Friday – Day 29

August 19, 2012

Friday was our second, ‘last’ day with Nicole and thus we spent it in the best way possible. Walking around the city together and spending time as friends. Unfortunately for most of the day I had forgotten my memory card so some of the photos and videos aren’t mine.

First up was a visit to the photobooth to take a series of pictures in which we all scrambled to get into the frame, mostly unsuccessfully. These photobooths are scattered all around Berlin and apparently quite popular with Theresa having taken photos with every ISSI group to visit.

Following that we walked in the direction of the city, aiming for a park dedicated to the memory of the Berlin wall, with an intact section still along it. On our way we came by a fantastic market, in which there were fromageries with a gallery of european cheeses, a fish stand with fresh fish being tossed onto a grill and eaten nearby. Fruiterers, artisanal pastas and jams lined the sides and Theresa and I jumped to buy some fresh fruit for our lunch.

We walked the rest of the distance to the park carrying our load of fruit: blackberries, plums, apricots, grapes and two German squished looking peaches that were naturally fat.

When we arrived at the park we found swings lining the wall, and after a heated discussion about the benefits and costs of nuclear power we set a-swinging. After my turn on the swing I sat back to try and calculate the frequency of the swing when it was not being driven (given by sqrt(g/l) ) but the estimate was a bit far off and I left the swings dissatisfied. Maybe I should’ve taken a look at it as a non-linear oscillator.

From there we wakled to Potzdamer Platz, another big public square, and visted the Sony Center, a large construction with nice restaurants and shops inside, before settling down

on the grass nearby.

Potzdamer Platz

Much of the rest of the afternoon was taken up following round an akapella group around the U-Bahn and to tourists locations while they were promoting themselves. One of the singers was Theresa’s friend from her frisbee team and thus we were committed to staying the whole time.


Berlin – Thursday – Day 28

August 17, 2012

Berlin is a bipolar, janus faced monkey, dancing on the stage of European history. It is the life of the party and the grim reaper, rolled into one cosmopolitan cocktail of finery.

In the morning Nicole, Koen and I walked to the local bakery to buy breakfast. I purchased an apfelkuchen, a berliner and a small loaf of bread.

Following that it was off to the Brandenburger Tor for a free three hour walking tour of Berlin.

Nicole, Koen, I and, the Brandenburg Gate

The tour guide was a fantastic guy called Rob from Manchester and he had quite the flair for engaging and emotive story telling! He also displayed great sensitivity to the dark side of Berlin’s history and treated it in an appropriate manner. I was pleased to note as well, the entirety of our group was suitably solemn during our visit to the holocaust memorial and during discussions that followed.

The Holocaust Memorial

Following that we visited the bunker while Hitler killed his dog, and entered into a suicide pact with his then wife Eva and shot himself. The contrast between persecuter and persecuted was stark in its treatment by modern Germany. The bunker was buried underneath a carpark, Hitler’s ashes scattered to the winds, to lie unseen eternally. The persecuter’s memories were to be blotted from the earth, while the victims would be eternally memorialized.

Next we saw an example of Nazi architecture, a cold stone building, large and phallic in structure, that originally was their headquarters. Following the defeat of Germany, it saw occupation by the communists, and watched over the rape of Berlin’s women. Finally, to this day it remains feared, the home of the tax bureau of Germany.

Nazi Architecture – The Finance Ministry

From there it was off to the Berlin wall, where our guide made us appreciate the magnitude of separation, emotional and physical that was wrought on the already traumatized city. He told us a love story about a man whose girlfriend lived on the opposite side of the wall and how he kidnapped a near identical individual to switch the two. He told us of the families that were separated, of the jobs lost and of the friends who were never to meet again. However, interestingly enough he told us that life in East Germany wasn’t nearly as bad as US cold war propaganda led many to believe, telling us of elderly Berliners who still reminisce about the sense of community forged in the communist block.

A quick break for lunch and I consumed an awful iced coffee and some terrible fruit. Lesson: never trust a free tour guide paid in sandwiches by a cafe.

Following that it was off to museum island and the squares designed by Frederick the Great with huge monuments to human ingenuity and ability.

Finally we came to  the Berliner Dome, a huge 20th century structure ordered by the Kaiser to replicate the grand palaces of older European cities.

The Berliner Dome

It was on the steps looking out over the plaza that we were told the story of Berlin’s greatest moment, the fall of the wall. It was told fantastically and is a story well worth hearing from someone who can tell it better than I.

After the end of the tour, us and a number of the others on the tour went to a local bar for a drink. Chatting with some Canadians for an hour, my first beer in Germany went down well. Additionally we had a great time convincing them of the existence of drop bears!

As we left the bar, it soon started raining and after getting me a German sim-karte, we rushing into the Alexanderplatz U-Bahn station to get back to Theresa.

After chilling there for a while it was off to dinner to try some traditional German food. Which, importantly is amazingly cheap.

German Food!

After dinner I discovered the most amazing part of Europe. The prices on icecream. For one euro, yes, one euro, you can buy a scoop of gelati in a cone. Additional scoops are also priced at, yes, one euro!

1 Euro Icecream – Best thing ever

We wandered the streets for a bit then thinking what to do next when Theresa decided that in honor of ISSI (the Weizmann program) we should buy a few drinks and head back home to look through photos and videos.

Two bottles of wine, one of vodka, one of Jagermeifter and one of Feigling later, we were happily content with reminiscing to the early hours of the morning, and to wish Nicole a safe trip as she told us she had to leave for the airport at 5AM. At 3AM I phoned home to talk to my parents and to see how the family was and by the time I was ready for sleep Theresa and Nicole were curled up on the same bed, without an alarm set. Thus I set one for 4:45 and settled in for an hours sleep.

Gerald and two drunk girls

Nicole woke up crazily ten minutes after the alarm, madly packing her belonging that were in disarray on the floor. After an hour of madly rushing about she received an email about her hostel booking in Rome, to where she was heading next. This prompted her to check her boarding pass when, she noticed that she had in fact decided to leave one day before her flight. Much laughter ensued and we went back to bed for a well deserved sleep in.

© 2012-2024 Shaanan Cohney