25 years since the Fall of the #BerlinWall

Its the 9th of November. Twenty five years ago, on this day, impassioned Berliners were tearing down the Berlin Wall, a unique monument that is testimony to the fears and political struggles of the 20th century. A monument built to avoid war at all costs at a point when major Western powers had been bled dry by consequent World Wars (Read if you are curious about why it was built).

With the fall of the wall that “made the Cold War concrete”, it seemed that socialism had been defeated too. To the world at large, the fall of the Wall has been presented as a celebratory event, one that brought together Germans. A victory for democracy that some perhaps erroneously painted as a thumbs up for capitalism as well. For others though, it was an event that happened far too late as they mourned those who had fallen in the struggle.

We tried to imagine what all of this felt like for Berliners earlier this year when we spent a week of a near perfect summer tramping around the fascinating city.  Our visit to the Berlin Wall, in particular, was poignant and despite our silly tourist grins, we were contemplative for the rest of the day.

Reliving in my head that wonderful day and the crazy discussions we had. Try condensing the history of the WWII into a story for a 6 year old!

And this is my favourite shot of my two darlings posing in their Greek tees, my Poseidon and Athena, always inspiring me to do more and better, my constant admirers and critics. Love you kiddos!

MADNESS....Bang on! That's exactly what the wall represents, the craziness of the human race

Paying our respects to Sulis Minerva at Bath, England

The desire to go to Bath was wholly inspired by my one time fascination for Georgette Heyer’s Regency period romances, where the women often went to Bath to “take the waters” while their younger companions spent lots of time in the Pump  Room trying to meet eligible bachelors to get married to!_DSC8132

_DSC8139On the sunny day we drove in to Bath, however, my brain was processing information that our Evan Evans tour company guide Reese was furnishing us regarding the remarkable planning history of the city. The origins of the city of Bath go back to Roman times, though mesolithic activity in the area has also been documented. The Romans were fascinated by the natural spring that Bath is famous for and built an elaborate temple complex dedicated to the Goddess Sulis Minerva. For Nupur and me, visiting the site of this ancient temple was particularly relevant. Many of my friends would know that we co-owned an entrepreneurial venture called Minerva research and Media Services for about 6 years, eventually closing it down in 2011 to move on to other things. The ancient spa is now a beautiful museum that took us right back to the time of the gladiators and Roman priests. It was great fun imagining the fun that Romans probably had as they frolicked nude in those enormous subterranean bathing chambers that they built! An orgy as a prayer? Wouldn’t put it past those guys!

The open tank that takes in the spillover from the spring

The open tank that takes in the spillover from the spring

Nupur, enjoying the lovely sunshine at the Roman baths

Nupur, enjoying the lovely sunshine at the Roman baths

Some remains from the Roman temple to Sulis Minerva

Some remains from the Roman temple to Sulis Minerva

The model showing the Roman temple complex

The model showing the Roman temple complex

Bath went on to become a prominent English city in the medieval times but degenerated badly through the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1725, however, English architect John Wood drew up an ambitious restoration plan for his home town, aiming to take it back to its former glory. Owing to opposition, he built extensively outside the city walls using the distinctive and beautiful warm golden stone quarried from Combe Down and Bathampton Down mines not far from Bath. Wood also introduced speculative building in the city, leasing the land from landowners and plotting and subdividing it as per his vision. As an architect and urban planer, I found it interesting to see how one man’s vision transformed the city making it the centre piece of Georgian England and helping the city get the UNESCO World Heritage status in 1987 not just for its Roman Bath but also for this unified, planned layout that Wood created. John Wood’s work was carried on by his son.

The golden hues of Bath

The golden hues of Bath

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And the quaint little ice cream shops!

And the quaint little ice cream shops!

Bath continues to be exclusive, a sort of playground for the rich and an image of a red Ferrari parked in an impossibly small parking space is stuck in my head! Walking in Bath, we felt like we need a lot more time to take in its beauty. The city is littered with beautiful buildings, impossibly uniform facades and, in the summer, delightful ice cream shops! A friend mentioned its worthwhile checking into a spa at Bath and “taking the waters”. Hmm, not a bad idea if we could get half the fun out of it that the Romans seemed to have done!

‘Meeting’ the Magna Carta at Salisbury #democracy #rights #justice

We swung by Salisbury on our way from Stonehenge to Bath. Walking towards the cathedral, built in the 13th century, I immediately recalled Ken Follet’s ‘Pillars of the Earth’, one of the most enjoyable books I have read about the construction of the first Gothic cathedral in England, set in a fictitious place called Kingsbridge. The author admits himself in an interview that the fictional cathedral he recreates in his book resembled Salisbury closely.

Gothic construction was a new technology in those times and the ability to create tall soaring structure that appeared light instead of the squat, heavy stone buildings they were used to certainly changed the experience of visiting the church drastically. Though I’m sure the Gothic cathedrals in Amiens and Lyon are more impressive, I really liked Salisbury, with its faux cloister and Catholic-turned-Church of England interiors.

But what was really fun about visiting the cathedral was ‘meeting’ the Magna Carta or The Great Charter, which is a document signed way back in 1215. Though the barons who protested the tyranny of King John did so to protect their own property and rights, two tenets from the document became the founding principles for democracy and common law in England, and consequently the world over.Magna_Carta_(British_Library_Cotton_MS_Augustus_II.106)

Consider these two tenets, keeping in mind the context of feudalism at the time they were written:

39. No freemen shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

40. To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.

For the first time, the king was no longer above the law. For the first time, the common man was entitled to justice. For the first time, the King (or Queen, as I remember Alice in Wonderland) could not scream “Off with his head!” and expect someone to carry that order out. It really hit me as I stared at the best preserved copy of the Magna Carta, that many before us have fought hard for the rights we take for granted today!

And yet, so many continue to be unaware of their rights and in many countries, oppressive dictators continue to deny people basic rights and freedoms. That history not only is cyclical but also that different geographies experience their own cycles of oppression and freedom, making the world a hard place to understand.

I focused on the Magna Carta’s simplicity and directness and willed myself to absorb the meaning of those words. Not just in terms of being a citizen of my country but also in how I judge myself and those around me.

The tall Gothic spire of Salisbury

The tall Gothic spire of Salisbury. Tall, slender, pointed arches are distinctive of the period. The arches transferred the weight of the structure to the ground without the need for massive base structures. A lighter looking structure was possible and the eyes traveled upwards in a gesture of praise and submission to God above!

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Reflection of the stained glass windows in the baptismal font

Reflection of the stained glass windows in the waters of the baptismal font

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The mysticism of the past: Visiting Stonehenge

I’ve wanted to visit Stonehenge since the year 2000. Back then, I was pursuing a Masters in Urban Planning at Texas A&M University and taking a course in historic preservation. Professor David Woodcock encouraged me to pursue my interest in cultural landscapes, and with his help (he leveraged his contacts at English Heritage and got them to send me every piece of research they had in their possession!) I wrote a great term paper on Stonehenge.

The mysticism of this circle of stones has stayed with me ever since. It’s the kind of place that evokes in me an unnamed indescribable fascination for history. I wonder how humans in those long bygone days conceived the world around them, how they built their social fabric and how they sowed the seeds for the complexities of existence that we take for granted today.

Stonehenge is a neolithic site created from enormous stones over different period of time probably to understand or pay obeisance to the elements of nature, namely the movement of the sun across the sky around the year. It is part of a larger landscape of monuments scattered around this area, dating from 4000 BC to about 1600 BC. Many of these, and more are being excavated and interpreted even now, seem to be ritual gathering places, burial grounds and they reiterate how important birth and death, religion and rituals must have been to ancient humans. No one knows how they transported these gigantic stones from far away to the site, and its hard to imagine the complete monument today when you see only a ruin from which stones have been taken away or that has degenerated with time.

It is, however, possible to feel the primal energy when you stand there next to Stonehenge. A sense of mystery and strength, of peace even, a dedication to the powers that be! This time, I had only an hour to see it, but it would be fun to return one day to this World Heritage Site and walk the entire landscape that includes Stonehenge, Avebury and surrounding areas.

Stonehenge is now accessed through this beautiful visitor's centre. It is impressive how well heritage sites are managed in the UK.

Stonehenge is now accessed through this beautiful visitor’s centre. It is impressive how well heritage sites are managed in the UK.

Sense of scale!

Sense of scale!

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A very happy me!

A very happy me!

A very happy Nupur too...

A very happy Nupur too…

Looks different from every angle. As you move around it, Stonehenge transforms

Looks different from every angle. As you move around it, Stonehenge transforms

Helps understand something of why it was built

Helps understand something of why it was built

How tiny the man is, how huge the stones

How tiny the man is, how huge the stones

Smooth stones, rough stones....

Smooth stones, rough stones….

_DSC7988The reconstruction of neolithic homes near the Visitor Centre really added value to the visit for me, as one could better imagine what life was like back then, bringing Stonehenge back from a monument of mystery to one that was used for specific purposes by real people!

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I miss my kids when I travel without them and here, I was tickled by how differently this one was experiencing the space as compared to an adult!

I miss my kids when I travel without them and here, I was tickled by how differently this one was experiencing the space as compared to an adult!

_DSC8001_DSC8002Also, a mention must be made of how well the site and visitor flow is managed. I was surprised to know that the entire 6500 acres of the World Heritage Site is owned and managed by English Heritage or the National Trust and that even the land around is owned by the armed forces and other government agencies so that the disturbances to the site and the experiences are minimal! It is possible to walk for miles through fields and woods to explore important prehistoric sites.

There’s a lot of fascinating info about Stonehenge online, if you want to read more….

The ‘I like” list! #Portobello Street market #London

I didn’t want to be the tickmark tourist on my recent visit to London. Of course I still ended up doing a bunch of touristy things, of which the most fun was our Saturday morning spent exploring Portobello market. We had been advised to get there real early if shopping was on the cards, but too much wine and excellent company the previous evening ruled out that possibility. So we ended up strolling out of Notting Hill Gate tube station mid morning, eager to experience the famous Portobello all-day market. Here’s my quick run-down of what I loved about it, with some of the zillion pictures I clicked that day!

1- If you’re a crowd hater, don’t go! I loved the hustle and bustle, the jostling… and even the irate look on the face of a well turned out Londoner that had “Bah! Tourists!” written all over it!

2- The colours of Notting Hill and Portobello are so not London. It’s like being transported to the Mediterranean in the middle of England! Pastels and bright colours on building facades make me smile indeed! And the random details too…

3- The antique market is the best bit here, in my opinion. I bought an original map of India, circa 1820 for 40 pounds, quite a steal (Tip: Cash begets discounts)! And just pottering around this section made my day!

4- Food haven, indeed. From crepes to paella, there was quite a spread if you had the appetite!

5- The sheer length of it. Portobello is never ending or so it seemed. Lots to see, lots to do, if you have the patience and the spirit. And if you’re not here to buy, it’s all the more enjoyable with that pressure off!

On our way there...

On our way there…

Typical!

Typical!

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I would think those who live here think a lot about exterior paint shades!

I would think those who live here think a lot about exterior paint shades!

My co-explorers!

My co-explorers!

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Entertainment along the way...

Entertainment along the way…

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A touch of bizarre

A touch of bizarre

And the spooky... :)

And the spooky… :)

Lots of delightful antiques...

Lots of delightful antiques…

Anyone remembers the "Homemaker for a lifetime.." jingle?

Anyone remembers the “Homemaker for a lifetime..” jingle?

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And finally, just before I left, a spot of graffiti for good measure!

And finally, just before I left, a spot of graffiti for good measure!

Southwark through a local’s eye: A walk along the Thames in #London

I’ve anticipated this London trip for so long and yet have had little time to plan an itinerary. A work trip for the most part, I knew my touristic experiences would need to be squeezed in. I’ve opted to live with a friend, someone I’ve known since college and so, by default, I’ve been let into her little world. I let her lead me through her neighbourhood on my first day in what locals consider “the greatest and most beautiful capital city in the world”!

We started our stroll with a visit to her local square. Kids kicked a football around, a few stalls were selling trinkets and toys. The residential neighbourhoods we walked past were still and sleepy. A dog barked at us, a baby gurgles, the locals stood out in the sun in bunches, satiated with pints of beer and lazy lunches.

The neighbourhood square

The neighbourhood square

Riverward..on the way

Riverward..on the way

My friend lives in the London Borough of Southwark, south of the Thames and close to the London Bridge. And our walk took us river-ward. An area with Roman origins, the riverfront we walked onto is rich with wharfs and restored warehouses. On a surprisingly sunny yet balmy Saturday afternoon, the place had a zippy, young feel to it. Families out with their children, friends catching a drink at the pubs and restaurants that lined the Thames, that sort of thing.

Posh apartments,  redeveloped from the docks that lined the Thames give this area a unique flavour

Posh apartments, redeveloped from the docks that lined the Thames give this area a unique flavour

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The ramps that took the cargo from the qyayside to the warehouses. Pretty dramatic huh?

The ramps that took the cargo from the quayside to the warehouses. Pretty dramatic huh?

My first glimpse of the Thames...gasp!

My first glimpse of the Thames…gasp!

Love the clutter!

Love the clutter!

View across the river

View across the river

Wine stop!

Wine stop!

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Public art, lots of naval stuff like enormous anchors strewed around for kids to clamber over...

Public art, lots of naval stuff like enormous anchors strewed around for kids to clamber over…

The sun lit up the Thames and the famous landmarks that were spotted out to me dazzled and shone. The Tower Bridge, of course, the City Hall designed by Norman Foster and, as my friend put it, a miniature of the Bundestag Dome we saw in Berlin, and the HMS Belfast right there in the centre of the river. We walked across and around the Tower of London where, along with the swarms of tourists, the sea of ceramic poppies greeted us, a recently installed commemoration of the World War I in its centenary year.

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City Hall, HMS Belfast, the sights and sounds of the river...

City Hall, HMS Belfast, the sights and sounds of the river…

Walking around the Tower of London.  I was here 15 years ago...

Walking around the Tower of London. I was here 15 years ago…

The poppies...oh the poppies!

The poppies…oh the poppies! Blood red and stunning

Caught the Shard between the turrets! It's Renzo Piano's latest addition to London's skyline

Caught the Shard between the turrets! It’s Renzo Piano’s latest addition to London’s skyline

A surprising detour through the upmarket St Katherine Docks where the Queen’s gilded boat rests and where I was amused to see The Dickens Inn, rebuilt in the style of a 17th century timber-framed building and apparently inaugurated by the famous writer’s grandson. That the author spent a part of his life in this part of London is well-known but it was had to reconcile the images of Dickensian London in my head with the extensively redeveloped swank sights before me!

No longer serene, but still quaint, St Katherine's is a lovely little marina, apparently the playground of the rich and famous

No longer serene, but still quaint, St Katherine’s is a lovely little marina, apparently the playground of the rich and famous

err....like the Queen, whose gilded craft is on the right side of this pic

err….like the Queen, whose gilded craft is on the right side of this pic

Ceramic panels we walked by...

Ceramic panels we walked by…

Posing in front of the Dickens'

Posing in front of the Dickens’

An aside: A lovely little fountain and a peaceful square. Seeing the city through a local's eye is the BEST way to do so!

An aside: A lovely little fountain and a peaceful square. Seeing the city through a local’s eye is the BEST way to do so!

No, can't wipe the smile off!

No, can’t wipe the smile off!

And thus, after being introduced to this delightful part of London, I dragged my jet-lagged self back at last night, happily tired and looking forward to more good times here!

 

 

Camera capers: Inside the stunning Bundestag Dome in #Berlin

I had pre-booked our visit to the famous new dome built over the Bundestag in Berlin. Designed by Norman Foster, this was my must-see in the city from an architectural perspective and I had been warned about the need to pre-book and be there on time by fellow travel enthusiasts. And so, on the morning of our appointment, my travel anxiety kicked in full swing. I was impatient with the kids and Rahul, urging them to get ready fast and walk fast. We reached late and had some difficulties finding the right entrance to the building. For a while, I really thought we had missed our slot. I was a dour and unlikable person until we actually stepped into the premises of the Bundestag (also known as the Reichstag), when I finally permitted myself to breathe easy and smile!

This is where the German Parliament works from, the seat of power and a powerful symbol of democracy for a nation that has seen a tumultuous recent past. Moreover, the building burnt down during the Nazi regime (1933, blamed on Communists despite little evidence) and the open space around has been the site of many protests and political gatherings. Truly a witness to Berlin’s ups and downs, the new dome designed by Foster is perceived as a symbol of unified Germany, one that has given the building a fresh lease of life and a sense of joy and purpose.

I was very excited to be here, and once I was in, it was my relationship with my camera that took over, as Rahul and the kids faded slowly out for me (they were busy with their own audio guides, which were so excellent that even the kids could independently explore the dome for over an hour!). So many aspects of this magnificent glass dome are fascinating- the way it channels light into the Parliament hall below, the double helix ramps that take you to the top, the opening at the top that let the refreshing summer air in along with some raindrops when we were up there, the clarity of the glass that offers the most fantastic view of Berlin….I could go on and on, but I’ll let the pictures tell you more!

 

On our way...The Dome is somewhere behind there, the angle doesn't offer that view

On our way…The Dome is somewhere behind there, the angle doesn’t offer that view

The clouds above made for a dramatic view of the large grounds in front of the Bundestag

The clouds above made for a dramatic view of the large grounds in front of the Bundestag

Inside the Dome. Seriously, an architectural photographer's dream come true!

Inside the Dome. Seriously, an architectural photographer’s dream come true!

From the ramp looking at the hall below where an exhibition of photographs contextualised the building we were in

From the ramp looking at the hall below where an exhibition of photographs contextualized the building we were in

The fantastic funicular that has a set of mirrors to channel natural light into the Parliament hall below and the screen that can move around the dome to block out light that is not required

The fantastic funicular that has a set of mirrors to channel natural light into the Parliament hall below and the screen that can move around the dome to block out light that is not required

Fun with the mirrors! Spot me :)

Fun with the mirrors! Spot me :)

More fun with reflections!

More fun with reflections!

Another fun angle!

Another fun angle! The views outside were stunning too

As sen through the glass with the droplets of rain on it, Berlin looked ethereal

As seen through the glass with the droplets of rain on it, Berlin looked ethereal and even unreal

Right at the top

Right at the top

The effect of the glass dome on the kids was interesting. They were enchanted and engrossed in the audio guide, which was simple and easy to follow, with interesting tidbits but not too much chatter!

Moments for contemplation: The effect of the glass dome on the kids was interesting. They were enchanted and engrossed in the audio guide, which was simple and easy to follow, with interesting tidbits but not too much chatter!

The Dome in its entirety as seen from the terrace ouside. We walked out into sunshine and a rain drenched bright sky!

The Dome in its entirety as seen from the terrace outside. We walked out into sunshine and a rain drenched bright sky!

The kids grabbing the sunshine and a bite to eat

The kids grabbing the sunshine and a bite to eat

Look at the architectural variety Berlin has to offer!

Look at the architectural variety Berlin has to offer!

 

I was pretty satiated when I bid my adieu to the Dome

I was pretty satiated when I bid my adieu to the Dome

We joined the throng of happy tourists outside!

We joined the throng of happy tourists outside!

Last peak as we carried on to another destination, another experience in this beautiful city

Last peak as we carried on to another destination, another experience in this beautiful city

Zoo visit! What kids loved in #Berlin 3/3

Both the kids were absolutely certain of one item on the Berlin must-do list: a visit to the Zoo. Famed to have the most comprehensive collection of animals in the world, Berlin’s Zoologischer Garten (quite a mouthful and Udai practised saying it many times every day, with hilarious results!) is the oldest zoo in Germany, with an interesting history. And true to form, we saw many many species I had never thought I’d see outside of my television screen!

The children were delighted and we spent an entire day there, happy to observe the animals and the humans watching the animals. Of course, a zoo cannot compare to watching animals in the wild, but from an educational perspective, I’m glad we were exposed to such an astonishing array of species. The primate house was particularly impressive, so was the section with night animals where we saw a kinkajou. Now, the kinkajou is an animal we read about in one of the children’s story books and we were all four simultaneously awestruck when we saw one in the flesh! Other highlights were the little joey in her Mumma Kangaroo’s pouch, several types of zebras, the giraffe whose neck wasn’t long enough for Aadyaa and the polar bear, for who we trekked the length and breadth of the fairly large zoo!

Disclaimer: The pictures do not do justice to the fair weather, the well kept environs of the Berlin Zoo and the generally happy state of the animals and those who were out to see them!

Look who we saw first!

Look who we saw first!

Roald Dahl set up some mean expectations about the length of a griaffe's neck when we wrote 'The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me'

Roald Dahl set up some mean expectations about the length of a giraffe’s neck when we wrote ‘The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me’

Udai read every board and discovered that Man was the worst of the lot, going around hunting and killing animals, sometimes for no apparent reason!

Udai read every board and discovered that Man was the worst of the lot, going around hunting and killing animals, sometimes for no apparent reason!

Inhabitants of the primate house

Inhabitants of the primate house

The grand old orangutan showed us a dance with a towel and generally was quite the entertainer. His movements were similar to Tai chi!

The grand old orangutan showed us a dance with a towel and generally was quite the entertainer. His movements were similar to Tai chi!

The gorillas only showed us their backs, so the kids climbed all over this one!

The gorillas only showed us their backs, so the kids climbed all over this one!

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Informative, in case you are on a mission to see all the zoos in the world!

Informative, in case you are on a mission to see all the zoos in the world!

Cute, aren't they?

Cute, aren’t they?

What's the fuss about? Puzzled all the eager human faces staring at her!

What’s the fuss about? Puzzled all the eager human faces staring at her!

Reflecting

Reflecting

The pranced about, these Indochinese tigers. Not a patch on the Royal Bengal Tiger, if you've seen one!

The pranced about, these Indochinese tigers. Not a patch on the Royal Bengal Tiger, if you’ve seen one!

Two-horned, no less!

Two-horned, no less!

Hi Joey! We waited 10 minutes for this Roo to turn around and show us her baby :)

Hi Joey! We waited 10 minutes for this Roo to turn around and show us her baby :)

Have you seen ostrich babies?

Have you seen ostrich babies?

Check out my a$$, say the Zebra, ignoring us completely!

Check out my a$$, say the Zebra, ignoring us completely!

These little ones were just thriving on attention...

These little ones were just thriving on attention, jumping in and out of the water deftly and showing off their swimming and strutting skills!

This one just slept. If she could have, Aadyaa would have walked right over and shaken him awake. Was probably way too warm for him!

This one just slept. If she could have, Aadyaa would have walked right over and shaken him awake. Was probably way too warm for him!

Aadyaa's impersonating a pelican!

Aadyaa’s impersonating a pelican!

And that's our Berlin Zoo selfie! Signing off now...

And that’s our Berlin Zoo selfie! Signing off now…

Visiting the Dinosaurs! What kids loved in #Berlin 2/3

No, it wasn’t just the dinosaurs. Yes, they were the major attraction, but once we got there the  Museum fur Naturkund (Natural History Museum) turned out to be so much more. It was as if a physical force took hold of the children and we were barely able to keep up, chasing after them as they ran from one exhibit to the other, fascinated by creatures preserved inside bottles, by the science of taxonomy, by the preservation techniques on display and all the stuffed birds and animals, by the sheer biodiversity on our planet that hit us when we were in there. It was like an ocean of information, so well presented and it was an absolute pleasure to be here. To quote from their website, this is “one of the most significant research institutions worldwide in biological and geo-scientific evolution research and biodiversity.”

But let’s start with the dinosaurs!

This gallery, the very first one in the Museum, is a result of a highly successful early 20th century German expedition to Tanzania to collect dinosaur fossils. The Germans were prolific discoverers, very strong on scientific rigour and Berlin is a city full of museums because of this. In this one hall, we saw the largest mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world, the Brachiosaurus, which stands 13.27 metres and whose bones were found during the Tendaguru expedition that took place in 1909-1911. The Tendaguru Beds, as they came to be known, yielded many significant dinosaur skeletons and added hugely to our knowledge of this fascinating species that once inhabited the Earth. A skeleton of the herbivore Kentrosaurus or ‘spiky lizard’ that lived  in the Upper Jurassic Period and a reproduction of thos period’s largest carnivore, the Allosaurus with its short front legs and enormous jaws with blade-like teeth are some of the other Dino friends we met in Berlin. Take a look…

Ancient dinosaurs in a heritage building made for a killer combo!

Ancient dinosaurs in a heritage building made for a killer combo!

The tall guy is the Brachiosaurus, the (relatively) shorter one the Kentrosaurus

The tall guy is the Brachiosaurus and this is the largest mounted skeleton you can see in the world today. Hurrah!

And here's the Allosaurus, a bit in dissaray but menacing even so!

And here’s the Allosaurus, a bit in dissaray but menacing even so!

Take a good look at his teeth!

Take a good look at his teeth!

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The Kentrosaurus with his spikes

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General fun clicking the Dinos!

General fun clicking the Dinos!

I’ve noticed time and again Aadyaa is deeply interested in nature while Udai is on a mission for gleaning facts and will read every written word inside a museum (we call him the paisa-vasool tourist, meaning he will eke out the full value from whatever he spends!). And so, the two kids were comrades-in-arms at this museum, Udai reading things out and explaining to Aadyaa, she running ahead to identify the most interesting exhibits. The visual variety in the museum had a lot to do with keeping the kids engaged I feel.

Rows and rows of creatures in bottles, not for the faint-hearted!

Rows and rows of creatures in bottles, not for the faint-hearted!

This fantastic display allowed to see the wonderful biodiversity on Earth all at one go! Fascinating

This fantastic display allowed to see the wonderful biodiversity on Earth all at one go! Fascinating

Stuffed birds with artists sitting around sketching them! All Aadu could ask for!

Stuffed birds with artists sitting around sketching them! All Aadu could ask for!

I have to tell you about this incident inside the museum that really tickled me. Udai and Aadyaa were trying to build a 3D model that shows the different types of outer coverings that Dinos might have had, scaly or feathery. But a piece was missing. Off they marched off looking for it, managing to find the thief and communicate with his German grandpa, finally getting their missing piece back. They went on to toil at the model and posed when it was done, pleased as punch! See the tale in pics!

Fotor0718122824At the tail end of the Museum, I saw all these people lying on a round couch. It was only when the screen overhead began to flash images that I realised this is some sort of planetarium equivalent. The voice over was in German so we didn’t really understand much. But I captured here that aha! moment for which the crowds had been waiting. At one point of the film, the Google Earth image on the screen zooms in to show an image of the people down there on the couch. At the instant I clicked this image, the camera was already zooming out on the screen, but you can see that people spontaneously started pointing to their own faces when that image was shown! Such excitement! Such a simple way to get people to come back again and again!

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Lego madness! What kids loved in #Berlin 1/3

Udai is crazy about Lego. He has been that way since he was say a year old. He made the choice to visit Berlin, inspired in part by the German lessons in school that are still a novelty and mostly by my mention of a Lego Discovery Centre in the city. We found ourselves at the stunningly beautiful and modern Potsdamer Platz at the end of our excursion to the Berlin Wall. It was evening time and we dashed to get into the Lego place, barely stopping to admire the architecture of the Sony Centre, in which the Lego deal is located. Rahul opted out owing to the high ticket charges (Euro 18 per person, unless you book in advance) and I spent two hours with my super excited Lego-crazy kids.

What was inside? Well, I really liked the lego reproductions of Berlin city. They were amazingly detailed and vibrant. I didn’t care much for the Star Wars section and even the kids weren’t captivated by it, though there were spacecrafts moving around and everything was made with Lego. There was a dragon themes ride that puts you in a car and takes you into a castle, with ogres and dragons and knights, all mads of Lego again. There are Lego figures standing around- batman, Hagrid and Harry, you get the drift…

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It’s a small place and the highlight for Udai most certainly was the zillions of Lego pieces at the workstations and time to sit and make stuff. What did he make? Airplanes…duh! Aadyaa just ran around and explored the place. And we topped this all off with a short Lego film at a built-in theatre they had inside.Fotor0718110043IMG_7284IMG_7286IMG_7287

It’s not a very large place and perhaps not exciting for grown-ups, but little detours like this is what keeps children engaged. Especially when we travel to cities that are high on culture and sightseeing, we’ve found to useful to mix it up a little. Once the kids know that we’re willing to do ‘their’ stuff, they are quite happy to do ‘ours’!

PS- I did get some shots of the Sony Centre plaza once we got out of the Lego place, and here they are….

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