Friday, June 27, 2014

The Longest Post Ever

Hello again! It's been a while, soooo here goes a long blog post...!

I believe I left off right before I took a day trip to Dresden with the FUBiS group. I had never been to Dresden before, and I was seriously impressed! Dresden is a pretty small city that was bombed and mostly destroyed during the war. Now, a lot of it has been rebuilt in its original form. It is SO beautiful! All the buildings are enormous and so majestic. Every time I took a picture, I felt like I just could not capture everything I wanted to. Keep that in mind with my pictures - they seriously do not do this city justice! (Also please ignore all the tourists in my pictures and unprofessional quality!)



A 100-meter long porcelain mural of all of the rulers of Dresden over 800 years.

The grand inside of the famous Dresden Opera House.

On Sunday, we had a tour of the Berlin Wall. The tour was from many years ago, and everyone in our group felt like we missed some important parts of the wall. Even so, here are a few pictures from the tour.

Memorial for Peter Fechter, the 18-year old who was shot to death while trying to cross the Berlin Wall.

Here is one of the pieces of the wall that is still standing. To the right is the Topography of Terror, which I had visited before with one of my classes.

After the tour, we met up with Lennart, one of our old exchange students! It was really great to see him! He and a few of my friends and I went to a weekly flea market, where we walked around, listened to some karaoke, and got tiny ice cream samples. Then, Lennart showed us the best place to get Döner Kebabs for dinner. 

The next day, my friends and I went to the Brandenburg Gate to be part of the Fan Mile for Germany's first World Cup game. It was great to be part of a huge crowd of Germany fans during such a great game and a Germany win! The newspaper estimated 500,000 people were there. We were lucky to be in the closest section to the Gate. You can tell from this picture how packed it was! 

On Wednesday I went to the Jewish Museum with my class. This is the only picture I have from it, which at all doesn't show how impressive it was. The architecture, style, and symbolism of the museum was really cool. The museum was also interesting in that it focused more on Judaism throughout history, rather than mainly focusing on the Holocaust. I thought that was really great. I think it can be easy to think only about the Holocaust when we think about Judaism in Germany, and to forget that Judaism has been around for so long before that. I wish we had gotten to spend more time there!

On a much happier note, here is a picture of the adorable cafe we go to every day during our mid-morning break! Note the un-refrigerated eggs. It is amazing (and still sort of sketchy) to me that milk and eggs do not need to be refrigerated here!

Later last week, we went to see the East Side Gallery, which is the painted stretch of the Berlin Wall. It is about one kilometer long. We didn't see quite the whole thing, but here are a few pictures from it! These were some of my favorite quotes, plus me doing the Berlin Bear pose in front of a section painted with the German and American flags. :)

Ok, we finally made it through one week! This past weekend, we went to Hamburg with the FUBiS group. Once again, the buildings (and ships) were too big and grand to actually capture in a photo. But here are lots of pictures anyway!

Hamburg harbor.

The only water fountain I have seen since leaving the U.S.! Notice the large signage pointing it out and attracting attention. We were SO excited and all filled up our water bottles. Somehow it felt cleaner than filling up in a bathroom sink like we have been every day...


I had seen these "Love Locks" at every river in Germany, but our tour guide in Hamburg finally explained it to us! Couples attach a lock to a fence above a body of water to symbolize their love. Then, they throw the key into the water. Each person keeps a key too, just in case!

Impressive amount of canals in Hamburg!

Some of my friends on the boat tour of Hamburg harbor.

This boat was HUGE! The boats in the harbor were actually incredible - I have never seen boats that big, never mind so many in one place! It was really cool to do a boat tour to see the importance of Hamburg's harbor, which we couldn't see from land.

Hamburg from the water.

Drinking chai tea and trying all the kinds of sugar at the Tea Museum in Hamburg!

On Wednesday this week, I went to Tempelhofer Feld with my class. Tempelhofer Feld is an abandoned Nazi airport. Now, the airport is used for a lot of different things, including gardening projects, protection for endangered species of birds, and recreation. Community members are working on "Pioneer Projects," which aim to turn different parts of the airport into gardens or other projects that bring nature into the city. 

That was so much! We have seriously been doing so much in Berlin and other cities. On top of all this, I have essays, presentations, and homework all the time (but no pictures of those ;))! It is definitely exhausting, but in a fun and exciting way.

One thing I have noticed that is really awesome about Berlin is the mix of historical and modern culture. For example, the artwork on the Berlin Wall shows recent paint and graffiti on such an important part of Berlin's history (even though I have to keep remembering that it wasn't really that long ago!). It sometimes takes me by surprise and seems disrespectful or out of place - like the cafe right behind Peter Fechter's memorial - but that is just what makes Berlin so unique!

P.S. Congratulations (and thanks!) for making it to the end of this massive post!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Week 2 in Berlin

It is amazing how time flies! I can't believe I have already been in Berlin for almost two weeks. There is always so much going on that it can be hard to find time to do things like write blog posts... woops.

I'll start with where I left off: last weekend. On Friday night we went out in Berlin. Nightlife in Berlin is so different than any nightlife I have ever experienced. People often stay out until 4, 5, or 6 in the morning! I am used to bars and parties shutting down by 2:00 am. That is plenty late for me! Also, it doesn't help that we live at least an hour from any neighborhoods we wanted to go to. We were all pretty tired by the time we even reached the city - and we didn't last long there. Overall it was pretty exhausting!

Saturday was much more civilized! I slept late and went to Rathaus Steglitz, the closest S und U Bahnhof, where there are lots of shops and restaurants. I walked around in the flea market, bought myself a pastry, and settled outside a Starbucks where I used their WiFi for several hours. Later, a group of us went to dinner at Luise Biergarten to celebrate the birthday of one of the girls from UNC.

On Sunday, I went with a few friends to the Carnival of Cultures parade. This festival is held each year on the weekend of Pentecost, which is widely celebrated here. Germans even have Pentecost Monday off! Unfortunately, FUBiS did not give us Monday off. Anyway, the carnival lasted all weekend and included markets, live music, and the parade on Sunday. The parade was made up of all different kinds of cultural groups. In just the hour we were there, we saw groups from different countries, music groups, and social justice groups. Here are a few pictures:


One of the funniest things at the parade was this very German title:

After an hour or so, we left to go on a tour of the Reichstag. Even though the parade was fun, I was glad to have a break from standing in the sun in 95 degree weather! In the Reichstag, we sat inside the room where the German government meets and learned a bit about the structure and procedures of the government. The guide mentioned that the architect who designed the interior had the idea of making the German government, which has a pretty rocky history, more transparent, literally and figuratively. Because of his theme, there are thousands of square meters of glass walls in the Reichstag. It was really cool to see the modern interior of a building with such an old exterior! After the tour, we climbed up the glass dome on top of the Reichstag, and spelled CAROLINA in the dome :) We didn't spend much time at the top of the dome though - just imagine the heat inside a glass dome on top of a building in 95 degree weather. Or don't.




After the Reichstag, we walked over to the Brandenburg Gate to get a few pictures. The sun was so bright though, that my pictures didn't turn out very well!

After that, most of our group went back to the carnival. They said it was even more fun afterwards! Unfortunately, I had to go back with one other girl to do some homework.

This week, my class field trips started! I am taking two classes: a German language class and a class about the literature and culture of Berlin since 1900. Both of my classes have field trips every week, which is nice to break up the time in the classroom! On Wednesday, I went with my language class to three museums. Three museums in one day was slightly exhausting, but they were also really cool! The first one was the Tränenpalast, "Palace of Tears," where people in East Berlin could pass over to West Berlin. It's really cool that the museum is in the same building where the Tränenpalast was, and that there are still a lot of original structures there. I don't seem to have too many pictures from the Tränenpalast.


After that, we went to the Alltag in der DDR museum, where we learned about the daily life of people living in the DDR. We saw propaganda, Westpakets (packages sent over from West Berlin, especially around the holidays), and clothes of workers.


Next, we went to the memorial site for the Berlin Wall. This was pretty interesting - yet the tour was in German and after visiting two other museums, I was really tired. I think I would have been able to get more out of it if we had gone there first! But it was still cool! We saw remnants of the wall that are still standing, poles that show where the wall used to stand, watch towers where guards used to oversee both sides of the wall, and a memorial for the 138 people who died trying to cross the wall. Apparently, until last year, it was thought that only 136 people died crossing the wall. In the last few months, stories of two more people were discovered.

Last night we took a break from studying and visiting museums, and went back to Luise Biergarten to watch the first game of the World Cup! It was great to sit outside and watch with so many other fans!

Andddd today we had a field trip in my other class! All the German history! We visited the Topography of Terror, which is all about Hitler's rise to power and the Nazi regime. It was really heavy, and there was so much information that we didn't even touch on. Outside the museum, there is a photo timeline, and inside, even more information. We spent an hour looking at the photo timeline, and over an hour inside. Our tour guide inside the museum chose just a few things to talk to us about, but we talked about each in great detail, rather than skimming through much more information. I thought it was great, and probably less overwhelming, to get to think deeply about a few things. I don't have any pictures from inside, but these two pictures are of the photo timeline. They are taken from the same exact spot - the timeline was really long!


Phew, that was a lot! There is always so much going on here, and so little time to blog about it! Tomorrow, FUBiS is taking a day trip to Dresden. On Sunday, I'm meeting with my new Tandem partner to speak for one hour in English and one hour in German. Then, we have a tour of the Berlin Wall, and then I'm meeting Lennart for coffee! So many exciting plans! I'll try to post again in less than a week this time!