Monday, August 27, 2007


Since the official part of my stipend/fellowship ended on Wednesday, I have been refreshingly free of obligation, and have thus begun to explore my ancestral homeland a bit more independently. Thursday consisted of a very touristy jaunt about the city, where I hit all the remaining tourist attractions on my list in once massive swoop. First stop, Siegessäule:

made (even more) famous courtesy of Wim Wenders and his band of roving angels. After climbing to the top with a surprisingly small group of other stalwart and sweating tourists, I was rewarded with a mammoth view:

Nice, eh? Even though Tiergarten has turned into an amorphous black blob here, I like the way all of the cranes and construction are captured in the photo--Berlin is one massive construction project at the moment, and it's kind of interesting to ponder what it is going to look like in another 10 or 15 years.

Following such sweaty ponderings, I made a quick march past the Reichstag:

(perhaps that imagery is inappropriate. I apologize), and an even quicker pass through the Brandenburg Tor:

where I admit to getting a bit misty-eyed. I blame this on two factors: 1) The last time I was in Berlin, as a dewy young lass, I stood on the Western side with a bunch of East German soldiers blocking my view of what lay beyond. 2) The paralympics were being held that day, and even a crusty-hearted jerk like myself was pretty awestruck by the sight of wheelchair-bound fencers and one-legged pole vaulters.

Anyhow, following this unusually tender-hearted afternoon, I ate at a weird "women-only" restaurant (I know, I know...but I couldn't resist eating a vegetarian bratwurst in a place that had a "no men allowed" sign on the door) and went to a movie about punk rock in East Berlin before collapsing into bed in my last night in my orange hippie pad:

I wasn't too sad to leave there, especially because the next day brought a trip to my real ancestral homeland....

Bavaria! Although Berliners make fun of the allegedly religious and backwards Bavarians, I have (yet another) soft spot in my heart for their grumbly-mumbly Bayrische dialect, and their fabulous use of color.

I have to admit, though, I was totally flummoxed by that dialect. Only after a couple of days and vigorous coaching by my family (the reason for my visit--my dad and his family relocated here after being evacuated from their hometown due to invading WWII-era Russians) did I realize that when Bavarians mean two they say "zwo," and that their version of the German "kommen" sounds remarkably similar to "cumin."

But that is neither here nor there. Instead let's celebrate Bavaria, shall we?

First of all, it is pretty. Like postcard-perfect pretty:

Second, they have cranes there. So what, you say? Well, imagine living in a place where cranes nest on top of the most scenic building in town:

Of course, there are other things that make Bavaria so :

Just a little good-natured brotherly drinkin'. However, later in the evening the one in the green jacket set his own hand on fire. Top that, Berlin!