UPDATE: There seems to be some confusion as to exactly when this trip took place. And, no, we're not on it right now. This was February 2004, five years in the distant past. It's just another in my efforts to reconnect with my own powerful, wonderful memories of my travels around our globe. And now, back to our regularly scheduled program -------
We landed -- exhausted -- at Berlin's Tegel airport after an overnight flight from Portland-Seattle-Amsterdam-Berlin. We had been quite fortunate for all four of us to be upgraded into the First Class section from Seattle-Amsterdam. I swear, that's one of life's greatest pleasures. The bus 109 or 128 took us from the front door of the airport to within one block of our hotel. My parents didn't really have this whole WWW/computer/internet thing figured out and never did understand how we knew exactly which bus to get on and which stop to get off at. We exited with all of our luggage somewhere near the very busy intersection of Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse. This intersection sat inside the former East German section of the city but is now an up-and-coming, busy, commercial section of the city. The hotel was literally just a few blocks up the street from Checkpoint Charlie -- the former gate between the East and West, communism and freedom.
We dragged our bags along the sidewalks and right straight into the lobby of an amazing hotel -- the Westin Grand Berlin. Such elegance, the pomp. I had faxed them ahead of time and told them that we were airline employees and that my parents were having an anniversary while we were there -- sometimes these things will help you gain an upgrade or special treatment! They had upgraded us to very nice garden view room. We were called by our names during the entire visit. The concierge had obtained tickets for us to see the Berlin Philharmonic perform in the Concert Hall. And we also enjoyed breakfast each morning in the hotel's dining room -- complete with white table linens and silver coffee and tea service. We went to the only remaining section of the Berlin Wall (literally, this concrete wall ran right straight down the center of the city...very hard to imagine our cities in the US having such a wall) and on a short train ride north of the city on a sobering visit to Sachenhausen, a former Nazi camp. We also made a very cool visit to the KaDeWe, one of Berlin's largest department stores known for it's gourmet food department featuring thousands of specialty food items. And we enjoyed a fantastic evening's concert in the Kaiser-Wilhelm church, bombed in 1943. We happened to be there on a Sunday morning and made a visit to the beautiful Berlin Dom Cathedral, Berlin's largest, where the entire service was interpreted in English just for us. I have to say, Berlin became one of our most favorite cities in the world. I have no doubt that we'd go back for another visit if it weren't for the fact that we have a million other cities on our "to do list." We left Berlin on German Rail for an all-day ride to Amsterdam. Berlin's Bahnhoff Zoo Central Train Station is one of Europe's busiest -- several thousand trains each day. It seems that everywhere we go, there are opportunities to stretch our minds and hearts -- To be more understanding, to challenge our mind's eye to see more than the obvious.