Friday, March 31, 2006

On The Road Again

After a week in Berlin, I am on the road again—on a 14-day study tour of Germany and Brussels with the other 19 fellows. We began the trip in Leipzig, where I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the city is! I expected it to be depressed and communist looking. While there are parts that have not been rehabilitated, the downtown area is beautiful.

Monday, we met with the commissioner for foreigner issues and learned about the challenges of diversifying the city since ‘89. During communism, the only foreigners in the city were Vietnamese workers who were forced to take birth control and not allowed to integrate into the community. Creepy! Monday afternoon we headed to Goitzsche. The giant quarry has been turned into a park and a series of lakes in an attempt to repair the environmental damage that mining caused in the area. The lake is clean because the coal that is still in the ground helps oxygenate the water and acts as a giant Britta Water Filter of sorts. The picture only shows half of ONE of the lakes.

A listing of some of the cultural offerings at the factory

Tuesday we visited a German history museum and an old cotton-spinning factory that is now used as gallery and studio space for visual artists. It was on this excursion that we encountered the first horrifying cultural incidents of the trip. At the first gallery, three Russians popped the bubblewrap that made up part of the installation...until the gallery owner freaked. In the second gallery, a different Russian started peeling tape off of a desk that was part of an art installation. While visiting three (normally closed to the public) studios, most of the Russians took video and photos of unfinished art and the artist, without asking. One of the artists complained-- oops!

there is an ashtray built into my bathroom!

Wednesday we loaded onto a bus and headed “south of the weisswurst equator” to Munich. We made a quick stop in Bayreuth to see the 2 opera houses, but spent most of the day traveling. I’m quite sick at the moment, so I was very happy to have a day to rest on the bus (though unfortunately sneeze on everyone around me.) As a side note, being sick has emphasized how German I am becoming. I started to feel yucky and my first thought was that I needed to wrap my scarf around my neck and start carrying little packages of tissues in my purse. No kidding!! Luckily, I am now back to “to heck with the scarf, get me some Actifed!”

Yesterday we met with two research institutes in Munich and had dinner at the Andechser am Dom brewery. All of the “scholars” seem to be doing a great job of “researching” which city has the best beer. Munich seems to have beaten Leipzig, but the trip is still young! My favorite quote of the night was, “it’s a party in your mouth, that ruins your body.” Look at the cutie I met outside the restaurant;-)

More in a few days.

P.S. I am no longer serving as the Wilmersdorf branch of the Buergeramt. T-Mobile gave me a new number. Now that's customer service;-)