We were quite shocked, shocked at the expense of the train, however: $200 each for round trip for 90 miles! This stuck in our cheap little maws and we decided to stay in Berlin and go shopping, with a river cruise thrown in. River cruising is another of our favorite things to do, as most old cities were built on rivers and oriented that way until the coming of the railroads.
We took our trusty bus to the Brandenburg Tor [Gate] and joined a thousand other souls taking pictures. In summer, it would have been a million, I’m sure. We shopped both sides of the Unter der Linden, buying stuff that no one wants or will ever use. But fun. Ron found a watch cap in the Ampelmann Store, that being the Stop / Go pedestrian figures on the traffic lights. He selected the red stand-still emblem.
After that, we began strolling toward the Christmas Market in the Gendarm Markt [yes, French. A host of French Huguenots were invited to settle by Protestant Brandenburg [btw, also by South Carolina in the early 1700s].
Famished and fainting, we were ready for our tea break, but found only upscale department stores. Then we spotted “Ritter Sport” that seemed to be a bustling sports bar and we went in. Lo and behold, it was a huge store of Ritter Sport Shockolade CHOCOLATE, including long lines of folks getting a Christmas stash, a museum of chocolate and a café. We had coffee and dark chocolate fondue with fresh fruit to dip. There was easily 8 oz of melted chocolate and we ate it all, including globs I put into my coffee. The place was jammed and we invited a party of ladies and children to sit with us [we were almost done] and they told us they had come by train from the countryside to shop. It always amazes me how people can talk when neither speaks the other language. Nouns, gestures and smiles.
The Gendarmemarkt is upscale and cost €1 each just to get in. It was jammed with people, none smiling nor apparently having a good time at all. In the center of the markt was a large enclosed tent, where we found some silver flatware transformed into art; we bought a large spoon, which is a mouse when turned bowl down and a candle holder when bowl up. Ron bought me a fork tine ring.
That was the only stall that had truly unique things at reasonable prices. We did enjoy the umpahpah band playing “Felice Navidad.” And the American Indians in Plains regalia.
From there we went to the Under der Linden Markt, where people were smiling, many wearing Father Christmas suits [guys and gals], and there was singing in the bars! Much more the thing! Here we found a huge tent selling hot soup. This was interesting because you paid for the soup and the bowl. If you brought the bowl back, you got a refund. We selected, by hand gestures, a vegetable-ham soup with an enormous dumpling filling half the bowl [like matzo ball soup]. We ate in a large pavilion supplied by a tour company, so you could dream of the Caribbean whilst eating your soup.
As dusk settled, we walked back along the Spree River, past Museuminsel, noting literally scores of tour buses. We thought that perhaps the busses bring folks to see Nefertiti and the Ishtar Gate and little else. We were grateful for having our days crowd-free.
Burdened with silly treasures and chilled, we stopped at the hotel bar for a tea tray to take up to the room. Lovely.