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.
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.
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.
Each of our days in Berlin were full and enjoyable. One of the more gratifying 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.