Highlights: Germany

Potsdam Sansoucci Park: The park and grounds surrounding the summer home of King Frederich II. Filled with statues and palaces and gardens around every other corner of its well-maintained pathways that make you wonder if you took a wrong turn somewhere and mistakenly made it to Greece.

BioCompany: probably high priced for most goods, but a savior for gluten-free treats or bread mixes...which turn into good picnics, breakfasts and emergency snacks. Plus, there was delicious cheese to taste at the counter.

Film museum: Sadly, the big exhibit was closed for renovations while we visited, otherwise we would have attended. Babelsburg Film Studios are linked to this space and akin to MGM or Universal stateside - similarly expensive as well. Babelsburg is the biggest studio in Europe, though, and recently was home to the filming of Inglorious Basterds.

Stadt für Eine Nacht Festival: A great one day arts and music festival that we lucked out being in town for. Located at the culture center in Potsdam (part of which is the Fluxus museum), a few of the highlights of the day included the cost (free), Grotest Maru's Timebank: an amazing performance art troop from Berlin, the band Jersey (not sure how they are recorded, but they were good live), and any breeze we managed to find off the river.

Berlin Tacheles: So the stairwell smells like fresh bathroom. But otherwise, this place was incredible to walk through - there were multiple good (and if not good, at least prolific and/or interesting) open studios, a sculpture park out back, and layers upon layers of graffiti and posters marking the time that artists have been camped out here. It is on the verge of potentially being shuttered for good, considering all of the new development in Mitte, so we are happy to have gotten there now. If it cannot live on as is, perhaps the spirit of it will in another form.

Pro QM: Hands down, the best design, architecture, modern culture bookstore we have ever frequented. Myriad local and international publications - they even had my all-time favorite, Cabinet, which was strangely comforting to browse. Eli drooled for a while over a wall of all things design and we decided that taking notes on the titles was the best way to take anything with us. Not the warmest service in Berlin, but that is easily ignored once you glance at anything else.

Reichstag building: Nevermind the beautiful green space in front of the house of Parliament. The magic in this building is the way the glass dome fits in so well with the classical architecture holding it up. We didn't get to go in (there's a three day wait for visitors) but the idea is to keep Parliament and the government in general transparent; they wanted people to be able to walk in the dome's spiral, also reminding the elected officials below who is in charge.

Free walking tour for the overview sites: Lewis, our fearless and knowledgable Dutch transplant guide, lead the way through the mobs of aimless tourists and shared with us a balance of facts, anecdotes, and present day reflection on everything from Brandenburg Gate and its Victory (previously name Peace) Sculpture on top to the the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe to the 1989 press conference debacle that lead to the fall of the wall (we can thank Tom Brokaw for asking the important question of exactly when the travel restrictions were to be lifted). The tour guides work completely on commission, and are clear that you pay according to both your budget and the value extracted from the three hour tour. It was well worth it to us and we hope that no one is lame enough to flat out stiff any of the guides.

Stasi exhibit: A free exhibit located right near the almost laughable tourism of Checkpoint Charlie, it may or may not be a somewhat western viewpoint of life in the GDR under the Stasi Secret Police. Fascinating, regardless. Despite the the aforementioned Checkpoint's Disney qualities, there are a slew of giant placards with a lot of great historical info.

Making Mirrors: A gallery exhibition at the NGBK gallery in the hip, artsy, highlight-in-its-own-right, neighborhood of Kreuzberg. The gallery is tucked behind a nice little bookshop, but had several really great works that force some reflection on society and human interaction:

Academy of Art / Akadémie der Künste: Another place we didn't get to explore as much as we had hoped, thanks to it behind closed for summer break. The main building itself is pretty spectacular though, and overlooks Pariser Platz and the Brandenburg Tor.

Magdeburg Cable Island: aforementioned wake boarding adventures....tucked into the middle of the city, naturally.

die Grüne Zitadelle von Magdeburg Better known as the Hundertwasser house which is pretty much the wild, slightly tacky physical realization of his artwork.

Magdeburg Dom: The oldest cathedral in Germany, and one of the tallest in the former east Germany. Construction began in 1209, though it took a couple hundred years to complete it. It's huge and filled with art and scultpures and carvings, and also happened to save 4000 people from murder, rape, etc. during the 30 Years War.

Plau Am See Plauer See: Lake houses are always nice, but they're even better when they are on a chain of lakes and with friends you haven't seen in ten plus years. This also happens to be (if memory serves) the third largest lake in Germany.

Kletterpark: Climbing on tight ropes and swinging ropes 30-40 ft in the air (with harnesses). Who knew it could be so entertaining?

In General Old friends, new babies, great families. Rides on old bikes on dirt roads. Murphy beds. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. Baths in lakes. A nip of Honey infused Highland Malt Whiskey from the apiary up the road from the lake house that we enjoyed in Berlin while on video chat with awesome friends. Gluten-free selection in most German supermarkets. Jacob brand instant espresso: cheaper than 2euro coffee and tastes better sometimes. Dairy selection: particularly quark (pronounced kvahrk), apfel-mohn yogurt, Soft cheeses and, especially, Waldmeister ice cream. Dark chocolate spread and honey at every breakfast, and a little more chocolate tucked in a peel roasted banana after a cook-out. Watching Inglorious Basterds in Magdeburg - somewhat surreal. Learning how to understand the Deutsche Bahn train system. Practicing our German with a two year old and the parents of our friends.