Heat, farms and beaches

The heat continues to be stifling. Over a week of almost 40 degrees centigrade, no air conditioning, no fans and we are as s l o w as snails. We spend a lazy morning at the apartment. The kids pop outside for 20 minutes at a time, but soon come back inside to escape the heat. For lunch we go to visit my aunt and uncle along with my cousins children, where the garden has shade from leafy trees, a paddling pool and a hose that is stood at the ready for the cooling of the kids.

We eat schnitzel for lunch. For C, the schnitzel is coated in buckwheat and it is accompanied by gluten free pasta. He devours his food with glee. After lunch we escape the heat and allow the kids to watch a movie. They then spend the rest of the afternoon in the garden, building sand castles, playing in the water and playing soccer.

The next day we wake up to cooler temperatures and rain. Hooray! We postpone our planned trip to my uncles farmhouse for a day, as a thunderstorm is not the best way to spend the day there. My cousin rushes to the hospital to perform a liver transplant – he was on call today, but not officially working – and I am home alone with 4 kids for a few hours. The kids are all so tired that I leave them to their electronics and let them do whatever they want to do for an hour or so. We eat breakfast, get dressed and are ready to brave a museum with my aunt, when she arrives to collect us at 10.30.

The museum of ethnography in Berlin is in Dahlem (http://www.smb.museum/smb/sammlungen/details.php?objectId=56), close to where my cousin and aunt and uncle live. It is an amazing museum with fantastic collections. Amazing, that is, if you are not a small child and tired after days and days of extreme temperatures. C and his older cousin take in the artefacts, but even they are restless. They are told not to touch anything, to be quiet and not to run. One of the museum employees comments that these expectations are unfair and quickly ushers us to an old Polynesian boat on which the kids can climb.

In less than an hour we declare the museum expedition failed, and decide to head home. C is disappointed that we haven’t seen the diaries of my great great grandfather Falkenstein that are housed here, but they can only be seen by special appointment (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Falkenstein_%28Afrikaforscher%29). He is very proud that we have a forefather who brought the first gorilla to Europe that was consequently housed in a zoo. There is a large bronze statue of a gorilla in the Berlin zoo in honor of him – if you are ever passing…

We spend another afternoon at the house of my aunt and uncle. The rain stops and the sun shines again. My uncle makes delicious polenta for lunch. All for C. I can’t remember  ever eating polenta this good. We go to the supermarket in the afternoon and stock up on g-free cookies and sorbet. C is happy that we have provided a g-free/lactose free alternative to the cake and ice cream on offer.

On Sunday, we get up bright and early and head out of Berlin for an hour to my uncles converted farmhouse. The weather is perfect – not to hot – and the kids enjoy the freedom of the open space, discovering the tree house, riding on my uncles tractor and a stash of toys indoors too. Forts, magic castles, bridges and dams are built in the large sandbox and – of course – endless rounds of soccer, with a bit of ping pong thrown in for good measure. With all of this child friendly activity, I aim to sit and read my book, but somehow manage no more than 2 pages, as there is always something that one child or other is asking for.

We have a big BBQ, cooked on the open fire pit and head back to Berlin happy with our day as evening closes in.

On our last full day in Berlin, my cousins’ wife has a day off and we take the children to the Max Liebermann house (http://www.liebermann-villa.de/EN/%28S%285re1uuf4skxxhuzac3bypw45%29%29/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabID=432) together in Wannsee. The house, garden and gallery in the house are the perfect size for the children to enjoy without being overwhelmed. We pay for children’s audio tours for them all and they walk around listening to each number on the tour, looking at the paintings and taking in the garden that rests on the bank of Wannsee. It is a breathtaking location, with Berlins row of sailing clubs next door. The paintings are also beautiful and I realize that I will leave Berlin tomorrow with a very heavy heart.

We head home for some pasta for lunch. C is happy with his g-free alternative and lots of chorizo (hi new favorite) and we then head to Strandbad Wannsee again. C’s older cousin has a new blow up ‘rowing boat’ from her birthday and we take that along with us, much to the kids delight. WE eat French fries on the beach for dinner and return home sandy and happy with the boat tied to the roof of the car.

The kids play in the garden until late. The boys are delighted to be part of their older cousins bunnies cage cleaning action and the small rabbits are put on leashes and paraded around the garden – much to the children’s delight.

My aunt and uncle arrive and we sit outside past sunset drinking wine and saying our farewells