Thursday, October 25, 2007
One of the many nice things about Berlin is the bi-monthly magazine Zitty. It has articles about interesting things happening in Berlin as well as listings for all events that are within that issue's two week time frame. I was scrolling through the listings for Thursday the 18th of October and noticed that there was going to be a reading from a new book entitled Der Dachdecker von Auschwitz-Birkenau or in English, The Roofer from Auschwitz-Birkenau, which happens to be an auto-biography from one of the ever shrinking pool of Holocaust survivors. I started thinking if I had ever met a Holocaust survivor and actually heard their story in person, and I realized I had never. After all my years of studying German, which in turns you learn quite a bit about the Holocaust as you can imagine, I had never met someone who had witnessed the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Not only would I be able to hear the story, but a world renowned and "the" German specialist of the Holocaust, Prof. Wolfgang Benz, would also be there leading a discussion with the author Mordechai Ciechanower. Ebe decided that she was going to stay home and work on our pictures, seeing it would be a little difficult for her to follow since the discussion and reading would be in German. When the time came I bundled myself up and walked into the frigid Berlin night to try and find the Brecht-Haus (former place of residence of the famous writer Bertolt Brecht) all by my lonesome. About twenty minutes later, and a few wrong turns from the station, I finally arrived to the warm inviting chatter of the Brecht-Haus. I was there a little early, so I had my choice of seats, but by the time the reading began there wasn't a seat left in the house. It started by Prof. Benz introducing Mordechai, who was a small man with a weathered face, but no different looking than any one's grandpa. You never would have guessed what he went through just by looking at him, except for of course his inmate number which is tattooed on his left fore-arm. Mordechai has lived quite an amazing life. His book not only tells of his time in the camps, but also of his youth and how he came to Israel after surviving the camps. Benz started by asking Mordechai about how he came to Israel after the war, as Britain wasn't allowing refugees in at the time. Mordechai ended up joining the British army right after the war, was sent to the middle east, and then hopped on a bus bound for Israel where he settled and has a family! Pretty wild. It was quite an amazing experience to hear him speak of his lost youth in the camps. I'll share a couple of the stories which I found quite compelling. As an un-skilled prisoner in Auschwitz, your chance of survival was slim to none. Mordechai went into the camps as an unskilled worker, but when opportunity presented itself, in the form of a missing roofer, Mordechai jumped into his place and learned the ropes as fast as he could. Being a roofer in the camp entitled Mordechai to more food and freedom of movement than most prisoners, but still grossly malnourished. There was also a time in the camp when Mordechai became separated from his father and learned that his father had fell ill and died. It was awful for Mordechai, but no where near as awful when his sisters and mother were torn away from him and sent to the gas chambers. After finally being liberated, Mordechai heard a rumor that his father was still alive. After becoming healthy enough, Mordechai travelled back to Poland where his father was also looking for loved ones! Both father and son survived, his father living to be over 90 years old! It was an amazing experience, and I'm glad I decided to venture out and see if my knowledge of German would allow me to understand. Thanks to Mordechai for writing his life story down and sharing it with us.
Monday, October 22, 2007
...We will be saying in early December. We are going to London!! Just for a few days on a cheap RyanAir flight but enough to wave to Big Ben & stroll over the London Bridge. Wish us luck on one of our soon to be many excursions out of Germany.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
This is it people! Ian & I have been in Europe for 1 month! We arrived in Amsterdam on the afternoon of Sept. 20th, it is now Oct 20th and we have a flat in Berlin (for those of you in remedial math like me). This pic was taken moments ago from our balcony. Yet another beautiful fall day in Berlin, which closes the last poll (with Beer garden & Doner Kabob tieing with 5 votes each) & opens a new, Halloween-themed poll. Enjoy & VOTE!
It also means 2 more months till we are unceremoniously kicked out. Tick tick tick...
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Hate to break it all of you who were, like me, born & raised in the USA, but kids RULE in Europe. You know that awesome jungle gym you had at your house/park/school? Well theirs is bigger, badder, and a 100 times cooler. Walking through the park the other day there wasn't just one kick-ass wonderland but two! These are not your everyday jungle gyms either. They are usually made out of wood, tower overhead, and have a theme. The second one we came across had a Arabian nights theme with a ship complete with crow's nest, rock climbing walls (the things to pull yourself up were all themed too- lamps, camels), sand, an airplane to climb in, a full size genie carved out of wood, wooden palm trees, a ping pong table, a picnic area, a rope maze...Awesome.
Kids rule in other ways too. They are constantly running, often away from their parents, and nary a word of caution is ever called out. They also rove around in gangs of fiveish unaccompanied at the tender age of tenish. I guess the U-Bahn (Subway) is like their backyard. People seem to look at these little terrors careening by, often on bikes, and shrug as if "What can we do? They are just being kids."
The same for the noises they make. Ian and I have turned around a couple times sure that a terridactile is right behind us only to see a todler. They screech, and scream, and shout the most outher-wordly sounds. It's actually kinda freaky with Halloween coming around. The funniest was in the Supermarket, a little boy was trying to tear into a package of food they were going to buy and his mother told him to wait, they had to pay for it first. "WahnSinn!" he yelled. What 5-year-old even knows the word madness?
Speaking of creepiness....this poll will end early so we can post a new, Halloween related poll so get your votes in now. I'm surpirsed no votes for curry wurst- it is delicious. Much better choice then the one vote for hot dog (with real Hund)- that's dog y'all. Also- please keep sending us e-mails and/or letters. It is nice to hear about home and what's happening with all of you. We even finally have an address you could send letters, packages, money, etc. to (just joking about the money- but seriously). We live on:
c/o Anat Vaadia
10405 Berlin, Germany
It's wonderful to call somewhere home and put up some pictures. Hopefully we will hear from y'all soon.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Well, after nearly three weeks in Europe, our clean clothes finally came to a close (hah, the words sound very similar). Instead of wandering around Berlin in freshly soiled underpants, we decided to try our luck at the local laundromat. And I say try our luck, because the machine you use to start the washers is more like a slot machine than a washing-machine. But before jumping to that, we must first tell you the story of the inpenetrable door...
So after a block and a half, we finally found ourselves stading in front of the nearest laundromat from our short-lived apartment. I was carrying the bag of dirty laundry, so Ebe tried to open the door for me, but alas, to no avail. Thinking that she is merely a girl and lacking the proper strength to open the door, I gently laid down our bag of undesirables and attempted to open the laundromat door. At first I pushed like a good lad would, but the door didn't budge. Then I found the inner-devil in me and tryed like hell to open the door, but, much like Ebe, with no luck. We then eyed one-another trying to figure out what the hell we did wrong? Perhaps you need a key to open the door? Or maybe it's plain old closed... Then a nice German came walking by, and I asked him if you needed a key to get in. He looked at me funny, said you just open the door, and then without a grunt opened the door! Ebe and I looked dumb-founded at one another, said Danke, and slid into the laundromat feeling like idiots. Why the hell didn't the door open for us? Was it because it sensed our non-pure German blood? Turns out we just didn't rub it the right way I suppose.
After finally being allowed entrance into the all holly laundromat, we were confronted by yet another set of obstacles. Figuring out which washers were functional, how much it cost, where to put the detergent (and what kind of detergent, powder or liquid), and did they have any dryers? Around 9 Euro later, we had a good amount of wet clothes, a handful of dry jeans and shirts, and a ton of confusion about what had just happened to us.... Needless to say, I think next time we'll be ready to storm the murky moat of the laundromat, and not only sack our clothes, but the laundromat itself!
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
We only have 1 night left in our fabulous apartment & still no permanent home. We've been close, but not quite. The perfect one will be along soon, right?
In the meantime, Berlin is amazing. On the way to see an apartment yesterday we stumbled upon a farmer's/Turkish street market. A road along the river was lined on both sides with stalls. Fruits, vegetables, and materials I had never seen before. I wish we had written it down, but we ate this cool grilled spinach & cheese sandwich thing with and amazing flaky crust (maybe a Borek?). And all of the Turkish ladies were toting those mini suitcases with wheels to haul their groceries. Just a bit diffrent from our markets.
When we got to the end, a bunch of swans were delicately looping around in the river in front of the market. There were so many, Ian & I had never seen so many all at once. A couple males kept lifting their wings to assert their dominance but they just reminded me of the swan cars on the merry-go-round. There were also a few ugly ducklings that kept getting their feathers pulled if they got too close.
Everyday we encounter new things we have never seen, or done, or never even heard of. The whole experience can be a little surreal, and a little trying with each day full of difficult (& usually costly) decisions. It is, however, beyond my wildest dreams. Beyond fun. The perfect adventure.
I asked Ian today, "So, are you ready to go home?"
"No! Are you?"
and so we will see where this road takes us...
Saturday, October 6, 2007
So our first week in Berlin has been quite the adventure. Apart from desperately trying to find an apartment, we have also tried to see most of Berlin's famous landmarks... with much success! Our most recent visit was the Siegessaule (or more comically referred to: chick on a stick). It's a monument in the middle of the Tiergarten, which serves as a victory piece from the days of Prussia, and it commemorates Prussia's victories over Denmark (real hard I know, it's Denmark), Austria, and Napoleonic France (once again a difficult victory I'm sure... sense the sarcasm???). The woman on top, Viktoria, is made completely from melted down French canons... pretty sweet eh? Also along the column are a few rows of canons, once belonging to the beaten nations.
As we came to the Siegessaule, we noticed it would be a bit difficult to get to, since it is surrounded by a huge round-about. I contemplated running for it, but Ebe noticed a sign which read: tunnel to Siegessaule. After walking the long, dim, graffitied tunnel, we saw the light, and the monument loomed above us. The entrance was only 1.50 Euro, thanks to our expired student id cards (thanks UW and WWU), and it was ours to explore.
Inside the bottom of the monument are housed numerous models of various monuments throughout Germany and the rest of Europe. I thought it was pretty neat seeing them all, especially in such detail. A short description was also given for each of them, some in English, others only in German. We made our way to the first terrace, and admired the beautiful mosaic depicting the coronation of the Kaiser. Then we came to the spiral staircase which lead to the top of the column. I didn't count how many stairs there were to the top, but let me tell you, there were a shit load.
Thighs burning and chests heaving, we stepped out to the beautiful view of Berlin. Since Berlin is pretty much entirely flat, we got a great view of the entire city. I knew once we stepped out, that the 1.50 Euro and all those stairs was well worth it. After numerous pictures we made our way down and said auf wiedersehen to the Siegessaule, before heading off to pick up our key to our short-term apartment. Any trip to Berlin wouldn't be complete without a trip to the top of the Siegessaule and seeing the chick on the stick up close and personal.
So we have an apartment....for a week. It actually might lead into a longer arrangement, but we mostly just needed to get out of the hostel! And the flat is great. In Prenzlauer Berg, the current hippest section of town, it is on a quiet street with a modern facade and an amazing historic interior. It is basically a studio with a really funky layout (the shower is in the Kitchen) but is an altbau (which means it has original wood floors, high ceilings and huge original windows). It also has a cool little balcony with some plants that we are planning on eating breakfast from and looking at the very tip of the Fernseturm (famous TV tower). There are also a load of trendy bars and comfy bakeries all around.
We just got back from our 1st serious grocery shopping since we now have a kitchen & it was an adventure. Leeann had been nice enough to give us a crash course in the Netherlands, but we still have a lot to learn. We walked in through a turnstile only to immediately realize that carts were on the other side. To get the carts you need to put a refundable 20 cents or so in the cart. Once we had managed that obstacle we tried to return some bottles. After wandering around for a while we were directed to the machine over by the drinks and tried to read the directions. An older women asked if she could go quick so we dumbly watched her as she neatly slid the bottles into a conveyor belt & the machine computed their worth then spit out a receipt to be redeemed at check-out. Next was trying to remember the word for a dozen different foods and connect that word with the price listed and then translate grams into ounces. To check out we had no grocery bag so we had to buy 2 plastic bags to carry our goods which were promptly pushed past the scanner and needed to be quickly put into the bags which we had just purchased so the next person could go. An adventure. And of course we forgot to redeem the coupon for the returned bottles. next time...
As for now, we are reading in front of the beautiful windows looking over a peaceful neighborhood in Berlin and contemplating making nachos. What can I say? Life is good.