Tuesday, August 31, 2004 ::: oh, and I guess I should mention that I know other real live people with weblogs, who despite their protests to the contrary are interesting people as well as good friends of mine.
Building on Friedrichstrasse, near Galleries Lafayette. I seem to recall that there used to be a storefront here with "ALLES IST BAR" (=everything is possible) written in the window in big gold letters. but not anymore.
The walk symbol is called an "Ampelmänchen" ( = little stop-light man), and there is also a corresponding Ampelmänchen for the don't walk symbol. Walk is "Der Geher" and Don't Walk is "Der Steher." I was going to take a picture of the Steher but almost got hit by a truck bowling down the road and thought the better of it.
Friday, August 20, 2004 ::: so my journey is almost at an end. Today is my last day of classes, and I've been putting off my homework until the last minute. This morning I went shopping. I've been taking more pictures and they're finally organized but of course still not uploadable.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004 ::: So I've been checking out some more tucked away parts of the city. Spent the morning in Pankow, and saw the rather modest and run-down Schloss Niederschönhausen, where frederick the great plonked his estranged wife. the grounds are rather pretty though, very good for a Spaziergang. Pankow itself has a very east-european feel to it, and seems mostly populated by retirees, or maybe that's who's out at ten in the morning. I also recently had the opportunity to check out the märkisches museum which is in an old medieval building and filled with an eclectic assortment of exhibits, mostly from the nineteenth century but from other periods as well. the old ladies who run the place are quite friendly, or maybe just starved for a little attention in their perennially almost empty museum.
Friday, August 13, 2004 ::: so there's an expat rag in berlin, and it's pretty much what you'd expect, kind of arty, kind of sleazy, and veering between taking itself too seriously and arch self-awareness. the latter tendency shows through in the letters section in particular.
I was supposed to go to city museum this morning but got the time wrong, so I have a bit more free time than I had expected. I'm also beginning to realize that my time here is quite limited, so I had better make the most of it.
Thursday, August 12, 2004 ::: so last night I more or less spent the whole time drinking beer and speaking in english. slightly hung over this morning but drank a lot of water and started feeling better. also, yesterday morning I went to the pergamon museum which is pretty cool, especially the ishtar gate, which in my opinion is more impressive than the pergamon altar.
otherwise, not too much going on. I'm planning on taking a lot of pictures of berlin graffiti, since there's a lot of neat stencil stuff. of course, it's still pretty hot and so I may opt to stay indoors, or at least someplace shady.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004 ::: so, as promised, some lovely pictures, which sadly aren't mine. Sans Souci Palace, where frederick the great and voltaire and that whole in-crowd hung out. The Charlottenburg Palace, where I saw the concert. I gather that the prussians were rather fond of palaces. and gilt-covered walls and furniture. and parks full of homoerotic greco-roman statuary, of which I have snapped a few pictures.
speaking of homoeroticism, I tried to find the schwules museum (the gay museum) this morning only to discover that like many things in berlin, it is not open very often. there is a guided tour tomorrow and otherwise I have to wait till saturday. meh.
and speaking of local customs, I have discovered that one thing that berliners do NOT like to do is make change. And I'm not talking about just waltzing into a store and demanding change for a 100-euro note. Even when you go into a coffee shop and pay 2 euros and 50 cents for coffee and a pastry, and then present a 5-euro note, the shopkeepers get very upset. It would be preferable to whip out a gun and rob the store than make change for 5 euros. Another sore spot with berliner shopkeepers is failing to listen when they explain that there is a twenty cent deposit on cans and bottles. Failing to acknowledge the existence of the deposit means that you are Bad Person out to destroy the environment. or something. when they get mad, they start speaking german too fast for me to understand very well.
These days, we Americans are also somewhat apprehensive about the whole anti-americanism thing going on in europe. and I have to say there here in berlin, home of militant pacifism and generally the sort of people that neocons roll their eyes at and all that, I have encountered hardly a whiff. no one has asked my why I am a bloodthirsty fascist-imperialist or anything along those lines. Not that I'm planning on becoming one anyway. However, for those of you dear readers wishing to experience some good old fashioned euro-snobbery, rest assured that there are a few pockets still flourishing in berlin. A favorite subject in particular is the proponderance of happy endings in american movies. of course, indie american movies don't always make it across the pond, but whatever.
and now I must attend to my homework that I've put off until the last moment. bis später, meine damen und herren.
Monday, August 09, 2004 ::: ach, so wenig zeit hier umzuschreiben. anyway, it's been a pretty busy past couple of days. the concert was great, and I was quite surprised to discover that frederick the great can actually compose decent music. yesterday I went to potsdam along with a few goethe institut friends and it was hot and sunny. and expensive. and tiring. but still worthwhile - Sans Souci is surprisingly small and perhaps a little overdecorated, but then again, what's a palace without gilt? the grounds are lovely, and the town of potsdam has a lot of medieval buildings. hopefully I'll have a chance to go again before I leave. we also saw cecilienhof where the potsdam conference took place with truman, churchill and stalin.
today I went and saw the bundestag. the goethe institut had thankfully arranged it so that we didn't have to stand in the unglaublich long line, although we did sit through a long and not-too-understandable lecture on the intricacies of the german federal government before having all of ten minutes to see the glass dome atop the bundestag. the view is breathtaking. hopefully I'll have the time to come back and make some links, but other people are waiting to use the computers at the moment.
Saturday, August 07, 2004 ::: na ja. I've been experiencing a lot of laptop frustration of late. just spent about an hour trying to connect at the goethe institut with no luck. so still no pictures. In class yesterday we gave little presentations about our neighborhood tours and apparently one of the groups got a little slice of gay life in berlin. this was, of course, the group that included the polish nun.
as for me, I haven't been up to too much - I went to friedrichshain again this morning and had a fabulous brunch which included smoked salmon, pickled herring, cheese, plum tarts, crepes, assorted fresh fruit and whatever else I could stuff into myself. I would have taken a picture but had forgotten my camera at home. there was also a beerfest on frankfurter allee, but ten in the morning was a little too early for me to have a german-sized beer. there was also a lot of wurst for sale, including horse sausage, which I did not venture to try, but seemed a popular treat with the crowd nonetheless.
my landlady has gone on a spur-of-the-moment trip to the beach in poland, leaving me with the apartment to myself. again, no grandiose plans, but she does have lovely balcony for sitting out on in the evenings.
anyway, that's it for today's entry. this evening I'm going to a concert at the charlottenburg palace, which will include a composition by frederick the great.
Friday, August 06, 2004 ::: so it's been really hot in berlin, and yesterday we had to a little outdoor project for class, doing a little historical research on the neighborhood. I was more or less ready to melt, although now at least I walk around the area an not get myself instantly lost in the maze of tiny streets. I tossed my pictures on my laptop and some of them turned out quite nicely. until I get those pictures up, here's someone else's berlin photoblog.
oh, yes, and I had lunch at a thai place in the friedrichstraße Bahnhof and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was.
anyway, today's entry is rather short because I have to go do some extra shopping and work a little more on my homework.
Thursday, August 05, 2004 ::: so where did I leave off? Ah yes, the hotel. every other building in the neighborhood was coated with graffiti, but the hotel sparkled on the outside - every corner was cleaned to perfection. The inside was also pretty nice. I checked in and promptly went to bed, even though it was only about 8pm or so. slept for nearly 12 hours. got up, had breakfast and read the berliner morgenpost and was happy that I pretty much understood all the stories. checked out, went for a stroll and discovered that I had been in the area last time, and was near a very large second-hand store that I hope I have a chance to visit again before I leave. Then I checked in at the goethe institut, took a grammar and vocabulary test that more or less indicated that I had forgotten everything, came back "home" to potsdamer platz, and then went to go visit the charlottenburg palace, only to discover that it was closed on mondays. I strolled around a bit and came back and got my stuff a bit more organized and made myself gemütlich.
the next day I had breakfast with my landlady who has lead a very cosmopolitan life in brazil and chile. Then I went to class - I'm the only american. there rest of the class consists of several poles and italians, a spaniard or two, a canadian, a french woman living in switzerland, a hungarian and probably someone else that I've forgotten momentarily. one of the poles is a nun, and her mere presence seems to instill waves of lapsed catholic guilt in me. I confessed to her that I hadn't been to church in ages.
anyway, I think that the makeup of the class is such that I am not tempted to speak english all the time. the canadian guy is thankfully equally dedicated to speaking german.
that evening I tried a filipino restaurant down the street from me. I was quite disappointed - the pancit was bland and came without calamansis or even a lemon. and the lumpia were not like any lumpia I had in my three years in manila. I guess they cater to german tastes.
the next day I went to jewish museum in the morning. there was a mixup with our guide and so we had a lot of time to kill, so I hung out in the museum courtyard, snapped a few photos and discovered that behind the museum there was a field with some farm animals, all looking rather out of place in the middle of kreuzberg. the museum tour dealt mostly with liebeskind's architecture and symbolism of the holocaust and I was hoping to see more of pre-holocaust stuff. perhaps I'll go back if I have the time.
last night I went to a goethe institut stammtisch and discovered that it was mostly populated by people I hadn't met before. it was a little awkward but a few familiar faces trickled in and so it got a little bit more social. I met a norwegian woman and got to practice my norwegian a little too. it seems that my german has pretty much taken over, even if it was the opposite just a week ago.
so more updates as things develop. So far things have been pretty enjoyable although perhaps not the sort thing that makes for exciting description.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004 ::: So now I´m at the goethe institut where I have more time to write. the story so far:
I packed up all my stuff, having decided to bring my digital camera, which meant that I had to bring my laptop to upload pictures with, meaning that I might as well bring my ipod and why not my travel speakers since that´s what they´re there for. combined with my hefty assortment of books this meant for some extremely heavy luggage. I stumbled down to 17th street and discovered that there was not a cab in sight, started walking towards mass ave, finally hailed a cab to union station, was grossly overcharged but didn´t feel like arguing. took the train up to bwi with some very loud new yorkers, and got on the plane. I took icelandair this time, which meant that the plane was full of blond people. I sat next a very bling bling elderly russian couple who were quite nice. then I got off at reykjavik for a flight change. iceland is very brown and rocky. scenic I guess if you´re into stark landscapes. of course all I saw was the airport so I should perhaps withhold my judgment for the time being. on the flight to berlin I sat next to a nice couple and chatted for a long long time, and then ran into them on the train into the city. Got to potsdamer platz, met my host, who is an old hippie of sorts. ran a few basic errands, had my first ever doner kebab, although I later discovered that my system isn´t quite ready for meat yet, and then went to hotel that refused to cancel my reservation.