This should come as no surprise but while I’ve been in England, I’ve noticed some unusual differences between the States and here. And driving on the opposite side of the road isn’t one of them.
The Brits don’t have much American junk food and what they do have, the have to pay an arm and a leg for. $14 for a box of Lucky Charms? You wouldn’t pay more than $5 in the States. Then again, Lucky Charms and all other American junk food is imported and therefore, more expensive.
For the first time in my life, I’m ahead of the technological curve. Usually I’m months, if not years, behind on the latest technology (have, and still use, an ipod video) but the Kindle Fire has yet to reach British shelves, as I found out yesterday. So me reading on my Kindle Fire in the lobby yesterday came as a bit of a shock to the hotel worker who asked me about it.
Different words for different things. Here’s the short list (British word on left): Chips=fries, crisps=chips, pants=underwear, trousers=pants and petrol=gasoline
Breakfast standard includes sauteed mushrooms
British yogurt is thinner than yogurt in the US. (there’s also an added “h” in the spelling making it yoghurt)
Happiness and frustration during a football match are vocalized by very similar groans and moans from the crowd watching.
The Brits aren’t big on AC. In fact, if it’s too hot, you have to open a window to get some air flow.
I think that’s it so far. I’ll add more if I think of any.
Yesterday, Leslie and I had a leisurely morning. We decided to not attend the lecture for the day and instead lounged in our room writing postcards and checking email.
For lunch, we made our way over to Pret, a local sandwich chain that makes their sandwiches fresh each day and gives the leftovers to local homeless shelters. Once we grabbed our lunches, we attempted to find a place to sit and eat. We inadvertently made our way over to Magdalen (pronounced Maud-lyn) College, which was where we’d planned on meeting the rest of the group an hour or so later for a tour. We sat on the sidewalk next to the river to eat since we couldn’t find any tables to use.
After we finished our lunches, we still had an hour to kill, so we wandered down High Street and popped into whatever shops caught our eye. We went into a sweets shop, which reminded me of the sweets shop from the beginning of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I hadn’t planned on buying anything, but of course I did. I got some cherry licorice and a Banoffee and caramel chocolate bar. But the thing that surprised me the most was the box of Lucky Charms that cost 9 pounds! That’s roughly $14. Then, Leslie reminded me that it’s imported to England which is why it’s so expensive.
After perusing a few more shops, we made our way back to Magdalen College and met up with the rest of our group on the way. We toured the chapel, and were told by the Vice President of the College that Oscar Wilde had read a piece of scripture from the pulpit. We also saw where C.S. Lewis sat during services in the chapel.
After the tour, I headed back to the hotel while the others continued to wander about the city. I planned to meet everyone for dinner at 6. But instead of taking a 20 minute nap, I took an hour and a half nap and didn’t wake up until quarter after 6! I went downstairs anyway, thinking that I’d eat dinner at the hotel, but to my surprise, a few of our group were downstairs and we decided to eat at The Head of The River pub, which is just down the street from our hotel. I discovered Orange and Ginger cider, which tasted quite a bit like ginger ale and had gnocchi for dinner.
When we got back to the hotel, Leslie and I sat in the lobby with the rest of our group and finished watching the football match between Portugal and Spain.
Today, most of the group is heading to London for the day, so we’ll see what I end up doing. Leslie and I are going to London Saturday.
Today, we headed off to the Kilns, which is where C.S. Lewis lived from 1930 til his death in 1963. We were lead around the house by the Scholar in Residence, Johnathan, who actually lives at The Kilns. We also met the cat Warley, named after C.S. Lewis’s brother who lived at The Kilns with him. The cat took a liking to anyone who would pet him.
While touring the house, we learned that none of the furniture in the house was original, but was reconstructed through photographs taken throughout C.S. Lewis’ time at The Kilns. We also learned that, much like the Pevensie children in The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe were taken in by Professor Kirke during World War II, C.S. Lewis took in children during the London bombings in WWII. Though the woman he lived with, Jane Moore, the mother of a friend and fellow soldier, only allowed girls to live with them and she interviewed them personally before allowing them to stay.
The house is small and the stairs narrow, but it was really interesting to see where C.S. Lewis lived for over half of his life.
After we visited The Kilns, we walked up the street to C.S. Lewis’s church to see where he’s buried. The church also has a “Narnia window” that was installed in 1991. It depicts well-known characters and objects, like the Dawn Treader, from the books.
For lunch, we stopped at the Six Bells pub. It was a little crowded since there are 45 of us, including the group from Regent. We also had to go up to the bar to order food, instead of having some one come to our table and take our orders. We had fun though, and timed lunch perfectly because as soon as we were seated, it started pouring outside.
We had a lecture back at the church following lunch, then headed back to Oxford’s city center, where we split off for dinner and a bit of shopping.
For dinner, Leslie, Dr. Haller, Brandon, Mr. Nichols, Ryan, Laura, Jessica and I ate at the Turf Tavern, which was hidden in between some buildings. We had to go down a narrow alley way and I wasn’t sure if I was about to be in Oliver! or Sweeney Todd. We all made it to the restaurant in one piece and had a great time, chatting for nearly 3 hours. Though, I am a bit sick of pub food.
Tomorrow, we’re off to Magdalen College, where Lewis taught.
This morning, Leslie and I went to Blenheim Palace with her cousins. The drive was only half an hour and it was really nice. From the outside, the palace reminded me of Schloss Sansouci in Postsdam, Germany. The outsides looked very similar, but Blenheim is much bigger.
We started our day at the palace in the gardens, which were very pretty. We stopped at the little temple where Winston Churchill proposed to his wife and then we may have suck into a rose garden to take pictures of the flowers, but the gate wasn’t locked and we didn’t destroy anything so I think we’re ok.
After the rose garden, we made our way to the cascades, which is actually a dam, disguised as a waterfall. Then we finished our walk by the lake and headed back to the palace. Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim and there was a whole exhibition about him.
I was a little upset that I didn’t get the chance to take pictures inside the palace, but I got a bunch of pictures outside. We toured the palace for about 2 hours, then grabbed lunch. I had a delicious tuna panini with caramelized onions.
After lunch, Leslie’s family drove us back to Oxford so we could meet up with the rest of our group to tour Merton college. The tour was quick but once we were done, we started out journey to The Trout Inn.
Our journey took us on a four-mile walk, through the city, over the river, through the woods and through cow pastures before we got to our destination, about an hour and a half walk total. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it, but I did and we all grabbed a well-deserved pint once we got to the restaurant.
We spent four hours at the Trout and had a communal dinner. We all ordered something different and tried a bit of each other’s food. Everything was good.
After dinner, we had the option to walk back to Oxford from the Trout (which is in another town) and I decided it was best for me to take the bus back, since I’ve managed to hurt my foot in the 3 days we’ve been here.
Overall, today was lovely. The weather was gorgeous, it hasn’t rained since Saturday, and it was perfect for walking.
Tomorrow, we’re off to The Kilns, where C.S. Lewis lived.
Today started with a Full English breakfast, which was quite good. The stereotype of the British not drinking coffee is totally false, though. We had coffee with breakfast and it was good (not the watery, shameful excuse for coffee I had on the flight over). During breakfast, we discovered that more of our lost travelers had made it in late last night.
After breakfast, we headed off to Church. While we were waiting in the lobby to leave, we had a laugh with Leslie’s family over some of our group telling one of the girls to put pants on. Because over here, pants are underpants and “pants” to us are called trousers.
Leslie and I were expecting “high church” but what we got was very modern. I liked how they’d blended the modern with the old architecture of the building. I wish I’d gotten to take pictures but we got to the church a few minutes late. However, the service itself was a bit weird. We sang for at least 45 minutes, then took communion (which was actual wine) then sang some more and then, finally, we had the sermon. I didn’t really like the message and I didn’t quite know why the guy felt the need to mention that Paul wasn’t gender-biased. He kept emphasizing that fact and it didn’t make sense within the sermon.
We left as soon as the sermon was over because we had reservations at The Mitre Pub. The food was good and I had a pint of cider.
After lunch, we’d planned to go to Christ Church, where parts of the Harry Potter films had been shot, but it was closed for a concert. Leslie, her family, and I decided to go shopping for a bit, instead of punting. We headed off to the shops and got some neat things. I bought coasters that look like records and a dress (and now I can check the clothing mission off my list).
After shopping, we headed back over to the hotel. We waited around for a bit, because Leslie’s cousin Chloe had to go back to Uni for exams tomorrow. Once they got back, we went to a pub for dinner. But, the pub we went to wasn’t serving dinner because it’s Sunday. We finished our drinks then headed off to another pub to finish watching the football match and get some food.
As of tonight, I have officially watched a football match, cheered for England, and had proper fish and chips in a pub.
We had quite a busy day and tomorrow will be even busier. We’re planning on heading over to Blenheim Palace in the morning, then joining the group on their tour in the afternoon.
The trip started off quite well. Leslie and I left VA around 7am for Atlanta and things went off without a hitch. We thought we might have to be switched to a later flight because they’d overbooked the one we were on, and we had plenty of time to spare before our flight from GA to GB, but everyone was able to fit on the plane and things went as planned.
We got to Atlanta and strolled around the international terminal, looked at the shops, read a bit (Leslie knitted) and grabbed some food (and got extra food for free because we were nice and patient when they forgot I’d ordered a bagel with my coffee). While we dreaded the 9-hour layover, our strange flight pattern ended up being the best thing that could have happened to us.
We boarded our flight to London a few minutes early, watched a few movies, I didn’t really sleep on the flight, but I tried. The turbulence was kind of bad, but later we found why and things made more sense. We made it to London half an hour ahead of schedule. There were no problems with customs and we made our way to baggage claim.
Once we had our bags, the real adventure started.
Leslie and I had a bus pass for 6 of our group to get to Oxford, however, after looking at the arrival schedule, we noticed that the flight with the rest of our group was delayed by 2 hours, meaning that they would miss the bus to Oxford. We figured out how to access the Wi-Fi at the airport and decided to see if we’d gotten updated while we were in flight.
And that’s when we found out that the people we were supposed to be meeting at 10:15 weren’t getting to the UK until tomorrow! Flights had been cancelled, over booked and delayed, causing everyone we were supposed to meet to miss other flights and still be stuck in the US. We weren’t sure about the group that was supposed to have gotten on the bus at 8:10, so we decided it was best to head to the bus terminal and see if we spotted any of our group.
We trudged over there and found Bethany, who’d been having travel problems too and was very glad to see a familiar face. The three of us hopped on the bus to Oxford earlier than planned, but we’d since found out that the earlier group was coming later and had a taxi all ready for them.
The bus ride to Oxford took a little over an hour and then we hopped in a taxi to take us to our hotel. Dr. Lindvall was waiting in the drive for us.
He was glad to see us and said we were the first to arrive. We told him that we knew because everyone else had been stranded in the states due to electrical storms and bad weather. He didn’t have access to internet, so he had no clue what was going on.
We filled him in, got lunch and took a quick walk to wake up and when we got back more of our group had arrived, but we were still missing half. We finally got showers around 2pm UK time and I took a much needed nap before high tea at 4. Leslie and I waited for her cousins to show up and rode to the hotel where we had high tea with them, instead of walking with the rest of the group.
As of right now, we’re still missing half the group, a few are coming in late tonight, most are coming in tomorrow mid-day, and two won’t make it til at least Monday. There’s one more in our group, but we have no idea where he is or when he’ll make it to Oxford, but he’ll turn up eventually.
We were supposed to learn about Reunified Germany, but we were able to cover most of it during the other days here. The only thing left was the Reichstag Building, which Sara said was best to see at night.
We woke up about 9 and decided to go to Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast instead of having the breakfast downstairs. I think we’re all sick of bread and meat & cheese for breakfast every morning. After our Dunkin Donuts trip, we headed to Legoland.
Legoland was pretty fun, but not worth the 16 Euros it cost to get in, especially since the Lego factory was closed. We started by going through the lego version of Berlin, including the Riechstag, Berliner Dom, Alexanderplatz, and a mini replica of the Berlin wall; even a piece of the wall fell down! After Berlin in Lego-form, we went to the pirates themed section. The first thing we noticed was the Shark’s head made out of Legos, which reminded all of us of the one at the Virginia Aquarium, so I, of course, had to take a picture in it.
Then, Nina, Rebecca and I played around with Lego pirate ships for a bit then headed to the next section: a rollercoaster! The rollercoaster was Mideval/dragon themed. It was definetly made for little kids, but it was neat to see the different figures made out of Legos. After the ride, we went to an Indiana Jones themed area. As you walked through, you had to answer different questions about the animals you saw and find the secret treasure. It was kinda neat, but mainly for the Lego figures. Finally we got to the LEGO building. We all build racecars and raced them against each other; mine won! But when we decided to put them on the jump track, mine decided to fall off the side of the track and crash to the floor. After that we decided it was time to leave and we browsed the shop before leaving. I bought a Ron Weasley lego man and a mystery lego man that ended up being a skiier.
After Legoland, we ate lunch at an Australian restaraunt. The food was really good; we all ended up getting some variation of a baked potato and chicken. The Germans apparently really like sour cream because our baked potatoes were practically swimming in it. As Nina said, “I’d like some potato with my sour cream.”
After lunch, we walked around Potsdammer Platz for a bit until it was time to meet Sara for class. We walked around and saw the monument to the Jews and the homosexuals that were killed during the Holocaust. The Jewish memorial was similar to the Jewish Museum we went to a few days ago. The memorial to the Jews was very unique and combined standard metal monuments with technology; a clip of a gay couple kissing ran on a loop, however, to see the clip, you had to peer in a window of a metal box. Nina equated the box to a closet, which I think is appropriate since many homosexual had to hide their sexualiy from the world and were confined to stay in a box.
Then we made our way over to the Reichstag. Unfortunately, the Reichstag was closed for some reason and we couldn’t go up in the dome. Instead of going in the Reichstag, Sara decided that we should try and find things for our presentation on Friday. We went into a bunch of shops, all of which were tourist-y and very similar, but I did manage to find a historical fiction novel about covert missions during the Cold War in Berlin. I can’t wait to read it, even though I’ve got 40 million other books to read, too. haha. After wandering around Unter den Linden, we made our way back to Jean-Claude’s restaurant. We all agreed that we wanted to eat there again, and so far, it’s the only place we’ve done that. (Doner kabab stand doesn’t count.)
For dinner, we went back to Jean-Claude’s. The menu was pretty much the same, but this time, I recognized everything I was eating! haha. After dinner, we headed over to the bar we’d been to a few nights before to have drinks with Owen again. I had a Bahama Mama and 2 Strongbow hard ciders. I really liked the cider, but I decided to stop after 3 drinks, mainly because I’d had a headache all day long. We chatted til almost 11:30, but Dennen, Rebecca and I decided to head back to the hotel before the U-bahns stopped running.
We started our day by heading to another Soviet Monument, but this time, it was in East Berlin. The monument was MASSIVE. It was set-up like a park and you entered through an archway. Then, after walking a few yards, we came across a statue of a mother who was facing the main part of the monument. We looked in the direction she was facing and saw the biggest statue of the trip, on top of a hill, of a Russian Soldier holding a sword in one hand and a German child in his other arm and crushing a swastika. As we walked closer to the monument on the hill, we saw the granite reliefs that lined the sides of the main park. We climbed up the stairs to the top of the monument. Sara took pictures of us at the monument, then Dennen decided to roll down the hill the monument was on. Rebecca and I both said we wanted to roll down the hill, but decided not to because the grass on the hill was wet and the hill was kind of steep.
After the monument, we went to Stalin Alle, where all the Soviet buildings were in Berlin. Then we headed to lunch at a tradtional German restaraunt. I had Hawaii Schnitzel and Apple Strudel. Both were delicious.
After lunch, we headed to the Stasi museum. It was pretty interesting, albeit a little creepy to see how they were able to conceal cameras and recording devices in everyday objects like a watering can and a piece of wood. I don’t even want to think about what cameras can be hidden in now. =/ Anyway, Nina, Dennen and I headed back to the hotel after the museum.
I forgot it was Sunday and that stores and some resturaunts close early, around 6-ish. I decided to get dinner around 7:30, but I didn’t want to go anywhere, so I had Doner Box for the 3rd day in a row because that was the only thing open on our street. They’re good, but not that good.
Day 9: West Berlin (or the day I busted my butt on ice)
We stopped at Brandenburger Tor so Dennen could get his donut fix for the day and it was the first time we got to see it while the sun was out. I also stopped to get a pretzel, which was good, but I still prefer Auntie Ann’s from home. There were guys dressed up like the Green Army men from Toy Story at Brandenburger Tor, so we of course had to take pictures with them. …well, I took the picture and everyone else was in it. After Brandenburger Tor, we stopped at a Soviet Monument that was just past the gate. We were going to walk down to the Victory Column, but it was being restored so we looked at the extremely shiny angel on top, then headed over to the Kulturforum. The Kulturforum was West Berlin’s city center after the wall went up since the main Berlin city center was in East Berlin. We saw the Philarmonie and the monument to the mentally ill who were killed by the Nazis. The monument was two sheets of iron that slightly curved. I didn’t really like it; it was confusing and difficult to understand the intention of the monument.
After seeing the Kulturforum, we looked for the monument to the Berlin airlift and Sara was following the map to where we thought it was. The map led us through a park, the paths of which were icy. I was doing pretty well, slipping here and there, until I slipped and couldn’t catch myself and landed on my back, whacking my head on the ice in the process. My glasses came off, I had a killer headache, and I was dizzy. This was me:
Dennen was good, and made sure I was OK before chuckling to himself about me saying that he was going to fall on the ice. I’m just glad no one caught it on camera! However, the butt of my jeans and around the ankles were soaked, and FREEZING! I had to walk around the park while my butt went numb. Turns out, that we walked the wrong direction anyway, and the monument wasn’t in the park at all, but on the other side of the U-Bahn we came out of!
After we found the memorial, we headed to lunch, where I was finally able to warm up. I got baked potato soup and spagetti. By the way, these portions are HUGE. I though I was going to get a small bowl of soup however, the soup was in the same size bowl that my spagetti was in! (We did manage to recreate a picture we saw in another restaraunt of a girl with spagetti hanging out of her mouth.) Dennen got Apple Strudel and he let us try a bite. IT WAS DELCIOUS. I wish I hadn’t been so full and been able to have gotten a piece myself. Our waiter told us about a house that was down the street, which happened to be the place where the Armiciste was signed for WWII. It was really neat to see it.
After Lunch, we headed to the Peace Church. Part of the church had been damaged during the war, but it was not restored to be a reminder to the German people of the cost of war. However, we think that it’s now being restored, as there was scaffolding around it. I’m not sure if I want it to be completely restored. I think it’s good to have a reminder of the cost of war in an extremely visible location in the city. After the Peace Church, we headed over to Alexanderplatz to meet up with Owen. We met at the Beirbar and I had an Amaretto Splash while we waited. We didn’t wait very long before Owen found us. He had a few friends with him from Spain, but the also spoke German and English, so we had no issue communicating with them. We headed over to one of Owen’s favorite bars and spend a couple hours drinking and chatting. I had a Blue Hawaii and an Erdbeer Colada (which tasted like Robitussin, yuck!) We grabbed Doner Boxes on the way back to the hotel, again. What can I say, they’re really good!
Today was kind of miserable. It was sprinkling when we started our day and by the end of it, it was full on raining. And I forgot to grab my umbrella, so I was pretty much soaked by the end. =(
We started our day by walking down the street from our hotel to see signs that had been put up on Bayercher Platz. The plaques had some of the laws that were placed on Jews, like they could only shop from 4-5 and that they could no longer be in singing clubs! We then headed to another Platz that had quite a few Nazi buildings. They were quite boring aesthetically compared to the Boroque and Neo-Classical buildings we saw early on in the trip.
Next we headed to the Olympic Stadium! I was really excited about seeing it, since I really like watching the Olympics. The staduim was done in a Nazi style, but due to renovations, it expertly mixed the old and new. The local football, I mean soccer club plays at the Olympic Staduim. It was interesting to find out that Hitler had a special box designed for him to be able to shake the medalists’ hands after events, but because he refused to shake Jesse Owens’ hand after he got a gold medal in the 1936 Olympics, he refused to shake any of the winners’ hands. He only congratulated German winners and that was done in a back room of the stadium. There are also pillars with the names of all the German Gold Medalists from all the modern Olympics, excluding the 1920 and 1924 Olympics from which Germany was excluded for having caused the first World War. In addition, only West Germans were originally on the pillar for the years that Germany was divided as East and West Germany competed as different nations. Only recently were the 300 names of East Berlin medalists added.
After the olympic stadium, we headed over to the National museum. The girls and I decided to do the express tour of the museum because we were all tired. In fact, I was so tired, I dozed off during a movie about the history of Germany! Granted I’d heard most of it before and the chairs were really comfy. Dennen and Sara loved the museum, however, they stayed in one section for the entire time, while the girls and I went through the whole building. I would have liked to spend more time at this museum as well, but it was already 2 when we got there and we were hoping to meet up with a friend from VWC that’s living in Berlin.
After the museum, Nina, Rebecca and I headed to the Dunkin’ Donuts at Alexanderplatz to meet up with our friend, Owen. We waited for a while then decided to leave because he was over 1/2 hour late. Turns out, the S-bahn he was on got held up and he arrived only 15 minutes after we left!
We grabbed dinner at the Doener Kabab stand on the corner of our street, then watched Disney’s Robin Hood in German. The only thing we understood was “Was ist Das?” haha.
We also saw a commercial for Glee in German. I might just have to watch it when it comes on on Monday.
Day 7: Jewish Berlin (or Preserving History: you're doing it right.)
Today we went to several significant Jewish sights in Berlin. It was another day of finding things that don’t exist.
The New Synagogue, which some of the group thought was a Mosque the first time we saw it several days ago, was rebuilt after the war ended. It was very pretty from the outside, but as we entered, we had to have our bags and coats scanned and go through a body scanner. It was a little wierd and unexpected. On the first floor of the Synagogue, we saw pieces of the original building. At one spot, there were pieces of the alter, only part of which was cleaned up. The audio guide said that they did not restore the pieces to it original appearance because “history cannot be touched up.” we all thought that was significant and a good way to justify keeping the old and damaged the way it was found. I really liked the pieces of the stained glass windows they had. Every window had been stained glass, but the war, of course, destroyed them. When the synagogue was restored, the pieces of the windows that could be put back together were. However, no new pieces were created for the windows; if they couldn’t find pieces for the windows, a plain piece of glass was there.
We made our way towards the top of the synagogue. We stopped on the second floor to see artwork from Jewish artists. Then, in an ajacent room, we saw pictures of Holocaust survivors and thier families. We stopped to read their stories; one woman had 11 children, 81 grand children and 140 great-grandchildren! We continued our hike to the top of the synagogue and found ourselves in the top dome of the synagogue. It was really chilly up there, mainly because it was all windows and no heating. We did have a nice view of the city, though.
Next was lunch. We ate at a small French restaraunt, where the owner was our waiter. The food was pretty good, although I would have prefered to have had soup over whatever I had for my appetizer. Don’t ask me what it was because I have no idea.
After lunch, we made our way to the Jewish Museum. The museum is actually two buildings. You enter the museum through an older Boroque style building and have to enter the other building through an underground tunnel/bridge thing. In the main building, there are three axis; the axis of the Holocaust, which is a dead end; the axis of somethingrathernother; and the axis of Contiunity, which leads you to the start of the main exibit. The exibit goes through 2000 years of Jewish history. When you get to the top of the stairs and enter the first room, you are greeted by a pomagranate tree. The audio guide said that on the Jewish New Year, you are wished a “sweet New Year” instead of a “Happy New Year” and a pomagranate. The audio guide then told us to put a wish on the paper pomagranates and hang it on the tree. It was really neat. I wandered through the museum stopping here or there to check things out. The fabulous guy who’d given us our audio guides said that we either needed to stay in one timeperiod/century or only listen to a few audio clips per timeperiod, since there were 4 and a half hours of material to listen to. I really wish We’d been able to stay at the museum longer.
We also stopped at a few monuments along the way, including one called “The Empty Room” which was a table with two chairs, one of which was knocked over, to show how abruptly Jews had to flee, or be taken from their homes. It was powerful, in my opinon.
Picture of the Day:
This is a bolt of fabric that has the stars that Jews had to wear to be identified in Germany.
Today we got to see parts of Weimar Germany. We stopped at a Jewish cemetary to see that many grave stones were damaged and to realize that there were not people to fix up the cemetary and keep it looking nice. Nina and I both felt like we needed to help clean up the cemetary ourselves; placing gravestones back on their pedistals and such. It was so different than PATs visit to Elmwood Cemetary at home.
After the cemetary, we went to this really cool museum that had lots of artifacts from all different time periods in Germany. The girls wandered through the museum together, which was good because Sara could tell us what the German meant and help explain the significance of some of the artifacts. One good example of this is a statue of Otto von Bismark as an iron worker; he was known as the Iron Chancellor, so there was some humor in that depiction.
Another thing we were privileged to see was a working 100 year-old music box. One of the museum workers pointed it out and gave us a 2 cent piece to put in the machine. We watched in awe as the music played. Then he guided us over to the seats that were in a room full of automatic instruments and he played one of them for us. It was also over 100 years old and it was really neat to see that it still worked. Well made stuff truly does last.
Rebecca and I walked into a room full of mideval armor and swords and automatically thought of Chad. We both really wished he would have been able to see it. Then later on we found another room that had more mideval stuff in it; Rebecca and I thought of Chad while Nina said it reminded her of Medeval Times in NJ (yes, the one that Nicole works at. Small world.).
Sara was also really excited to show us an old school power point thing. I have no idea what it’s actually called, but you sit down and in front of you are eyepieces that you look through and see pictures. A bell would ding and the picture would rotate to the next one. It was really neat.
After the museum, we got Donnerkababs, which were delicious. The girls, except Sara, were defeated by the donnerkababs. (They were way bigger than expected. I’ve already gotten the “that’s what she said joke” for this.) Then after lunch, Rebecca and Nina headed back to the hotel, while Sara, Dennen and I hiked up to WWII anti-aircraft towers. And by ‘hiked’ I mean up hill, over snow and ice. Once we got to the top, Sara pointed out a reunification monument that was built by East Berlin in 1967, even though the Berlin wall had gone up 6 years earlier. Dennen hopped up on the base with no problem, but I had to take off my purse and jacket and get a running start to lift myself on top. The base was probably 4 1/2-5 feet tall, so it was a little difficult to get up there.
After seeing the anti-aircraft towers, the three of us headed to Alexanderplatz for beers. Well, Sara and Dennen had beers, I had an Amaretto Splash with Cherry juice and then a Tequila Sunrise that was waaaaay to girly for me. It had a cherry garnish which was fine, but it also came with a heart-shaped stirrer and a firework looking thing. I was embarrassed for myself when I got the drink. I think I was also judged hardcore by the other people in the bar.
I really liked the Amaretto Splash, but the Tequila Sunrise was dissapointing. It tased like I was just drinking orange juice and all he’d added was a few icecubes to it.
For dinner, Nina, Rebecca and I decided to head to the Hard Rock Cafe. I know, super adventurous. But after going the wrong direction for 30 minutes, we finally found the Hard Rock and had dinner. I decided to get another mixed drink, since I knew that once I get back to the States I won’t be able to do so. I ordered a Mai Tai, which was pretty good, but it had a lot of rum in it, so much so that it was distracting from the other flavors in the drink. (Look at me, talking like I know so much about alcohol. haha.) After the one Mai Tai, I decided to switch to a traditional German drink: Apfel-Schorle, a mix of apple juice and seltzer water. I think it’s become my favorite drink of the trip.
I crashed as soon as I got to the hotel. We’ve been going pretty much non-stop since we got here.
Photo of the Day:
This is the 100 year-old music box we got to listen to.
So today had a bit of a late start. We got up at 8 and had a leisurely breakfast before Rebecca and I made our way towards Schloss Sanssouci in Potsdam. Once we got on the U-Bahn, we had no issues getting to Potsdam, however, once we got there we were completely lost.
We didn’t have a map of Postdam and our tourbooks only covered Berlin, so we started off in the complete opposite direction of where we needed to go. We got about 2 blocks from the S-Bahn station and decided it was best to head back and get a map/directions. Turns out that our S-/U-Bahn tickets were also good in Potsdam and we could use them to get around the city. We hopped on the 606 bus and headed for Sanssouci Palace.
The palace name is the combination of the French words “Sans souci” meaning “without worries.” It was very pretty from the outside, majorly Roccoco style of architecture. We were expecting our tour to be like the one we’d taken at Schloss Charlottenburg, but it was just not up to par. We were guided through each room, listening to a handheld audioguide. However, this time, there was an actual tourguide with us. Whenever it looked like people had finished listening to the audioguide, she’d open up the next door for us to go through. There was no time to take pictures and it was really difficult to take pictures while trying to keep the audioguide by my ear. It seemed really rushed and like they wanted to get as many people through as quick as possible. We didn’t really have time to enjoy the palace. Plus there were about 20 people in the group and there wasn’t a whole lot of room for us to stand in the individual rooms.
It also turned out that most of the other buildings in Park Sanssouci were closed. It’s really better to come in the spring/summer to see Sanssouci because the gardens would have been beautiful. We did manage to find our way to the Chinese house, which was also beautiful from the outside; though it was closed. We did get to laugh at some ducks enjoying themselves in the frozen over fountain. They were practically iceskating around the fountain.
We stopped for lunch by the Brandenburg Gate. This really confused us because we didn’t know that Potsdam also has it’s own Brandenburg Gate and we thought the map we had was way off. Anyway, we saw a restraunt that looked promising, but decided to keep looking for something else. We stumbled across a tea shop that had everything about tea. Rebecca got Karmel tea and I got something for my mom, since she’s the tea drinker in the family. After the tea shop, we decided to wander back to the first resturaunt we saw and eat there. We ended up eating American food, in a resturarunt we thought was Spanish, considering the name was The Matador. After a few language blunders, including me trying to talk to the waitress in Spanish, Rebecca finally got her baked potato and I got a great burger. We also split a piece of carrot cake, which we were surprised to find in Germany.
After lunch, we wandered around Potsdam a little more and made it over to the Dutch Quarter. On our way to the Dutch Quarter, we passed a small clothing store and a dress caught my eye. I looked at it for a bit, then decided to keep going without buying. Of course, on our way back, I decided to go back and get the dress. And I’m glad I did! I was able to complete one of my goals for the trip: buy a piece of non-tourist-y clothing while in Germany. According to Sara, the dress is very German and I really like it. =)
The group met up for dinner around 7 and we headed to a Brazilian resturaunt. Nina and Dennen reviewed their day at Sachsenhausen (a concentration camp) while I munched on chicken and had a daquiri.
So today was a church day. We visited 4 historical churches plus the East Berlin TV tower, which was supposed to be for another day, but it was unusually sunny so we decided it was best to use the sun to our advantage and see the city from above. But more on that later.
First, we headed for Nikolaiveirtel (Nicholas Quarter), a reconstructed version of midevial Berlin. Not 3 minutes after leaving the hotel did Sara invoke the 5% rule. We were able to go into the church and look at the remnants of the original church plus others that had been destroyed during WW II.
Second was the TV tower and stamps for postcards. We were afraid that we were going to have to walk up nearly 1,000 flights of stairs to get to the observation deck, but there were elevators instead. It was a great way to see the city. It was also neat to be able to point out places we’d been in the past few days from above.
Marienkirche, or St. Mary’s church, was next on our list. A famous fresco called Dancing with Death, usually hangs in the cathedral, but we believe it was being restored when we visited because it was not on display. We still went inside the church, which was very pretty, and similar to Nikolaiveirtel in style.
Next was the Berliner Dom. Once again, the church was stunning, though we couldn’t go up in the dome because of the snow and ice.
On our way to St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, we passed Berlin fashion week, which was on the sight of the Nazi book burning. Rebecca suggested that the models all carry books down the runway because of this. St Hedwig’s Cathedral was built by Fredrick the Great so Catholics could practice in Berlin. After it was destroyed during the war, it was rebuild in a modern style instead of the original Boroque stlye.
Then it was time for “Dinner Adventures with Dennen and Nina.” We jumped on the U-Bahn and took it to one station, jumped on another U-Bahn and got off at another station and walked ‘til we found food. Dennen and Nina almost got run over by a car (even though we had the right of way), almost every place we came to was Italian (which we’d had for lunch) and the place we stopped at was a Latin American restaruant. It was really good and I HAD, and finished, MY FIRST BEER! It was mixed with Coke, but still! I finished it by the time we finished the meal. The meal was a little crazy because we were talking to each other in English, Dennen was ordering in German, I was in half-German/half-Spanglish and Nina ordered in Spanish.
Dennen: “I’ve got German and Nina has Spanish. What language do you have?” Me: “Pig Latin?”
Day 3: Der Mauer (The Berlin Wall) or "We're in a place we've never been, looking for something that doesn't exist and there's a 60% chance we're going the wrong way."
-“5% rule” -meaning that there’s a 75% chance that it’s this direction, 20% chance it’s in the other direction and a 5% chance that it’s in a third direction we didn’t know about.
Today was all about looking at/finding things that don’t exist anymore. Our first stop of the day was to the original city wall for Mideval Berlin. It was interesting to see that parts of buildings were built into the wall to help fortify it. And there was a fairly large chunk of the wall still intact.
The next stop was the East Side Gallery. The Gallery is a strech of the Berlin wall that was preserved shortly after the wall started coming down. Artists were invited to graffiti the wall, which is a bit odd, since the art/graffiti is on the East side of the wall, where there wouldn’t have been graffiti since East Berliners weren’t supposed to even acknowldge the presence of the wall. It’s almost as if the sides of the wall were switched because the West side of the wall is pretty much blank, mainly because there’s a canal next to it and it would have been difficult to get to the actual wall. Another thing that was interesting was that most of the art called for tolerence and peace. However, the actual graffiti on the wall was more of the “I love Suzie” variety, not murals/works of art.
After the East Side Gallery, we went to another section of the wall, which was next to the East Berlin sports stadium. We practically had to iceskate to the top of a hill to see it. It was about this point when I decided it was best to stop taking pictures so I wouldn’t break the camera or myself on the ice. That’s one thing about Berlin that I don’t like. The streets are completely clear of snow and ice, but the sidewalks are terrible. We’ve not only walked a lot, but most of the walking has been on snow, ice, slush or a combination of all three. We get excited when we find actual pavement to walk on.
Then we walked for ages, over the snow/ice combo until we got to a memorial for the wall. Ironically, it looks like they’re about to re-build part of the wall to create more of a memorial. It’s weird to me that they would tear down the physical divide in Berlin, just to rebuild sections of it 20 years later.
Next we went to the place where there used to be a memorial to Soviet border guards who supposedly were killed by US border guards. It was fairly dark by this point and we couldn’t actually get on the grounds were the memorial once stood. After this, we made our way to Checkpoint Charlie.
Rebecca, Nina and I went into the museum for Checkpoint Charlie, but we all agreed that it was a little rediuclous. The order the museum went in was odd and besides the stories of how people escaped, it wasn’t all that interesting. Plus the audio guides we got were awful, unlike the ones from yesterday. I was expecting little blurbs about each room, but there was so much stuffed into each room (each bit of text translated into 4 languanges) that it was difficult to follow. It also went into minute detail about specific events, and it took forever for it to say what happened. We also realized that Haus am Checkpoint Charlie is basically a giant tourist trap. It’s difficult to say how much of the museum is completly factual and how much has been done for show.
So, today we went to see Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace). It was named after Sophie Charlotte who was the first Queen of Prussia. She had it built for her summer palace. It’s very pretty, as you can see in the picture below.
The grounds were very icy, so the main goal was to not bust our butts before we got inside. Dennen was the only one to fall, today, but that was after we were done looking at the palace.
We’re finally in Berlin! After an hour flight, a 5 hour layover and an 8.5 hour flight we’re finally here. I haven’t really slept yet, just little snoozes on the plane every few hours. I probably won’t sleep until we’re in for the night. I did get to watch “The Social Network” on the flight, which was nice.
Anyway, after a minor freakout because I thought I’d forgotten my International Student ID (which ended up being with me already), everything went smoothly.
Our room is on the 3rd floor, which is really the 4th since the 1st floor is just the lobby area, so I had to lug my 45 lbs suitcase up 4 flights of stairs to get to my room, and that was after having to drag it on a bus, down to the subway, off the subway and down 2 snowy/icy blocks.
Expect photos later today. I haven’t really gotten a chance to take any photos yet! But we’re going to explore Berlin in just a bit.
We leave tomorrow, so the group has been packing and getting ready all day. I just have a few more things to add, then I’ll be all set. I still think I’m bringing more than I really need, but it’s better to be over prepared, I guess.
ALSO: If you don’t see any posts after the 7th, it probably means that I either don’t have internet, or there isn’t cheap internet for me to use while in Germany.