Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Das Blog 2: Electric Boogaloo -- The Saga Continues

After a long hiatus, the critically acclaimed (by my mother) blog continues! In this blockbuster sequel, there will be even more laughs and pratfalls as the American boy struggles to adjust to life in Europe and to teach bored students English. The critics are already raving about it:

"A fiery, feisty, roller-coaster ride. This is travel writing at its best"

-Mark Mallon



"I read it for the articles"

-random guy on the street



"Where did you leave the remote control for the TV?"

-my father



But seriously, folks. As you probably already know if you are reading this, your humble narrator is once again in Deutschland teaching English. This time, however, I am in Weimar, located in the center of Germany, in former East Germany. Here it is on the map:


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Weimar is the cultural capital of Germany; it is where Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, two giants of German literature, used to live and write. Here is a statue of the two of them, who were contemporaries and close friends:

Weimar was also the home of the Bauhaus architectural movement, probably the most influential architecture school of thought of modern times. After World War I, the new German constitution was signed here, because the unrest in Berlin made it too dangerous to do there. Thus, the democratic period of German history between World War I and Hitler's rise to power is called the Weimar Republic. Not bad for a little town of about 60,000 people!

A lot of dukes and royals and such lived in Weimar. A Russian princess lived here and built this cool looking Orthodox church:
On the flip side, one of the first and most infamous concentration camps was built very close by. Here are some pictures from Buchenwald. "Jedem das Seine" literally means "to each his own," but more colloquially, "everyone gets what he deserves." Horribly, Buchenwald was even used by the Soviets for their political prisoners for several years after the end of World War II.



One big difference is, this year I am teaching adults. My school is for adults (most range from 19-30 years old) who have already been to vocational schools and worked, but would like to earn their A-levels so they can study at university. Here is a picture of my school:

Having visited Weimar last spring, I made some friends here, and so I was able to find an apartment with three very nice roommates. Here is a picture of my room:

So that was a quick update on where I am and what I am doing. I have already had some vacation time, so very soon there will be a post about my trip to Italy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ich bin ein Berliner. . .

Does anybody still read this blog!? I dunno anymore, but maybe if I actually posted regularly y'all would. . .

Anyways, I went to Berlin back in March for a Fulbright conference and here's what I did in this, the biggest and perhaps coolest city in Germany:

First stop was the Reichstag, the German parliament building. We had a tour of the inside, but I forgot my camera! But a friend was nice enough to take my picture in front of the chamber:
And this is Berlin's impressive church:
Here is a view of Berlin's famous TV tower, built during the Soviet time and a landmark of East Berlin. The big building to the left? That was my hotel. Fulbright paid for the room. Whoopeee!
East Germany was famous for making the Trabant, or Trabi ('tra bee) cars, which were the chariot of the masses there during Soviet times, although they were poorly built pieces of junk. Still, the cars have a cult following here in Germany. Apparently you can also rent one by the hour and drive it around Berlin. The only question is, will it run long enough to get you back? I love the rhyming "Trabi Safari!"
The following pictures are from Berlin's famous Pergamon Museum, which lies on the "Museum Island" smack in the middle of Berlin. As you can see, the Germans basically re-created whole cities inside the museum, using original pieces stolen from places like Greece, Italy, and the Middle East.



I just couldn't resist taking a picture of this naughty artifact...
This nice looking building is Berlin's city building:
And perhaps Berlin's most famous symbol, the Brandenburg Gate:
Berlin is also famous for its Soviet-Era crosswalk lamps. You can find all sorts of souvenirs of these little guys all over Berlin:

This is the Holocaust Memorial, quite possibly my favorite memorial ever. I love the fact that you can walk through it, and it is so elegant and poignant in its simplicity:


Walking around Berlin one day, I chanced upon Renate K√ľnast, who was the Minister of Consumer Protection, Food, and Agriculture from 2001 to 2005, when the Greens were in the government. She is now a co-leader of the Green block in the German Parliament.
Here is an inside view of Berlin's New Museum, which just opened in the Fall. It houses the famous bust of Nefertiti, but you aren't allowed to take pictures of it. It also boasts a really extensive Egyptian collection.

The New Museum also has a good view of the TV tower:
Check out this crazy building!
At the top of my must-see list was Sans Souci, the retreat of Frederick the Great, Emperor of Prussia in the mid to late 1700s. Sans Souci is French for "without care." It is here that Frederick would come to relax and escape. The French philosopher Voltaire was a frequent visitor and even had his own room. The palace and its large, accompanying grounds are located in Potsdam, outside of Berlin proper. This impressive first picture is the building where the SERVANTS lived. Damn!
And here is the palace proper. Since it was just a retreat, it is rather small and unimpressive. But the surrounding grounds are gorgeous, as is the inside.


This is the so-called "New Palace," built to host many guests and to hold official functions. Ironically, it is much more impressive than Frederick's residence.
When you take a tour inside the palace, you have to wear these big, silly slippers over your shoes so you don't damage the floor:
You're not supposed to take pictures inside, but I sneaked a few anyways:

Whew-ee, that was big post, but Berlin is a big city! I've only got about a month left in Germany, but there are many other adventures I can relate on my blog, such as my trip to Weimar, the cultural center of Germany, and some hiking trips. I'll try to post again in the next couple weeks. Auf Wiedersehen!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hamburglar

Oh my -- almost 2 months without a blog post! I know I promised one on my trip to Hamburg, but I've been busy! Anyways, here's what I did in Hamburg back in February. In case you're wondering, no, the Hamburger does not come from Hamburg.

Our first stop was a soccer game for the beloved St. Pauli team. They are famous for their left-wing politics and their skull and crossbones logo. Here's a view inside the stadium:
Here is a view of Hamburg's impressive city hall:
Close by in the city center there is a promenade with a lot of shops. It's quite pretty, even in winter!

Hamburg is a very famous port city, and no trip to Hamburg is complete without a tour of the harbor. Here's a view of the shoreline from our boat:
The port is a center of import/export, and there are humongous containers and cranes all over the place.
Nearby the harbor is the Speicherstadt, or warehouse district, where many goods from afar, such as spices from the East, were stored. The Speicherstadt is characterized by a very impressive red brick style architecture, with narrow canals in between the buildings.
Hamburg is perhaps most famous for the Reeperbahn: the "sinful mile" which contains a myriad of bars, strip clubs, sex shops, and ladies of the night. It's also where the Beatles got their start as a band. It used to be known for being a rough part of town, but nowadays it's fairly tame and touristy. Lots of neon lights!
I just love the sign for this public toilet:
The Beatles' Hamburg days are memorialized by some little statues on the Reeperbahn:Hamburg is home to one of Germany's most beautiful Protestant churches -- the Michaeliskirche:On the way to and from Hamburg, we saw some pretty funny license plates. The first two or three letters of German plates denote the city. I'll let these pictures speak for themselves: