A cold, overcast day in January may not be the best day for a picnic, but whether they liked it or not, that's what we did with the boys last weekend. It was so late by the time we actually managed to get out of the house, we just stuck some sandwiches and a thermos in a bag and headed out the door, to Treptower Park and the Soviet Memorial.
We take the S-bahn to Treptower Park in Alt-Treptow and guided by google maps, find the Soviet Memorial about a 10 minute walk from the station. The Memorial was built for the 80,000 Soviet soldiers who fell during the Battle of Berlin (April - May 1945) and the vast (100,000 sqm) memorial also serves as a cemetery for 7000 of those fallen soldiers. It's big, brutal and, well, Soviet.
Mother Homeland sits weeping at one end, with two kneeling soldiers between two enormous red granite 'flags', while at the other, on a man-made hill, stands an immense Soviet soldier, cradling a German child in one hand and a sword in the other, with which he has evidently just smashed a swastika. The five central lawns, or symbolic cemeteries, are lined on either side by large bas-reliefs, allegedly carved from marble pilfered from Hitler's private stockpile, and adorned with poetic quotes from Stalin himself, an additional insult from the victor to the vanquished. As with much of Soviet architecture, the splendour and solemnity is almost lost in it's own bombastic ostentation.
The boys of course appreciate none of this, but they do enjoy hurtling up the steps, gawping at the massive soldier and rolling down the hill. Stalin would be delighted I'm sure.
Having had our fill of the memorial, we wander out and north towards the river. On our way through the woods, we come across a cool, mirrored building, and spend some time larking about with our reflections. But it's really cold, so we soldier on, eastwards along the river. The sun is starting to set and in the pinkish light, even Berlin looks kinda pretty. We spot the Insel der Jugend, a small island reached by a arching bridge disappearing into a funny little Germanic house. It's too late to go onto the island now, but happily, there is a huge, new looking, (ie no graffiti yet) nautical themed playground just opposite, so the boys are content to play there instead. Some boats are tied up under the bridge with a large 'Boats to Rent' sign, and we are all keen to come back in the summer to try them out.
Just beyond the bridge, there is big moored boat called The Clipper and we duck inside. Sadly, it's already full of smug-looking hot chocolate drinkers, so we bid the warmth of this cosy retreat farewell. At least we have a thermos of hot chocolate and a leftover peanut butter sandwich to share on the bus ride home.