Outdoor Markets

I’ve mentioned it here before, but Berlin has great outdoor markets everyday where purveyors set up shop in one of the city’s many large squares (Platz auf Deutsch) and sell everything from fresh produce to fine china and silver. I though that maybe it was something that would only last while the weather was nice… well the opposite has proved true. Now that the cool temperatures have moved into the city, the markets have gotten bigger, with even more booths selling even stranger things.

I went to our local market here in Stieglitz to browse around and also because I need a keychain fur meine Schlusseln. The best time to go to one of these markets is early on a Saturday… that is when the most shops are set up and the Berliners haven’t had time yet to pick through all the good stuff.

In all honesty, the real reason I like going to these markets isn’t actually to shop. That’s just an excuse I use so I can go and sample the delicious food that is always for sale. All of it smells so good and tastes even better. The only problem is that I like the Roast Bratwurst so much, I am now hesitant to try anything new! Now that winter has arrived, they have also started selling Glühwein, which is a delicious warm spiced German wine. On a cold day, a hot glass of Gluhwein and a bratwurst at the market? Um, yeah.

Anyways, after a quick stop to sample the local fare, I started to wander around the market. It was packed as usual and curiously, one of the places that was the most busy was a store selling giant stuffed animals, which to me are the most useless things in the world. Apparently the Germans disagree.

Next I noticed a man selling video game systems. He had an old Sega Genesis, a PlayStation 2, a few PS3s that were in there original packaging and a Nintendo GameCube. I used to love playing GameCube back home so I decided to find out how much he was selling that for. I noticed that there were no games or conrollers displayed with it though. I asked him how much for the GameCube: “200 euros.” Well where are the controllers, I asked. “Don’t have any.” Games? “Don’t have any.” What an outrageous price for a game system that is essentially useless to the buyer! I am thinking of having my Mom send over my old GameCube so I can make a few bucks if that is the going rate.

From there I moved on to a children’s shop that was selling various books, toys and other items. Kids books are the best way to learn German, so I thought I would take a look at what they had to offer. I immeadiately was drawn to a Scrooge McDuck German comic book. I started flippping through the pages and was suprised at how simple most of the German was. I figured it would be pretty cheap so I decided to ask.

Before I got a chance to ask the shopkeeper though, another item caught my eye: an Obi-Wan-Kenobi keychain. As said earlier, I needed a keychain and what better than to have Luke Skywalker’s mentor! I grabbed the key chain and headed for the shopkeeper. In my best German I asked:

“Wie viel kosten diese?” How much is this? and held up the two items. He replied:

“Fur das Buch, ein euro funfzig (1.50€), fur der Keychain (didn’t catch the German word he used) vier euro (4€).”

Well needless to say, I thought the price he quoted on the Obi-Wan keychain was ridiculous. Sure, he is a jedi master, but his lightsaber was broker and the toy was clearly used. So I replied again in my best Deutsch with a heavily skeptical tone:

Vier euro?”

Well that turned out to be a mistake… apparently, my best German accent makes people think that I know German, so the man launched into a long speech, of which I understood maybe 2% of the words. I didn’t know what to do, so I just stood there nodding, which I think gave him the impression that I understood what he was saying, so he continued on for a good 2 minutes. I have no idea what he was saying and frankly I can’t imagine what someone could be saying at such length about the price of a used Obi-Wan keychain.

When he finally finished, I nodded at him one more time, furrowed my brow, than thanked him and put down the book and keychain and walked away empty handed.

The Children of America are Missing out

The playgrounds here in Berlin are so much better than American playgrounds it is categorically unfair. They are all huge with massive wooden structures for kids to climb; they have really long and steep old school metal slides that look scary even to this 26-year-old; and I have yet to see one without a zip line about 5-10 feet (!) off the ground, which would scream lawsuit back in the states. Seriously, American kids don’t even know what they are missing!

Actually, the parks in general here in Berlin are really well done. They are all fairly big, though some are bigger than others and have a multitude of trails, both paved and dirt paths, meandering around trees, gardens and even small ponds. I went for a jog today around the park right near our apartment here in Stieglitz and every time I turned around a bend, the place just kept going. They are really well designed too, so it almost seems as if you aren’t even in a city once you walk a few feet in to a Berliner park. Also, most parks here have restaurants within the park, as in not accessible by car, another something you would never see in the US. The park restaurants seem to do pretty good business too, which probably says more about just how many people live in this city than anything else!

The biggest par in the city is the Tiergarten, which Adrian and I have already posted pictures of and explored briefly. That park is huge… not quite as big as central park, but it really has a lot to look at. I want to get a bicycle eventually here and ride around the Tiergarten, as I think that’s really the only way to make it around the whole thing without getting extremely tired of walking.

It’s the middle of fall here in Berlin, which means it’s turning really cold, but it’s also really beautiful outside. I am going to take advantage today by checking out the Schloss Charlottenburg, which has been described to me as “Berlin’s Versailles”. Should be a good way to spend a wednesday! I have class a six pm tonight though so it will be a brief visit I think.

Berlin Festival of Lights

The other night I got a chance to take a stroll and check out Berlin’s annual Festival of Lights, where some of the more famous buildings, including the Brandenburg Gate and the Berliner Dome are illuminated using massive projectors. Very cool way to take in some of the downtown sights!

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Sorry for the low quality of the pictures, but it at least gives you an idea of what it was like. If you’re curious about what the German phrase over Humboldt University means, it translates to: “what opportunities and risks are offered”

Dave

On my own

Well, Adrian has left for Prague for a month and I am officially alone here at the apartment. Adrian is only going to be gone for 1 month, but I will obviously miss her a lot.  From speaking to her on the phone and knowing how much she loves Prague, I know she’ll have a great time there. Plus I get to go visit her in just a couple of weeks so I have that to look forward to!

Meanwhile my plan is to use my time here in Berlin to:1. Improve my German as much as possible and 2. Develop good study habits for the HWR program. Now anyone who knows me knows that the phrase “good study habits” and me do not belong in the same sentence. I am a notorious procrastinator. But am determined to change that this time around by drilling myself into doing at least an hour of work for school regardless of whether I have class the next day of not. I only have class two days a week (Tuesday’s and Thursdays), so I am trying to avoid having to do all my preparation on Wednesday and Monday nights. Well see how it ends up.

Also with Adrian not around, I have been able to do a little more unplanned exploration of the city. Adrian and I obviously get along very well, but I would say our one major difference is that she likes to plan ahead very carefully and with a lot of detail. I like a little bit of spontaneity once in a while, so after I dropped Adrian off at the train station yesterday, I spent the rest of the afternoon more or less wandering around the city.

My tuition at HWR includes unlimited travel on the S (elevated) and U (underground) trains which together are the subway system for the greater Berlin area. As I said in a previous post, I love the public transportation system here, so after dropping off Adrian, I spent awhile cruising around on the S bahn taking in some sights and listening to diffent street performers wander on to the train playing accordions, guitars and other instruments- panhandling for Euros.

I got off at the Tiergarten stop and immediately noticed a huge outdoor market that was going on so I walked through that for a while. It was without a doubt the largest and strangest outdoor market I have ever been to. Conservatively I would guess there were 200 different booths selling everything from antiques to radishes. I loved checking out the old German memorabilia, but I couldn’t find any Nazi related objects. I wonder if they’re illegal or something? Maybe they’re just considered bad taste.  All in all a very interesting and entertaining afternoon.

Der Wohnung

Yesterday we moved into our new apartment. The hotel was great, but it feels SO good to be in our own place. The apartment is located in Steglitz (an area in Berlin, but a bit south of the main attractions) and is only about a 5-10 walk to the U-Bahn and S-Bahn station at Rathaus Steglitz.  In it’s description the apartment was described as a 1.5 room place and looked a little small from pictures so we were expecting teeny-tiny, but it’s actually a lot more spacious than anticipated.  There is a long hallway that leads to a kitchen (with adjoining patio), a small bathroom and then a relatively large sleeping/living room.  The place is furnished, almost entirely with Ikea goods, and has a homey feel. We’re loving it thus far!

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After taking the day yesterday to settle in, we decided today would be a good day to explore our new city.  We took the sites at the Branderburg Tor, Reichstag, Unter den Linden, Alexanderplatz and Viktoriapark in Kreuzberg.  We’re taking a much need rest at home now, but are going to try and see if we can hit up a bar for “American Football” later this evening.  We’ll keep you posted on whether we’re successful in our search!

Much love and GO PACK GO!  (Patriots too I guess…)

Dave & Adrian