Two weeks. Three countries (plus a layover in Sweden). Seven airplanes. Ten trains. Dozens of buses. Countless legs on the S-Bahn, U-Bahn and Tube. And over 850 miles by car, generally on the wrong side of the road. This is how we do Europe.
The first photos below are of Potsdam, Germany's Versailles, beginning with Sanssouci. The park, which spans an area over twice that of Central Park, contains various palaces, outbuildings and gardens constructed by Frederick the Great during his reign as king of Prussia. And a windmill, too!
Central Potsdam, with its bustling sidewalk cafes and beautifully restored buildings, was also a treat. The Dutch Quarter was my favorite--its 100+ red brick buildings comprise the largest collection of Dutch vernacular architecture outside of the Netherlands.
Having heard positive reviews of Berlin's Fat Tire BikeTours and with limited time to see all the sights, we spent much of the next day cruising around town with a group of a dozen or so English-speaking travelers. Our guide was a lovely Seattleite with abundant knowledge of Berlin's history, and the tour was an excellent means of hitting all of the city's highlights within just a few hours. What's more, Berlin is flat, bicycle friendly and nearly 40% parks/open space (often containing Biergartens).
Although large portions of the city were leveled during World War II, Berlin has been handsomely remade. So much so, in fact, that's it's often impossible to discern between what is old and what is new. The New and French Churches on Gendarmenmarkt, almost entirely destroyed by Allied air raids, have been painstakingly restored to their original grandeur; the soiled statues along their exteriors, however, are original. And while certain of Berlin's structures bear the scars of fire and soot, these stained figurines were actually discolored by water--they were removed from their pedestals and submerged in a nearby lake to prevent their being destroyed by bombs.
I didn't realize until our visit that the Berlin Wall was, in fact, comprised of two walls, with a wide expanse (known as the "Death Strip") between. The original barrier was constructed overnight, instantaneously separating friends and family members and making two cities of one for a period of nearly three decades. A good portion of the original wall has become the East Side Gallery, a memorial and art exhibition devoted to creative interpretations of freedom, love and peace.
Great thanks to Uncle Dan for spoiling us throughout our stay! We didn't spend nearly enough time in Berlin, but know we'll be back for more beer, schnitzel and spargle (though probably not currywurst) in the very near future.