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Day Two


Day One
Day Two
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Gedächtniskirche, Berlin Zoo, Brandenburger Tor, Reichstag...


The next morning, after breakfast we went to the Gedächtniskirche, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The church was bombed in World War II and was left in ruins as a memorial to the destruction of Berlin during the war. Unfortunately our timing was off and the church wasn't open while we were there. It was still quite something to see from the outside. Even though it was bombed out, it was still beautiful.

Entrance to Berlin Zoo.
Entrance to Berlin Zoo.

Our next destination was the Berlin Zoo. The main entrance to the zoo has a distinctly Asian feel to it, with a huge oriental style gate. The zoo itself seemed fairly well run and kept up, and the animals pretty much seemed in good health and well cared for. Whenever I see animals in captivity, I always hope that they are properly taken care of and happy. Many of the habitats at the zoo had indoor/outdoor enclosures. It took us a little while to figure that out though. We wondered where all the animals were until we realized that the ones that weren't outside were inside.

Los Angeles Zoo sign.
Larry and I thought this was pretty funny.

The zoo had a wide variety of animals. Unfortunately, the signs were all in German. Sometimes it wasn't obvious what exact species the animal was, and since our German studies didn't include a zoological vocabulary, we just had to accept not knowing.

I found it interesting that the zoo seemed to combine different species of animals together. I don't know if that's common practice or not, but at least the animals they did put together seemed to peacefully coexist.


There were several animals that stood out and captured our attention. Near the front of the zoo was a sleeping panda, curled over into a ball. Of course a favorite of mine is always the big cats. There was a seemingly friendly leopard pacing one side of the enclosure. There was also a beautiful pair of lions. There was a good sized habitat that included some sort of deer-type animal, both adults and young. There was one of the young that just took off like a shot and did hot laps around the habitat. The little one really seemed to be enjoying the activity. The rest just sort of stood around. In the next habitat we saw some sort of really neat creature that from what we could tell of the sign was a member of the koala bear family. The animal bore more of a resemblance to a cat than a bear! We saw a family of deer that were beautiful.

Speedy creature.
If anyone can tell me what this speedy little creature is, please let me know!

The elephants were very interesting. Several of them seemed lined up waiting to go inside. We watched an elephant play with a huge tire while another elephant backed into him!

We saw a couple of hippos. They were mostly hiding in the murky water of their habitat. All of the sudden we heard the strangest, loud noise that we realized came from one of the hippos!

There was a really neat part of the zoo that was underground. It was where all the nocturnal animals were. There were all sorts of snakes and rodents. There was soft lighting so that people could see. I hadn't ever seen anything like that before.

Elephant parking only!
Elephant parking only!

The best was the seal exhibit. They were all energetic and playful, but one in particular seemed to be a real showboat. He liked to get up on the edge of the pool and slide along in pose that seemed to shout, "Look at me!" It was a lot of fun to watch and the seal seemed to be having a good time as well. What was interesting was that the seal was doing this all on his own. It wasn't a part of a show or anything.

"Look at me!"

There were many other animals as well, including giraffes, various primates, birds, ducks, llamas. There was also an aquarium, but we didn't see it. We thought the price of admission covered both the zoo and aquarium, but apparently not. We figured since we'd been to the Monterey Bay aquarium, that we probably wouldn't be missing all that much if we didn't see this one. We had a great time at the zoo, though.

Concert hall
Concert hall in the center of the Gendarmenmarkt.

Photo Gallery

(Click on the above link for more photos from the zoo and the rest of our trip.)

From there we went to the Gendarmenmarkt, a historic square of restored classical buildings. The name of the square is part French and part German, as a reminder that in the 17th century, a fifth of all Berliners were French émigrés. In the center of the square is a concert hall for the Berlin symphony. On either side are the twin cathedrals, the Deutscher Dom (German Cathedral) and the Franzosischer Dom (French Cathedral). We visited both and actually at first confused which was which. We got ourselves straightened around though. The German Cathedral houses the "Questions on German History" exhibit. It's all in German, but you can get an English audio guide or buy a book. We didn't get the audio guide, but with our general grasp of German and with the photos and images in the exhibit, we were able to absorb much of the message.

French Cathedral.
Franzosischer Dom.

Quote from Hitler.
Photo of a chilling statement made by Hitler. Part of the exhibit in the Deutscher Dom.

Brandenburger Tor.
Larry took this amazing photo of the Brandenburger Tor.

We went back to the Brandenburg Gate and to the Reichstag. The line didn't seem that long, but it took something like three hours to get in! Luckily we were under the building's cover when a light rain started to fall. It was very cold out and it had gotten dark. Since we hadn't really eaten much, I bought a pretzel from a wandering vendor.

Only a certain amount of people are allowed inside the Reichstag at once. Also, there is strict security to pass through before you can enter. This is a large reason why it took so long to get inside. Once inside I would say it was worth it.


There is a 360-degree historical display that chronicles the Reichstag's history. It was fascinating. On top of the building is a glass dome accessible by a winding walkway. From the top of this dome you can look out over the city, as well as down into the central legislative chamber.

Next we got dinner at an Italian restaurant at the Europa Center and drinks at the Irish pub.

In the morning it was starting to snow. A big storm was predicted to hit Berlin fairly quickly. We ate breakfast and left as soon as we could. We got home just fine but went through some bad weather on the way out.

I would definitely recommend a visit to Berlin. Germany is an amazing, multi-faceted country. Everywhere you go, the past and present collide. Berlin is still very much in the process of rebuilding and reinventing itself. It's amazing to think how much has changed in such little time, yet how well cultural and historical sites have been preserved.