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Berlin

It’s the 25th of April, meaning that only 13 days remain of my time in Europe. Upon returning, I’ll be at Duke doing physics, EMS, and OIT for the Summer, and will have quite a full plate in the Fall. For the moment, I’m trying to enjoy the last few days that I have here, and try to remember to blog as I’m finishing up with my classes. The workload isn’t exactly strenuous in Spain, but I’ve let a lot of it pile up. While I have a bit of time to breathe, I’ll throw down this post. West side. West Berlin side. Haha puns.

Anyway, after going to Galicia, I went directly from the airport to Berlin where I met Felipe Gaitan. It was late when I got there, so I didn’t get to see much of the city immediately upon arrival. Felipe’s host family was incredibly nice and spoke English impeccably well. I couldn’t have asked for a more hospitable group of kind people.

The next morning, I explored a bit. As has been the case with Madrid and Barça, I felt that same big city feel in Berlin. That is to say, it didn’t particularly emanate “German-ness” like perhaps a smaller town would have. It was even more modern than the others, I’d say–much more company and logo-oriented. You can see the giant Bayer building, a big Adidas outlet, etc. I think this modernness comes from the fact that the Berlin Wall went down so recently. Felipe kept telling me that Berlin considers itself the city that changes every 10 years. Wonder what it’ll look like in 2020…

Though I’m dropping out of chronological order a bit, I think that last paragraph serves as a good segue into a conversation about the Wall. The Berlin Wall, as probably all of you know, was torn down in November of 1989. Most of it was torn down quite quickly, as the Berliners were eager to rid the city of the scar that divided the city for decades. However, a few parts of it do remain today; some have been moved, others remain in their original locations. Felipe took me to visit the Wall, which was probably the coolest thing I got to do the whole time I was there. You truly get a strong feel of the history of Germany–a place historically torn apart by bad luck and poor leadership. Standing next to the Wall was somewhat eerie. One panel with the word “Necessary?” really stayed with me. You can almost feel the author’s pain in the shaky handwriting. A social commentary about divisions, maybe the same message could be applied to a certain southern border of this country I know… </politicalopinion>

Necessary? - Click to Enlarge

Since I’ve ruined my chronology already, I’ll pop backwards a bit. The second night I was in Berlin, I had the opportunity to view a classical music performance with Felipe and the Duke in Berlin crew. As my grandfather is a classical music DJ, I’ve been exposed to this before, but it was exceptionally cool to see it in Berlin. Everybody present was respectfully attentive. They also followed tradition well: coughing only between pieces, and giving the composer and special guests several rounds of endless applause. In a conversation I had with Felipe’s host mom, I asked her what the biggest difference between the USA and Germany is. She responded that the German people are much more cultured. In my experience, I’d have to agree, and this is just one example.

From my pictures, you can see some of the other travels I had as well. This includes the street performers, the architecture of the city, and the government buildings (including the Reichstag, which I wasn’t able to enter). Check it out in the slideshow at the bottom.

A couple small observations:

  • Germany is incredibly environmentally-conscious. They have tons of different types of recycling bins to enable easier sorting of their reusable trash. This leads to good things, such as the rinse and reuse of soda bottles (you get small reimbursements for recycling the bottles). Another example is the tall ceilings, which means that hot air will settle at the top of the room and therefore less air conditioning is needed. Finally, as a giant symbol, the Reichstag (their parliament) is one of the most efficient buildings in the world. I was quite impressed by their ecological effort.
  • I swear, everybody in Europe drives stick-shift. Germany is the same as Spain is the same as Amsterdam is the same as Sweden. I think in Spain the only vehicles I’ve seen that are automatic are the buses.
  • To continue my identity crisis, the Germans all thought I was one of them. I must look like a German/Dutch/Swede. The Spaniards never make that mistake :(.

Hopefully I’ll be able to throw down the Sweden post soon, and then perhaps one more before I return to the land of the free. Thanks, everyone, for following my posts!

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