We couldn't help ourselves. Two days in Berlin was clearly not enough time to even get acquainted with the city AND we wanted to visit our friend's family, so we extended our post-lake jaunt to a four day stay. As was mentioned in the Part II post, we had previously been on a walking tour that gave solid coverage to some of the basic historical and cultural sites. This was beneficial because it gave us the space to have someone else remind us of the facts (and know they were correct) and for our brains to wrap slowly, quietly around the vast and complex nature of this city. With every morning, a new walk through a different neighborhood brought the realization that Berlin has many tricks up it's sleeves. The onion skin would peel back and Kreuzburg would deliver to us a sea of hipsters, bookstores and art surprises as well as a Turkish street market, doner kebap[sic] shops and sanctioned murals on the firewalls of old buildings.
Another day, we found ourselves at the birthday party of Carla's brother, Christoph, held in a super-mod bar with great wallpaper and even better caipirinhas near Hackesher Markt in Mitte. It was here that we found ourselves shouting over the pub crawl packed with young (and loud) British students to continue a great conversation with a friend of Christoph's, who also happens to be a police officer (and, of course, spent a high school year in Wisconsin). It was also here that we felt less like tourists (looking, observing, documenting) and more just like part of a place, if even in a temporary way.
That being said, Berlin is so densely rich with history that being a part of it must be a widely varied and evolutionary experience - growing up through the changes, showing up fresh faced and blinking, or coming to it a year from now all would hold their own story of what its true identity is. The oldness meeting the newness is evident not only in the architecture, but in the people and their convictions, in the personal memorials fit snuggly into the bricks on the street, and in the infusion of art happenings that we heard about and could sense existed but somehow missed the bulk of.
However, to use the architecture to illustrate the point, we got the best view of Pariser Platz - where the Brandenburg Gate is - from the inside of the Académie der Kunst (Academy of Art), which is impressive enough on it's own. Here's the inside of the Académie and the square in full - both practically right on top of one another:
In addition to all of this reflection, we were treated to wonderful meals and a great place to stay with incredibly kind and generous people. In fact, the view of the TV tower at the start of this post comes courtesy of a look out the window from Christoph's flat. He welcomed us to stay the extra couple of days and was exponentially helpful. Overall, we left feeling incredibly lucky - the shared meals and, more importantly, conversations that we are a part of continue to add dimension to our visits that cannot come out of us wandering the streets solo, reading information off the placards. Plus, we enjoyed, with our dear friends, some of the best hot chocolate on this side of the Atlantic thus far: