Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Germany Blog - Day 5: 2/4 (Berlin Day Two - Part I)

What a day today was. We spent about 15 hours riding, walking and climbing around Berlin today. I am going to do this in two installments. Here is part one:

So I took to handwriting my blog and then typing it out later on in Kamp-Linfort on my own computer. Its faster, less frustrating and certainly cheaper than trying to learn a new keyboard while connecting to the internet at the going rate of 1 Euro 50 per half hour. This morning I couldn’t resist looking for the results to the Super Bowl. The last time I missed a Super Bowl was the one before Joe Montana and Dan Marino squared off for the first time. I think that happened in 1984, so it’s been a while, and I needed to see what happened and if my dream of a perfect ending had come true (at least based on available options). I was both happy and shocked. I guess I just wanted Bill Belichek and Tom Brady to remember what it is like to be us mere mortals. I posed the question to my mythology class last semester: why do Americans take such delight in delight in tearing down their own heroes? The easy answer is jealousy, and that is probably part of it if someone could really be truly honest with themselves. More so, however, is how quickly we confer god status on all sorts of people in the public spot light without thoroughlt gauging worthiness of a title so all-becoming. When thrust into that level of scrutiny, even the smallest character flaw is ever magnified and when the rest of us feel that the praise is unjust, and as such I for a long time felt about the mountain of accolades that were afforded Tom Brady, it is a grand sense of “I Told You So” when they fall or fail. Brittney Spears was elevated to super stardom as a teenager, when most kids are stressing passing the responsibility load of a driving test. And we act like it was some big debacle that under that scrutiny and pressure, she caved. She used alcohol and drugs and went off the deep end, and we are surprised. There was a time when heroes had to earn our respect. It seems now that just talent alone can afford that status. There is no need to prove oneself as long as you have something that other people want. How could Brittney not have failed? Jamie Lynn? Forget it. She doesn’t have a chance.

In any event, I awoke this morning at 7 AM. Once I showered and prepared for the day, I was down stairs by 7:45 A.M., and quickly typed yesterday’s blog notes up as fast as I could, while kids began filtering in looking for the breakfast and internet access. Breakfast and blogging, the world’s new B & B. After a traditional German breakfast (hard roll, butter, salami, cheese, and four cups of strong coffee – although cereal, milk, and yogurt were available), all for three Euro and paid for by GSG, I was in great and spazzy spirits, especially considering how bummed I was the previous day at the realization that I lost so many Berlin pictures. We again took the S-Bonn to the Alexanderplatz. We stopped at the market outside so people could get cash, buy water and odds and ends such as food, candy, and batteries. We then hiked across the court yard spotting the old Red County Building and stopping for pictures at the fountain featuring the statue of Neptune and other water like and cloven creatures. Niki showed her enthusiasm for mythology by climbing all over it and even riding a sea goat. It was a colder, clear day and I have high hopes for how everyone’s pictures would turn out, realizing that I would most likely lose any shots that I had taken that day. After walking a little further and crossing the Schpie River (sp?), we took in the most beautiful church I have even seen in my life (even though it was not Catholic :) ). The name of this building is the Berliner Dom. Before you enter, Frau Canavan pointed out that in the distance you can see a Jewish Temple from before WWII which had to be reconstructed because even though it actually survived Krystal Nacht, it was accidentally hit by allied bombers later in the war. It is worth noting that there is an issue with Bosnian beggars and I was accosted by three different one, eash carrying a baby or holding the hand of a small child. The first caught me off guard and ended up with some change, maybe a little less than a Euro. After that, I learned who much the polizie are trying to stop them and they can even have their children taken away if they are caught. The ettitiquette: when asked if I speak English, respond with "NEIN!". At the end of the day: Mody 2, Beggars 1.

The Berliner Dom was the most unreal cathedral that I have ever seen. Hand carved wood, stone, marble, and gold adorned the most massive domed ceiling I could even imagine. There were pictures of St. Matthew, John the Evangelist, among others, as well as statues depicting Protestant greats such as Martin Luther and John Calvin. Thankfully, no one asked me why Martin Luther’s statue was white instead of black. I can only imagine the artistry of the dome is outdone by only the Sistine Chapel itself. It was that impressive. Despite being Catholic, I entered a pew and said prayers for my grandparents. Unfortunately, even running on a damaged memory card, my camera battery died and I am going to have to wait to get pictures from Casey as he promised he would shoot a ton. After exhausting the first floor (and not realizing that we could go upstairs – argh!) Hagan and I toured the basement where there were the remains of the German Royal family. Between his knowledge of German and my knowledge of Latin (please hear that, Mrs. Jones, wherever you are!) we were able to decipher much of what we saw, including that kurfursten meant some type of duke or earl (with konig and konigen being king and queen, respectively), and the words for twin son and twin sister. We also noted that there was an alarming run of infant mortality in the German Royal Family between 1650-1700, and were surprised by how many royal children had been born during that time.

Upon leaving, we took a double decker bus to the Postdamerplatz, or thereabouts and walked the path of the former Berlin wall to the Reichtag (sp?). We stopped for a bit while Herr Fabricius checked the length of the VERY long line to get in and Casey and other started playing Frisbee. Soon a photographer from the Berliner Morgen Post was there and snapping pictures of anyone of us in sunglasses and staged “action shots” of Frau Canavan and J-Fogg. We are eagerly anticipating tomorrow’s paper. Canavan fully expects her being back in Berlin and playing Frisbee in front of Parliament to supplant the Super Bowl as front page news tomorrow. Spirits were high. We next headed to the National Holocaust Memorial. It was something of a bizarre experience and I don’t feel like getting back into it because no matter what I write, people who were not there with me today and who do not know me extremely well will not truly understand what happened and the depth of the sickness I felt when I finally understood what happened in its entirety. If you would like to listen to a recording of my reaction, it starts with Hagan and I waiting for people to walk across the street who were caught at a red light and then it head's uphill and then massively downhill about an hour later. Just drop me an e-mail and if I think that I want you to know about it, I will send along an audio of my reaction I recorded about it when I finally made it back to the Hostel. As for the Memorial itself, I will say that even though it was a struggle for the Germans to agree to build it, I am happy that it is there, unvandalized, and ever present.

We walked around a bit more, with Casey getting pictures for me of two statues that celebrated diversity and understanding in the world, and even the acceptace of world religion. The statues were golden bears (the bear being the symbol of Berlin) and one was the Golden Rule Bear, which had the golden rule written on it in too many world languages to count. The other was the World Ethics Bear that had the most common sentiments in every major world religion listed in order to show the commonalities that existed across time and geography. It was cool to see not so far from the holocaust museum. We took the U2 to the Ku-don (sp?), which is something like the Times Square of Berlin and let the kids explore and shop for a few hours. The chaperones went to the Bavarium Restaurant and had traditional Bavarian cuisine, including for me, Vienna-styled pork schnitzel (schweineschnitzel), which are fried pork cutlets, and koroketts (sp?) which are look like corn dogs but are more like tater tots. We talked about a variety of topics, including the PEACE Exchange and how it was fairing. Eventually, and much story telling that will never make it to the printed world, Frau Canavan’s host sister, Anna, showed up and the two of them went off to catch up together. Herr Fabricius and Frau Lohoff helped me secure a new 1 GB memory card for my camera (only 10 Euro, better than I feared) and walked me down the true shopping district strip. They then took me to Ka De We, the most unreal department store I have ever even heard of. I think Santa comes to this place for real. It was seven floors of the most posh and designer items I have ever seen under one roof. I hate shopping, but even I thought this place was cool. If I ever win the lottery, my wife, mom, and sisters are hopping a plane to Berlin just to come here and go to town…lets hope I win the PowerBall. Frau Fogg would later see this store and abruptly stop conversation with her mother and say, "I have to go, Mom. God has said let there be store. And Fogg saw store and saw that it was good."

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