Monday, May 10, 2010

Not Going to Title this Post BEARlin

Because that would just be too awful. For those of you who don't know why it would be terrible: the spirit animal or whatever of the city of Berlin is a bear. They are everywhere (statues of bears, not saying that Berlin is overrun with grizzlies).

So yes, last weekend was an Erasmus trip to Berlin. Good fun, would have been upgraded to Great fun had it not been really cold and grey. I really think I'm starting to get seasonal affective disorder. The 10-day forecast on is straight showers until Wednesday. I am looking forward to Monday because it's "scattered showers" instead of the regular kind. At least 70% of my conversations involve me complaining about the weather. I want to ride my bike. I want to go hiking. I want to see the sun.

That's the last I'll whine about it on here, but it's a big part of my life these days and I gotta be real on the internet~

Anyway, back to Berlin:
It was my first time in Northern Germany and in Eastern Germany, both of which I was very excited about. How does it compare to Southwestern Germany? It may have been the tours we went on and the constant reminders of "HEY GUYS this used to be two cities! There was a wall!", but it seemed to be chock full of history, much more so than Bamberg or Mainz. Or maybe just a different kind of history, namely, COMMUNIST history! Communistory, if you will. What other city west of Poland boasts a Marx/Engels statue?
Probably not that many! Also, there were countless opportunities to get your pictures taken with Eastern Europeans dressed up as American, German, and Russian soldiers; vendors hawking fake pieces of the Berlin wall; and memorials of all shapes and sizes. Another cool thing about Berlin was that it is a huge city, meaning there were fun and interesting things almost everywhere I looked, from the twee heart in a meadow above to this cool dude:Watching a guy who had to be at least 60 do skateboard tricks outside of a church that has been bombed-out for half a century while a group of protesters marched by on the other side of me made me fall for Berlin a little bit.
I didn't say it was a big group of protesters. The ever-present street art was another major plus in my book. Everything from scrawled profanities to regular ol' tags to works of art gave the (hideous) post-war buildings a little bit of character.
Other cool things from Berlin included this piece of scathing commentary on the American culture of culinary excess:
Riding an octobike around the square in front of Brandenburger Tor:

This was insane amounts of fun for my adrenaline-starved soul. Our driver jerked us around while extolling the virtues of learning the German language. Highly recommended.

Also visited the holocaust memorial:

It's an interesting concept because of it's abstractness, I think. The knowledge of what it stands for allows you to interpret what could be seen as a boss laser-tag arena in a much more sobering light. Not expressing myself well here, suffice it to say that it's a cool thing.

We also got to tour the Reichstag, of course. Our teeth chattering, we stood on the roof and listened to the tour guide point out the Berlin landmarks by night. It was really pretty. Interesting fact: the German parliament can vote by door

If you click on the picture, you see that one door is labeled "Ja", one is "Nein", and one is "Enthaltung". All of the members leave the room and file in school-assembly style through the door which best describes their feelings. This picture also features the giant German eagle I assume they sacrifice oxen to and chairs that are not purple but "Reichtags-blau", a color designed especially to look good on TV.

We also visited Sanssouci in Potsdam, the summer palace of Frederick the Great. Really pretty, obviously, especially the gardens.
You can see the palace up on the hill there, flanked all the way down by mini-greenhouses that were used to grow grapes and figs. Efficient!

And here is the grave of Freddy himself, next to those of his nine dogs:
The potatoes commemorate the fact that is was FtG that popularized this starchy pillar of the German diet. People who haven't been here don't understand what kind of contribution this is to the cuisine here, but trust me when I say it's a Big Deal.

After a stroll and an ice cream in Potsdam city, it was back on the bus for another 6-hour-long drive back to Bamberg sweet Bamberg. Along the way, the weather taunted us by being awesome.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


It came to my attention via a skype session that I did not post a promised blog. As a peace offering, here's a picture of me and Max being normal siblings. I am the disinterested and jaded older sister and he is the manic little monster who stole all my parents' love.

Off to Berlin tomorrow, probably will have sporadic internet access at best so don't expect a post. Although, given my track record, you probably weren't expecting one anyway!