Berlin, in Retrospect

March 18th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

de1.gifAs regular readers already know, or have guessed from previous posts, I spent the last week in Germany, mostly in Berlin, generally pleasing myself and relaxing during my spring break from NYU.

For lack of any better terminology, the trip was fantastic. It’s been about five years since I was last in Germany, and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed Berlin. Since reunification, vast amounts of money have been poured into the city, and it shows, especially in the East, where Potsdamer Platz, the Reichstag, and the brand-new Hauptbahnhof (Main train station) are symbols of the so-called ‘New Berlin’: modern, clean, well-designed and open for business. The cost to rejuvinate the city must have run to many billions of Euros, but the result is incredible. It’s a bit of a shame that the West half of the city has become somewhat of a casualty in the process; the central parts of West Berlin seem to be neglected, especially near the Zoologischer Garten station, which, when contrasted with Stadtmitte, for example, looks quite run down and devoid of anything out of the ordinary.

John and I also spent a day visiting our friend Saskia in a very small town in Bayern: Bubenreuth, not too far from Nürnberg. We took the fairly lengthy train-ride down on a very fancy “ICE” [Inter City Express] train, and emerged in a field apparently in the middle of nowhere. It’s an interesting experience to alight a train and have no idea where you are. If you’d asked me to point to Bubenreuth on a map when we arrived, I wouldn’t have been able to.

I got the chance to exercise my lousy German-speaking skills while I was there. The trouble, I found, with trying to speak German-as-a-second-language in Berlin, is that most of the city’s inhabitants speak English better than I speak German. I’d often stammer out a sentence in German and get a response back in English. I’m sure it was my horrendous aussprache that gave me away. Still, it was useful to be immersed in German for a week, and to see and hear German constantly. It would be nice to return over the summer, too, to try and keep what little German skill I have sharp until the Fall semester.

Berlin thus far

March 13th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve been in Berlin since Saturday, after a fairly tough journey (see below), but now that I’m actually where I wanted to get to, things are going really well. A recap:

Saturday Evening: Met up with Kyrsti, a friend of John’s from Whitman College, who is currently living in Berlin working for a German member of Parliament. We visited “Laugh Olympics Berlin” an improv comedy show that’s held in a yoga studio–I guess the owner likes improv. Perhaps a bit like Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, but in Berlin, in a much trendier setting.

Sunday: Visited the Fernsehturm, and actually went up it this time rather than wandering around the bottom. I took pictures there, but in the tradition of pictures-from-tall-places, they’re not all that interesting unless you were actually there.

Monday: Visited Checkpoint Charlie for obligatory touristy stuff, and paid a visit to the neighboring museum, which houses some artefacts that people used to escape East Berlin, like hollowed-out cars and improvised hot-air balloons. Hung out for a little while in the Sony Center in the newly-built Potsdamer Platz. Met up with Kyrsti for dinner and drinks in the evening

Today: Had some coffee back over at Potsdamer Platz. Had a look at where John used to live in the ‘burbs. Well, not really ‘burbs, more like just-outside-downtown. Currently sitting in a café having a beer. How can you be mad at that?

I think we’re planning on visiting another of John’s friends on Thursday, a couple of hours outside of Berlin on the train.

My guess is that this is pretty boring knowledge just to read about. I suggest you go and have a look at my photos from this trip, which I am keeping updated, here.