Berlin, in Retrospect

March 18th, 2007 § 0 comments

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.

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