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Preview: American in Berlin

American in Berlin

Updated: 2018-03-02T11:39:23.607-05:00


Auf Wiedersehen Germany


My last few days in Germany flew by! I was a mix of emotions—full of anticipation to see everyone at home, but of course sad to leave. Wednesday was yet another day of new experiences. I officially “unregistered” with the district of Wilmersdorf (quick and painless,) shopped at new stores in Kreuzberg and ate at a new restaurant in Charlottenberg with Matthias. Thursday was the wrap-up day. I gave the apartment keys back to my landlady, mailed my last box home, and decided that unfortunately I needed to check a 3rd bag at the airport. Between shipped boxes and checked bags, I sent home more than double my weight in papers, books, clothes and “stuff!”

Thursday afternoon was wonderful! I walked up Pfalzberger Street, my street, one last time. Quiet and tree-lined, upscale, but very livable, it was a fantastic place to plant my roots for a year. My tour continued down the Kudamm to the Kranzler Eck café for a latte macchiato. As the bells of the Memorial Church tolled and Berliners bustled along the street below, I chatted on my cell phone, reminisced about my year and tried to savor my last moments of café culture. In the evening, I headed to Kreuzberg for one final cheese spaetzle dinner. Best of all, it was one last dinner with a big group of my beloved BUKA fellows:-)

My last journey back across town on the U1, through Kottbusser Tor, past the driving range and Potsdamer Platz, gave me some time to reflect. I leave Germany with thousands of fun memories, many exciting adventures, lots of new friends, just a few regrets (all learning experiences,) and no worries—I will never forget my wonderful year. Understanding how we (Americans and Germans) are different and even better, how we are similar, has been one of the most fascinating and worthwhile experiences of my life.

At the end of “Back to the Future,” Michael J. Fox pulls away in the Delorian and you immediately see the words “to be continued.” There is no doubt there will be a sequel. “To be continued” is how I would like to leave this blog. Is it time to go home for now? Yes! But would I live Germany again? Absolutely! I don’t know where my life will take me. But if I have any control over things, one of these days I will be back:-)

As for my immediate future, I’m going through culture shock. I’m finding it hard not to compare absolutely everything to “how the Germans would do it.” An additional shock was flying in past the NYC skyline and realizing that I will soon live there!!! In some ways, the NYC culture is more unknown to me than German culture was when I landed in Germany just one year ago. To decipher this “foreign” culture, I think a new blog will be in order. So give me a couple of weeks to get on the ground, but check out New York Adventures ( to see how I fare in the city that never sleeps!

Thanks for stopping by!

Start spreading the news…I’m engaged!


As my year in Germany races into its final days, I suppose it is time talk about the future.


I’d like to begin with a little song…
“Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today. I want to be apart of it, New York, New York…”

After much thought and deliberation, I have accepted a position at the British General-Consulate in New York! As a local hire, I am considered a Locally “Engaged” Employee. (I think I have a lot of British lingo to learn!)

(Do you get the title now? ;-))


Wow, so New York City! Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would move to NYC after my year in Germany. I’m the DC girl, the Michiganian from Philadelphia, the American Frau who wanted to stay in Germany… but not a New Yorker! But alas, I am super pumped about the many new things I’m about to experience.

The move resurrects some questions that I had just about one year ago…

1. Will I be an Ossi or a Wessi? Where will I live--the Upper EAST Side or the Upper WEST Side? Or perhaps a brownstone in Brooklyn or a high rise in Long Island City will be more of my speed. Who knows!
2. How will my workplace be culturally different than before? My great grandpa was British and served in the British Navy, so I know I’ve got some Brit in my somewhere. I need to channel him to help me avoid new “international incidents.”
3. Will I make friends? Luckily friends, and friends of friends have come out of the woodwork with advice and warm welcomes. Equally nice, home is just 1.5 hours away.
4. What can I afford? All I can say is “HOLY CRUD” housing is expensive.


So that’s a peek into my future. Does a new city mean new “adventures” to blog about. Very possibly! Stay tuned…



I have been touched and amazed that people have wanted to read this blog. I barely knew what a blog was just one year ago. But as it turned out, I have thoroughly enjoyed keeping a written record of my year in Germany. This blog, however, has only been partially written by me. Many people have been almost as religious about commenting about my postings. This interaction is really what a blog is all about. Just as they do in the movies, my Uncle Dave recently suggested that I should provide a small “where are they now” description of the most frequent posters. Great idea! Here is a sampling...Anuradha—(she gets the first entry because many people have asked me about her:-)) Anuradha is a friend from college who now works in Philly as a lawyer. Her interests include playing with her adorable bichon “Priti,” singing classical music, and dating (you go girl!) In the future, Anuradha hopes to work for Amnesty International or raise bichons.Jennie- The queen of Pad Thai is also a friend from college and was my cohort in crime in Freiburg. This fall Jennie will be making a move from super Census Bureau employee to super-duper UCLA PhD candidate. CJS—otherwise known as “Corey Coffee Pot,” my cool older cousin is a lawyer in Nashville. When not at home being suburban with his wife Niki and loveable dog Connie, Corey moonlights as the 3rd Jug Sister in the Nash Trash Tour.The Exit- The mastermind behind Hauptstadt blog the and The Exit blog, Matthias is my oldest German friend. When not working on his PhD, cooking or going to the opera, Matthias enjoys planning outings with friends and family. In the future, Matthias will probably run a company…or a country, you just never know! Erica— A friend from college and former roommate, Erica is currently a 3L at Georgetown Law. She has spent the summer in Kenya at an internship with the UN. Her “highest” achievement was climbing Mount Kenya. Erica plans to return to DC in the fall, where she will focus on working for the environmental law journal and meeting boys.Katie- Katie is my favorite little sister:-) Her hobbies include running, sandwich making and cuddling with Leland. Currently, Katie IS the grass roots advocacy department of the national heath association in DC. One day, she will be in charge of the Boston Marathon. Katie is interested in dating an athletically inclined, funny, politically moderate guy!G&G- Granny and Grandpa Lee—Kappy and Lee are happily retired in Michigan. When not on the golf course, volunteering, or in the garden, Kappy enjoys cooking and sewing. When Lee is not golfing, waiting for Kappy at the sewing store or working in the yard, he enjoys playing on the computer and doing Suduko. Both enjoy being Bush Pioneers and spending time with family and friends;-) In everyone’s opinion, Granny and Grandpa are “Good Things.” Niki—the ying to Corey’s yang, Niki is a crocheter-extraordinaire who works for her alma mater, a well-respected university in Nashville. When not playing with Paisey and Chewy or listening to “Corey stories,” Niki enjoys spending time with her family in California, Indiana and Arizona. Mom- Martha is the world’s best mom, wife, daughter and art teacher. On the weekends you might find my mom scoping out the Golden Nugget flea market, shopping at TJMaxx, reading an art book or working in the garden. One day, she and my dad dream about living in the Manitou Island Lighthouse in Northern Michigan. EightyOne81- just as I am an American in Berlin, Jonas was a Berliner in America, California to be exact. He found my blog earlier this year and we have enjoyed exchanging perceptions about our adopted homelands. Now back in Berlin to finish up his degree, Jonas could just be the next Annie Lebowitz or Ansel Adams. Check out his blog! Lexy- The queen of Kreuzberg, Lexy was a fellow BUKA this year. She can bake and knit like no other and spent her year in Berlin collecting teaching materials about the GDR. This fall, Le[...]

The Letter C


Today's blog posting is brought to you by the letter C-- for Cologne. It's been another few days full of "holy moly, it's cool to be in Germany" moments. I flew to Cologne on Wednesday evening and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Torsten and paying one more visit to a city I have had lots of fun exploring this year. Unfortunately, Torsten is under the weather (gute besserung-- being sick in the summer sucks!) But we still managed to see some neat new sights.

A definite highlight was the modern art musuem-- the Museum Ludwig. Simply put, it was the most extensive and impressive modern art collection I have ever seen. Picasso, J. Johns, Warhol, Mattise, Lichtenstein, Max Ernst-- you name an artist and his work is in the musuem. There was also a thought-provoking exhibit on sexuality and the arts in the last 60 years. Though I was startled by some of the images, (certainly not art postcards to send home to mom) I was fascinated to get a glimpse into different types of sexuality that I know basically nothing about.

I also shopped (gummi bear store!!), met a fellow fellow for coffee, visited a local market, the city museum and of course the Cathedral. Yesterday for lunch I tried sushi with real raw fish-- a first for me, and was pleasantly surprised how good it was!

As a related side note, I have officially been in Germany one year today! Just the thought puts a giant smile on my face and crocadile tears in my eyes. I'm writing this entry while I steam towards Berlin on the last ICE train I will take this year. As I gaze out the window, I continue to be amazed by what the country has to offer-- lush fields, factories, red roofed houses and more. I'm equally intrigued by the people inside the train-- the 10 couples traveling on vacation together, the friendly but authoratative Deutsche Bahn officer and the couple eatting thin dark bread cheese sandwiches and drinking coffee from a slender silver thermos brought from home. In many ways, I am sure they are just like my family and me. In other ways, they are uniquely German. I would love to hear all their stories! Listening to Eva Cassidy's "Fields of Gold" and Aaron Copeland's "Doppio Movimento" ("Simple Gifts") adds to the moment but makes me too sentimental so I let my Ipod choose something different. (No more moving songs until I get home, but I highly recommend both those songs to anyone not going into a week of goodbyes and making a life transition:-))

I met with Carl this afternoon and bought a chunk of my favorite German cheese to import back to the States with me. Unfortunately, I am now sick and my body is telling me enough, time for bed! But I will certainly think about my fun year as I take it easy and get over my little virus.

What a year it has been!

The roaming pot head


We have all heard of the "Roaming Nome," but little did you know there is another ceramic creature roaming around... Guenter Pot Head!

He went back the States with my mom and filed this report along the way...




Wonderful Visit!


It was beyond wonderful to have my mom here. Each day we did a bit of packing, sightseeing/shopping and relaxing. Here are some highlights:

(image) 1. Espresso at KaDeWe—my mom said she wanted espresso with lunch! Neither one of us had ever had one. I don’t even like coffee. But if you are going to have an espresso, I agree that KaDeWe might be a great place to try one. It was really good! I need not make a habit of ordering them often!

2. High power flush and inspection plate toilets- I enlightened my mom one evening with an explanation of the difference in German toilets. Fascinating!

3. German pace of life and Café culture- my mom now loves both as much as I do. “It’s just healthier!”

4. Church bells chiming around my apartment each morning—mom: “either there’s a wedding or the war just ended.”

(image) 5. Bathing caps at KaDeWe—what can I say about this… I think they are hideous and I can't imagine they are hot sellers! (But we did have to wait to take this picture until a woman who was actually buying one finished shopping.)

6. Bank buddy- my mom has a tender spot in her heart for old people. So when a frazzled old lady came into the bank, cut in line and then started telling me all about the friend she just visited in the hospital, my mom patted her on the shoulder and said it would be okay. With that, it dawned on the lady that we were American. In perfect English she proceeds to tell us that she was born in the States, moved back to Germany in ’46, went to school at Swarthmore and was then the secretary to the South Korean ambassador in Berlin. As soon as I mentioned working in DC, she knew exactly whom I had worked for. Small world!

7. “Wunderbar!”-- mom’s new favorite word. She said it to just about every Berliner we met!

8. Helping me pack--I’m 26 and yet my mother had to come across the ocean and to make sure I am leaving myself enough time to pack, finish my paper and have fun! What’s wrong with this picture?!

9. Naked neighbor—the guy who lives across the street came onto his balcony STARK NAKED on Friday morning. That was not a view of German culture I expected showing my mom.

10. “Johnnie Jump Up” Merkel and Almonds—for the most part, we were always together. But when I stopped into an internet café, my mom set off to the Kudamm, discovered a summer festival and was gutsy enough to buy herself some nuts and me a “Johnnie Jump-up” Merkel. Ms. Merkel will have a place of honor in my new apt. The street festival itself was another fun adventure. Both of us just couldn’t get over the fact that we were together, strolling past wurst stands at a festival in Berlin, listening to Caribbean music!

We also visited the Kollowitz museum, Wintercafe am Literaturhaus (wonderfully west Berlin!), flea market and Kollowitzplatz market. I wish we had another 2 weeks together!


Ireland pictures


My telephone and internet connection broke on Friday and the German telephone company doesn't work on the weekend so I have been out of touch since Friday just about killed me! I think I should add "internet surfers anonymous" to the list of classes I want to take back in the States!

(image) my mom thought it was fun to take pictures of me during my time of need

It is now getting a bit late for another Ireland posting, but here are a few more pictures. Ireland is truly a beautiful country! (And I love the accent... "We're meeting between thoo therty and tree.")




Fairy Tale Wedding


(image) Monday was Abby and Dermot's wedding. The pictures tell the story better than I can. Simply put, it was magical-- an American girl meets an Irish lad, they court across the ocean, fall in love, he proposes in the pub where they first met and the wedding planning begins. The actual wedding took place at a gorgeous cathedral in Kilkenny. Abby's mom hand-painted the runner for the center aisle, Abby looked stunning in her dress and the Irish priest was a riot. During the ceremony, he talked about soccer and said "you may now kiss the bride" even though "that is only said in Hollywood, but since the bride is American it is allowed."

(image) the happy couple and the wedding party after pictures


(image) The reception took place back at the resort. Cocktails were served in front of the main manor house, with dinner served in the dining room of the lodge, which had been decorated in a woodlands theme. Everything from Irish dancers to a wedding cake with Marge and Homer Simpson bride and groom added fun flares to the evening.

(image) Dermot, Abby and the mother of the bride

(image) the happy couple:-) The cake is decorated with the story of how they met. Very creative!

Driving on the wrong side of the road


Internet in Ireland was a bit scarce and a lot expensive, so here is the first of a few Ireland entries that should have been posted in the last couple of days...


The first Ireland adventure was driving, plain and simple. The Irish drive on the left side of the road and my dad had been dreading getting us from Dublin to Thomastown for months. All in all he did a fantastic job!

But the journey can be best summarized by my mother and father:

In the parking lot:
Mom: "Doug, is there a practice course we can drive the car around a couple of times?"
Mom: "Erin, I am being serious, this is not funny."

Leaving the airport:
Mom (from the back seat): "oh” (gasp) "oh my gosh" (gasp gasp) "look right!"
Dad (with hand firmly at 10 and 2): "that is not helpful!"
(Katie and I are trying not to laugh)

Approaching Kilkenny:
Mom: "honey, I just thought I would tell you that you are hitting the bushes."
(Katie and I are laughing hysterically!)

Alas, we made it safely to Thomastown on Saturday afternoon and the resort was spectacular! We had our choice of activities: golf, clay shooting, hunting, trout fishing and croquet. Cheerio!

(image) proof that my mom and dad were in an Irish pub!

After checking in and having a spot of tea, a Taylor family first occured: we all went to a pub together! Who would have thunk it! The occassion was the rehersal dinner and the specific pub was where Abby and Dermot (bride and groom) first met. The music was great and it was fun to meet the rest of the wedding guests.


Breakfast at the lodge on Sunday morning consisted of bacon, eggs, black pudding (blood sausage), white pudding (contents unknown,) and delicious Irish brown bread. Sunday afternoon, my dad golfed and my mom, Katie and Dr. and Mrs. R and I drove into Kilkenny and toured the castle and visited an art center. I would highly recommend Kilkenny!—while a bit touristy, it is filled with interesting shops and pubs and pubs and pubs.


Check back later for wedding and general Ireland observation postings!



I flew to Dublin, Ireland today so I can rendezvous with my parents and sister tomorrow morning. We are all going to Kilkenny where we will attend the wedding of a family friend. I have been stoked about the trip all week long! At the moment, I feel like a little kid waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve night… too excited to go to bed, but know that if I go to bed, I will wake up in the day I have been waiting so long for!

Traveling a day after the latest terrorism scare was not a problem. My Ipod cord caused the security guy to give a big “ah-oh” and search my bag, but after that things were just fine.


I didn’t really expect much from Dublin, so was pleasantly surprised as I walked around this afternoon and this evening. Trinity College is gorgeous and Temple Bar is a lively and picturesque part of town. I had a great dinner on the Temple Bar Square. As I listened to street performers play Irish music and a musician in a local bar sing Mrs. Robinson, Ring of Fire and Leaving on a Jet Plane, I enjoyed a dinner of fish and chips, mashed green peas with mint and squash orange juice soup. An Irish guy who seemed to have already spent the better part of the day at a bar added to the experience by singing along with the songs.


Let’s see, what else do I love about Ireland? The people are unbelievably polite and friendly! If you just barely brush past someone on the street, he stops, looks you in the eye and says sorry. I also love that Oprah is on TV in the afternoon. (I really miss Oprah!) Other cool discoveries included extra large Kinder Schokolade bars and sandwiches with “sweet pickles.” Sweet pickles seem to be little chunks of pickles in a dark spiced sauce—YUM!


Well I am off to bed so I can be at the airport bright and early to greet the rest of my crew.

As they say on the BBC, “bye-bye for now.”

No Berlin link


This posting has no link to Berlin, Germany or Europe, but I am so amused and disturbed by something I came across on Monday, I have to share...

I was sending an e-card to a friend and discovered that it is now possible to send not only birthday and anniversary greetings, but also marriage proposal e-cards. What!?


This was the card I found most funny and horrifying. Nothing says, "I want to make a life-long commitment to you" like an e-card featuring underwear. What does this lead to, a video conference ceremony?

Happy Wednesday!

A breath of fresh air


For as progressive, technologically advanced, Kyoto protocol-loving and organic food-conscious as Germans are, there is one area where they are stuck WAY back in the past... smoking! 37% of adult men and 28% of adult women smoke in Germany.

As I have not so diplomatically stated before, I am grossed out by this! Smoke is practically unavoidable here and is the one thing that all of my visitors (even a German who lives in the States) has complained about during their stay. I read today that only 30% of restaurants in Germany offer non-smoking sections. (And as my sister likes to say, a non-smoking section in a restaurant does about as much good as a non-peeing section in the pool!) Americans my age have all been through the DARE program in school (Drug Abuse Resistance Education.) We've seen the diseased lung, cancer plagued tounge, been told that kissing a smoker is like kissing an ash tray, etc... Unfortunately, one German I spoke with said there is no comparable program in German schools. What's more, German teens and teachers smoke between classes!

Anyway, to my great delight, a major debate is beginning here about raising the legal smoking age to 18 and banning or curbing smoking in public places. The German version of "Meet the Press" debated the issue on Sunday and there have been lots of articles in the papers. The chancellor has put her support behind the ban. She said she sees that other counties: France Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, and, and, and, are all still "free" despite the implementation of smoking bans in recent years.

Smokers and the tobacco lobby won't go down without a hard fight, to be sure. I once had a German intern tell me that smoking actually saves the government money because people die sooner, saving health insurance and retirement costs. He also flatly rejected the notion of second-hand smoke. My favorite argument during the debate show was that banning smoking in public places will only cause adults smoke more around their loved ones at home, so really how would a public ban aliviate second-hand smoke. Interestingly, the ban has come out of the consumer affairs ministry and not the health ministry. The health ministry has yet to comment.

It is my most sincere hope that by the time I return to Germany there will be nothing but fresh air to breathe! Come on Germany, try it, you know you want to!



(image) I have had some issues with motivation this week… like I haven’t had any. So I decided to change all that last night with a 5K "fun run" up and down the Kudamm. Sponsored by the power company, the idea behind the event is that you enjoy either a roller blade race, 5K or 10K as the sun is setting over Berlin and then enjoy the nightlife on the Kudamm afterwards. I, of course, chose the 5K because I haven’t run in a month and really just wanted another “unique” Germany experience… and a free t-shirt. BUT THERE WAS NO FREE T-SHIRT! What kind of fun run is this!? I did get an official certificate stating that I completed the race (like my “schein” from taking the Dreamweaver class,) but no cool shirt to wear back in the States:-(

(image) Other than that bummer (and the rain,) the race was great fun! The music at the starting line was a riot—they played “Eye of the Tiger” before each race began, along with other cool German and American dance songs. Also adding to the fun atmosphere were groups of drummers stationed along the race route. (As an aside, the drummers got me thinking I have never seen a German high school marching band.)

(image) Here are some random thoughts:
1. it was nice that people were not overly competitive during the FUN run.
2. Most people in running outfits wore a cool max shirt and spandex Capri pants (men and women.) I don’t understand the pants. I feel like they would bunch behind your knees. Furthermore, it's interesting that American and German runners would have a different idea of what makes for the most comfortable outfit.
3. the post-race drinks were water, bubbly water, sweetened ice tea and non-alcoholic beer. I actually chose the bubbly water… I think I am turning German!
4. It is a nice feeling to say that I have run further down the Kudamm than I have shopped:-)

So I completed a race in Europe. It’s cool to still be experiencing Germany “firsts” 24 days before departure!

(image) Rudy Rude smoking at a race!!!



It should not come as a great surprise that I am equally excited to be going back to the States and crushed to be leaving Germany. I am returning to a loving family, old friends and new opportunities. But I am leaving new friends, a culture with a healthier pace of life and many interesting sights. I am also bummed to be grocery store full of products, many of which I have yet to try! Here are three of my latest discoveries:

Actually, I am not a fan of the Kinder Pengui. The white "milk" filling is not as sweet as a marshmellow, but feels a bit marshmellowy in my mouth:-p The apple tea and white asparagus cup-o-soup though were delicious! I will probably take some of the tea home with me.

How many more yummy things have I yet to try in my grocery store... I've only got 27 days to find out!

A quiet few days


The heat has finally broken, and I enjoyed a wonderfully cool and mostly sunny weekend in Berlin. It is on a weekend such as this that I know I would be happy staying here. But alas, my time in Germany (for now) is quickly nearing a close. One month from tomorrow I will be on my way back to the States!! It is absolutely unbelievable that I have been here for more than 11 months already. On the one hand, it seems like I just arrived. My time in Bonn seems like yesterday and each day is still filled with new sights that I have never seen before. Other times though, I think that I am very well adjusted and have been here for ages. Practically a Berliner!

Saturday morning, I awoke to the sound of the rain gently sprinkling through the leaves on the trees outside my window. There is nothing more relaxing than laying in bed on the weekends and looking out at the trees and sky. Since I am on the 5th floor and the bedroom looks into the court yard, I sometimes feel like I live in a treehouse:-)


After the rain stopped, I headed to the market at Haeckescher Markt and bought a painting that will always remind me of my year in Germany. I had first seen the work in the fall (before I had even found an apartment.) I've "visited" it all year long, but was concerned about its size (6 feet long) and how I would get something that large back to the States. Luckily, the artist recently painted a much smaller version, so I am now the proud owner of a Juergen Woelk original. I can't wait for it to hang in the US! I also visited my favorite market in Berlin-- the Kollowitz Platz market. Open every Saturday, it it THE place to go for fresh fruit, veggies, pasta and cheese. This week's pasta special was feta and thyme raviolis! YUM!!

Its back to writing this week. At least I know that the paper will be done in 30 days from now!

How you feelin' (Hot Hot Hot)


I can think of few other things to blog about today, other than the heat. It's crazy hot here!

I don't know how hot exactly, but hot!

Hot enough, that had it been socially exceptable, I would have much rather walked around in my birthday suit this afternoon instead of a business suit. Hot enough, that I have been sitting in front of my fan for two hours and have been perfectly content entertaining myself by saying "Luke, I am your faaaather" into the spinning blades. Both of which point to the fact that the heat may have made me delirious!

Might be time to find the local Wilmersdorf swimming pool tomorrow!

Would an actor with any other voice sound as sweet?


Certain American actors have unmistakable voices: James Earl Jones, Fran Drescher, the Micro Machine Man. You would immediately know it was them if you were listening to a commercial and couldn’t see their face.

Things in Germany are a bit different. Because so many American films and shows are dubbed into German, there is a lively industry for voice-over actors. Of course this makes great sense, but I had never given it a second thought before moving here. While working at the Ebert Foundation, my female colleagues once discussed how hot certain actors were. I had never heard of any of them, and finally realized that the ladies were talking about voice-over actors and commenting on their voices.

Apparently, with few exceptions, the same German actor does all the voice-overs for the same character from the US program or movie. I remember once reading an article about the German “Friends” and was interested to see that they were marketed as a group, just as the “Friends” actors were in the States.

Anyway, this all gets back to the present because over the weekend Torsten noticed that the actor who does the James Bond voice-over recorded the airport messages at the Cologne-Bonn Airport. He said it was unmistakable. And then it hit me!... when I was in Bonn in May, I was waiting for my luggage when I swore that I heard the welcome message say, “Welcome to Bonn, Cologne Bonn airport” (like “Bond, James Bond.”) I thought I was just going crazy, but apparently not. So next time you are at the Cologne-Bonn airport, pay special attention to the PA announcement if you want to be welcomed to Germany by German James Bond:-)

Since I mentioned Fran Drescher, I should also mention that the “Nanny” is broadcast over here, but obviously loses a lot without her accent. What would “high” German with a Queens accent sound like, I wonder?

A Poem


With a tear in my eye, I said goodbye to Cheryl;
But I knew that my weekend would not be in peril.

Torsten and I found lots and lots to do;
Flip-flop shopping, KaDeWe and the Memorial Church, all near the zoo.
Then it was off to the east for the rest of the day;
It was great fun to be silly and chat all the way.

We saw part of the gay rights parade from the Sony Center;
There were lots of wild costumes worn by flamboyant maenner.

What’s a Berlin tour without a stroll on Unter den Linden;
We also got into the Berliner Dom, though it might have been forbidden.

Dinner found us in Kreuzberg, having Thai;
Met an unusual GDR guy… couldn’t eat fast enough and say good-bye.

Sunday morning, we were very “Berlin” and had a yummy brunch;
Then we enjoyed the German History Museum and learned a bunch.

We went to Prenzlauerberg for curry wurst, but the famous stand was not open;
And with the warm weather, we were not well a’ copin’.

So we chilled at a café and the Prater Beer Garden too;
Then it was home for a snacks and a movie with Hugh Grant (wahoo!)

This evening it was sad to see a second friend go Heim;
But I thank them both for coming, I had a great time!!!

I tried a Berlin specialty for the first time this weekend: beer with raspberry or waldmeister syrup. Delicious!

More Cheryl and a Second Special Delivery


(image) The challenge for day three of Cheryl's visit was finding cool and cool activities, as the temperature soared and there is not an air conditioned building in sight. The wonderful solution was the Badeschiff. What is this, you ask? It is a swimming pool made from a cargo hull that is 6 feet deep, about 15 feet wide and maybe 150 feet long. It has been sunk to almost water level in the Spree and is the closest one would ever WANT to come to actually swimming in Berlin's main river. The atmosphere is great! People shower off (the life guard is more concerned about this than guarding lives,) then jump in, grab a seat on the edge of the pool and enjoy. The most comprehensive way to describe the experience is that it is so Berlin! It is in an old industrial complex, it's arty, people look trendy-- lots of fun!

(image) It in evening, we did an evening tour of the Reichstag and the Brandenberg Gate. Seeing the city illuminated at night was something else!

Friday morning, special delivery #2, Torsten from Cologne, arrived. After dropping his bags at my place, the three of us headed east to the Soviet memorial in Treptower Park. What can I say that I haven't said before, it still kinda creeps me out! We also walked along the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery, took a boat tour, walked through the Pergamon Museum and introduced Cheryl to Doener Kebabs.

The plan for the evening was to enjoy another German tradition: a beer garden. I had heard that the Cafe am Neuen See was particularly nice, but didn't exactly know where it was and got the three of us lost in the Tiergarten. Luckily, Matthias is just a phone call away and was able to navigate us out of the woods and over to the Cafe. We did indeed have a great time! Pictures to follow when Cheryl gets back from the rest of her vaca.

What's next this weekend? Who knows! I dropped Cheryl off at the train station this morning at 7:30am. She is on her way to Prague, followed by Ireland and Scotland. Torsten and I enjoyed breakfast on the balcony this morning and are now off for another day of sightseeing.

Happy Saturday

(image) random interesting people spotted at Schlesisches Tor

Special Delivery


I am most pleased to report that Cheryl, one of my oldest and dearest friends, arrived from Connecticut on Tuesday. We’ve been having so much fun, there has hardly been time for a blog posting. Determined to help Cheryl stay awake all day on Tuesday, we set off for the Turkish market in Kreuzberg as soon as we dropped her bags at the apartment. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed by the market. I’m glad I went once, but it is not nearly as cool as the Kollowitzplatz market up in Prenzlauerberg. Many of the stands sell the same things and it was too crowded and hot to leisurely stroll. But really who cares what the market was like because Cheryl and I had a great time catching up with each other. Stop #2 was Bergmannstrasse in Kreuzberg. We had dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant in the city and walked up and down the street. I figured that between the jet lag and the heat, Cheryl would be ready to crash after dinner. NOT SO! The Pad Thai gave her a second wind and soon we were off to the Kudamm for a bit of shopping at H&M, Mango and S. Oliver. It was great fun to shop with someone who knew which styles are also in the States at the moment, and which ones were either freaky Berlin or funky European looks! Jet lag hit a bit harder today and there was not a “Cheryl sighting” until 11am. But that was okay, because I had a chance to work. We got rolling after a “German breakfast.” The first stop of the day was the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. It continues to be one of my favorite museums in Berlin and a must-see for newcomers to the city. Stop #2 was the Gendarmenmarkt, followed by the memorial to the Nazi book burning, UN Buddy Bear exhibit, the city toilette, (I told you I was taking guests there) and finally the Hackeschermarkt area. Just about baking from the heat (as you can tell, I am a major baby when it is hot and nothing is air conditioned,) we then headed back to my place for a bit of a rest. Then it was back to the Kudamm to shop at Zara and to see the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Dinner found us in Prenzlauerberg at the Alsatian restaurant Gugelhof. Cheryl was a trooper during dinner, but the jet lag caught her again and we had a quiet and sleepy subway ride back to the wild and wonderful west. Cheryl at GendarmenmarktWhat a uniter I am:-)A swimming pool in the Spree River, the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag are on the to-do list for tomorrow. With the mercury expected to climb to almost 100 tomorrow, lots of complaining about the heat will also be in line:-) P.S. For those following the continuing series “Erin vs. the Foreign Service,” the heroine of the story found out tonight that she passed the written test again and will be taking ANOTHER oral assessment this fall;-)[...]

A Berlin Institution


Should I have been working on my project and other pressing matters this evening? Heck yeah! But was I? Heck nein!


Instead, I met up with part of the Berlin BUKA gang, played a bit of ping pong and then visited the Prater beer garden for the first time. Prater is an institution—at almost 170 years old, it is Berlin’s oldest beer garden. The relaxed atmosphere was great. People chatted, enjoyed beers and wurst and children played on the giant swing (this part of the city has the highest birthrate in Berlin...we think Germany and maybe even Europe—there are little ones EVERYWHERE!)

Here are some picts!
Nicolai explains why lots of Russians are named Sergei. Everyone is fascinated:-)

the group

Lexy's word to the wise: "Don't get your hair cut short!

there are 4 people in that photo booth!!

Lexy and Emil's pictures... one has been censored at the model's request;-)

BBQ for Bush Besuch


For the last few days, President Bush has been in the northern (and former Eastern) town of Stralsund, Germany. He spent a notable 2 overnights, had meetings with Chancellor Merkel and was treated to a BBQ dinner. Stralsund is the Chancellor’s home district and a charming German town on the Baltic Sea. The invitation to visit came in May when the Chancellor visited Washington. In return, Merkel has supposedly received a most coveted invite to the ranch in Texas. I could make a few jokes and snide comments, but the truth is that I was most impressed by the visit and fascinated to see how it was portrayed in the media! Things started well when the President said “Guten Morgen” to the crowd. Laura Bush was supposedly saying Guten Tag and Danke Schoen as well. Media specifically commented on the effort at a bit of Deutsch! I also thought the speech was just the right intensity—direct, but not religious or too lofty (that scares Germans.) During the press conference, both leaders seemed to be on the same page when it came to policy issues, and genuinely seemed to enjoy bantering about the upcoming BBQ. The BBQ, complete with a giant roasted pig, was the main event of Thursday evening. Props to the Germans for having a BBQ and not a stuffy dinner! It’s light, it’s different, and the president supposedly does not like fancy dinners anyway. The other dinner guests were handpicked, but did include members of the community. Media seemed very concerned that Bush interacted with locals. Give the guy some credit, he can’t go around meeting everyone! I can’t remember ever seeing Merkel or Schroeder at a local crab boil in Maryland on their trips through town. Much like the visit to Mainz last year, overwhelming security (12,500 police officers) did not sit well with the locals and the media covered the story with vigor. I don’t know what to think about this. On the one hand, it is embarrassing that people who live near the spot where the president gave a speech were told not to leave their houses. It was also a terrible moment to watch the Secret Service make people remove the flags (German and AMERICAN) they had brought, off the small sticks on which they were attached. These people had been hand selected to be at the speech, were they really a threat? On the other hand, the President is the most powerful and, some polls say, most disliked leader in the world. And the sticks did look like spears and the timer’s in the recent India train bombing were found in little pencils, so anything is possible I guess. But in an effort at a bit of public diplomacy, Laura Bush did a live interview on Morgen Magazin (German “Today” show.) She did a great job! In typical Laura fashion, she kept her cool when the reporter asked repeated questions about whether she and George discuss politics and whether they ever disagree on political issues. (I think the reporter was really expecting she would say, “I told George there were no WMD in Iraq.” Fat chance buddy!)On a personal note, I sure hope that by the time I am Sec of State or President, the Chancellor is from Freiburg… what could be better for trans-Atlantic relations then a picture of Frau Chancellor and Madam President sitting down to a plate of fries at Schlappen;-) Then again over falafel in Berlin, Koelsch in Cologne or cheese spaetzle in Ulm wouldn’t be bad either. (I bet we could go to Mrs. Schlecker’s!)[...]

Watermelon Ice Cubes


Inspired by a recent Herr Exit blog entry and because Lexy and Anuradha requested it (see comments,) I thought I would post the recipe for Granny's Watermelon Cubes.

Watermelon Cubes
4 cups cubed (and de-seeded) watermelon
2 TBS lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

Process all ingredients in a blender until mix is smooth and sugar is dissolved.
Pour into an 8-inch square pan. Cover and freeze for two hours or until firm.
Remove from freezer and cut into ice cube size pieces
Keep cubes in freezer until you are ready to serve with Sprite or 7-Up.

(note: I don't have a blender in Berlin and have had success with smashing the watermelon with a potato masher and then pouring the mix through a strainer to make sure it is somewhat smooth.)

This is a delicious summer treat--best enjoyed with Granny and Grandpa Lee, but good even if you don't know them;-)




Today was both a happy and sad day. Happy because today was the Humboldt Foundation’s annual meeting, including a reception with the president of Germany and a boat cruise on the Wannsee. But today was also sad because I had my last meeting with my fellow Russian scholars. Though I certainly hope I will see them again soon, there is nothing officially set up, like there is with the Americans.



On my bus ride back home after saying goodbye, I reminisced about how we have all changed and grown. Our German is much better! We have all learned more about Russia, the US and Germany. We all survived the process of registering with the proper German authorities! And perhaps most importantly, I think we all view the group less as Russians and Americans and much more as one group of “German Chancellor Scholars.”


I lamented to one of the Russians that it would be great if I won the lottery—I wouldn’t have to make a choice of what to do next. I could have an apartment in Germany, one in Washington and we could all get together for BUKA parties. Very sincerely, and very accurately, he said, “but Erin, we have already won the lottery.” How incredibly true! To have been given this opportunity, to meet such a fantastic group of people in the program, and to reconnect with even more wonderful friends who I knew before, I am truly blessed. There are few other things that I could have hoped for from this year!


Power Tools


As a slight distraction from working yesterday, Lexy and I went to the salon—I got a pedicure and she got a manicure. I guess I would have to describe the afternoon as wonderful, terrifying and then wonderful… let me explain. It started out wonderfully—what is there not to love about a pedicure. Everything was great until the technician pulled out the ELECTRIC SANDER!! Holy Crud!

Now first of all, in my defense, I think that my feet are reasonably cute, and certainly not so bad that power tools are required to tame them! That said, I was amazed at how well the sander worked—both on my nails and the bottom of my feet. A quick Ebay search revealed this is not just a German thing. You can buy such a machine in the US, but this was definitely a first for me!

The other funny moment of the appointment came as the lady was painting my nails. I thought I had picked a fun summer red color. But after already painting a nail or two, the lady says, “You know we have a saying in Germany about people who paint their nails red… Boese Frauen tragen immer dunkelroten Nagellack.” Um, yeah, thanks, you couldn’t have mentioned that before you started painting!

(image) Whatever, my toes look cute and I learned a new German phrase:-)

Thanks Lexy for a fun afternoon!!