Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Berlin After Action: Exploring Part 1

North and South Korea
 When we checked into the pension, the owner had mentioned something about bears and that it was fun for the kids to keep an eye out for them.  I wasn't really paying attention, but then we started walking around and found them.  Wow!  The kids loved them!  It was fun to see how each was decorated to represent a different country.  Big Sis wanted to find Greece and Devil Pup had to find Egypt.  For more info on the Buddy Bears, click here.
 We saw a number of street performers, but Big Sis was quite taken with this troupe of breakdancers (I was more taken with their advanced age -- one looked older than me and I'm sure that's way too old to be breakdancing or doing tricks on skateboards -- brittle bones and all that, y'know).  Of course, I found the way they ended the show to be the best part:  ABBA's "Money, Money, Money" blaring as they held out caps for their audience to place money.

After our first night's dinner of sushi (YUM! and the girls liked it, too), we wandered around a bit and ended up going down a sidestreet we later decided wasn't quite in the right direction.  However, if we hadn't gone down that street, we might never have seen this.  And what is it?  Well, it seems to be a restaurant suspended by a crane:  Dinner in the Sky!  Neither of the girls thought this was a good idea.
DP:  "What if you fall?" 
me:  "There are probably seatbelts."
BS:  "What if the crane breaks?"
me:  "Hopefully, that wouldn't happen."

Our first night in Berlin, we really didn't have time to do any of the tourist sites so we spent the evening wandering the main thoroughfare near our hotel-pension.  It was fun and relaxing, despite getting rained on at the end.  Oh, well, that was a good excuse to get back to our room and get everyone showered up and ready to really see Berlin the next day!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Berlin After Action: Train and Pension

 Stretch had a 3-day weekend, so we decided to test out the rail system and go to Berlin.  The weekend before I booked our rail tickets via the Deutches Bahn webite.  I played around with it a bit to see how much tickets would cost using different configurations, i.e. with or without the various BahnCards which provide discounts of 25-50%.  In the end, we decided to forego the BahnCard for this trip, using it as a test trip instead.  For 2 adults and 2 children in a 2nd Class compartment with reserved seating, I paid 457 euro (including the extra 5 euro for the reserved seating).  I may have been able to find better deals if I'd planned a bit further in advance, but didn't think it was too bad for last minute.  It was certainly far cheaper than flying and much more comfortable than driving!

I also booked us on the ICE train (fast train) that had no connections and would get us to Berlin in roughly 6 hours.  The first picture shows a 2nd class car and the second picture is the area with compartments and WC (toilets) where we were seated.  Each compartment had 6 seats, small table and places to hang jackets and a place to put luggage overhead.  We could control the lighting and temperature inside the compartments as well.   Once we got to Berlin (the Hauptbahnhof there is HUGE!), it was a matter of finding a bite to eat and then finding the local public transportation to take us out to Charlottenburg (the neighborhood where our accommodations were located).  We took a U-Bahn (making only 1 connection) to Adenauerplatz and then walked a few blocks to the Hotel-Pension Bregenz.

When we checked in, one of the owners immediately gave us a map with suggestions of things to do with the kids.  She marked routes for us and showed us the bus and U-Bahn routes.

 Then, she showed us to our room.  It was spacious, clean and had an ensuite bathroom.  While the shower was a bit tight sizewise, it perfectly suited our needs.  Everyone had their own bed and none of us felt cramped.

The breakfast the next day was also lovely.  Each table in the breakfast room was set with blue and white china.  The buffet was more than ample, offering cereals, yogurts, breads, meats, cheeses, fruit, and coffee cakes.  Tea, coffee, milk, orange juice and water were also available.  I was finally able to get fresh brotchen and liverwurst with fresh coffee for breakfast ... so good!  If we get a chance to go back to Berlin (there was so much we didn't get to see or do!), I'd definitely stay here again!

Also, we could buy the tickets for public transportation at the hotel.  A family pass for the day was 15 euro.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Home Sweet Home?

Don't get excited.  We're STILL living in a hotel.  But last week, I was able to get a peek into the apartment we will eventually be moving into.  The furniture is loaner furniture but here are a few pics:
Living room from the front door

Living room, looking at front door, dining room and kitchen

From living room, looking into dining room and hallway to bedrooms

The kitchen is smaller than last years but bigger than the hotel!

Love the shelving in the laundry room!

Master closet!  This might make up for last year's closets!

The kitchen overlooks a playground and more apartments