Friday, December 02, 2005

His Boots Are Made for Walking...

...And that's just what he did!

PM Lee of Singapore became Chancellor Merkel’s first official visitor yesterday.

Both sides prepared, Germany brought out the honor guard and, in theory, protocol on both sides discussed how the meeting would unfold.

But when Lee arrived, Merkel greeted him, they walked toward the honor guard to inspect the troops/have a photo op and Lee just kept right on walking… OOPS! He wasn’t stopped until he reached the end of the red carpet where a protocol person was standing!

The pictures on the front page of the Tagesspiegel this morning were priceless! The ones below are similar. I think the second picture says it all… Lee was obviously focused on the Doner kebab he was planning on having after his meeting, Angie is trying not to giggle and the band plays on.

I wonder who got canned/caned for this one! (Remember Michael Fay in the 90’s—OUCH!)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Finding the Next Kelly, Clay or Ruben

I spent part of yesterday evening watching the German version of “American Idol,” “Deutschland Sucht Den Superstar.” I can without a doubt say that the show is just as entertaining AND horrifying as the US version!

The format of the show is nearly identical. German Simon has a sharp tongue. German Paula is the nicest of the three and looks a little like Paula Abdul. German Randy is white and doesn’t say “yo, yo, yo, what’s up dawg,” but other than that he is also very similar to his American counterpart. German Ryan Seacreast is much like the metrosexual/EuroFab American Ryan, but with dark hair.

I am impressed that a number of the contestants play the guitar. Other than that the contestants are similar. The mix of good, bad and dreadful seems to be about the same☺ This week the judges think they have found German Clay Aiken—thin, a few pimples, spiky hair and can sing. You could see the euro signs in their eyes!

The added twist to the German version of the show is that the contestants sing in English. While there are some contestants who have NO idea what they are singing, when I think back to the US version there were also a number of English-speakers who had no idea what they were singing!

My favorite German insults from this week:

“You sound like a power drill”

“Just as there is a reason Stevie Wonder is not a designer, you are not a singer.”

Final Thoughts

Granny and Grandpa left yesterday morning so I spent the day catching up, killing dust bunnies, and thinking about all the fun I had in the last week! Not only did I enjoy showing everyone around the city, it was fun to show them a little bit of my everyday life in Germany.

Top 10 Lessons from the Trip:

10. "Germans are hard core. Even their toilet paper is hearty."-Katie

9. Recycling into so many categories is difficult for an apartment full of Americans to master in one week.

8. When traveling abroad, make sure you bring photocopies of your passport!

7. The US Embassy advertised a "Republicans in Germany" group on a bulletin board in the American Services waiting room. There must be a "Democrats in Germany" group. They need equal representation at the embassy.

6. The German word "dich" is not pronounced "dick" and such a word should not be said out loud on the subway. (the identity of the person who said this is being protected:-))

5. KaDeWe sounds like KuDuWu, LaTiDa, KeDeeWa, and WoopTiDo to untrained ears.

4. The Marriott makes a great Thanksgiving dinner! Yeah Germans:-)

3. The 100 bus is indeed a great way to tour the main highlights of the city

2. It is hard to keep 6 Americans out of the bike lane of the sidewalk!

1. There is no such thing as visiting too many Christmas Markets

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Never a dull moment in Berlin!!!

The plan for Monday was to get up early and visit the Reichstag (parliament building.) Just as we were about to leave, Granny realized that her purse was missing! This was an especially big problem because the purse contained jewelry, passports, credit cards, traveler’s checks, a drivers license and money. After a call and 2 visits to the restaurant we ate at on Sunday night, we decided we needed to get the passports reissued because G&G were scheduled to fly home Tuesday morning. The restaurant said the purse might turn up when the evening shift from the night before showed up for work, but the passport office closed before the time the evening shift began working. The restaurant was not able to get in touch with the evening manager.

So with snow beginning to fall, we headed to the consular section of the US embassy. Everyone from the security guards to the consular officers was very understanding and helpful. But the most unbelievable moment occurred when Granny and Grandpa sat down with the vice consul. He asked them where Boulder Court (their street) is. When Grandpa sternly answered “Rochester Michigan,” the vice consul asked, “how do you get from Adams to Boulder Court?” Assuming that the vice consul had done research to test if they lived where they claimed to live, Grandpa began to give the guy directions. The vice consul then said, “You must live near Stoney Creek.” Come to find out, the guy lived in Rochester and graduated from Adams High School in 1998. Small world! When I mentioned why I was in Germany, he said he did his masters thesis on European public diplomacy. Even smaller world!

Of course what story on this blog doesn’t have a happy ending…

We left the consulate for a couple of hours while the passports were being made. As we were buying subway tickets, my cell phone ran. It was the restaurant. The purse had been found!! Unfortunately, the money had already been paid for the new, expedited passports. But at least Granny would get her jewelry, travelers checks, etc… back!

As we headed back to the restaurant, the other “oh my gosh” moment of the day occurred. Two women walk onto the subway and start making out. (My internal monologue: “maybe Granny isn't paying attention. I would be very happy not discussing this with my grandparents.”) On no, Granny saw!
Granny: “Erin, do you think those two are a couple?”
Me: “Yes Granny I think they might be.”
Granny: “I wondered because they are all over each other. I also saw a transvestite advertisement in the metro station.”
Me (internal monologue): Oh brother! Why do people have to make-out in the subway? For the benefit of everyone, no PDA in the subway! Please!

When we got to the restaurant, the waiter explained that the manager saw the purse contained passports and locked it in a safe overnight, which is why the morning shift could not find it earlier. What a relief! After a relaxing lunch, we picked up the passports and spent the rest of the afternoon at a couple of yarn shops. What a day!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Weekend Fun!

The tour of Berlin continued on Saturday with a visit to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. While certainly a somber way to start the morning, it is hard to visit the city without remembering this part of history. Visiting the memorial led to a discussion about Uncle Lynn's capture, which is a topic I am always interested to know more about. The memorial itself is both visual stunning and very moving. After spending some time there, we headed east to Friedrichshein and Kreuzberg where 1300 meters of the Berlin wall still remains in tack. Everyone was amazed that the Wall was not thicker, but it is also very impressive to see the Wall stretch as far as the eye can see. From The East Side Gallery, it was off to meet Matthias and have a Doner Kebab. My parents loved seeing Matthias again and my grandparents liked putting a face to the stories they have heard for so many years! Unfortunately, the end of the day meant it was time for mom, dad and Katie to start packing to go home. Their suitcases were not too much heavier with new purchases—all the more reason to come back in August to do some more damage!

The PA Taylors left early Sunday morning, so I did a load of laundry, cleaned the bathroom and then greeted Granny and Grandpa, who were moving in with me for the rest of their visit. After we all got resettled, we did weekend breakfast the German way and went to brunch at a typical West Berlin café. After being very “schicky micky” at breakfast, we headed to the flea market. We all found “treasures” and I worked on my flea market dickering skills auf Deutsch! After warming up with coffee and tea, (we were very into the German café culture on Sunday) we hopped the subway to the Berlin Cathedral and saw the sun setting over the TV Tower, Cathedral and yet another Christmas Market. We had a great dinner at Hamlet, a local restaurant near my apartment and then came home and played a couple of card games.

What will Monday bring… stay tuned for the complete report…

P.S. the pictures belows are a collection from the last couple of days: KaDeWe and the creepy Christmas Man; eatting wurst; Holocaust Memorial; Berlin Wall; Berlin Cathedral and TV Tower