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ich bin ein Berliner!

Written on: Thursday November 1st, 2007

A journal entry from: Fall for Germany

I haven't written in a while.  i know.  i'msorry.  I went to Berlin.  And Brussels.  And a hockey game in Koeln.  And two museums. None of that explains why I haven't updated though.  I'm getting apathetic. 

So, let's start with Berlin. 

first impressions. A modern city, but you can still see the effects of WWII on it.  It was dirty.  It was multicultural. It was huge.  A modern city.

The train ride took 5 hours.  Since about half the group stayed out all night (literally. it was Halloween) partying and we had to be at the train station early, they all slept on the way.  It was a bit quiet.

First stop in Berlin was a short tour.  And by short I mean about 10 minutes down the road to the Neue Synagogue. Most of it was destroyed during WWII.  About half of it has been rebuilt and the rest of it just the foundation so you can see how great it had been.  The portion that has been rebuilt is more or less a museumfrom the beginning of the church to the destruction of it.  The only reason we still have what is there is because a non-Jewish fire chief persuaded the Nazi's to not finish burning it.  Nice man.  Took a risk.

One nice thing about a Chew led city tour is that it's a much looser format.  The mornings to early afternoons were spent touring or doing a specific excursion to a few places.  The afternoons were completely left up to us with the requirement that we do something educational or having to do with the culture in Berlin (and not sitting in a bar the entire afternoon).  So the first day (Thursday) about half of us went to the zoo.  They have Knut (the polar bear that was abandoned by it's mother a few years ago, taken care of by a zookeeper, and got massive media attention).  It was a lot of fun?but Knut should have had his name shaved into his fur because we had NO idea which of the 5 polar bears he was. At least I can say I saw Knut. For simplicities sake, I just call all of them Knut.  We took a lot of pictures of us posing in front of the animals as if we were the animals (i.e. act like a bear infront of the bear, waddle like a penguin, be a camel hump, be a human totempole in front of the totem pole (forgot the animal), etc) (the pictures are on someone else's camera, so i don't have them yet).  Afterwards, it was getting quite darkand kind of late, so we decided to see KaDeWe.  The full name is something much longer, but it's commonly called KeDeWe (Kaw-Dey-Vey) and is known as a huge mall (not american style,more like one giant store with many different (expensive) brands).  One entire floor is devoted to food.  Sallie bought a cake and shared it with the group? except we didn't have any plates so we have some awesome pictures of us eating it messily out of our hands. Oh, we also saw the lippenstift and powder compact which was sort of near it.  The"lippenstift" is a very tall church that looks like a giant lipstick tube (St. Michaels I believe). Next to it is a church that was bombed and never rebuilt.  On the other side of that is another part of the church that looks like a powder compact, hence the nicknames. 

The next day (Friday) we went to the Reichstag.  On the way, I saw part of a buildingthat was being rebuilt.  It was a bit like Dresden in that respect because not everything has been rebuilt.  A lot more though than Dresden.  Entering the Reichstag (it burned down,probably started by Hitler) is part of the orginal Reichstag where the Russianssigned it.  They captured Berlin first (we arrived a few months later) and signed all over the walls as a sort of "i was here" rememberence. We saw the "congresses" seating area which was rather cool.  I wish the US had more political parties.  The Berlin wall was built EXTREMELY close to the Reichstag. From the window you can see a black line of bricks marking where it hadstood (like, 100 feet from the building). see the picture.  The ceiling is really environmental. It heats/cools/keeps the sun from shining in peoples eyes in theparliament room.  It was basically rebuilt according to LEED standards. There are a lot of mirrors, and adjustableshades that follow the position of the sun.  its hard to explain. After that? I honestly cannot remember what I did. 

Saturday, we had a bike tour.  We woke up: it was drizzling and had been raining during thenight?. great.  Just when westarted the bike tour, the drizzle stopped.  YAY!  Though abit cold, our bike tour was pretty fun. We went back to the Reichstag, but we saw the original façade this time(we had gone in the new entrance the day before).  We saw the Brandenberg Tur, (kinda famous), Juden Memorial (controversial idea + prime real estate) and various other notable sites. Apparently they weren't very picturesque (or my hands were too cold)because I didn't take too many photos. On Sunday, 6 of the girls went to Prague realllly early in themorning.  In the afternoon, Bryan, Jason and Erik left for Warsaw. Sally, Mike, Miriam (AIB staff), Bjorn (AIB staff), and I stayed all day and saw some more sites.  We walkedalong some cool neighborhoods, had a bit of kaffee and kochen and went off togo see the East Side Gallery.  It's part of the Berlin Wall that, instead of being torn down, was left up and basically used as a barrier between a busy road and the Spree River.  In (insert date here), Berlin invited famous artists to turn the wall into art. Each artist got a section of the wall and created some amazing stuff, someof which is famous.  I've alwaysheard that public art discourage graffiti? you wouldn't have guess itfrom seeing the Berlin wall. Virtually every section, even the most famous, was defaced.  Sallie, who was in Berlin 2 years ago,said it wasn't nearly this bad then. It was so sad.  It seemedthat most of the art was done in 06: mostly tourists just signing their name and leaving their mark. When we got to the end of the wall, we saw someone inthe act of signing and their friends taking advantage of a broken section in cracks in the wall and taking away pieces.  I would have gone over there and told them to stop, but Ididn't know enough Angry German. Instead I took a picture.  Just before we picked up our luggage and got back on the train home, wewent to an art museum with a photo exhibit of three artists.   Sallie, Mike, and I have interesting discussions on art. They consider a lot less things "art" than I do.  We discussed it afterwards and decidethat one guy, who focused on the drug usage and teenage sexuality, basically was just taking porn and calling it art because there was a thematic idea.  Another photographer took pictures of nudes staring straight at the camera in a variety of stances.  It was a bit daunting how many he had.  The others thought it wasvaguely pornographic (though not in light of the other photographer though, itwas nothing).  I didn't.  It wasn't obscene; it just had nudes in unoriginal stances over and over again. I got rather bored of it. The third photographer was amazing, but they didn't have many of his work.  And them home? and then back to the train station.   Oh?Brussels gets a new blog.


From Scott on Nov 23rd, 2007

the tourists signing the wall look like hipsters. damn hipsters. call me. and I love your writing. you crack me up. you should be a journalist.