June 12th, 2012
So much to do between then and now!
June 8th, 2012
We leave in 2 weeks. And I can’t wait.
January 20th, 2011
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.
Photo of the Day:
January 18th, 2011
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.
Photo of the Day:
A thermos with a spot for a camera built in.
January 18th, 2011
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!
Photo of the day:
January 18th, 2011
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.
Photo of the Day:
January 16th, 2011
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.
January 14th, 2011
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.
January 13th, 2011
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.
Photo of the Day:
January 13th, 2011
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?”
Photo of the Day: