i had my first christmas in the city this year, in berlin. and it was weird… but not in a bad way. (i am not counting the time we lived in prague because we were residents then, not there as tourists) when you’re in the big city for christmas and you don’t live there, especially when you live in a smaller city for the rest of the year, and especially when that city is your FAVORITE city, there is no time for rest. it’s time to do and eat all the things. so, then… is it really christmas?
(do they know it’s christmas?)
that can make for a very tired cynthia. which is why since coming home i’ve been all about straight relaxing, book reading, and trying to do as little as possible!
to just relax in berlin would feel weird. i never really relax in berlin in that christmassy sort of all-day pajamas, veg on the couch way. but i regret nothing; it was a great trip!
going to wayyyyy too many christmas markets (really, i’m burned out. future post coming soon!)
visiting little spandau (sweet village/‘burb on the end of a u/s-bahn line)
christmas shopping ’til yer feet hurt
hangin’ in our temporary prenzlauer berg hood
flea-marketing (this time at arkonaplatz’s ‘lil trödelmarkt which we enjoyed extremely). i imagine mauerpark was like this at its infancy.
hanging out with natalye, her husband, and meeting her new ‘lil one!
going to the zoo! the berlin zoo is definitely one of the best in europe.
loving the plentiful club mate & bionade (alex would like to make a note that he is experiencing an unfortunate bout of “kevin nealon head” in this photo which does not typically reflect his normal state of hair, but the loving sentiment remains)
…and enjoying all of the lights and decorations of the city, including berliners whose balcony lights game is strong. (this balcony near heinrich heine str. stood out like a blinding sore thumb compared to their neighbors)
but what do you do in berlin on christmas eve (heiligeabend)? we stocked up on loads of fun appetizers before most of the stores closed for the evening and went on an epic walk around volkspark friedrichshain (which has a nice hill to climb), our surrounding kiez, and got cozy at a local cafe where we enjoyed some kaffee und kuchen and the fact that there was even a nice, open cafe in our ‘hood. happily, there were a handful of spots we discovered (and even a supermarket) that was open on the 24th, so future occupants of berlin on weihnachten, don’t despair.
immanuelkirche’s bells were tolling, inviting berliners to a christmas mass. people were on the streets with their children and loved ones, carrying packages and home-cooked dishes. the sun set in just the perfect way. then it was time to go back to our flat, watch the christmas colbert special, eat, and make eggnog.
okay. not writing about the weird near anxiety episode on this blog seems disingenuous, really. so no, it was not my favorite christmas eve i’ve ever had, but we certainly made the best of it. my husband absolutely showered me with gifts… much too generous!
and i have to talk about this eggnog recipe. i have absolutely mastered it by now, having made it now for three christmases in a row. it tasted like from a store, but in a good way. of course, we needed to shop for a small bottle of rum or some brown liquor to go with it. my eyes were drawn to a small bottle of “gold brand.”
“what is this? it doesn’t even say what it is! is this like germany’s tuzemak?”
and THIS, my friends, is how you know you’ve officially crossed over to the czech side of life. you just don’t know your german off-brand rums like your czech ones. if you didn’t know, there’s an EU regulation that it cannot be officially called rum unless it’s made from sugar cane. of which czech rum (and apparently this cheap german rum) is not, so they have to get creative and think of another name for it. i think it tastes mostly the same. (we actually prefer tuzemak to typical “spiced rum”. so sue me.)
after hanging out at the charlottenburg christmas market on christmas day afternoon, we treated ourselves to a fancy schmancy dinner at the palace as well as a baroque christmas concert. IT WAS SO FUN! i have to recommend this to berlin visitors that love delicious rich food, a luxurious dinner, and can stomach more than thirty minutes of johann sebastian bach, because this was an unforgettable christmas night. i made alex try his first berliner weisse mit schuss (himbeer / raspberry, of course), which is one of those essential berlin experiences. also, must be drank in its special glass.
(have you ever tried a berliner weisse mit schuss? if you are a fan of those fruity belgian krieks, you’d probably love it! i’ve been a bit of a wimp and have never tried the green one, as it comes in both red and green “woodruff”)
i think next time i return to berlin, it will be for a bit longer… or whenever the berlinale aligns with alex’s february break again… one or the other!
so another christmas for the books! over the past few years, we’ve taken the bus to berlin (via prague) and this time, i realized that when purchased over a week in advance, the train tickets were actually cheaper than bus tickets if you don’t purchase a seat reservation, which honestly seemed a bit unnecessary and most travelers opted out. when lugging big pieces of luggage around or for longer rides, i truly prefer train travel. i had just got in this “bus rut” the past few years, believing the bus was truly the cheapest option without bothering to check the prices against those of czech rails. ( just remember to buy in advance!)
hope you all are enjoying the end of this holiday season – i am determined to wring every last bit of relaxation and enjoyment as i can! i have a post about berlin christmas markets for you coming in a couple days. happy first weekend of 2016! blindly but bravely, we forge into the future.
ps, past christmas trips include wolfgangsee (2014) & salzburg (2013).