Weekend in Berlin :: Day 3

Monday was our last day in Berlin and it was forecasted to be the coldest. We decided on a visit to the Berlin Zoological Gardens & Aquarium, an outing that would include both outside and indoor activities.

It can be a bit confusing for tourists as there are two large zoos in Berlin, the Zoological Garden (known as “The Zoo”) in former West Berlin and the Tierpark in the East.

The Zoological Garden is located on the south-west corner of the Tiergarten. Opened in 1844, it is the oldest and best known zoo in Germany. During World War II, a large part of the zoo was destroyed and only 91 of 3,715 animals survived. The Aquarium Berlin was built in 1913 as part of the Berlin Zoological Garden complex and is one of Germany’s largest aquariums.

Tierpark was founded after WWII in 1955, so that the capital of East Berlin would have a zoo of its own. Tierpark is said to be the largest zoo in Europe.

We practically had the zoo all to ourselves. The restaurants and food kiosks were shut up tight and a few of the exhibits were closed due to it being winter. To my surprise, the polar bears were included in the closures. Despite this, the animals we did see were very active and engaging to watch. We lingered at the baboon exhibit the longest as they were very energetic and animated. The boys paid special notice to the the mamas carrying their babies on their backs. The lion and tigers were amazing. In my experience going to zoos, these cats are usually disappointing, lying down or sleeping the majority of the time. Here, however, they were the most active and vocal ones we’ve ever seen. The lion constantly roamed around and even roared deeply and loudly several times. We were really taken by his mightiness. The tigers were just plain frightening, pacing in their cages, roaring and licking their chops. At one point with our mouths agape, the boys said “let’s get outta here!”

We spent the majority of the day in the Aquarium. With three stories containing jellyfish, tropical and native fishes, crocodiles, reptiles, and a broad variety of insects, we had plenty to see. The shark tank, unfortunately, was closed for renovations. A highlight of the aquarium was the petting tank located at the entrance with Japanse Koi carps. The boys spent a great amount of time there both when we entered the aquarium and on our way out.

We left the Zoo with big appetites and hopped on the train to the Potsdamer Platz location of Andy’s Diner. This was the first of the now three locations in Berlin. A quote from the diner’s website was interesting to us, “Potsdamer Platz – now an urban and lively neighborhood – just a few years before the opening of the first ANDY’S DINER & BAR in 1999, was a no man’s land because of war damage and the decades-long division of the city. Now, amidst wonderful modern buildings, this area is so packed full of cultural activities that one can get dizzy – as at the sight of the skyscrapers.”

The diner serves American-style cuisine and some of Berlin’s own specialties. We enjoyed a burger, chicken club sandwich and pizza for the boys. The food was quite good and we would recommend the diner to anyone visiting Berlin.
Andy's Diner

The boys were so exhausted from the day, they were falling asleep on the booth at the diner. We decided it was best to wrap up the day. We snapped a few last photos in Potsdamer Platz in front of chunks of the Berlin Wall and headed back to the apartment.

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In the morning, after one last visit to Harmonie Bäckerei, the corner bakery, we loaded into the car. Before the long drive home we made a final stop in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate.

Throughout its existence, the Brandenburg Gate was often a site for major historical events. The area around the Gate was featured most prominently in the media coverage of the opening of the wall in 1989. After winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Germany national football team held their victory rally in front of the gate. It is considered a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, as well as European unity and peace.

The clear, sunny early morning visit gave me the opportunity to photograph the gate with only a few tourists lingering around.

Brandenburg Gate

 

Each of our days in Berlin was full and enjoyable. One of the more gratify aspects was that while the boys were busy having fun, they were also curious and asked questions about the wall. Much of Berlin’s rich history is very heavy on the emotions. During our last visit, many years ago when Alex was a baby, we visited the Jewish Museum Berlin and the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedächniskirche (Memorial Church), both emotionally moving places and ones we feel will be important to share with the boys in years to come.

 

xoxo,

Mel

Revisit our first two days in Berlin here ::
Weekend in Berlin :: Day 1
Weekend in Berlin :: Day 2

this moment :: 21 weeks {27 february}

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Sweet belly kisses like this one from Ari have made this pregnancy extra special. We took well over a dozen pictures as Ari kept saying ‘let’s do it again’!

We are a little more than halfway through this pregnancy and I’ve been feeling good. Here is some of what has been going on ::

:: Food cravings :: Surprisingly, I really haven’t had any.  My diet has consisted mostly of beans-it doesn’t matter what kind!, jalapenos, baked potatoes, pepper jack cheese sprinkled on everything, crunchy granola, clementines and COLD glasses of milk. Red meat is not that appealing to me so it’s chicken or turkey breast.
:: Sleep :: I am sleeping comfortably and deeply. After the first trimester, the frequent waking at night to go potty has ended (for now I guess!). There are about ten pillows on my bed that I arrange ‘just so’ each night before I crawl in. I’ve been thinking I should’ve invested in one of those full body maternity pillows!
:: Action in the womb :: Baby kicks are getting stronger and occur frequently throughout the day. I mostly feel them deep and low in my abdomen. They almost always to seem to begin when Jason is near. I am anxious for the boys to feel them for the first time. I find myself wanting to stop whatever it is that I am doing to sit and enjoy feeling the life inside of me.
:: Daily conversations :: Daily talk about this baby has all three boys curious and interested in the retelling of their own birth stories. It is one of my most favorite things to listen to Jason share each experience with the boys as he remembers. Their questions and commentary are priceless!
:: Baby names :: We each have a top three list of boy’s and girl’s names. Thankfully, Jay’s and mine match up pretty well. The boys have some pretty creative names that we will reserve to use as possible nicknames.
:: Gender reveal :: Our last visit to the doctor was almost four weeks ago. The position of the baby made it tricky to view the genital area on ultrasound.  So we left not knowing for certain.

The next appointment is on 3 March. We are looking forward to peeking in on baby and hopefully getting clarity on whether we will be welcoming a baby boy or girl!

Is there anyone who wants to offer up a guess!?

 

xoxo,

Mel

{joining :: soulemama}

Weekend in Berlin :: Day 2

After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to head out into the big city. It was a sunny, but cold, Sunday morning and within a short walk from our apartment on Ruppiner Strasse were two nice sized markets, both with playgrounds beside them. How could I refuse!?
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First stop was the trödelmarkt in Akronaplatz (10435 Berlin-Mitte; Opening hours: Sun. 10am – 5pm; in winter until 4pm).

This smallish market is nested in between a playground and big open green space in the middle of the neighborhood with several cafes. We arrived just after 10:00am and some vendors were still setting up. The market consisted of 50 or so stalls selling design pieces to include furniture from the ‘50s,‘60s and 70’s, vintage knick-knacks, retro fashion pieces and industrial items. After walking around a bit and contemplating a few purchases, a huge signage letter A or E was hard to pass up, I stopped into a little cafe for coffee and hot chocolate to go for the boys who were playing at the playground.
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We then made our way to the large flohmarkt at Mauerpark (Bernauer Straße 63 – 64, 10435 Berlin-Mitte; Opening hours: Sun. 8am – 6pm).

Mauerpark, or “Wall Park”, is located in what used to be the Death Strip (the empty area between the two parallel walls that actually made up the Berlin Wall) and is popular with Berliners and tourists alike. There are seemingly endless rows of overflowing stalls selling usual flea market treasures including furniture, secondhand clothing, books, electronics, bikes, dishes and toys. Bargaining is expected.

You will also find food stalls with locally-produced food, ethnic eats, and a beer garden. I was drawn by an amazing aroma to a stall where head-scarfed women prepared delicious looking Turkish specialties.

It is advised to go early if you don’t like crowds. We finished up just after 12:00 and it was starting to get packed.
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(Side note :: The difference between a trödelmarkt and a flohmarkt:: at trödelmarkts only used/old items are sold and at flohmarkts used/old items are sold and you may find some stalls selling new or handcrafted items.)

 
 
The walk from Mauerpark to the U-bahn (underground train) took us along a part of the former wall and the Berlin Wall Memorial. In fact, the neighborhood we stayed in was once divided by the the Berlin Wall and several of the successful escape tunnels are located close by. Read an interesting walking tour of the area here.

Markers in the pavement indicated the boundaries of the wall and gave memorial to those who successfully escaped “flücht” and those who were arrested “festnahme” trying to escape.

November 9, 2014 marked twenty five years since the Berlin Wall fell. Walking the area, viewing old photographs and reading the history displayed on markers left me with an impression one can only get by seeing it first hand. It is unimaginable what it must have been like to live on the East side of the wall, divided from family, friends, freedom and democracy.
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Public transport was very easy to navigate. We purchased day tickets on Sunday and Monday for Jay and I. The children rode for free. The U-Bahn at Brenauer Strasse was our ‘home base’ so to speak.  The boys enjoyed hopping on and off at the trains at different stops as we navigated the city.


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We spent our Sunday afternoon at the interactive Science Center Spectrum. The boys had a blast. I stuffed my camera in a locker with our coats, so no pictures here. I will say, the Science Center is a must when visiting Berlin with children.

From there we had a quick visit with friends, the Pflüger family, who now call Berlin home. We first met them at the International German School in Brussels where Alex attended early primary grades. It was nice to catch up with them and to see Alex interact with an old friend, Fynn.

We ended the day with a few scoops of the #1 ranked ice cream in Berlin at Caffe-e-gelato. We all agreed it was yummy! Another must while in Berlin with children (or without!).
 

Coming soon….the final day of our adventures in Berlin!
{Read about Day 1 again here — Weekend in Berlin :: Day 1}
 
 

xoxo,

Mel

this moment :: 20 february

{this moment}
 Capturing a moment from the week.
A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
{inspired by :: soulemama}

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More so, lately, I find myself wanting to gaze at him while he sleeps. Peaceful and dreaming, angelic and warm. He still curls his fingers, makes little fists and sucks his bottom lip in. He usually prefers no covers and kicks them off instinctively. Almost nightly, he calls for me. Snuggling close, his breathe warm on my neck.
In just a few short months, this sweet little boy will lose his status as the ‘baby’ of the family. No doubt, he will assume his role as big brother proudly. But for now, I just want him to be the littlest one with big dreams.

 

Why is it that shorter weeks due to holidays seem to always feel like the longest of weeks!? So glad it is Friday!! Happy weekend!

xoxo,

Mel

Weekend in Berlin :: Day 1

This past weekend was a four day break for the kiddos with Fasching, or Carnival, celebrations going on Monday and Tuesday. German schools in predominately Catholic regions of Germany are closed for Rosenmontag and Fastnacht. This year, the holidays lined up with President’s Day on Monday and on Tuesday Jay used a day off that was due to him from his travel to Orlando a few weeks ago.

So we decided to hit the road and travel to a city that we last visited when Alex was just a baby…Berlin!

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We left home on Friday evening, drove three hours to a halfway point in Eisenach and spent the night in a simple budget hotel, two double rooms for $118, hooray for IBIS! We were back on the road early Saturday morning and arrived in Berlin with time to spare before our scheduled entry time to the Legoland Discovery Center. This was the boys’ first stop request!

Upon entering the city, we were greeted by the Siegessäule (Victory Column) which stands on a large intersection called the Großer Stern (Great Star) where five roads converge. Completed in 1873 and having survived World War II, the Victory Column was designed to commemorate the ‘Unification Wars‘ :: Danish-Prussian War (1864), Austro-Prussian War (1866) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71).
The monument has a viewing platform (a steep 256 step climb) with views to the east down Strasse des 17 Juni of the Brandenburg Gate and beyond to the Berliner Fernsehturm (TV Tower).

VictoryColumnPop Culture note:: The golden statue, named Victoria, atop the column was featured in the music video to U2’s “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)” from their 1993 album Zooropa. Watch the video:: here

 

To burn off some of the energy from time spent in the car, we found a little playground in Tiergarten Park.

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After blowing off some steam at the playground, it was time to head to the Legoland Discovery Center. Parking was convenient in the underground parking garage at the Sony Center Complex, Potsdamer Platz.
 
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The discovery center is arranged by theme. The boys’ favorite areas included ::
Lego Miniland :: Built out of over two million lego bricks, the most important buildings of Berlin are on display here. Many of the scenes include buttons which when pressed, animate a portion of the scene. Among the featured buildings are the Stadtschloss (City Palace), Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), Reichstag (Parliament Building) and the Berlin Dom (Cathedral).
Lego Miniland Star Wars :: This area includes interactive features in several Star Wars scenes built out of lego bricks.
Lego Factory Tour :: Where the step by step process of turning raw plastic into lego bricks is shown.
Lego Build and Test Center :: Race cars can be built here and then placed on the test track and raced against other builders. Time and speed is also measured on the track.
Lego Discovery Center Shop :: Each of the boys used money gifted to them from Christmas and Valentine’s Day to buy a lego set that they built later in the evening.

By the time we wrapped up our visit to Legoland Discovery Center, it was getting late. We made arrangements by phone to meet the check-in person to get the keys for the apartment we would stay in for the next three nights. The apartment was located on the sixth (and top) floor of a building located on a quiet street in the Berlin Mitte neighborhood (city center & considered the historical heart of the city). A parking spot in an underground garage was included and the apartment was conveniently close (100 meters/0.06 mile) to public transport so we never had to take the car out. If you are interested in taking a peek at the apartment. Photos and booking info can be found here :: Attic-Apartment in Berlin-Mitte incl. underground parking / Wlan / Lift / TV tower view

The boys and I settled into the apartment as Jay walked to a nearby grocery to grab some essentials. We got cozy in our jammies and Lego set building commenced.

Coming soon….Day 2 & 3 of our adventures in Berlin!

 

xoxo,

Mel

4th month with #4

Yep, that’s me. A week into my fourth month of pregnancy with baby number four.

The initial shock has worn off, the all day/every day nausea has ceased, and I am settling into the idea that baby#4 is ON THE WAY!

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Jason and I celebrated our ten year anniversary in October with a nice, relaxing family vacation on a beach near Valencia, Spain.  A few weeks later…a positive pregnancy test!  No, this was NOT planned and while Jason was elated with the news, my world had just been rocked.

In those first days & weeks after finding out I was with child, my head was spinning and my heart heavy.  Our youngest was only a few months away from turning four.  I had started to dream about the next phase of motherhood and ‘me’ hood.  The needy infant/toddler years were behind me.  The sleep deprivation, night feedings, diapers, teething and mile long checklists of things to pack just to leave the house were all in the distant past.  We had three, healthy, independent boys and I was about to step into the light at the end of that long tunnel of the early mothering years.  I felt myself being sucked back into the fog of the baby/toddler years.

There was also the fear of another loss.  Exactly a year prior, we lost a baby.  On Thanksgiving day 2013, 8 weeks pregnant, I miscarried and it took the better part of a year to heal emotionally from the loss.  It wasn’t until around week eight or nine of this pregnancy that I trusted it was viable.  We saw the heartbeat on the ultrasound and I welcomed the nausea that would be a reminder that this baby was thriving.
 
BabyE#413 week ultrasound

I’ve felt so much guilt for the veiled joy, for the nonexistence of those feelings I was ‘suppose’ to be having, but wasn’t. Being honest with those closest to me has really helped work through those feelings. I am thankful for the encouragement and ‘you are not alone’ moments I have experienced from sharing openly.

One of the best parts of this pregnancy has been sharing the news with our boys. Their excitement and curiosity helped in calming those early feelings. They each had positive, enthusiastic reactions to the news. Alex already has an “A” name picked out for a boy, Andrew is wishing for a sister and Ari asks daily “when is the baby getting out of your belly?” They’ve been amusing with their reactions to the ultrasound pictures and my newly formed bump seems quite interesting to them.

Now that I am feeling better physically and emotionally, I am ready to embrace the next twenty four weeks, or so, and the miracle of this little life growing in my womb. My next doctor’s appointment will be on February 2nd. We have not decided if we want to find out the baby’s sex, but could have that chance during this next visit!
I feel excited just thinking about the possibility!
 

xoxo,

Mel