Wednesday, May 28, 2008

News of the Day

Glad to see some people digging the tunes we are listening to, but it is probably best to note that I (ebe) do most of the updating so the list is a bit lop-sided towards my favorites. If you have not checked out the two videos I directed you to- you should! And not becasue they are so awesome, on the contrary, they are awful. But funny. And that is what counts.
In other news, we saw the Jones. Indiana that is. Sony Center has a cheap English movie tuesday which of course we couldn't pass up. I was not raised in the cult of Indiana, but Ian was, so off we went accompanied by two friends.
The beginning and end were so achingly bad I had to bite my lip to keep it down to a muffled giggle. Aparently even that was too loud as Ian hissed at me, "Don't do that! It ruins it for me." Personally I thought George Lucas's over-excited style had done the ruining for me, but I was surprised to see the middle shape itself up quite well. You have to buy into the cheese, but if you can, the action sequences were fairly good, some of the jokes were funny, and I even had a few gasps of surprise. So, for me, better then expected, but I will leave it to Ian to give the full "I love Indie" spiel.

On the personal front, we continue to do well and dream about our month-long-end-of- trip-extravaganza. It looks like Istanbul is likely to be our first stop, then we will head into Greece, Croatia, Italy, France, and Netherlands & Oktoberfest once again. Sure to be a lot of additions made to the schedule as we continue to dream. Sadly we will not be heading to Poland with our friends as their time runs short, but we might still make it there ourselves. Who knows where this crazy road goes?

AND- today is our 4 1/2 year anniversary. E gads that seems like a long time!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Berlin's Zitadelle - Fortress in Spandau

I hate to say it, but I'm back to work. Didn't realize I had stopped? Well, for the past week school has been on hiatus, thanks to another lovely German holiday, which left yours truly free to spend all day with my beloved devotchka. Two highlights of the week was a surprise visit to a citadel and the attendance of a FC Union Berlin soccer match.

Due to Monday being a holiday, Ebe was able to ride along with me on the public transportation for free. We took advantage of the situation and headed out west, to Spandau, which is the westernmost Bezirk (borough) of Berlin. Besides an interesting little "Altstadt," Spandau is also home to a very cool fortress, known as the Zitadelle (citadel).

 Berlin  citadel fortress

Fortress in Berlin

Berlin Zitadelle

 Berlin Citadel

The Zitadelle is quite an amazing site, especially considering it's in the middle of a bustling metropolis. It used to be just a good ol' castle, but the city of Spandau made it into a "modern-day" Renaissance fortress back in the 16th Century to protect itself from invading armies. It has quite the history as you can imagine, it having been occupied by Napolean, serving as the location for a Nazi Gas Defense Laboratory, and now acting as a museum as well as the oldest remaining structure in all of Berlin!

We couldn't have went on a better day, which made walking through the ramparts and the grounds a true joy. One of its museums housed old Prussian and German military outfits throughout the past 200 years. I found the collection of helmets especially entertaining.  We also learned that Rudolf Hess was imprisoned in Spandau and was the last prisoner to die in captivity before the prison was leveled. Another museum also housed a huge collection of cannons and artillery. The craftsmanship on the barrels of the cannons from the late 18th Century was truly amazing. Other buildings housed art projects from local schools as well as a collection of historical items throughout Spandau's history.

(p.s. Don't forget to check out the gorgeous Zitadelle U-Bahn station)

More pics of  Berlin's Zitadelle


I wish I could say we saw visited other amazing sites throughout Berlin for the remaining week, but we mostly enjoyed the weather and reading in the park. Sometime during the week our friends Jake and Sophie invited us to accompany them to see Berlin's "true" soccer team: FC Union. Now I say "true" soccer team because it was East Berlin's soccer team during the days of the Iron Curtain, and many Berliners feel FC Union shouldn't be taking a backseat to the "traitors," Hertha BSC.

We had to get to the stadium early, which lies quite a few stops east of the ring on the S-bahn. Union was playing a rival Magdeburg, so tickets were only sold on game day, hence our early arrival. We were surprised to see so many cops in riot gear on our way there, but come to find out, Union fans have a knack for letting things get out of control, especially when playing a rival team... sweet, a soccer riot with real German hooligans!

We got our tickets, had a few beers with some fans in a staging area, and then walked through a forest to get to the stadium. I'll say one thing, Union doesn't have anything on Hertha's Olympiastadion, but Union's stadium was small and cozy with that touch of the DDR we've come to love.

The game was a lot of fun, and it was neat hearing all the fans chant their slogans, which deal a lot with "never forgetting" and the "iron union!" Unfortunately for the home fans Magdeburg pulled out the win, and the visiting fans were advised to go directly from the stadium to the S-bahn with a police escort... there would be no rioting today.

Once again we had a great week, and we saw many new things and had many new adventures. Who knows, maybe we'll catch a riot when we go to Union's last home game on the 31st?

Pics of the FC Union game in Berlin & Our post about the first game  ever between the 2 Berlin teams: Berlin v. Berlin 

Monday, May 5, 2008

The 5th of May

...also known as glorious Cinco de Mayo! Ok- not quite as glorious in Berlin. No Coronas, somberos, or crazy Mexicans BUT we did cook some pretty kick-ass Mexican food. Just perchance my German penpal was available to come over today and we have been wanting to cook her some Mexican food for a while. Burritos with tortillas from home, chili powder in everything, gaucamole with the crazy Israeli avocados, and home-made salsa with pineapple- Lecker! (By the way parents, out of refried beans and tortillas- hint hint). Kerstin was a little suspicious of the refried beans (and who wouldn't be if you hadn't been raised with them), but she liked everything, even our first attempt at salsa. Arriba!

Friday, May 2, 2008

May Day 2008

Was anyone else under the impression that May Day was all about May Poles, Love, Spring and Good Will? I was until I came to Berlin.

Berlin has all that, a festival that shuts down 16 city blocks, a live band in whatever direction you turn, food and cold beers (although, eaters beware. The home prepped meals & hot sun don't necessarily mix - yum, salmonella!).

All that is great, but cutting through the good tidings are the loads of police in riot gear. Berlin's "Erster Mai" features annual riots. There were literally thousands of cops and agitators, pissing each other off all day. The history of May Day in Berlin has been fairly violent, and this year's festivities marked the 80th anniversary of "Blutmai" where several protestors and cops were killed.

"Berlin emerges as yet again as a metropolis of contradictions. For starters, May 1 in Germany has seen street fights between right- and left-wing radical groups, as when the far right NPD and gangs of neo-Nazi ruffians decide that they can use the day for their own cause, which then leads to battle with Nazi opposition groups. These violent conflicts obviously contradict the messages of coexistence and peace that are the focus of several of the other groups hitting the streets on May Day."

This was something we had to see for ourselves. We headed out from the Hard Rock Cafe (where we did some mystery shopping, LOTS of eating, and a little self-shaming) to get a glimpse of the day-time celebrations. The plan was to quickly check it out then relax at home for a while and come back when it got spicy. Instead, we ended up carrying my "polizei" bag and Hard Rock Cafe leftovers deep into the night. Bad planning.

Naked old cowboy
Seattle Summer Solstice
We find some friends, sit on the grass, and enjoy the hippie love, environmentalism, and nudism we have been missing since Summer Soltace in Seattle. As the groovy beats and conversation with our pals continues, we start to really enjoy and leaving becomes less of a concern.

As we begin to walk around, police are still pulsing through the crowd, but besides the scary outfits, they look pretty tame. We wander to a stage where there is some music we can all dance to. Holding bags, drinks, and fighting the streaming crowd around us we dance. Until the inevitable happens. I need to pee.

It is very common to see men peeing just about anywhere in Berlin or in much of Europe. Public restrooms are scarce (one was even boarded up in the park we stayed in) and usually you can barter with a restaurant or store to use theirs. However, no one is taking chances today. All pride gone, I go with Ian to the park and he watches my back as men unzip from other areas of the brush. Just like camping right?!

After we finally find our group again, it is time to move to a new stage. As we settle into some Eurotrance, a stream of cops rushes by with the black helmets. We have already figured out that these are the guys to watch out for. Its hard to tell if the crowd is pushing at them, but it is obvious that some of the cops are getting angry and make several hard shoves at the backs of bystanders. The Polizei lines up at the end of the street as they start to quardon off the area.

Ian and I have started to yawn and take this as our cue. We say our good-byes and head for the Kotti U-Bahn. On the way, we catch sight of a band dressed in Middle Eastern robes and headdresses. Upon closer inspection, these guys are definitely not Middle-Eastern- so what's the deal? I think at one point they shout out "We are the Iraquis!" Really? Is that their name? They are terrific and we push into the crowd to get close to the stage. People are going wild for them- including us. They are singing and we are jumping and singing along to songs we have just heard for the first time. This tops my best concert experience of The Presidents of the United States at the Showbox. It was simply nuts.

Restarting our journey to the U-Bahn, Ian takes a picture with some while helmeted Polizei that seem to be enjoying the show. I pick up a huge pink key that appears to be from a little girls toy. Bizarre, but where is the mayhem?

We find it in the form of a road block- literally. A line of white helmets has cordoned off this exit as well and the crowd is getting restless. They are standing shoulder to shoulder blocking the street and the U-Bahn. Ian asks where to go and they wave off to the right. An apartment building straddles the street and some of the crowd has parked here and begun to throw bottles. We get the hell out of the street and watch a bit of the madness unfold. A battalion of black helmets comes up behind the white helmets with their sticks...and video-cameras? They are filming all this as well, apparently confident that their behavior will not be out of control - but the crowd's might. They are right; as drunk idiots risk the safety of all by trying to hit the police with bottles. The glass explodes upon impact like raindrops. Black helmets head into the crowd and clear the balcony over the street. Another comes to the right and blocks our exit this way. It appears almost like a game with the crowd pushing the police and the the police slapping them back down.

Seeing 2 exits shut-off, we decide it is really time to leave. We make it to the U-Bahn this time and watch as we pass other areas of congregation on our way home- but luckily no fires. We were happy to make it home and enjoy our capitalist burgers. This is a war we wanted no part in.

Want more mayhem? May Day 2012 
American Expat Blog: May Day in Berlin and Beyond

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008