Saturday, September 17, 2005

Russia Night!

What can I say, it happened--a definite “cultural experience!” See attached pictures!

Here’s the general commentary:
1. “You want me to do what before I enter the party?”
2. “You’re joking right?”
3. “Through the teeth and through the gums, watch out tummy here it comes!”
4. “Pickle chaser, pickle chaser”
5. “Feel the burn!”

Happy Saturday

Friday, September 16, 2005

Matthias (Part 3)

Those who know me well know that my German “adventure” actually began 10 years ago. In 1995, each person in my German class was given a “pen friend.” My pen pal was Matthias, from Ulm, Germany. We wrote back and forth for a couple of years, he visited my house and I visited his (pt. 1.) While I was in Freiburg I spent Easter with him and his family (pt. 2.)

After finding out that I would be moving to Berlin, I IM-ed Matthias to tell him my good news. As luck would have it, Matthias was moving to Berlin too! He has been here since this summer.

[Let me also take this moment to note that my obsession with cheese spaetzle began when Matthias’s mom first made this delicious dish for me in high school. Mrs. Schlecker’s spaetzle is the benchmark by which I conduct my extensive research on the best cheese spaetzle in Germany☺]

Fast forward to today… I am happy to report that the Matthias and I met up in Berlin this evening (pt. 3.) It was wonderful to see him again—I don’t think he has changed a bit!

Almost as much fun as seeing Matthias again, was what we did… attended the last art opening at der Palast der Republic (yeah Matthias's connections!) The building was built by the communists and used as the parliament building until the very end of the Cold War when asbestos contamination forced it to close. The building has since been cleaned and gutted and has been used as an avant-garde cultural haven for the last few years. It is slated to be torn down by the end of the year.

The theme of the exhibit was death, which goes along very well with the imminent fate of the building. The whole experience was very Berlin to me—unique people hanging around an old building (communist building no less) looking at very distinct art. The lounge had beds, a disco ball and a haze of smoke. What a cool vibe!

For an explanation of the opening (in German) and other cool tidbits about life in Berlin, check out Matthias’s blog at or

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Wednesday’s highlight was a Bach concert performed by the Bach Academy of Stuttgart at the Berlin Philharmonic. A 50-person choir and an orchestra performed one of Bach’s church services for a full 2 hours without an intermission. The concert was truly remarkable. The Philharmonic building was, in and of itself, something to see. I can’t wait to go back for other concerts this year!

An interesting note: last weekend I mentioned the amount of dog doo that is all over the city. Well now I have quantifiable proof. Our tour guide today told us that dogs in Berlin produce 30 tons of poop per day. OH MY GOSH!

(who else would discuss classical music and poop in the same journal entry!)

Here is a picture from my visit to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. In the background you can see the dome and one corner of the Reichstag. The construction cranes are from the new US Embassy that is being built next to the Brandenburg Gate, which you can also see in the picture. I hope the picture it does of good job of representing the many faces and time periods of Berlin.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Communism "Stinks"

I’ve had a great start to my week in Berlin. Monday we visited the German Bundestag and Bundesrat (lower and upper houses of parliament). Both buildings are architecturally very dynamic—mixing the old and the very new.

We also met with a professor at the Humboldt University to discuss law in Germany. Our group leader commented that the building smelled like the old East Berlin. I guess this proves that Communism stinks! (sorry weak joke!)

Tuesday turned out to be another fascinating day for my inner international affairs geek! We started the day with a visit to the Memorial the Murdered Jews of Europe. The memorial is made up of more than 2700 concrete blocks at varying heights. The idea is that one can enter the memorial from any side and the number and placement of the blocks do not represent anything. It is up to the individual visitor to have take out of the experience what she wants. Underneath there is an information center/museum. What made the visit interesting and horrifying was when one of the Russian fellows started questioning our guide (who was a museum curator) about the memorial’s portrayal of Russia in the war and after. The discussion was also difficult because people needed time to digest content of the information center. While I did not find it to be as moving as the Holocaust Museum in DC, it was still very powerful.

After the memorial we met with the deputy editor of Die Welt, one of the largest newspapers in Germany. He had some unique perspectives on the upcoming election, but the discussion really got rolling when the Russians started debating the German-Russian relationship and how it will change if Angela Merkel (the conservative challenger who is from the former East) becomes chancellor. As one person was extolling the virtues of Russia, someone else was telling about her grandmother who lived in one of the Baltic States who was sent to Siberia to a work camp—quite a hot topic! The Americans sat around the table in quiet shock.

P.S. I saw Cheryl Crow on a German (maybe Austrian) variety show on Tuesday night and she didn’t know American the Beautiful—totally embarrassing!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Status Report

Day #5 in Berlin and I am happy to report that I am starting to settle in and am getting used to the city:

On the down side:

1. There is graffiti and dog poo EVERYWHERE! It is unbelievable! The dogs can’t help it, but I swear I will chase after any hoodlum I see spray-painting around the city!

2. I have not yet found an apartment. I had my first appointment to see an apartment yesterday. It was okay, but not what I was hoping for. The search continues… Will I be an Ossi or a Wessi?

On the positive side: (no worries, this list is longer)

1. Berlin has a great vibe and I am thoroughly enjoying the street musicians. It was great to hear the Chattanooga Choo-choo and the Charleston being played in the Potsdamer Platz subway station this afternoon. It also did my heart good to hear non-Americans singing along!

2. I remembered to bring my own shopping bags to the store today! For those who don’t know, you have to pay per shopping bag in Germany. I don’t even want to count the amount of money I have spent buying Tuete (shopping bags) in the last two weeks. It is an interesting exercise in realizing how much packaging Americans throw away. Germans also pack their groceries into their shopping bags much faster than Americans. I still don’t understand how this is done, but I am working on it!

3. I discovered GIGANTIC teeter-tauters at the Potsdamer Platz today. This is a most exciting discovery. There are four and each one is the length of a large flagpole. Now all I need as visitors come and “play” with me!

4. I have successfully applied for a received my visa and have registered with the city. Everything worked like (German) clockwork and I didn’t even have to cry or pretend to not speak German to get my way☺

5. There is a driving range RIGHT DOWN TOWN—1/2 mile from the Brandenburg Gate! Seeing the range out the window of the subway train was like having a religious experience!

6. I am getting the hang of the subway system (at least a better grasp than I have on the German train system.)