Berlin you've been great

I am not the kind of person to do a city guide parse . Although I like to travel and promote travel with kids, I don't think that I am focused on places, like street names and building names as much as emotional experiences while visiting new place, therefor I forget to write down the name of a place or the part of town where the best pastries are or other foods and drinks. So you'll have to excuse me for not providing accurate names of places or locations you'll have to take my word for it and find out for yourself! Some are listed but most are just pretty pictures :)

Our trip was wonderful and very relaxing. Because we managed to stay for almost three weeks this turned out to be a good way to equally see places and spend quality time with my in laws who we stayed with the whole time while in Berlin. In our culture it's customary to stay with friends and family if they happen to live where you're traveling to. This works out great because as you may know lodging is quite expensive no matter where you go. Luckily or unluckily due to the conflict in the Balkans in the 90's many people immigrated all over the world so we happen to have friends everywhere, including Berlin where my in laws currently live.

If you are looking for a place with great history and amazing culture this is the right place to be. It is also a very green City, almost a fifth of the City is covered with trees. There are almost 2500 public parks and gardens in the City which is great when traveling with kids.
Most of our days were spent at the playgrounds and parks in the morning, then we would go back to the apartment and have lunch. The kids would be wiped out by then and most of the time naps followed lunch for both of them. Hamza doesn't nap any more but this trip was so active that he almost voluntarily took naps. While they napped we would sneak out and do some sight seeing or go meet up with our cousins who also live in Berlin.

I also enjoyed running in Berlin and seeing the City from that perspective, it was quite different and I would recommend to be active when traveling in part because I ate my weight in pretzels, döner kebabs and falafel while there but also to see it from the perspective of a local. Berlin has a large Turkish and Arabic population, if you like middle eastern food thats where you'll find the best shawarmas, lentil soups and haloumi cheese sandwiches.

One of our favorite places was the Children's Museum, we visited twice while there. The kids enjoyed   exploring and taking part in interactive games such as a make shift construction site equipped with a  crane and safety gear, I think Hamza forgot for a moment that we existed we had to drag him out.

We did one trip to Lego Land which was crowded and below ground ( lower levels, no widows) so I didn't care for it much myself, however the kids loved it and thought it was just awesome.

 Since traveling with little kids can also mean finding entertainment and doing things that are interesting to them we've made sure to sneak in some alone time and snapped some pictures along the way. We had some great coffee at The Barn ( super trendy, too cool for us, everyone has a beard and no one smiles unless something is very very funny), we saw some great pieces of art at the Ehemalig Jüdische Mädchenschule and visited the famous Mauerpark Flea Market.  A few days were so hot that we decided to join many others at the neighborhood public pool. The pools are clean and there is enough green space to make you feel like it's a real beach or a large park. Some even have large playgrounds as well as bouncy castles if the kids are taking a break from swimming. A great way to spend the a hot day in Berlin indeed.
I really can't say enough about this city, it has great architecture, amazing shopping and plenty of entertainment for kids and adults. It's place we'll visit as much as we can in the years to come.

Auf Wiedersehen Berlin!

* Although my husband and I both speak German there is no need to be shy if you don't speak it, most people speak English pretty well. I think this is the case in most European countries especially big touristy centers.

* You'll have to pardon some of the blurrier images, all pictures are taken with my trust iPhone (one day I'll own a camera, until then this will have to cut it)!


We are back!

We are back! Jet lagged and all, we flew in late Thursday night and wen't straight to bed. The kids woke up at 3:30am and we were on our way home by 5am. Yesterday, Faris came down with a cold and this morning I woke up with sinus pressure and a runny nose. While I try to recover and sort through the Berlin pictures, here are a few images of a trip to Shelburne Farms back in June which I forgot all about. I guess I meant to blog about it but it totally got pushed to the side. We absolutely love this place and try to visit a few times every summer to enjoy the beauty this farm has to offer!

Summer in Vermont
making music
He loves animals and is so very gentle with them
His therapy session. Shhhh do not disturb!


Berlin Playgrounds Rock!

Sorry for the silence, we choose to stay away from the computer as much as possible while on vacation so we can be present and aware. We are still in Berlin and fully enjoying the last couple of days here! We'll be flying back home this Thursday and are already a little sad about leaving this amazing city. 
While in Berlin, we wanted to take in all this city has to offer, including amazing playgrounds everywhere you turn. They are made for kids to be adventurous and test their bodies abilities without having to make parents sweat. I wish we had more playgrounds like these in the US. They sometimes feel too safe and at times boring, it seems that Germans trust their kids more and let them explore without having to hover over them. I guess there is always the liability issue in the States as well which is too bad.
Many German parents sit quietly on the sidelines watching their kids and observing how they handle obstacles. They do help their kids if one structure becomes challenging, however they quickly exit to let their children keep on playing without adult supervision. 
Hamza truly enjoyed the freedom we gave him to explore and really excelled at obstacles. Faris was a little more careful and stuck with sandboxes and small challenges. It was great watching them from the bench without needing to intervene too much.
Playgrounds included zip lines, super long swings and crazy fast slides. Some even had themes like an Aladdin themed one ( not so much disney, but more like wood camels and tent like wood structures). 
We fully enjoyed spending time at these playgrounds and would recommend if traveling to Berlin to look up some playgrounds close to where you're staying. I am sure you'll find that there are a few within walking distance from where you're staying!

The pictures below are from a playground in a very busy part of town and seems to have been adorned with lots and lots of graffiti. Most others are not.


Travel with kids- Berlin Part II

I am writing this post sitting in a pre WWI building at Bundesplatz in Berlin while sipping on a glass of cold water with slices of fresh lemon. Ah, I love Berlin!!! So far the trip has been a dream and we go to bed feeling a good tired and hoping for even better adventure the next day. As promised this post is all about the planning of this trip and how we got ready for it!

At Home-We have a tiny house but even a tiny house has to be prepared before you leave for a three week trip. We love to leave our house knowing we'll return to a clean and happy place. The last thing we want to do is clean and do laundry as soon as we get back from our trip. So here are a few things that we do around the house before we leave:

Sheets-All bed sheets get exchanged the morning before we leave so we have fresh new sheets when we return ( this is something I picked up from a friend and it is totally worth it)

Laundry-We leave no laundry behind. There will be plenty to wash when we return so minimizing laundry is key.

Dog Sitter- My parents usually take Kooba but asking friends to house sit or take your dog is also a good solution. I am not a fan of boarding the dog since we have a anxious little lady but that is certainly an option for many families. 

Garden Care- We have a small garden so we have to have someone watering it and picking the goodies once they are ripe. If you have a friend that wants to care for the garden you can offer to help themselves in the garden as much as they would like. It's hard work to water and weed so that's a nice gesture in return.

Bills- We make sure that there are no outstanding bills so things are not waiting for us when we come back. It cuts out some anxiety. 

There is much more that could be done around the house depending on the size and pets but in our case its easily manageable and we like it that way. One of the reasons we live "small" is because we love travel and experiences are what we value much more than materialistic things.

Packing - We are not great at it yet but with time we're improving our skills. This trip we are packing two suitcases, stroller and one carry on. Ideally, one suitcase would be best. The less we have the better. It's so much easier to travel with less. Most places we go have a washing machine so we do laundry a couple of times per trip (also depends on the length of our trip).  Here are is how I pack the kids:

Clothing-I bring enough for a week for the kids, for example 5-7 top and 5 bottoms. For the little one I usually bring a couple more just because he's more prone to spilling and drooling. I bring a couple of pairs of socks each and a jacket each ( most of our travel is done in Spring and Summer when the clothing is not bulky). I also bring two pairs of shoes for each kid, a sneaker and a sandal. Swimming shorts and hygiene stuff such as shampoos and toothbrushes. We bring little cosmetics for us and bring only as many diapers as we need for a few days. Cosmetic items such as shampoos and diapers are all purchased when we arrive to our destination. Because of the fact that most of our travel is to places where we have friends and family, we end up not bringing towels or bed sheets. This reduces our bulky luggage by a lot. 
When I pack for myself I adhere to a much stricter rule, a few dresses and a pair of denim cut offs paired with 2-4 tops. Two pairs of shoes, few pairs of underwear and a couple of bras. One bikini is usually enough if traveling to a city but if I go to a beach I bring a couple more. I keep cosmetics to a minimum and bring only the necessary items. If it's hot I hate wearing make up so a bit of mascara and some lipstick is usually enough during the day while we explore. I suggest making plans of what outfits to wear so you can figure out what accessories to bring. I usually bring one pair of earrings and one necklace, that's pretty much it.
My husband is the ultimate minimalist so he brings quite a bit less and usually takes up only a quarter of a suitcase. 

Travel Zen- Haha, not so much when you have little kids but the idea is to visualize the trip and prepare yourself mentally. Once the plane is in the air there is nothing you can do. Try to stay calm because your child feeds of of your energy entirely. Here are some tips:

Take off/Landing- Ears popping is really uncomfortable for kids, if you don't want them have gum or lolly pops, you can give them a toothbrush to chew on, my kids love brushing teeth and receiving a new toothbrush in the flight kit is like a present to them. For my nursing mamas, they'll give you a separate seat belt for the baby that attaches to yours so nurse that baby each time the plane takes of or lands. Start nursing a few minutes before, once a baby is nervous it may not want to latch on and then you have a screaming baby, not fun!

Entertainment/Sleep- My kids usually sleep on planes, I don't know what it is, poor air quality that knocks them out or just the fact that most oversees flights we choose are in the evening not sure but I am lucky to have good sleepers. For those who don't, prepare in advance, new toys or new games they've never seen before are the best. Choose something that they can build or color or put together such as puzzles, coloring books and science toys. All these can keep them busy for a while. If all else fails make sure to have some good movies downloaded on your tablet or phone. None of these are ideal but planning it out a bit in your head may help you keep them busy for a while. We also brought a couple of small pillows this time which worked out great ( which was actually all we put in a carry on plus a change of clothes and empty water bottles). 

Last but not least, enjoy your trip! If you are miserable your kids will be too. Go with the flow, if one day turns out to be a disaster go back to your room rest up and enjoy your next adventure. Long trips are not for those who want to be in full control over each and every moment in their life. S*** happens, pardon my French, and flights get delayed, kids get cranky and that place you wanted to visit the most happens to be closed for the season because of renovations and won't get to see it on this trip. It is what it is, enjoy it and realize that it is a gift to be able to travel with your kids, many people can't because of financial or other reasons so have fun and don't focus on the little things because ultimately they don't matter.

Bon Voyage! 

Night before, packing table. I like to see it all together!

Did I mention we had a five hour car ride to NYC the day of our trip! We are crazyyy!

I love travel and he does too ( not sure about our passengers )!!