as well as married a girl from Grazalema.  All of this took place around the 1830s so for this one weekend, the town returns to the 1830s to celebrate El Tempranillo.
We happened to arrive right when things were getting started, we heard gunfire as we walked into town (don't worry, it was fake but very loud).  We watched a bunch of bandits take over some soilders and storm the government building -- to a crowd of cheering people!  We had no idea what was going on which pretty much sums up the rest of our time in Grazalema, but we had an absolute blast!
The whole town seems to go back in time to 1832 -- cooking over open fires, wearing period costumes, old/make-shift buildings... the whole works.  The main plaza was set up as if it were 1832 and quite fun to see, especially as more and more reenactments happened throughout our time there.  We ate amazing food, the best chorizo I have ever had, drank beer from clay mugs and Serafina even tried the hand crank ferris wheel.  Our personal favorite was the random flamenco show that took place in the middle of the plaza, that included a dancing horse.  Serafina's favorite part was petting the ginormous boa constrictor that she is still talking about days later....





Some tips for going to this small but amazing festival:
Parking is rough (aka non-existent) in Grazalema on a normal day, let alone a festival weekend, so be prepared to get there early, get creative with your parking and plan to walk a little into the town.  Bring cash -- you can buy plenty of amazing food (get the chicken paella and the chorizo) and beer from the various huts that are selling food/drinks, but all take cash only.  The only glassware we saw were various clay mugs, different styles for different huts/food vendors.  So do some research and follow the mugs you want and get drink tickets for that hut -- as drink tickets only work at the vendor you bought them from.  I am sure you can return the mugs for a refund (pretty sure we had to put down a small depost) but of course we chose to keep our mugs as souvenrs!  Be prepared for random and loud fake gunfire throughout the day.  It'll die down and pick up at various points throughout the day so if you have littles, just be warned.  Serafina hated the gunfire so we used her headphones to help mute the noise.  There isn't a lot "to do" but the performances/reenactments are kind of fun to watch.  There is plenty to eat and drink and there is a small hand crank ferris wheel for the kids (along with various live animals -- birds, horses, sheep, and that dang scary snake!).


After we had our fun in Grazalema, we moved on to another white hill town just a short drive away, Zahara de la Sierra.  Zahara is known for its olive oil and goat cheese (hard goat cheese, not soft like most Americans are used to).  Some of the best olive oil in the world comes from this region, so stock up if you go -- or better yet, go visit one of the olive making places (not sure what the technical term is).  You do need a reservation/tell the owners you're coming so this part requires planning; it is also usually a full day thing with making your own olive oil, lunch, etc.  But Zahara is still worth a walk through as the views are gorgeous -- if you decide to walk up to the castle (ruins), be prepared for a long, steep hike....



*So the drive into these mountains is a little rough -- narrow road and massive amount of switchbacks, but once you get to one town there are many others just a short drive away (typically no more than 30 minutes).  So plan on hitting a few of these towns in one day so avoid doing the awful drive more than once!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Weekend Adventures {Germany + Oktoberfest}

Well, I had an amazing chance to head back to Germany (just a few short weeks after our family trip -- just one of the perks of living in Europe).  The main purpose of the trip was to go to Oktoberfest but also go to Nürnberg (Nuremberg) to go to their Nürnberger Alstadfest (Old Town Festival).  This was a kid/husband-free trip so it was a tad wild and super busy but a lot of fun.

I went with two other friends (and we met up with some other friends at Oktoberfest).  We flew into Frankfurt as it was the cheapest + closest airport to München (Munich).*  I had been to Frankfurt two years ago and it wasn't the best trip (we all got super sick and spent our whole trip in a hotel room) so I was looking forward to exploring the city a bit more this time around.  I flew in a good eight hours a head of my friends so I had almost the whole day to explore by myself.  Frankfurt does have some great museums, but I spent my time wandering, eating and doing a little shopping.  We all stayed at easyHotel Frankfurt -- a no frills hotel that was actually great, but be prepared to pay for anything extra (wifi, cleaning if you want it, a remote for the TV, etc).  This place is good for dinner but the portions are large and the food is rich (but still really good) and I cannot recommend The Kinly Bar enough -- it is a speakeasy so no sign, just a black door in a little sketchy neighborhood but some of the best cocktails I have ever had (cash only!)**

The next day we then took the train to Nürnberg where we met up with my friend's brother in law.  We grabbed some food at random street vendors and went to the Nürnberger Alstadfest which was quite fun.  We started out at the bierwerk tent (really more like tables with a canopy over some of them) where we had super yummy beers and just hung out -- chatted, played some card games.  We took a short break from the festival and wandered through the pedestrian only part of Nürnberg.  This area is actually really large and leaves you feeling like Nürnberg is a small town when in reality it is quite large.  We know that there are plenty of amazing things to do in Nürnberg but our sole purpose for this trip was festivals, so we went back to the festival to experience a different tent and just the whole German festival experience (sharing tables, drinking, eating all the yummy Germany food, singing, people watching, etc.)!

Our next day was a day trip to München for Oktoberfest.  We opted to stay in Nürnberg as it was considerably cheaper and while Oktoberfest is truly amazing, we really only needed one day.  We took a super early train from Nürnberg to München and it was a rowdy train even with the early time.  We arrived in München and it was a little rainy so we went straight to the fairgrounds where Oktoberfest is held.  We took the obligatory pictures in front of the opening gate.

First,  Oktoberfest is a huge (HUGE) festival that lasts a little over two weeks each year (always in mid/late September).  Oktoberfest is basically like  Spain's feria but on a much larger scale and with beer -- traditional drinks, traditional outfits/costumes, traditional music and traditional food.  Oktoberfest is held on fairgrounds with make-shift (but insanely elaborate and large) tents, rides, food vendors -- just a much more fun, amazing and better county fair :)  The tents are HUGE and made to fit thousands (and thousands) of people.  Each are highly decorated (the ceilings in them are super elaborate) and worth a walk through.  Each tent serves beer and food, typically only one special festival beer in one liter size only and the food was amazing (so order a lot).       



You can only be served if you are sitting at a table, so the goal is to get a seat -- tents typically have inside and outside seating.  Most people want to be inside as the weather can be unpredictable (and in my opinion, inside is more fun).  The for sure way to get a table inside is to reserve one, but that can get expensive.  So be prepared to not get a seat at an inside table... However, we somehow got extremely lucky and got a seat at the Hofbräu Festzelt (Hofbräuhaus) tent so we sat, ordered a beer and didn't leave... met up with our friends who were also in München, met a lot of really great people who shared our table, ate amazing food, drank a good amount of beer, sang some German songs and overall had the time of our lives.

Our last full day in Germany was supposed to be another day trip on our way back to Frankfurt before our flight -- we were planning on going to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  However, there was a huge storm that rolled in the night before and caused some serious damage to many of the train tracks, including almost all the "fast train" train tracks heading out of Nürnberg... So our train to Rothenburg ob de Tauber was canceled.  Along with tons of other trains that day.  We opted just to get back to Frankfurt as we weren't sure how long it would take us.  It all worked out in the end and we had a relaxing end to a very fun trip.

*Getting to and from the main Frankfort Airport is fairly easy but does take a bit of patience and sign reading.  If you land in terminal one, just go straight to the train station and catch an S-bahn train that is going into the city (it will be about 5).  If you arrive in terminal two you can take the airport shuttle bus or the airport tram to terminal one and then walk to the train station and take an S-bahn train into the city... basically just follow the opposite route for getting to the airport from the city!

**Germany is a cash economy.  They use cash for everything and many many places don't take credit cards (even some hotels).  Oktoberfest is cash only for everything, so be prepared to have cash on hand.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Travel Tips {Travel with a Preschooler}


Our little Peanut is growing up, so I thought I would update my travel tips -- this time with a preschooler (where did the time go?).  I wrote about plane travel with a (pre)toddler here, and our favorite gear here and tips for day trips (by car) here.  And while some of it is the same, some has changed, so I figured I would combine all my tips for traveling with older toddlers/preschoolers here!

Gear -- Stroller + Carrier + Car Seat
No matter where we are going or for how long, our stroller comes with us -- it can hold our bags, our kid will gladly sit in it, she can sleep in it, it holds stuff for the day when we are out exploring, and more.  We pack in some pretty long days when traveling and while our little lady can walk (and loves to), she struggles to keep up and cover all of our ground.  A stroller just makes our lives easier.  I love traveling with a stroller and I love the City Mini in particular.  I have talked about my love of our stroller many many times on the blog (herehere, and here just to name a few).  This bad boy folds up with one hand, is extremely sturdy and has been able to do small towns and big cities and everything in between.

I do bring our toddler Tula to use on travel days -- usually in the airport and getting on and off the plane.  Just keeps us all safe, usually we have to walk onto the tarmac to get to the plane when using budget airlines.  We don't typically use the Tula when we are in cities or day tripping but it is handy to have just in case.

If we are renting a car, we take our new car seat -- we upgraded to the next size as our Peanut was fast out growing our other travel car seat (we loved this one, lasted us two and a half years).  We took our new car seat on our recent trip to Germany and it was amazing!  Extremely lightweight and still fit in our car seat bag (which I highly recommend).  The massive benefit of bringing our own car seat is that it is checked for free -- we've never had any issues with the multiple budget airlines we've flown.  We load up the car seat bag with lightweight stuff (I make sure the bag weighs no more than 10kg) and no one has questioned us so far (fingers crossed).  And when we usually have to pay a hefty fee for a checked bag, this is a huge win!

Entertainment
I'll start right off with the big guns -- our tablet. We have a lower end older Samsung tablet (can't even find it on Amazon) that we are currently using strictly for travel.  We have pretty much used up all the storage on ours, so if anyone has any recommendations for a new one, let me know!  We also bring our kid headphones for Serafina to use.  And we load our tablet up with:

Apps: We use a combination of educational apps and just plain entertaining apps.  Honestly, there are times for both and Serafina will gladly play both.  Really our only requirement is that the app works without wifi as it often isn't available.  Our current favorite apps are: Daniel Tiger (PBS Kids doesn't work in Spain so we have to download all PBS apps separately), Endless 123Endless ABC (for both Endless apps we have paid for the full app), Busy Shapes and Khan Academy Kids (this one does require wifi so we typically only use it when we are in the hotel/apartment for the evening).  We are always looking for new apps to change it up, so please let me know your favorites!

TV Shows/Movies: Again we typically go for high interest shows, but our kid actually likes the educational ones so it works!  And we have had to get creative with our downloads as we can't purchase/download some things because we live in Spain.  But our current favorite shows and movies are: Daniel Tiger, Little Einsteins, Paw Patrol, Blues Clues, Trolls, Frozen, Cinderella, Snow White... 

Other Entertainment: We almost always bring a super cheap coloring book and crayons/colored pencils (picked up from Spain's version of the dollar store); I can usually find cheap sticker books too and bring those.  We also travel with a few Melissa and Doug On The Go products -- our favorites are the Water Wow, the Magic Color and the Color-N-Carry (I usually stock up on a few at a time during sales).  We also really like the Crayola Color Wonder as then we don't have to worry about things getting colored that shouldn't be colored!  And finally, I cannot take credit for this but I tell everyone about this trick :)  Save all those stupid Happy Meal toys, birthday party trinkets... all the little toys that cost you next to nothing.  And throw them into a bag -- I personally use one of my Ipsy bags -- and call it good.  If you lose one of those toys, who cares but they will entertain your child for hours!  This bag of toys comes everywhere with us, not just traveling and I change out the toys frequently.  And finally, we usually travel with one new book that we pull out right when we get on the airplane. 

Snacks/Food:
Because I have food allergies we always bring a few granola bars with us (and also helps that Serafina will eat the granola bars too if needed).  We prefer to stay in apartments if we have more than one night in a city, so we also pack one or two of these nasty rice packets (no judging, I know they are gross and unhealthy) to use if needed.  Serafina eats them, they are super easy to make, cost next to nothing and take up no room in the suitcase.  Our sweet girl is not a huge fan of eating while traveling (too much to see and do) so we resort to anything and everything to get her to eat -- the rice packets, lots of french fries, croissants, bread, platefuls of cucumbers.  I would not consider our kid a picky eater, until we travel (ugh)!  We also pack some snacks for the airplane -- sunbutter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, goldfish crackers, and a treat.  Serafina loves M&Ms and Smarties so we bring a package and slowly dole them out on the plane (ask for an extra cup from the flight attendants to use to hold the candies -- works great).

Other Tips:
European airports are often extremely kid friendly and most have a play area for kids centrally located (even the super small airports) which is where we will typically hang out before going to our gate -- we are usually one of last ones to board.*  But if your airport doesn't have a play area, just let kids run up and down the airport!  Our kid really likes airplanes and airports, so for the most part she is well behaved which makes travel days just slightly easier.  

Our kid also likes museums, not as much as she used to so now we make games out of going to museums -- scavenger hunts for animals in pictures/sculptures, different colors, etc.  We point out our favorite paintings/sculptures and ask her for her favorites.  We also let her take pictures of what she likes which really helps -- and she comes up with some amazing pictures!  We do have this camera that she uses at home and we will for sure be taking it on our next trip.

So we do a healthy mix of museums/adult activities, usually in the morning when she is less tired and in a better mood and then add in fun/kid activities as well, such as interactive museums (natural history museums), parks, zoos, etc -- and bribe her with ice cream when all else fails :)  When planning our trips, Trevor and I discuss the places/museums/etc we most definitely want to see and we make those a priority, then add in other activities for all of us to enjoy too.

And just like when she was little, we always travel with a backpack full of the usual necessities: wipes, change of clothes, a few snacks, and the entertainment things we will need for the day/airplane trip (we always bring the tablet and kid headphones, the bag of toys and at least one or two art activities -- whatever else we have brought with us stays in the hotel room and we rotate the art activities/books, etc. if needed).  

While traveling with kids (at any age really) can be difficult, it is also so rewarding.  We see and experience things we never would have if it weren't for Serafina which makes our travels that much more fun -- the key is to laugh a lot and be flexible.  Hope you all enjoy your travels and leave any other tips and tricks in the comments!


*I know there is much debate on first or last to board with kids and we have done both.  With budget airlines, unless you have paid for a priority ticket (which we never do), you are forced to wait in a LONG line so.... we let our kid play until the line dies down and then we board.  Flying budget airlines is an adventure in itself and probably does deserve its own post one day!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Longer Travels {Germany -- Berlin}

After we spent a few days in the Saxony region of Germany, we returned to Berlin for a packed two and a half days.  We turned our car back into the airport* and got our time in Berlin started!  Fair warning, we did all of this in two and a half days.  We wanted to see as much as possible so our days were long and busy but actually really amazing.

Some general tips for Berlin -- we flew into Tegel airport and while there isn't a train going to the airport, there is a direct bus that will take you to various main spots in the city.  We opted for a taxi as it was just easier with Serafina and all of our stuff (and cost only 20 that included a tip).  We stayed here and it was just a tad sketch but it worked for us -- the neighborhood was a really weird mix of run down/a little ghetto and super high end with designer stores but also amazing food and we felt perfectly safe.

Berlin is huge and has an extensive bus/tram/metro/train system and you will be using it to get around a lot or at least we did since we covered a ton of ground during our time in Berlin.**  We purchased a multi-day pass online prior to arriving.  We went with the Berlin Welcome Card and did the 72 hour card that included admission to all the museums on Museum Island.  You need to print the card at home and you need A4 size paper (European standard size)... although I am fairly certain the only part you need would print just fine on regular paper (8 1/2 x 11).  But the nice thing is that your card is truly 72 hours, you put in the time you want it to start and it expired exactly 72 hours later which worked in our favor and saved us money.  Most city cards like this claim to be 72 (or 48) hours but it really means that number of days and if you validate your card in the evening on day one, you just wasted a full day of your card, make sense?  Berlin also has a museum pass but it didn't make sense for us personally as most of what we wanted to see was free.

Also, if you want a cheaper version of a hop on/hop off bus, take the #100 bus throughout the city -- lucky for us we happened to be staying right by a stop for this bus so we took it frequently.  It went past a lot of the major sights in the city and was pretty fun to ride (especially the double decker ones).***
So what to do in Berlin --

The Berlin Zoo
The zoo was seriously amazing.  One of the best we have ever seen -- big and awesome and so much fun.  We met up with our friends from Spain who also happened to be in Berlin and our girls had a blast running around.  We spent hours at the zoo and still didn't even see all of it!  The girls found an amazing playground and hung out there for a good hour.  Seriously, go to the zoo just for this playground!  There were so many animals and so much to see, if you like zoos -- highly recommend this one.
Museumsinsel (Museum Island) and Berliner Dom
Five of Berlin's top museums are on this island -- housing many of Berlin's most famous artifacts.  The island also has the Berliner Dom (Cathedral) that is the slightly over the top cathedral built during Kaiser Wilhem's rule -- worth a look and a picture as you walk past it on your way to the museums.  Right now the whole museum area is going through a huge renovation so some museums are only partially opened and not all items are on display.  We bought tickets ahead of time (along with our Berlin Welcome Card) so it was nice to cut the line and go right in.  We went to two of the museums -- the Pergamonmuseum (Pergamon Museum) which houses artifacts from the ancient world.  We were all wowed by the Ishtar Gate -- gorgeous blue mostly reconstruction (some original tiles) of the gate Nebuchadnezzar II built to enter Babylon is 575 BC.  It was seriously impressive and because we went first thing in the morning we were there with very few people (... for about 5 minutes!).  Sadly the namesake of the museum -- the Pergamon Alter -- is closed during the renovations until 2019.  We also went to the Neues (New) Museum which really has nothing new in it... it houses the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti, housed in a room by herself and no pictures allowed but seriously awesome to see.  Both of these museums were really great and while not insanely toddler friendly (both were pretty quiet), they each had really good access for those with a stroller.




Checkpoint Charlie
The main way for foreigners and diplomats to get between the two Berlins during the Berlin Wall era (and also famous for the stand off between US and Soviet tanks).  Nowadays the actual border crossing has a museum and is a slightly tacky/tourist trap including a mock-up of the original guard station including actors posing as American guards.  You can technically get your passport stamped here (for a fee) but we read it invalidates your passport...
Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror)
We hadn't planned on going to this museum but Serafina fell asleep in the stroller and we were nearby so we went... and wow.  The exact area of the museum was once the headquarters for the Gestapo and SS during WWII -- it focuses on how the Nazis came to power and carried out their awful plan.  This was well worth a visit (and free) but note that it was practically silent in the whole museum so if you take kids have them be sleeping or distracted.  There are no artifacts, it is pictures and very detailed descriptions that you read, but still so very powerful.  Outside there is also a good portion of the wall still intact so worth a walk by to at least see the wall.
DDR Museum
The DDR Museum is an interactive museum showing what life was like in East Germany but without the negative spin most people/museums give it.  This place was awesome!  Our little lady had SO.MUCH.FUN touching everything and playing with everything... there was a whole room dedicated to what a nursery school/kindergarten was like in East Germany and well, we hung out there for a good while.  Fair warning, I guess the East Germans were nudists (or liked to sunbathe nude) so there were some larger pictures and video of a lot of naked people with no censoring whatsoever.

Reichstag Building
The Reichstag Building is German's parliament building -- and completely worth going.  It was built in the 1890s, the German Republic was proclaimed here in 1918 but then the building almost burned down in 1933 and was barely used until 1999 when German parliament meet here again for the first time in 66 years.  The building now has a gorgeous class dome/cupola that the public can visit for free but reservations are absolutely required -- you can request a time slot reservation here (and it is a few step/day process: request three times slots, you will get an email, respond to the email, then you'll finally get another email with a letter/ticket).  Security is tight (makes sense, it is a functioning government building) so make sure you have ID and your ticket for everyone in your group.  Once on the top of the building, get the free audio guide which automatically narrates the view as you walk up the spiral ramp (yay for being stroller friendly) of the dome.  It is quite impressive and gives you a very cool view of the city as well as an awesome history lesson!


Brandenburger Tor (Brandonburg Gate) and Unter den Linden
One of Beriln's most famous landmarks -- a huge columned gateway at the end of a gorgeous tree lined street (Unter den Linden) and also at the former border of East and West Berlin.  The Brandenburger Tor was a symbol of Prussian Berlin but is more well known for for being the symbol of a divided Berlin and became the sight of great celebration when the wall fell in 1989.  Unter den Linden was the most elegant street in Prussian Berlin and today it is under a lot of construction to build a new tram/subway (something) line.
Denkmal für die Ermordeten Europas (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe)
This Holocaust memorial was completed in 2005 and has 2,711 gravestone-like pillars rising in different heights, creating a maze over a large area that you can walk through.  The memorial itself is somber and definitely worth seeing, but to get an even bigger effect go underneath the memorial to the Informational Center (it's free) which delves into the victims of the Holocaust, mostly through pictures and written explanations.  It is moving and powerful and I did not leave with dry eyes.  And yes, we took Serafina.  We put on a high interest app/TV show on her tablet, put on her headphones and the large canopy on the stroller down so she couldn't see or hear anything and it worked for us.

Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial)
The Berlin Wall ran right along Bernauer Strasse which now has a few exhibits remembering the wall and what life was like during the division of Berlin.  The Memorial has a welcome center, a good stretch of the wall still standing, a documentation center and more -- it spans a good couple of blocks of the street.  The documentation center is worth a visit because it is the last place that has the wall system (inner and outer wall) intact showing the no-man's-land death strip -- walk up to the top of the building to view over the wall.
Throughout the city there are random places that still have fragments of the wall standing and also on the ground there are stones/tiles marking where the wall once stood.  We never made it out to the East Side Gallery where more of the wall still stands and is decorated with famous works of art.  

Museum fürNaturkunde (Museum of Natural History)
This museum is really only worth a visit if you have kids and especially if you have kiddos who love dinosaurs -- the museum has the largest dinosaur skeleton ever assembled.  And currently has a huge skeleton of a tyrannosaurus rex that just amazed our little lady. 
Berlin has plenty of gorgeous plazas/squares to walk through and most likely you will see many of them just as you are touring throughout the city.  Alexandarplaz was the commercial pride of East Berlin and nowadays this area is a transportation hub and known for its retro World Time Clock and Fernsehturm (TV Tower) -- we chose not to go up the tower but you can, just make sure you reserve a time slot/ticket in advance.  Potsdamer Platz is a huge commercial center and nearby is the Mall of Berlin that has a super extensive food court if you are looking for diverse fast food.  It also has a two-story slide that I do not recommend going down (it goes super fast and I lost a few layers of skin on my elbow).  Gendarmenmark is another cool square with two large and gorgeous churches but more importantly, it has Rausch Schokoladenhaus a super yummy chocolate shop which is a must for any chocolate lover -- to grab a treat and to see the amazing chocolate sculptures.  We also wandered through parts of Humbolt University (famous for being one of Europe's greatest universities) and saw the memorial to a notorious Nazi book burning in 1933.
Alexanderplaz

Mall of Berlin
chocolate shop sculptures

Gendarmenmark

Humbolt University 
So where to eat in Berlin -- well, Berlin has a lot of offer in the way of yummy and amazing food and has so many different options.  We usually had breakfast in our apartment, but there were plenty of bakeries that we often got pretzels at as a mid-morning snack.  We ate lunch at House of Small Wonder and holy cow was it good, it has an all day brunch menu that is American, European and Japanese fusion.  This beer garden had great beers and had a huge area for Serafina to run around.  We grabbed a beer and a bite to eat at the Stone Brewing Tap Room (a San Diego brewery for anyone looking for American style beers) -- the beer was good and the food was so-so.  We ate here for kebabs and it was also amazing, really good french fries that our kid inhaled.  Stavros Grill was amazing Greek food with the best tzatziki ever (they had an English menu but for sure no one spoke English here).  And finally we had great burgers at Upper Burger Grill and really good sweet potato fries.  We pretty much ate and drank our way through Berlin (and all of Germany). 
Berlin was so much more than Trevor and I ever expected.  I had been once -- a good twenty (or more) years before and didn't remember much...  This city was amazing, a perfect combination of things we love about other European cities.  And fairly toddler friends, everyone we encountered was extremely nice and helpful to us.  Berlin is easily now of our favorite cities -- and comes highly recommend by this blogger (and her family)!


*Berlin currently has two smaller airports rather than one big large international airport -- in fact the airports in other German cities are much larger.  But remember, Berlin was a divided city up until 1989, so the two airports make a little more sense.  Construction is underway for a large international Berlin airport but it has been delayed a few times...  For now, the two airports seem to work and both are just a quick 15-20 minute drive into the city.

**Berlin was the first larger city we have ever been to with a transportation system that did not require scanning your ticket upon entry or exit or both.  In fact we couldn't figure out how to validate our Berlin Welcome Card but maybe because it had dates/times on it, it was already validated.... So on our last day on our last metro ride, we had chatted about how we had never seen anyone checking tickets and then... of course we got stopped by guys in plain clothes checking tickets, but we were just fine!

***I just have to remember this adorable story -- we were riding the #100 bus with a group of German high schoolers.  Serafina and I were sitting on the top part of the bus and she was just a tad excited about seeing a bunch of the sights.  The high schoolers thought she was hilarious and had an absolute blast practicing their English with us, so much fun!

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