I will probably get flogged for saying this, but I didn’t love Berlin the first and only time we went there.

It was before we moved to Germany and was one stop on a European trip. We both just found the city to have a somewhat cold feel to it compared to other places in Germany and Europe.

Berlin nowadays seems to have almost a cult following of adorers. So, when we had the opportunity to go there for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the wall coming down, I was curious to see if I’d feel differently about the city on a second visit.

We took the car on this trip and on the way there, we made an overnight stop in the town of Meissen along the Elbe river.


We didn’t really explore the town of Meissen, though, because my main purpose for going there was to visit the Meissen Porcelain factory.

Until the early 18th century, porcelain was not manufactured outside of Asia. It was mainly produced in China, and the name of the country became synonymous with the porcelain. That’s why you still hear porcelain dinnerware referred to as china.

Once porcelain started to be imported to Europe around the 16th century, the race was on to try to figure out how to produce it locally.

Augustus the Strong, who was the Elector of Saxony in Germany, basically imprisoned a man named Johann Friedrich Böttger to “encourage” him to figure out how to make porcelain. He was assigned to work with a man named Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus.

Records show that porcelain was successfully made in Saxony, where Meissen is located, in 1708. A factory was established two years later.

I first became obsessed with Meissen porcelain when I learned about it on a visit to King Ludwig II’s Linderhof Palace. It was his favorite porcelain and the pieces in the palace are incredible.

The factory today has a museum that contains exquisite pieces.


That’s a close-up of part of a very elaborate chandelier. Just focus on the details and imagine what it would take to make something like that. I’m guessing it is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The piece I bought is worth nowhere near that much.


Yes, that’s a single candlestick. Buying two was financially out of the question!

You can also take a tour of the factory. Everything is hand-formed and hand-painted, and the tour shows you how everything is done and the labor involved. It’s quite impressive.

If you want to know whether a porcelain piece is authentic Meissen, look for this crossed-sword symbol like the one shown on the museum’s wallpaper.


The next day, while driving to Berlin, we decided at the last minute to make a little detour to the town of Seiffen.

If you’ve ever been to a German Christmas market and seen wooden smoking dolls, Christmas pyramids, candle arches or nutcrackers, there’s a good chance they were made in Seiffen.

The town is a Christmas-lovers paradise and is just full of shop after shop of items like the ones I just mentioned. You can also find all kinds of wooden toys and other Christmas-themed things such as napkin holders, nativity sets and ornaments.


We knew it was a big deal when we arrived at the public parking lot and there were people directing traffic.


That was a first for us. I’m glad we got there early in the day.

Finally arriving in Berlin later that day, our first stop was Pee Pee’s Katzen Café.

The draw of the Katzen Café (Cat Café) is that there are actual cats there.


You can, of course, get food and beverages there as well. It’s very controlled and the cats are not walking around the kitchen or anything.

I was a little disappointed that there were only two cats in there and they weren’t being sociable (typical cats!), but at least we got to see them.

There’s a list of rules about a mile long on each table in the café. Among other things, you’re not supposed to pick the cats up or disturb them in any way; you just have to hope they feel like wandering over near your table.

And you know how cats are.

After a bite to eat and a stroll around town we called it a night.

The next day, which was the day of the celebration, we got up early and took the train to the Brandenburg Gate before the crowds arrived.


I remember learning about that train station on our first trip to Berlin. Before the wall came down, the station was in East Berlin and trains coming from West Berlin could not stop there. For decades, the only people in the station were armed guards making sure nobody tried to escape East Berlin via train.

Because of that, the station is very well-preserved as you can see by the old lettering and tiles.

I think that Jagermeister bottle on the little windowsill might be a recent addition though.

Getting to the Brandenburg Gate early meant that there was hardly anybody around.


12 hours later you wouldn’t have been able to move in that area .

After we got to enjoy the area with no crowds, we went out for a little sightseeing.

We hopped back on the train and took it to this stop.


If you are at all familiar with 80s New Wave bands you will get it.

I had to do it.

We actually did walk around Spandau a little and it wasn’t a bad little town.

Using our all-day transit passes, we got back on the train to our next destination.


I hadn’t even realized there was a Ramones Museum in Berlin until we saw a light pole outside our hotel that was plastered with stickers advertising it.

The tiny little place is not only a museum but a bar as well. You can choose to pay either a 3 Euro entry fee or a 5 Euro entry fee. The more expensive option gets you a free drink from the bar as well as lifetime membership.

Such a deal.

We went for the 5 Euro fee and on the very cold day that we were there, we chose to have coffee (Sean) and hot chocolate (me).  It is a full bar, though, so you can get alcoholic beverages as well.

After getting our drinks, we wandered around the one-room museum. It’s well worth a visit if you’re a Ramones fan, which I’ve been for a long time.

How long?


The January 4th, 1981 concert shown on that list displayed in the museum is the only time I got to see them live, and I’d already been a fan for years at that point.

Yes, I’m old. And yes, the location of the concert is the same place The Ramones sang about in their song “Rockaway Beach”, my hometown.

The museum even has memorabilia from the town.


In general I’m not a huge fan of museums but on that day I found myself visiting two of them.

The second museum we visited was the Neues Museum, located on the UNESCO-listed Museum Island.

Although this is a fascinating museum, it exemplifies the reason I’m not a museum fan. It’s just huge and overwhelming. I always say I’m going to limit myself to 2 hours in museums like that and then I end up staying at least 4 hours and leaving exhausted. This museum was no exception.

We did make sure to hit the highlights, including the bust of Nefertiti which is just stunning. I’ve been a fan of Nefertiti ever since I read a book in 5th grade by Zilpha Keatley Snyder called The Egypt Game.

One of the best parts of walking over to Museum Island is the view you get of the Berlin Cathedral.


We had been inside it on our first trip so we skipped it on this trip due to the usual time constraints. Don’t leave Berlin without seeing it, though. The interior is even more magnificent than the exterior.

Leaving the Neues Museum, we headed over to claim a spot along the Spree River to watch the festivities.


Look at all those people on that bridge in front of the Reichstag building. The crowds were insane, which is why we were happy to stay away from the Brandenburg Gate area that night.

See the white globe lights on the bridge?

Those are actually balloons, and they were placed along a 15-kilometer route where a portion of the Berlin Wall formerly stood.

On the night of November 9th, the balloons were released one-by-one to symbolize the fall of the wall (and yes, they were environmentally- friendly balloons).

There were also video screens set up along the route showing footage of Berlin from before the wall went up, during the wall’s construction, while the wall was up and after the wall fell and it was very emotional to watch.

When the wall was put up, people were literally blocked into the Soviet sector overnight. There was footage of families separated by the wall (initially it was a barbed-wire fence) who were crying and waving at each other – the East Berliners from a blocked-off apartment building and the West Berliners from the street just on the other side of the fence.

A scene of a Soviet officer saying that anyone who tried to illegally cross the border would “taste our bullets” was chilling.

The first wall-related fatality was Ida Siekmann, a woman who jumped from her 4th-floor apartment just over the border, trying to get into West Berlin. She was a nurse and a widow, an ordinary citizen who died the day before her 59th birthday because she was trying to escape communism.


That photo shows a crowd watching one of the video screens the previous night. They were watching in complete silence. I couldn’t watch without being thankful for my own freedom and thinking how crazy it is that just 25 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to wander around that section of Berlin.

The next day we left Berlin to head to Leipzig for the night and made a few unplanned stops on the way.

The first was at a cemetery in Neuburxdorf.


The people originally buried there had all died at the Mühlberg Stalag IV B POW camp between 1939 and 1945. Most of the bodies were later exhumed and re-buried in their home countries.

The majority (2,368) of them were from the Soviet Union, and the remaining 100 were from 7 different countries including 29 from the United States.

The camp was liberated by the Red Army on April 23rd, 1945. From then until 1948, it was used by the Soviet secret police as an internment camp. More than twice as many prisoners died after the war at the Soviet camp as had died during the war at the POW camp.

Continuing a little further down the road, we stopped at the site of POW camp.


There are no buildings remaining at the former camp. There are explanatory signs (all in German), the memorial that you see there which includes the names of those who died at the camp, and grave markers.

We actually stumbled on both the cemetery and the POW site accidentally. Surprisingly, neither of us had previously heard of the camp even though it was one of the biggest in Germany.

And I learned something new. I hadn’t known that the word Stalag is an abbreviation of the word Stammlager (STAmmLAGer), meaning “main camp”.

Our final stop was at another cemetery, this one at the site of the Stalag 304 IV-H POW camp in Zeithain.


It was a sub-camp of the Stalag IV B and its original purpose was to contain Soviet POWs (check out the Soviet hammer-and-sickle symbol on the memorial gate in the photo).

The site later became a POW hospital and prisoners from other countries including Italy, Poland and the British Commonwealth were treated there. The camp/hospital was liberated by the Soviets the same day they liberated Stalag IV B.

Of the more than 30,000 soldiers who were originally buried there in both individual and mass graves, more than 10,000 remain unidentified. Part of this is due to the fact that during the creation of the Zeithain Memorial Grove that’s currently at the site, the grave marker plaques disappeared. It is also due in part to the fact that the Soviets felt the POWs – their fellow countrymen – had collaborated with the enemy and were therefore traitors who did not deserve the honor of being identified.

Our first stop after arriving in Leipzig, before we even checked into the hotel, was the Monument to the Battle of the Nations.


It’s the largest war memorial in Europe and commemorates Napoleon’s defeat in Leipzig.

Because we had made the unexpected stops after leaving Berlin, it was dark when we arrived at the hotel so we didn’t do much more than have dinner, take a short stroll around town and then have some drinks at the hotel bar.

We did make sure to stop by the Mädler Passage shopping mall though.


Among other things, the mall houses the Auerbach Keller. The restaurant/bar is famous not only because it’s been around since the 15th century, but because that’s where Mephistopheles begins his travels with Faust in the play Faust I by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The scene is depicted in the statue you see there.

The next morning we had a little time to explore the town, which was just in the process of setting up for its Christmas market.

One of the highlights of Leipzig is the St. Thomas Church.


The plaque in the floor is the burial place of Johann Sebastian Bach, who had been a cantor at the church.

Or at least they think it’s him. He was originally buried in an unmarked grave at a Leipzig cemetery. Almost 150 years later the grave was identified and the remains were moved to the St. John’s Church. That church was destroyed during World War II so the bones were moved once again, this time to their present location. Modern research has shown that they may not actually be Bach’s, but for now they’re still identified as such.

Leipzig is a cool little city that I’d like to visit again. We are actually thinking of going back to check out their Christmas market this year as it’s one of the oldest in Germany, dating back to 1458.

Okay. Back to where I started this post with my feelings about Berlin.

After this trip I can’t say that I love the city as much as a lot of people (mainly people much younger and much more single than me!) do, but I can see the appeal. I certainly enjoyed it more than I did the first time we went and would make another trip there, especially if it happened to coincide with their yearly beer festival!

How do you feel about Berlin? Good, bad or indifferent – let us know!


About the author: Trish


Website: http://travelsandtipples.com