And leaving the best for last, Mustafa's Gemuse Kebap. If you have never tried Döner Kebap, you need to. If you are currently in North America, don't bother; what you can find there is not the real thing. However, if you are in Berlin, stop by Mustafa's, outside the Mehringdamm U-Bahn station. We were told it was the best in the city and so we went, and we were not disappointed. It's all about the care they put into it. The twist of lemon at the end alone made the experience, let alone the singing while preparing our order.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Growing up, I was roughly aware of this thing known as the Berlin Wall and apparently it had something to do with the fall of communism, but beyond that I had no knowledge of what the Wall was, what it symbolized, or how it really impacted the lives of the people of the GDR.
Restored/Preserved section of the two walls with Death Strip at the Berliner Mauer Memorial
I didn't realize until I got here in Berlin just how much of an impact these 300 km or so of concrete, rebar, and sewage piping have had on this city, but it is clear and remains to this day. The wall divided a city, a culture, families and friends, many had no communication with each other for the entire 28 years the wall was intact.
Wall mural (restored) in the East Side Gallery
Following the fall of the wall, two cultures, formerly together, then separated for 28 years, were reunited. The scars, however, still remain almost 20 years later and will likely stay for a lot longer. Interestingly, a lot of the coolest parts of the city lie in East Berlin, possibly because of chance/strategy during the bombing raids of WWII, possibly because the communists (GDR) wanted to show off to the Westerners who could see across the wall into East Berlin, or maybe the new construction that has occurred over the last 20 years has focused on building up the East even more, as there is a new opportunity for monumental construction. Very likely it is a combination of all three.
Wall near the Third Reich Air Force Ministry (GDR Ministry of Ministries)
Not a whole lot of the wall is left to see. There are a few places where portions still stand, however. Sadly, the wall has been damaged a lot by tourists chipping off pieces of the wall for souvenirs, destroying it in the process. In several places, the wall has been very badly eroded by "wall-peckers" and is now kept behind a fence. Oh the irony.
An interesting thing to try to get your mind around is that while West Berlin was surrounded on all sides be Eastern Germany, the wall was built to keep the East German people within East Germany, that is out of West Berlin. The wall kept citizens of the GDR within the communist sea surrounding an "island of capitalism" - (Tour guide's words, not mine). It's a unique situation to be put in. People were breaking into, instead of out of, an area.
All in all the wall serves as a real reminder for how different ideologies can lead down a dangerous pathway ultimately resulting in tragedy. The people of Germany are a people who remember their past, apologise for their mistakes, and move forward into the future determined not to repeat their missteps. Reminders of this are a daily presence that keep the past from repeating. I feel inspired to take the philosophy of the German people with me and move forward, determined to make my mark and bring about change for the better, but always remembering my past.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
The nice thing is, this gives me a get out of jail free card. I can walk up to some huge guy, tell him that his mother wears army boots in German, and then say that it was a misunderstanding because I speak English. We can both laugh about it as he beats the living tar out of me.
In fact, it also works the other way too.
Me: "Your mother was a hamster and your father reeked of elderberries!"
Random passerby: "What?"
Me: "Ha ha. Entschuldigung. Ich spreche Deutsch. I meant to say: 'What a nice day for a walk outside!' "
.......and because I can't help myself:
Germans like to fahrt. Many look forward to enjoying long, relaxing fahrts. Often, they will fahrt together and enjoy food while fahrt-ing. There's nothing better to help you forget about work than to just unwind while you fahrt. I am fahrt-ing right now, and have been for more than a week now. I think everybody enjoys a nice, relaxing fahrt.
Edit: Now I actually understand the language, I realize that the word I was looking for was reisen, or perhaps feiren, but not fahren. Let it stand, however, to be proof of my naievetee. And let the last word show that I still have no idea how to spell.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
I think my two weeks here shall be too short. Ich leibe dich, Berlin.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Some things I noticed about how the German landscape is different from Canada:
-No wasted space: everything is housing, farmland or dense forest, there's no empty lots, sprawling suburbs or other inefficient use of space
-Terra cotta terra cotta terra cotta: all the roofs (rooves) of houses are clay tiles, or al least that colour, and siding is almost always white, making the houses look uniform, but not in the cookie-cutter suburban North American way
-Canola! Maybe I just caught it at the right time, but about a third of the fields are a rich yellow of canola plants.
-Deciduous trees all seem too light. Maybe its just early in the season, but I'm thinking the trees here just have lighter pigment than the maples I'm used to
-Forests that remain are thick and cluster densely, and much more uniform than the mixed forests at home. I don't think they would be reforested but the trees tend to cluster with like in dense sections.
One last thing: It's easy to forget that no matter how dark it is on the ground, up above the clouds it's always sunny. No wonder pilots always seem so happy. Or maybe it was the couple drinks he knocked back before takeoff.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
As much as it sounds like I should be nervous, I'm really not. Perhaps just because at this point everything is out of my hands. If anything goes wrong, it won't be my fault (and so I can blame someone else :) ). Maybe that speaks for having adequate preparation, but the next closest thing I've ever done was move to university, and then I was nervous about the experience for months beforehand. I think I might just be mellowing out.
Or maybe I'm just naive. We'll see :D
I have definitely found myself saying more and more that I will have to just solve any problems that come up on the fly (like catching trains in Frankfurt and public transit in Berlin), as there is no way I can prepare for the millions of backup plans I would need otherwise. And thank goodness, I think I would have smacked the neurotic me that used to get so worked up about planning.
Regardless of it all, I am getting unbelievably excited for this trip. I can't begin to describe it. I look forward to seeing what life is actually like on the other side of the pond, versus what I've gleaned from tv and books. And maybe I'll see a sight or two while I'm there. You never know.
The next time anything appears here I'll be in Berlin, rockin' hard. Should be good times. Stories will follow.
So.... Tschuss Kanada, Hallo Deutschland!
*I don't count a trip to Kentucky when I was 10