After a relatively lackluster New Year's Eve (and I say relatively because come on, I was still in Berlin!) I woke up far less hungover than I did last year in Edinburgh (thank goodness!). While my cousin still managed to tear herself out of bed in time for breakfast, I had no interest in escaping my blankets food or not, reveling in the much needed sleep I was still craving from jet lag and crazy travel. We then switched positions, however, and Cousin went back to sleep for a few hours while I began to stir from my little cradle, wake up, shower, and start thinking of plans for the rest of the day. Unlike last year, I actually had energy and interest to explore the city a bit, and was anxious to fit in some of the sights before the weekend was out.
Cousin was surprisingly up for a little jaunt around town, so we decided to head toward Brandenburg Gate, the main event we never actually got to lay eyes on the night before. The rains had cleared but the temperature dropped, so we bundled up for our afternoon out. Throughout our wanderings, we also hit up Checkpoint Charlie and a remaining piece of the Berlin Wall. The former is absolutely a tourist trap, set up for the delight of us foreigners who want something to gaze and gawk at. The latter, however, was definitely fascinating for me to observe. When I was younger, I had a morbid obsession with WWII and Holocaust history, so being in Germany obviously brought on a lot of historical musings. My research never really extended to post-war activity so it was interesting for me to learn more about the reasons for the wall and how it functioned. We learned much more about it the next day on our bike tour around the city, but I was glad to have spent a few minutes taking it all in on our own.
So of course after settling into a random Irish pub for some afternoon pints, we went to a Communist-themed restaurant for dinner. One of my good friends in London had given us the suggestion. Apparently there are three locations, all within walking distance from each other, which was a good thing since the one we originally chose (Perlin) was closed! Happily, we strolled on over to the other location (Forum) and found it bright and bustling. Apparently during the day, the establishment functions like a normal restaurant. At 8pm, however, the concept and protocol changes completely. There is no menu or prices. You pay €2 for a wine glass and then are shown several bottles of wine laid out at the bar, where you help yourself and take a seat at your table. There is also a table in the back of the dining room where a buffet is spread out and you are allowed to help yourself as well. You can take as much wine and food as you want, refilling as much and as often as you like. Before leaving, you are expected to pay what you feel your meal was worth. I read online that some workers made it very clear that payment was expected while others do not. Cousin and I had several glasses of wine each and thought the food, while simple, was delicious. One of the gentleman, who may or may not have been an owner, was overwhelmingly courteous and kind, so we paid €20 each, thinking that was more than fair indeed for 4 glasses of wine, a plate of food, a lovely environment, and a sweet staff. All hail communism! We ended up making it an early night so we could be well rested for our bike tour the following morning. While the weather was slowly freezing, my feelings about Berlin were certainly warming up.