Category Archives: Research

Berlin Day Three – Afternoon

Today has certainly been an interesting day. After my blogging this morning, checking e-mail and talking to Karen and Anita on Skype, it was after 2 p.m. and I was tired so I laid down on the bed to read some of the travel brochures I picked up at the hotel desk and then decided a nap was in order (as I had nothing else planned and it was still overcast.)

I awoke around 3 to the sound of a herd of young Germans thundering through the hotel as a high-school-aged tour group got here. Their presence might make breakfast in the morning interesting… The breakfast area isn’t small, but it’s not large enough for a full hotel’s worth of guests either. I wonder how long they are staying…

Anyway, I still had no plans as the afternoon wasted away, so I thought I would try taking a risk. I pulled up a Berlin map, closed my eyes and pointed my finger — to the Wedding district of Mitte. I had made no previous plans in my itinerary to go to Wedding, and none of the tour guide books mention it, so my curiosity was sparked. I googled it and found via Wikipedia that Wedding is a working-class district with very few attractions.

So naturally, I went.

After quickly checking and being informed that it was still calling for overcast skies for several hours (but no rain) I left the hotel. lied a little as it was actually sprinkling, but it stopped by the time I arrived in Wedding via the bus and U-bahn system.

When I got there, I immediately understood why Wedding is not mentioned in the guide books. The Wedding district formally belonged to the French after WWII , and as it borders Pankow to the east, it was one of the first sites for construction of the Wall. Modern day Wedding is quite shabby, filled with poorer Berliners and plenty of non-Germans. I walked down Müllerstrasse which turns into Chausseenstrasse which turns into Friedrichstrasse, following the route that the U6 subway line takes underground. The walk revealed the dirtier side of Berlin, one that has seen neither corporate/government reconstruction or much gentrification. The area bleeds into Mitte in the south, and though it is definitely a melting pot area, it won’t likely be a large highlight of my research paper.

After I had walked all the way to Friedrichstrasse, I saw the large Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof which doubles as both a Berlin subway and a Deutsche Bahn hub. There I picked up a pizza-brot for supper and took the S1 (or was it S2?) line to Unter den Linden to relax a little before coming back to the hotel. I later realized when I saw a sign on another tram that I wasn’t supposed to eat my pizza while riding…oops.

After looking around the Pariser Platz in front of the Brandenburger Tor and ascertaining that something important was going on at the French Embassy (lots and lots and lots of black/grey Mercedes and their black suit-wearing drivers were parked around the Pariser Platz) I took a few photos and sat down for a Sprite and Apple Strudel at a bäkerei. After writing down my thoughts on the evening, I headed back to the hotel around 8.

Berlin Day Three – Morning

This morning I got up late (around 9) because I was tired after staying up to blog/post pictures to Flickr/talk to Karen on Skype. I got ready and ate breakfast — they had Brötchen today! but still no Nutella. Then I went to the nearest Deutsche Post retail store to buy a stamp for my postcard and send it to Dennis’s Oma and Opa. It’s only a year late; think they will mind?

Then I went phone hunting. There are no less than three T-mobile stores on the Ku’damm, but the first one I stopped at didn’t have any cheap prepaid phones (all were over 50 Euros), so I kept walking east on Ku’damm (like I did yesterday) and decided I should go to Saturn (the electronics store). I’m really glad I went, because the place is (as I suspected) HUGE! I would have so much fun in Saturn if I lived here permanently.

I quickly found the Handy section and began to look at the prepaid phones (German’s call cell phones handys). There were a lot of options and prices so I went with the cheapest – 15 Euros. If I understood the sign correctly, the Vodafone SIM card that comes with the phone is good for 465 hours of connectivity to the Vodafone cell towers and 10 hours of talk time – plenty for me to talk to Dr. Rogers when he gets here later this week.

I don’t know if I could even receive international calls or how many minutes it would cost me, but if you want to give it a shot I’ll e-mail you my number (don’t want to post it for the world to see or anything.)

After I bought the phone, I went to a Plus (grocery store) and bought a few snacks to keep around my hotel room for when I get hungry between meals.

I’m not sure what my afternoon plans are yet. It’s already 1:30 and though there were partly cloudy/mostly sunny skies this morning, the past hour or two have been overcast.

Berlin Day Two – Events and Observations

Ah, my first full day in Berlin. I felt quite good this morning after a long, hard sleep last night and good breakfast this morning at the hotel. All day has been completely overcast, so with my camera, backpack and rain jacket in tow, I headed out from the hotel around 10 a.m.

At first I walked west toward the U-Bahnhof (subway station) Adenauerplatz to see how long it would take to walk there. As I suspected yesterday and confirmed on the BVG (Berlin Transportation Group) Web site this morning, the U1 line which follows Ku’damm is closed for construction until October. Fortunately, BVG has set a bus route that follows the U1 line, and I noticed today on their electronic signs that a bus going to Tegel Airport stops along the Ku’damm. Now if only I had known that yesterday… This will make it much easier to get back to the airport next Friday.

After making it to Adenauerplatz in about 8 minutes, I started walking east back along Ku’damm, taking pictures of the myriad shops (mostly high fashion) or things with international flavor. As I point out numerous times on today’s Flickr set, there are plenty of them.

I walked to the Gedächtniskirche and then took several more photos of the church and the office buildings around it. I’m a bit worried about the way my photos are turning out with this cloud cover — the sky is just a gray or white blah. said it was supposed to shower today and tomorrow, so I’m not sure what I will do at the moment, aside from play things by ear.

I bought a postcard for Dennis’s grandparents just down the street from the Gedächtniskirche, then I walked to a small park at Wittenburgplatz. It was very quaint, similar to what one might find in a German village. That was around noon, and I wasn’t even hungry yet, so I decided to try to make today a two-meal day. With the large, late breakfast and normal supper, it has worked out well so far, though I’m a bit hungry now. Tomorrow when all of the stores are open (most are closed on Sundays) I plan to go to a grocery store and buy a few things to keep at the hotel.

This afternoon I spent 8 Euros at the Story of Berlin exhibit, a multimedia walk-through presentation on Berlin’s history from medieval island to reunification. It was very well laid out and employed a number of great presentation methods. I spent nearly three hours there; other people kept moving on past me as I took the time to read nearly every sign in the place. It didn’t add a whole lot to my research, but it helped solidify some of the reading I’ve done on Berlin’s history.

After I finished at the exhibit, I headed back to the Hotel to relax and nap for a little while before wandering back out for supper. I found a nice cafe with decent prices in the opposite direction from where I ate last night, and had a hamburger with fries and a cappuccino to keep me going tonight!

Just a side note: I obviously didn’t go to the Deutsche Oper today to see Porgy and Bess. I’m debating on whether or not to go see it (it’s the only show they have all month.) It will probably come down to how much money I have later in the trip.

Finally, a few observations from today:

-German dogs are very cute and well behaved, though one did bark at me today.

-The weather really must clear up for me to get better photos. I played with some of the photos from this morning in Photoshop with varying degrees of success, but nothing can replace the gray clouds with blue sky.

-Taking a 30-minute nap in the afternoon helps a lot.

-I definitely understand Germans’ love for a good cafe. The atmosphere of a relaxing cafe, sitting with friends talking and eating, is perfect for the end of a busy day (and for the Germans is made even better by adding beer and/or coffee!)

-While I was sitting at the cafe, a convertible drove past blasting “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s “Turandot” on their speakers. Completely awesome, and unheard of in America.

That’s it for today; I need to go to bed!

Bis Morgen!

Berlin Day One – Observations

I’ll leave you all with a few observations from today – Hopefully I’ll be inspired enough to do this everyday.

Today’s main observation is confirmation of my whole reason for being here: Berlin is quite the international city. Obviously, I believe this enough to base my senior Scholars project on it, but I’ve already gotten some examples that help back up that thesis and are encouraging for what is to come in the next two weeks.

After my last post an hour or two ago, I left the hotel to look for a place to eat. The hotel desk staff suggested I stay away from the Kurfürstendamm (one of West Berlin’s main streets, and just a few feet from my hotel) but rather to check out the Pariserstrasse which is a couple streets south of the hotel. They obviously knew what they were talking about, and within a few minutes I had walked by two sushi restaurants, an Italian pizza place, two or three typical “German” pubs and a Mexican (Hispanic) restaurant. The diversity, like I said, just points to the modern, international nature of Berlin that I will looking for and documenting all week.

(Side note: One thing you should understand about German restaurants – most are outdoor cafes that double as bars because they all have large selections of alcoholic options. Most Germans eat large breakfasts and make lunch the main course of the day, so in the evening they get together with friends at one of these outdoor cafes for drinks and appetizers until late. Also, I decided to eat at the Mexican place – Poco Loco – and had a burrito which might have been slightly more expensive that it was worth. But at least now I’m settled in, clean and full. Now I just need to go to bed.)

See you all in the morning.

Berlin Day One – Arrival

I’m here! It took long enough and I’m quite tired/hungry, but I’m now in my hotel room (very nice) and I’ve talked to Karen for a while, unloaded my stuff, and taken a shower. Now I’m going to go find a bite to eat somewhere around here.

Getting here was interesting: the bus that I thought would take me very near my hotel was nowhere to be seen outside the airport, so after I bought a 7-day travel card I hopped on one of the other buses and planned my way to the hotel using the subway. It was going well until I got off the first subway and learned that the subway line (U1) is closed for construction until October. So that put me a few blocks more than I planned away from Hotel Bogota, but I walked the six or seven blocks from the subway (called the U-bahn) to the hotel.

I’ve only taken a few pictures of my room so far, so I’ll try to get them up soon for everyone to see.

I think I’ll be sleeping in late in the morning, but I need to find out when breakfast is served so I can eat that meal for free everyday. It’s a good thing that something is free – as it turns out, the Internet is not free. It costs 13 euros per day, which as you all know, I will cough up to stay connected with the world.

Talk to you all later!

Berlin Day One – Travel

So far, so good on the travels to Berlin. I am now at the Amsterdam Airport, exhausted and hungry, but I’m just fine otherwise.

Checking in at Memphis was simple enough, and after the family and I ate supper, I went through security and walked to the terminal (at the end of airport, no less.) Fortunately, they were already boarding, so I stood in line and then got on the plane. Not waiting around was pretty nice.

The flight was good despite my inability to fall asleep. Northwest Airlines has improved their overseas planes; they are now using Airbus A330s which have a much better entertainment system (built into the back of the seat in front of you with myriad movie choices.) I watched “21” and nibbled at the provided dinner (not so good) before attempting to fall asleep. I mostly spent the evening with my eyes closed, wishing myself to sleep, struggling with the seat to find a comfortable position (I had some bad lower back pain which was finally solved by putting the provided pillow behind it) and watching both the flight map and information on my screen. We had significant tail wind at 38000+ feet, upwards of 100 mph most of the way here, so we arrived in Amsterdam early.

There were a few interesting moments: there were several children on board, and at least three of them had tantrums sometime while we were in flight. Also, around half way through the flight we were awakened by the stewardesses asking over the intercom if there were any nurses or doctors on board. A man fell (passed out) in the aisle just behind my row of seats. It wasn’t all that entertaining, but it was interesting to note that there were at least 4 doctors and a med school student on board. I had just started to fall asleep at that point, too.

My flight to Berlin doesn’t leave for another 3 hours, and my 6 Euro/30 minuted internet is going to run out soonish, so I’ll update you again when I arrive at my hotel.