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Nine-year-old Joss, with his East Berlin birthday t-shirt
March 31st is the beginning of Daylight Savings Time in Deutschland, so we had to get up an hour earlier in order to make it to the breakfast room by 8:30 AM. The sky was overcast -- a disappointment after yesterday's gorgeously sunny day -- but it was both Joss' ninth birthday and Easter Sunday. Frau Schwarzer decorated our breakfast plates with chocolate chicks and eggs; and we had a miniature "Easter egg" hunt in our room for the boys, using chocolate bunnies that we had purchased yesterday at KaDeWe.
Easter breakfast: the World Trippers with Frau Schwarzer
Joss had very specific ideas about how he wanted to celebrate his ninth birthday, having seen Cameron's birthday celebration five months previously in Tanzania (for instance, he was expecting a t-shirt because Cameron had gotten one). His little face grew longer and sadder as we explained to him that his celebration would not be exactly the same as Cameron's -- we wouldn't even be able to have a cake for him, because all of the bakeries and grocery stores were closed for Easter. But Joss' face perked back up again when we gave him his morning birthday presents: mom got him a plush dog for his stuffed animal collection (he named it "Snoopy"), dad got him a box of Lord of the Rings game cards, and Cameron made him a Kattondo adventure game out of paper (Joss was adamant that Cameron should make him a present instead of buying one, just as he had done for Cameron).
As this was our last full day in Berlin, Joss agreed to devote some of the day to more sightseeing. We hopped on the #100 bus that retraced much of the route that we had walked yesterday, then rode further. Unfortunately, many of today's destinations were disappointing. Hitler's infamous Reichstag building had a prohibitive line of people waiting to get in -- we didn't wait. We had especially been looking forward to the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), once a no-man's land where the Wall stood, and now the symbol of the reunited Berlin (most news footage of the destruction of the Wall depicts the Brandenburger Tor). We were stunned to see that the gate is currently completely covered by an advertising shroud -- Deutsche Telekom is sponsoring the restoration of the gate, and they covered the entire structure with a bright blue shroud and a gigantic bunny rabbit declaring "Frohe Ostern."
Gail at the Reichstag Building
The Brandenburger Tor... transformed into a gigantic Easter Bunny
We had better luck walking down the Unter den Linden (Avenue of the Linden Trees), once the main drag of East Berlin. Here we bought Joss his birthday t-shirt (depicting East Berlin's unique "walk"/"don't walk" pedestrian light icons). We also saw Bebelplatz, where in 1933 Nazi students burned nearly 20,000 books in a huge bonfire (it is ironic that Albert Einstein's books were among those burned -- the Humboldt University where he taught until 1932 is literally across the street). Today the site is marked with a simple glass tile in the middle of the square; looking through it, you see a roomful of empty bookshelves below the ground. At Alexanderplatz, we hopped back on the #100 and took a bus tour through East Berlin. (Rick Steves had described the dreary, boxlike tenement buildings as "Lego Hell" -- Joss thought that we were visiting some kind of Legoland and kept wondering when we were going to get there).
Unter den Linden's Bebelplatz: site of the infamous Nazi book burning
In honor of Joss' birthday, we looped back around to the Tiergarten, where the boys got some free time at a playground that included balance-scale swings (Cameron and Joss really miss the tree-swings in Crest) and a trampoline. Cameron and Joss used large branches they had found to practice bo fighting, and dad and Joss played hide-and-seek (Joss actually left dad off hiding behind a tree somewhere and went to look for more sticks instead). And in honor of Gail's craving, we had Easter dinner at a falafel house while we watched the sun set from our sidewalk table.
Easter is celebrated as a time of rebirth, and Berlin was a very appropriate place to see it firsthand. We were very sad to learn, a few hours later, that Russell's maternal grandmother passed away on Easter Sunday. She was Russell's last living grandparent, and we are devastated that we cannot be there with the rest of the family during this important time. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of Ding Wong's family, and we are reminded of a beautiful poem that we saw at St. Peter's Cemetery in Salzburg:
All that is, lives.
Nothing is annihilable.
Even mouldering is transition
To new life.
From the World Trippers to all of our friends and family, Frohe Ostern.
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