Our itinerary started in Berlin with the Gendarmenmarkt near the French section of the city. Like horses chomping at the bit, my mom and I couldn't wait to find the markets we'd heard so much about and commence the shopping. The markets are plenty- there are the main ones (highly decorated and visited) found in any city or town, and then there are the smaller offshoot markets that spread down most side streets. Aside from sausage sandwiches and mulled wine, you can also find handmade wares and more commercial trinkets alike.
Above, sausages and gluhwein mugs. The mugs are particular to every market, and for a the price of a small deposit, you can take them with you as a souvenir. We never dreamed of starting a collection, but by the end of our tour, our suitcases had more mugs than store (or market) bought souvenirs. Below are some of the wares: sugary sweets, ornaments made from fine wood shavings, foil-covered chocolate Father Christmas figures, Moravian Stars, and hand-carved pull toys.
Our guide made a point of telling us that the markets can be very crowded - Germans typically meet at the Christmas markets to catch up with their friends to simply eat, drink, and be merry. Shopping is merely a side activity, particularly if you just need to pick up a little something for someone you haven't seen in a while, or if you need a small decorative item to perk up your own place.
You just cannot escape World War II or the infamous Berlin Wall, so we also took in some of the other sights around Berlin too. In the midst of a modern city, reminders of the recent past are inescapable, and the ghosts of a dark period in history are all around you.
Pieces of the Berlin Wall are scattered throughout the city- particularly the more interesting pieces that also function as an outdoor art musem. They pop up in surprising places like outside apartment complexes and store fronts. It's hard to believe that such a big part of history was made so recently with its removal in 1989.
The Christmas Tree at "Checkpoint Charlie" - as seen from the Russian side.
A line marker runs through the sidewalks and streets of Berlin that traces where the infamous Wall once divided the city. It was shocking to learn that it literally went up overnight in the form of barbed wire which was later replaced by the reinforced concrete slabs.
The Holocaust Memorial sculpture- A very interesting and controversial piece of artwork by architect, Peter Eisenman, implemented in 1999 with 2,711 concrete rectangles bearing no names or dates in commemoration of the Jews who were exterminated during World War II. The "stones" resembling sarcophagi are set in a wavelike pattern creating a feeling of disorientation as one walks through them. Some are knee-length in height while others undulate to rise above your head. Ironically, this grand memorial sits in close proximity, just one block, from the unremarkable remains of Hitler's bunker which was later eradicated by the Russians.