Day 196: A Christmas Present From Berlin

Lisa has always wanted to experience the European Christmas markets for the holidays. So we went to Germany.

Despite many cities having legendary Christmas markets such as Vienna and Budapest, (not to mention cities across Italy, France and Spain) we settled on Berlin to greet December the 25th, and meet our friend Lori for a few days of indulgence and sightseeing.

With over 60 Christmas markets popping up over the city in the days leading up to Christmas and continuing for days after, Berlin makes for a fun place. Our apartment was a short tram ride from Alexanderplatz station where two separate markets straddled the tracks and the nearby market of Roten Rathaus offered ice skating. The food alone was worth the trip alone. Every day, we devoured bratwurst, gluehwein, waffles, and potato crisps before finding such delicacies such as fried cauliflower with garlic butter, eggnog, and raclette. We found kiosks selling gingerbread which we took home for breakfast which paired well with crepes (a Christmas family tradition), pork sausages and pots of brewed coffee. We ate well.

The markets are set up to look like little Germanic villages in the mountains with icicles hanging from facades, boughs of pine trees festooned in every possible nook and proud vendors wearing lederhosen to show off their virility and brawn. Between snack sessions we took advantage of the following which made fun day trips:

  • A visit to the Berlin Wall and taking in the beautiful murals that have transformed monuments of division to art and expression.
  • Reading up on the history of “Checkpoint Charlie” and seeing the infamous crossing between East and West Germany
  • A walking tour between Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and Memorial to Jews killed in WW2.

“Listicles”: Deceptive Click Bait?

On the travel blogging front, my PLN of travel bloggers and their quest for search engine optimization and a recent Huffington post article confirmed what I suspect we already knew- listicles are the new format of the internet. For a populace that is continually bombarded with content, how to get consumers of media to click, scan and share is the ultimate ‘brain hack’ so titling your articles with “Top 10 things to see here” or “Top 5 things to do there” is the new norm.

It makes content an easy pill to swallow. You know exactly what to expect after a link click and it keeps the reader scrolling to see if their experience was similar to the authors, or how many days they should allot to a destination on the horizon to prevent FOMO. It makes Pinterest boards easy to build for an upcoming trip, house remodeling or reminder list of what to buy your children when you take them out for back to school shopping. Ironically, a number of travel bloggers in my circle have built travel blogs and Pinterest boards flush with articles with such titles and haven’t even been there themselves! Posts are put together from lonely planet highlights or trip advisor recommendations so many of these so called ‘experts’ are really fraudulent fakes as demonstrated by destination photos with them notably absent. Some even go so far as to pathetically photoshop themselves in. For many, it’s not enough to merely experience a new destination but reduce travel to a series of checkboxes, tweets and likes that can be quantified. If you didn’t instagram your great meal, it didn’t happen.

One of my favorite reads this fall was an article from the NYT on how this decade was shaped by scammers, fake news and bots and that the future will be just as bad especially with ‘deep fake’ technology. This will affect the way we live, the way we think and what we ultimately believe. Because people are increasingly unable to distinguish truth from fiction, more and more are dismissing truth all together.

So, go spend time with your family. Pick up the phone and call your mother. Reach out to an old friend. Don’t waste time reading some self-proclaimed prophet on what they think you should see in Berlin after they they themselves have been there for only 5 days.

That’s our gift to you. Happy holidays.

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Day 156: Egypt- Older Than Time

Day 102: Kenya- Roads Less Traveled

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