Friday, April 24, 2009

Dispatch from Berlin: Parts 2, 3, and 4

Since last night was a somewhat betrunken post about douchebags and Germany's Next Top Model, I feel I must recap some of the actual, you know, culture and stuff I've consumed over the past few days.

Jeff and I headed out on our own in the morning so that Kerry could work on a paper. It was rainy, so we decided to hit some of the museums on Museum Insel, or "Museum Island." Germany doesn't have one "It" museum -- something you absolutely have to visit, like the Louvre or the Uffizi or the Met. Instead, it has a bunch of different museums, the sum of which is greater than its parts. Unfortunately each part costs about 5 Euro, so we chose just one place to visit -- the Deutsches Historisches Museum. It's called the German History Museum and it did not disappoint. The entire history of the country was condensed into one exhibit which takes about twenty minutes to see if, like me, you don't look at anything for more than 1.5 seconds. It's kind of like art aerobics: I never stop moving. It's not great for comprehension tests, but it works for me.

After the museum, we walked down Unter den Linden, a central street in Berlin's Mitte district. The skies had cleared, and we met up with Kerry for a trip to KaDeWe, which is sort of the Harrod's of Berlin. Kerry directed us straight up to the top floor, which was filled with every kind of food and drink you could imagine. Seemingly endless glass display cases housed hundreds of varieties of everything from chocolate to cheese to meats. We contemplated the pig esophagi (really) and fig-flavored vodkas over Milchkaffee and then went over to H&M to get Jeff a hoodie (the weather had turned chilly and he had left his jacket at home). Germany doesn't sell any men's clothes that aren't at least 50% fey, so Jeff ended up with a hoodie with little bits of flair on the shoulders. I immediately christened him "Euro Jeff." (To say it like a German, pronounce it oy-ro.)

We took a tour through a cute neighborhood called Schöneberg and then feasted on Turkish food at a place called Hasir. Our second night ended with a bottle of wine and, much to Jeff's dismay, season 4 of The L Word.

Kerry worked all day, so Jeff and I explored more of the city, bringing our horrible broken German along with us (I actually ordered a sandwich without using the word for 'sandwich'... skills!). We walked along the Landwehrkanal, back up to Unter den Linden, and into Berlin's old Jewish quarter which now resembles a much more laid-back SoHo. We investigated more of the Tiergarten, drank half-liters of beer, and then hopped the subway to the East Side Gallery, which is what's left of the Berlin Wall. We were surprised to find that it was being repainted white so that the "original artists" could re-do the graffiti they did back in 1989. Or something. Anyway, the scaffolding and whitewashing made the whole experience pretty underwhelming.

After picking up Kerry back at the apartment, we had a quick Vietnamese meal and then hurried home to catch "Germany's Next Top Model." Jeff, who was half in the bag by that point, opted to go and take some night photos of the city.

Kerry picked up some rolls so that we could experience a "German breakfast." Basically, the gist is to take a roll and put stuff on it. Cheese, jelly, butter, mayonnaise ... pretty much anything that you can put on a roll is fair game. Germany is yet another country that eats a lot of bread, cheese, and meat (not to mention all of that beer) and yet is not plagued by obesity like the U.S. I pondered this conundrum as I demolished what was essentially a cheese-and-cream-cheese sandwich.

We hopped on the U-Bahn to Alexanderplatz, where we caught the S-Bahn to Potsdam. Potsdam is home to Sans Souci, the palace of Frederick the Great, then-king of Prussia (as opposed to the now-king of Prussia which is no one, as Prussia no longer exists). The Germans think of Sans Souci as a rival of Versailles, and I think it's even lovelier. The grounds are vast and lush and everything is covered in gold leaf and I had an extended fantasy about being a princess flouncing about in a poufy gown and gnawing on turkey legs. But that's neither here nor there.

After spending a few hours exploring, we ventured out into Potsdam proper for Kaffee und Kuchen, or "coffee and cake." It turns out that I cannot pronounce the word Kuchen without sounding like I am coughing up a hairball, but the custom itself is fabulous. We sat in an open-air Austrian café and I had waffles with ice cream and strawberries and got drunk on too much sun. When Jeff pointed out that I had the dreaded "sunglasses tan," we got back on the train and rode back home, exhausted and full.

Jeff and I just got back from hanging out with real Germans (Kerry's friends). I think we did a good job of representing the mute sector of the American population. The only words I really know are "please," "thank you," "breakfast," and "super," but I managed to make those into at least four completely unintelligible sentences. I made Kerry teach me the German words to 99 Luftballons also but "You and I in a little toy shop" is a tough way to begin an exchange with a stranger. So I stuck to my super breakfast story. Remind me to tell it to you one of these days.


  1. no photo of euro-jeff??? please post one, because it's literally too hard to imagine.

  2. Haha! I think Kerry has one ... I'll have her send it to me.


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