Donnerstag, 24. Februar 2011

Berlin on the Spree River

We left on Wednesday morning on a big comfy bus. Six hours to Berlin. It was a dream really. The whole time I was there I couldn't stop thinking: this is one of the most historically important cities in the world. So much has happened in Berlin and it has been the scene of so much governmental upheaval that it is hard to ignore its significance. The first night we walked around a large portion of the city. We passed the eerie shadows of the Holocaust Memorial. We strolled through Potsdamer Platz. We were overwhelmed by the glory of the Brandenburg Gate. We got lost on the U-Bahn (subway). I learned that the lights in East Berlin for pedestrian crossings are different from the ones in West Berlin (check facebook pictures to see what I mean). That night some girls and I walked deeper into the city to seek some night life. Since it was Wednesday we didn't find any, but we did see the Berlin Dom, the TV tower, and some other important and fascinating landmarks. John F. Kennedy is loved in Berlin because of his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in Schoeneberg. We saw a museum dedicated to the Kennedy family, but the sign read "Museum The Kennedys". We thought it was funny because it was in English, but the translation was a bit odd.
The next day we went on a bus tour through the city and stopped at the longest section of the remaining Berlin Wall. There is a lot more than I had expected. We took pictures next to the incredible graffiti and murals. It was such an interesting sensation to be there touching that concrete and metal. It felt so important to be there. I think that meant something. Somehow it did. I saw history. I touched it. I imagined what it was like during Soviet occupation. Somehow I was there.
Next stop was the Holocaust Memorial. It is incredible. It consists of 2, 711 cement blocks spread through a large square. They are pretty close together, but it is easy to walk amongst them. When looking across the tops they seem to be fairly short and not that intimidating. However, once inside you begin to see that the surface they are sitting on slopes down. You begin to walk down hill. The cement blocks grow taller and taller all around you. The halls get narrower, noise travels differently. Walking past each block I thought someone was going to jump around the corner. I constantly looked from left to right in fear that I would run into someone. My heart beat quickened along with my pace. It was the most I have ever been affected by a memorial. What happened to me was exactly the artists intention.
We then went to the Jewish museum, which is not specifically dedicated to the Holocaust. I was pleased to hear that because when most non-Jewish people think of Jews we think of the Holocaust, when in reality Judaism is one of the world's oldest religions and consists of a lot more than that horrible event. The museum was in the shape of a star of David, but broken so that it was maze-like. You were led in many directions to many different times in the history of Judaism. It took forever and I didn't see everything, but it was really interesting to learn about the history of the religion. I even learned how to write my name in Hebrew!
After that we went to Checkpoint Charlie. I could talk about this museum all day. It has the most documentation, footage, evidence, and objects I have ever seen designated to purely the years of the Wall. It is set up in the apartment building right next to where the border crossing used to be. It is on the border with West Berlin. It was a major border crossing for Allied troops. It soon became an important means of escape for East Berliners into the West. They were often given help from the building at this checkpoint. It was incredible to walk through the museum and see all of the ways in which people had tried, failed or succeeded in crossing the border. Hot-air balloon, submarine, stuffed in suitcases, in the floor of a car, boats, etc. The list goes on. My brain was full to the point of bursting when I left with new knowledge and fascination for that history.
I went to my first club that night. It was the most fun I have ever had and that is all I will say about that.
The next day, Friday, we went to the Stasi Prison Museum in Potsdam (not in Berlin). It was quite sobering. I got to see the cells that the Stasi put people in to await questioning. Some were about 10 feet by 10 feet and held up to 20 people at a time. I also saw the rooms and the interrogation chair.
I got a new hair cut in Potsdam as well. It was entertaining because the stylist only spoke German and I don't think she was too impressed with me. She did a good job though and in the end I don't think she minded cutting my hair all that much.
After that we went to Schlosses (castle) Sanssouci. It was nice, but not as nice as the Residenz in Wuerzburg.
The next day we had a tour of Reichstag or the house of Parliament where Angela Merkel works. I got to see where German law and order is carried out. It is a serious matter too, we were all searched very thoroughly before entering the building.
I also got to go to the Ritter Sport factory store and invented my own chocolate bar: roasted caramelized almonds, yogurt bits, and cocoa nibs all together with milk choclate. YUM!

Mittwoch, 9. Februar 2011

The Continuing Story...

I have now been in Germany for 3 weeks. I don't know why, but it feels like an eternity. This past weekend I went to Wuerzburg to visit some family. It was so great to see some relatives; people who know me and care about me. I had a grand old time with the fam: walking around the city, visiting old wealthy residencies, exploring museums, munching on Kuchen while sipping cappuccino, and living in the language. My favorite place we went to was the Residenz. It is this absolutely enormous old baroque style mansion that used to house various important officials and bishops. It reminds me of my favorite genre of literature (19th century romance). The ceilings are elaborately painted with gorgeous frescoes and gilded designs. There is one room called the Spiegal (mirror) room, because it quite literally is made out of mirrors. There are no visible walls. Outlining the mirrors are the most delicate detailed gold designs. The entire room reflects itself and your eyes almost hurt after standing in its shining glory for too long. This magnificence makes me long to time travel back to Elizabeth Bennet's time to bask in the glory of houses like the Residenz during their full glory. However, my aunt tells me that the Residenz was a Catholic building and therefore it held ZERO balls because dancing is just not Catholic. If I were the mistress of that house there would be minstrels playing every night! Alas, that wouldn't have been the case, but I can dream. I can close my eyes in those old castles and hear the hum of commotion from centuries before. I could imagine for hours about the glamor of those residencies.
Unfortunately, this Monday I woke up with a nasty cold... Poop. I hate being sick. It is lonely and depressing, especially when you are all alone. I stayed in my bed for two days wasting away behind the comfort of Grey's Anatomy and tea. I did do homework too, but that is not as memorable. Being sick makes me feel completely useless. I need to be doing something constantly or else I get antsy. I can't exercise or do much of anything. I did wash the dishes and that felt useful. Oh well. I am getting better slowly and I will go to school tomorrow.
I have been thinking about Valentine's Day... Some girlfriends and I are getting together tomorrow night to share chocolate fondue, wine, and a little bitching. I am looking forward to it, but alas I can't help longing for a Valentine. Alles Gute.