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Taking the Kids: To Berlin

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Reconciliation and forgiveness can work. That's hard to believe with so much dysfunction in our government, which is why it's all the more important to remind our kids that reconciliation can work -- beautifully.

And there's no better place to see that than in Berlin where the Berlin Wall, as of last month, has been down longer than it was up.

"What Wall?" your kids may ask. The once 96-mile Berlin Wall -- 23 miles right through residential areas -- that separated families, friends and couples between Aug. 13, 1961 and Nov. 9, 1989. The Wall made people on the east side of it so desperate to escape that they risked their lives and sometimes lost them to circumvent it.

We had just walked between what had once been called "the death strip," the area between West Berlin and East Berlin, between the wall and safety of the West, so called by East German security forces who were ordered "to shoot to kill" anyone trying to escape. We learned this and much more Cold War history than we would have gotten on our own from Aaron Birchenough, the knowledgeable Context Travel guide leading us on a "wall walk."

Context is known for its tours which are for those who want a deeper dive into where they are visiting -- whether history, the art scene, food or culture. And, according to a company spokesman, more millennials are seeking out such experiences.

Families -- especially those with older kids -- love Berlin, which offers a vibrant arts, fashion and food scene. (If you plan to take in many of Berlin's major sites, consider a Berlin Pass that, for one discounted price, gets you admission to more than 60 museums and attractions. You can save more than $80 on a three-day adult pass (which costs less than $120 for adults, roughly half that for kids.)

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And, on average, Berlin is nearly $100 per night less expensive (40 percent) than London for overnight accommodation and offers considerable value as compared to other major European cities as well: Venice (over 35 percent); Amsterdam (over 30 percent); Paris and Barcelona (nearly 30 percent); Dublin (over 25 percent); and Rome (over 15 percent), according to the latest Hotel Price Index report.

If you're visiting, check out the new Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art celebrating the history of urban contemporary art and emerging artists. The museum's goal is to help young people discover art, and even the building's facade will be a changing display.

There's also the food trucks, locally roasted coffee and Berliners' favorite fast food Currywurst (curry-sprinkled sausage) and when traveling with adult kids, the 65 craft breweries. Berlin proudly calls itself Europe's vegan capital, with 48 vegan and nearly 200 vegetarian restaurants.

Everyone speaks English and Berlin is cheaper than other European cities, whether you opt for an Airbnb, rental apartment or hotel. (We opted for the 70-room Sofitel that stands near Gendarmenmarkt, the historic square that would have been in East Berlin but today is at the heart of modern Berlin.)


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