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Birthday in Berlin

Written on: Monday September 17th, 2007

We left the Folkecenter at 3pm on Thursday the 13th of September. Fourteen hours later we arrived in Berlin. Don't believe the straight line drawn on the Google earth map! We certainly did not take a very direct route and actually ended up heading into the West side of Germany and back tracked towards Berlin- this was the only way to take a night train and arrive for Friday morning.

Moritz, Rob's German brewing buddy, met us at the train station. I'm glad he was there as we may have very well gotten ourselves lost in Europes largest and grandest of all train stations. This was certainly an indication of what we would see for the rest of our days in Berlin.

We toured around on Friday by foot with our personal tour guides Moritz and Julia. Rob was so excited about the beer that we basically stopped at a brew pub between every site! One of the brewpubs included the place where Moritz is currently working part time as a bartender while he is attending Brewmaster school. After returning back to Moritz and Julia's apartment, conveniently located in central Berlin, we enjoyed a fantastic home cooked meal and... drank some more beer. Moritz took us out to one of his favorite nightlife areas for the evening. Julia hadn?t spoken English since highschool and was a little rusty and shy to speak all day- but by the time we left the bar at 3 am she was giving English lessons to other random Germans on the train ride home. I think that she was excited to share all the new and important words we had spent the evening discussing: ?beaver?, ?booger?, ?chug?, ?barf?? yes, yes, they were all very mature words.

Saturday was a little bit of a write off (hmmm, can you guess why?) but we did manage to make it to the Zero Gallery (www.zero-project.org), an art gallery run by a new friend, Anna Krenz. We had met Anna a week prior when she came to spend a few days at the Folkecenter. Anna is an architect/journalist/artist and was hired by the Folkecenter to both draw a perspective drawing of the Folkecenter grounds and to build Preben (the Folkecenter founder) a website. Anyhow, we had a really nice visit at the art Gallery, although the current exhibition wasn?t that interesting (Anna had warned us)- just two video projectors showing a loop of some short Dutch ?artistic?? films.

Sunday, Rob and I (actually, mostly I) decided to go do some more ?touristy? type things and signed up for a four hour bicycle tour of the Berlin Wall and the former East Berlin. The tour was fantastic and very interesting. Our guide was a dutch man who worked in the TV industry, has lived in Berlin for the last 12 years and guided tours for ?fun?. He was a wealth of information and bombarded us with facts and stories. It?s difficult to comprehend and believe the awful conditions and restrictions of the former East Germany. The death strip- where anyone found in the control zone was shot without question, watchtowers manned with armed guards, young teenagers shot and killed trying to flee, touch-sensitive self-firing fences, the blowing up of a church in 1986 because it was too close to the control zone, the constant military presence? and it all happened less than twenty years ago.

We went out again on Sunday night - at midnight Rob was turning 28! We had another nice evening celebrating Rob?s birthday with our German friends.

On Monday, Rob?s birthday, we slept in and decided to do a boat tour of Berlin in the afternoon. There?s nearly 200kms of canals throughout the city and more bridges than in Venice. The boat tour was another great way to visit the city and the sites. After the re-unification of Berlin, there was suddenly a vast amount of open land available, a unique opportunity to revive the center and merge the two sides. Billions of dollars were pledged towards presenting the new ?Berlin? to the rest of the world? truly an architects dream-come-true story. What resulted is this fantastic mix: buildings from the late 19th century (including Museum Island- a UNESCO World Heritage Site), totalitarian architecture from the Nazis, futuristic-looking buildings like the Sony Center, the massive expressionist and artistic Chancellery building and the very impressive remodeled Reichstag. The Reichstag building was originally built in 1894 but redesigned and modernized, using ecological principals, in 1999. A large half dome was integrated into the roof of the existing building. The 800 ton steel and glass structure has a forty meter high viewing platform that is reached by traversing spiral ramps. In addition, a huge reflecting cylinder in the middle of the dome is designed to funnel sunlight into the entire building, eliminating the need for electrical lighting during the day. We took many pictures of this fantastic building- make sure to have a look in the photo album.

We were up at 4am on Tuesday morning to catch a train to Northern Germany. Sad to leave Berlin, but we were very excited to be attending the Husum Wind Energy Conference in Northern Germany. And that story will be our next blog!

 

 

From Alison & Angelo on Sep 24th, 2007

Hey you two! Great to hear from you...it is monday today and we are scheduled to leave this saturday for our book tour. we are being tested, severely. the fall ferry schedule came out, missing the ferry we had intended to take. our van has been towed to the mechanic twice in the last week (don't ask). hopefully the next time we hear from you we will be safely through the 22 hour ferry from port hardy to prince rupert. be well and have some beers for us, we could use it!