Friday, July 23, 2010

tschüß Berlin, until next time

So I have now been back in the USofA for two days...It's always strange to come back. I always gain a different set of eyes after an extended period away, even if it's only two months. For example, I couldn't believe the well-manicured, sprinkler-system green lawns (as unnatural as bleached white teeth)...or getting free ice water without asking at a restaurant (yes!!). And I am still surprised to hear the people on the street speaking English when they walk by. But mostly it does feel like coming home. And while there are always things that I miss, it is home, and I just feel privileged to know two countries so well and be able to look critically and un-sentimentally at both.

Well, I guess this is the end for now. I have uploaded a ton more pictures which I never got around to posting about...and maybe if I ever feel inspired in the meantime I will write again. Otherwise, tschüß, auf Wiedersehen!

German playgrounds

Reasons why German playgrounds are the BEST:
1. every one is different, no pre-fab plastic pieces here
2. they are super creatively designed, using more natural colors and organic shapes
3. they include really fun (dangerous) activities
4. they are everywhere

I didn't take enough pictures, because they are literally all over the place, but these are just some examples. I jogged by a plastic, run-of-the-mill playground in a park today in Providence and was reminded of these pictures I still had to post. I bet you would get sued in the US for playgrounds like these or something. Don't really know how else to explain the incredible superiority of the German Spielplatz to American playgrounds.

These pictures do not do it justice. I always walk by them and wish I had my camera. Here are a few more from the web:

Berlin Wall

I may have already posted on this, but just wanted to include more shots of where the wall used to run through the city that I had collected.

memorial to those who died in this area by trying to escape, including a few children

things that made me smile

this was a sneaky picture i took of a guy from this bachelor party i mentioned a way back...wearing a burlap sack over his head.

shiny new central train station, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, with a "beach bar" below. Germans love these fake beaches. They dump some sand down, or make a nice lawn, put up some umbrellas, and they are in business, selling you cocktails and beer.

two female police officers walking along the Spree. just a sight you don't see very often.

little European car and one of the former guard towers from the Berlin Wall in the background.

the sign here reads: "Why don't you burn some calories instead of gas?"

below: hard-boiled eggs sold in the supermarket, dyed to look like soccer balls

below: open-air movie theater in Kreuzberg, which shows a new film every night, mostly in the original language with German subtitles

Berlin graffiti

Looking back through my pictures, I saw a lot of Berlin graffiti pictures I still wanted to upload. Also because it's something I've been thinking about since being back in the States.

I have the sense that graffiti in Germany is received much differently than in the US. I know it's different in huge cities, New York and Chicago have their share as well, but even in small cities in Germany you will see it all over.

Maybe it's because the art/vandalism debate is different? Is graffiti perceived differently? I remember reading about this once and the source said that the police cracks down more on bigger crime and ignores stuff like this. And maybe I should differentiate between street art and "tagging." Some of this stuff is really amazing!

this was the door to our apt building, in a pretty nice, quiet residential area.

pretty sure this is by the street artist Banksy, on an old WWII bunker in Mitte.

below: I think this is Karl-Marx-Straße in Neukölln.

below: also in Neukölln, residential area

anti-BP graffiti

below: I actually took this picture because I thought it was so amazing that the sign for the park was in both German and Turkish, then noticed that you could barely read the sign because of the graffiti. But anyways, the first point is amazing. I bet no other German city has this, but maybe I'm wrong. (neighborhood of Neukölln)

great U-Bahn station

This is the U1, which runs above ground through Kreuzberg. I just thought this particular station was beautiful. This is one of the oldest lines, built around 1900.

love this, II.

courtyard café at night, old crumbly Berliner facade as a backdrop
not pictured: delicious Hefeweizen

love this.

This is just a typical street café on a corner in Berlin, and one thing I absolutely love in Europe. This street, and so many others, are filled with places like this, and you walk around in the evening and people are out and enjoying themselves...and so many of them walk or bike there, they have their neighborhood place where they are regulars. The chalk board outside the restaurant advertises the specials, and every street sign or lamp post has two bikes locked up to it. The waiter won't bring you your check until you ask for it, no rush, and you can just sit...and drink and talk and enjoy...

Tempelhof, formerly Airport Tempelhof

biking down the former runway, below the giant "X"
I wrote about going to Tempelhof earlier, but this time we biked around with a camera. It is just such a strange feeling to be on this HUGE empty runway, and it's fun to see so many people out enjoying it, biking, running, roller blading, playing around. Not a very green "park" though, especially with the heat we had, all the grass was dead and NO shade or trees.

These pictures don't really show the actual airport building, but it was built by the Nazis and for two years was the biggest building in the world in terms of area, until the Pentagon was built (according to Wikipedia anyways). The Americans used it as a base after the war.

Reichstag tour

Michael has a friend who was working for the Green Party, so we got an insider tour of the Reichstag building. I have been there before, including to the glass dome at the top, (See older post) but not inside and underground and in other government buildings. So this was pretty cool.

Below: I hadn't really realized exactly how new everything was only finished in 1999. Really interesting history with the fall of the wall in 1989. The building was finally renovated years after the war (on the side of East Berlin), and housed a museum. They didn't know what to do with it in 1989, but in 1990 the Germans decided to move the capitol from Bonn back to Berlin, and to use the Reichstag building.

Lots of glass and steel, shiny govt buildings along the Spree.

below: I was so excited to come across this: preserved graffiti from Russian and American soldiers who invaded/occupied Berlin in 1945. They left some of the original wall exposed so you could see it. (I later heard they only saved the "clean" stuff.) I have seen pictures from 1945 and the walls were just covered. You can see it here.

underground tunnel

looking over the Spree

Monday, July 12, 2010

beating the heat

This morning I went to the Badeschiff, a swimming pool in the Spree. I was anticipating the worst, as I had heard it's the place to "see and be seen," lots of tourists and people who wear expensive sunglasses and look pretty. But I guess going at 9:00 a.m. beats out those people. :) It was really nice when I went. Already in the 80s at the time in the morning, too. Berlin is HOT.

I got a nice little chair and a spot on the deck, got some rays before the sun got too hot and dipped in the pool to cool off. Read the paper...saw this disaster with the Deutsche Bahn, the German trains, where the air conditioning failed and it got into the 120s, lots of people had to receive medical attention. (My mom told me she heard about it, too). It was 98 uncomfortably hot, and Berlin is getting the high temps of Germany.

Right now seeking refuge in a shopping mall (I know, I know!!!) with air conditioning, which also has free internet and an Eiscafé, an Italian café with good ice cream and coffee...the perfect mix!

below: the line outside the Badeschiff when I left around 11:30