I had made plans with my friends from the night before to meet up near the biggest shopping area in Berlin, Potsdamer Platz, and they said they would help me get my gift buying done, especially help with picking out something for Kayleigh as I find it harder and harder to know what would make a nice gift for her now that she's no longer into all the things she was as a young girl. It was so interesting to walk into the new shopping malls that exist in what was East Berlin, because they are just like the big malls in America. That didn't really exist back when the wall was up. Back then there was really only one big shopping store and that was visited by pretty much every girl in school on a weekly basis. That was one of the biggest changes I noticed the first time I'd gone back to Berlin after the wall came down and it still catches me a little off guard to see it now. Berlin used to be nothing but little Boutiques and Mom and Pop type stores all over town where you had to do your shopping. I don't know if the malls make it better, but as a guy, it's sure easier to only have to go one place to find everything you need. I'm not exactly a fan of shopping.
It turned out that having their help made the whole experience of shopping a lot more fun though and we went from store to store looking for things people had asked me to buy for them while I was there. We took a break for lunch and went to this cool pizza and pasta place that isn't like anything we have back home. You are giving a smart card and then you stand in lines depending on what you want and it's kind of the Benihana version of Italian food. You tell a chef what you want and then make it right there in front of you using nothing but fresh ingredients. Including picking spices right off the plant to toss into the mix as they cook your lunch. After your place your order, you get the item added to your smart card, so you can pick and choose lunch, drinks, soup, dessert, etc until you are done and then you check out and pay on the way out the door. I thought it was a cool concept and people seemed to really love it.
After lunch it was back on the hunt for gifts including a trip to the Riter Sport chocolate store there. It's like M&M world in Las Vegas... with every kind of chocolate you can imagine, including flavors and chocolate bars I have never seen in the States. One really cool thing you can do there is you can also custom make your own chocolate bar. It's set up kind of like Cold Stone Creamery.... you have items you can pick from and you choose if you want Milk or Dark Chocolate, and then pick three ingredients to add to the bar and they create it for you while you wait. It was pretty cool so of course I had to make two of them to take home.
Now with all of that done, we just walked around looking for things I could take pictures of and talked. Christmas season is in full bloom right now and we decided to wander over to what most people say is the best Christmas Market in Berlin (Weihnachtsmarkt). It really was a little more posh than a few of the other ones I'd seen set up already and they sold so much cool stuff in there. It's really too bad I don't live in Berlin as I would have stocked up on so much great Christmas Stuff. I can see why everyone loves going every year and adding to their Christmas Decorations, while grabbing food and drinks and listening to live music.
I'd been trying to meet up with two other friends before I left Berlin but hadn't had any luck in getting in touch with either, but luckily while we were sitting having a drink, my friend Bobby saw a photo on Facebook and happened to be nearby with a car and since he knew the two friends I was with, he called one of their cell phones to get in touch with me. Finally! He happened to have a car with him and said he would come pick me up from the Christmas Market so we could hang out for the rest of the evening and go to a club across town that he thought I'd enjoy. Along the way he called one of my oldest Friends that still lives in Berlin and we caught him at home and got him to come meet us at the club. It was a GREAT way to end the trip and I'd have been so bummed to leave Berlin without having gotten to see either of them.
So even though the trip was coming to an end so much faster than I wanted, I couldn't have asked for a better last two days in the city hanging out with friends and sharing lots of laughs and conversation. There were two bands that played that night and they were both pretty good..... when they finished up, I had to say my goodbyes to Roy and then Bobby gave me a ride back to the hotel. It's still the greatest city I've ever lived in and I'm so lucky to have friends that still live there that make the visits that much better. Until next time Berlin!
Time to re-pack my bags and squeeze in everything somehow, then it's up early for a VERY long trip back home. Good thing I get to enjoy a 33 hour day tomorrow. It's going to take most of it to get back home.