Whoops...I wrote this back in mid-December and apparently in a publishing fail, forgot to post it. ~_~*
So, I'm going to post it now, at a random time (and to take a short break from Thailand postings, which we are nearing the end of), when we'd all not mind a little reminder of Christmas and all the little joys it brings us.
So within 12 hours of coming back from Norway, I was at the airport again with a different packed suitcase (very different packed suitcase) and off to Berlin for a business trip.
I will tell you, turnaround time is starting to make a difference at my age. I may not be old, but not being able to get proper sleep and exercise had started to wear on me. That combined with a slight amount of malnourishment and boom, you've got a recipe for disaster. I was starting to become that person again who falls asleep on any type of public transportation. I do mean ANY. There was one time where I even fell asleep on MUNI (the public bus system in San Francisco...let's just say it's not one of the ones you want to fall asleep on...I was lucky since I was still in the tourist areas, but still...it's a bit too sketchy for that kind of behavior).
Anyway, true to form I fell asleep on the plane ride there, in the taxi on the way to the hotel there, and practically everywhere inbetween that allowed me to sit for more than 20 minutes.
I did, however, read ahead of time that there was a 24 hour fitness center and an indoor pool and sauna, so I packed appropriately (best part of the hotel really...and this hotel was the same one as last time - same magnificent million gallon aquarium in the lobby, etc).
But actually the best thing about this trip was the Christmas markets, which was something I hadn't planned for.
On the way back from dinner on the second night my coworker and I saw from our taxi window that there was a huge Christmas market across the street from our hotel. So after going back to our rooms and freshening up a bit (read: changing into warmer clothes so we could stand being out in the snow for a few hours - I was fine but my coworker hadn't realized it would be -5C...it's weird how -5C can start to feel warm to a person...clearly I've been living in the hinterlands for long enough), we headed across the street and checked out what the festivities were all about.
Turns out: quite a lot.
Alexanderplatz Christmas Market
Everything was beautifully lit up with pretty twinkling lights in the Christmas spirit. Hot mulled wine and cider was being served and the air was scented with the smell of candied nuts, roasting meats, and the hilariously odd smell of foot-smelling cheese (apparently raclettes are really popular during the holiday season).
There were rows and rows of wooden stalls full of vendors selling all sorts of goods - the foods I mentioned, but also things like wooden toys, intricately carved star lights, woolen hats and scarves, frosted cookies (apparently these are given to your sweetheart but aren't supposed to be eaten...someone's joked to me that the cookies could be continually resold and no one would be the wiser), jewelry of all sorts, and even the odd bit of ethnic stuff.
It was beautiful and festive. Made you feel good to be at a fair, in the middle of Germany, in wintertime.
We shared a mug of gluhwein or "glow-wine" which warmed us to the core on this chilly night. It was pretty strong but we were in Germany, so it only made sense.
The drink itself only costed 3euros, but they made you pay a 3euro deposit on the mug so you'd return it. I guess the thought is you could keep it for 3euros if you wanted it. Pretty good for 3 euros. They were made for this year only (dated with the location and year and everything). Fancy.
Anyway, here is a picturefest of all I took photos of. Lots of fun before our feet froze and we headed back to the hotel.
I just had to take a picture of this - the essential oil of sexy, distilled just for you! I took a whiff because I just couldn't resist knowing what sexy smelled like. The answer was a strange mix of florals that oddly smelled like a watered down gardenia. I was a bit disappointed.
The most kindly of salami sellers. Apparently he lives in southeast Asia and only does this for fun. He even has a facebook page for his business (I was duly impressed). He let us try samples of his dried smoked jamon and reindeer meats. My coworker bought a slab of his jamon to bring back to the UK. It was very tasty.
The next day as we were telling our coworkers about our adventures in Alexanderplatz, they looked at us horrified, letting us know that we had only gone to the trashiest of touristy Christmas markets, and that tonight we must go to a better one.
At this point we agreed and asked them for suggestions. Two names were thrown out and there was a big debate amongst the people in the office. Both were thrown down as much superior than the other. They actually had just about equal votes, which didn't make the matter any better. In the end we went with the one that was closer, since my teammate had to catch a plane and we only had slightly more than an hour to wander anyway. So, to Gendarmenmarkt we went.
I had been told to try an alcoholic apple beverage by a previous teammate, so at this Christmas market, having already had the gluhwein the night before, I went for the apfelpunsch. It was delightful.
Like much spicier and more alcoholic cider. Different spices. Fabulous.
I will say that this Christmas market was better than the one we went to the night before. It was cuter, smaller, quainter. And classier by far. Apparently we'd chosen to go to the upper-class Christmas market (where all of the rich people went...you even had to pay a euro to get in...gasp!).
It was true that the quality of crafts was higher and the food was definitely better. And people were dressed better. Not to mention it was more crowded and the surroundings were more beautiful.
We had a great time and each bought some items to take back.
And now, picturefest again!
Apparently I was too mystified and shopping to take pictures, apologies for that. The last picture is of the tent my hot apfelpunsch was served in. Delightful.
And that was my trip to Berlin. Thankfully it was my first positive trip. No racist happenings, no refusals from restaurants. Just plain peace and fun. And work aspect was good as well.
Well, this is a Berlin I could get used to. Thank goodness.