Good Bye Berlin

It seems like just Yesterday that we arrived in Berlin, confused, excited, a little scared but most of all ready for a new adventure. In reality it’s been two full years since we touched down at Tegel airport and we have loved every minute of it. There are too many things to mention that we will miss about this great city, but in our last few weeks in the city we tried to hit a few of them. Before we left for our eastern Europe trip, I had finished my thesis and handed it in and Adrian had completed her time at Phorms, so we had a few weeks of free time before heading back to the USA to say goodbye to Berlin properly.

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Dave turning in his thesis!

First, we made an effort to try and hit a few of the tourist attractions in Berlin that we just hadn’t gotten around to. First among them we a trip underground to one of Berlin’s old World War II bunkers. Berlin was very heavily bombed during the second World War necessitating the building of numerous underground bunkers for the citizens to hide in during air raids. Most of these bunkers are no longer accessible, but one near Gesundbrunnen in the northern part of the city is fairly well preserved and there are daily guided tours that take you around the bunker. Some of the highlights were the fluorescent paint that was used to light the rooms in the absence of electric lights and some of the stories about the dangers faced by the average Berliners during the war including the cramming of 100s of people in rooms designed for 20 and using candles at different heights to gauge the amount of breathable air in the facility.

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On the recommendation of Adrian’s cousin Jamie, we decided to check out the Berlin Film museum (free on Thursdays). The museum had some very interesting architecture including one room with mirrors on the ceiling and floor creating a very interesting perspective.

The exhibits were also very interesting as the detailed the history of German film making over the past century. It is a bit surprising to learn how much innovation in Cinema there was in Germany especially during the early 20th century (The film Metropolis is, even today, a remarkable example). Of course, World War II and the Nazi regime put an end to all that; it’s certainly sad to think about how much great art the world has been deprived of thanks to wars and totalitarian governments.

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Another sight we wanted to be sure to see was the Panorama Point nearby at Potsdammer Platz. We took the self proclaimed ‘fastest elevator in Europe’ to the 25th floor and were not disappointed by the 360 degree views we found at the top. We were also pleasantly surprised to see an marriage proposal on the building across the street, happily reminding us of our own upcoming wedding this fall. We hope she said “Yes”!!!

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We also took a trip to Hohenschönhausen, the old East German secret police prison in East Berlin. The Prison is now a museum dedicated to remembering the persecution of the East German people under the DDR government. The East German secret police or Stasi used surveillance and interrogation to prevent the population from trying to escape East Berlin and also to silence critics of the regime. The museum included a tour of some the interrogation rooms and cells and some stories of the different inmates who spent time there. The tour was pretty dark, but learned a lot! Shortly after visiting we watched the film ‘The Lives of Others’ about a Stasi spy which included several scenes in Hohenschönhausen. The film was excellent and really brought to life some of the history we had just learned about at the museum.

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Of course the most important thing we wanted to do was to spend sometime with our friends and what better way to do that then with outdoor barbecues. One of our favorite activities in Berlin was taking advantage of some of the many parks around the city, starting up the grill and enjoying some food and drink with friends. We took advantage of some of our free time by making it out to Plotzensee for a bittersweet ‘farewell’ party with some of our best friends. We were also able to attend a BBQ in Golitzerpark with some of Adrian’s friends from work, a night out clubbing at the Kulturbrauerei, a visit to Bad Saarow with Jon and Paul and lots of time reminiscing over the past two years at our favorite neighborhood cafes and bars. We filled up on food at our beloved Kollwitzplatz Markt and said a fond farewell to Prenzlauer Berg with a trip to Mauerpark and one last Sunday brunch. Adrian was also able to visit the Barbie Dream-house with Saskia and had a great time checking out one of her favorite childhood toy’s homes:) It was a busy last couple of weeks!

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IMG_3662 IMG_3676 IMG_3681Our last Friday in Berlin Dave had to defend his thesis. He was a little nervous (who wouldn’t be?), but he totally kicked ass!! Getting a perfect score on his defense and a 1.3 (1.0 is the top grade in the German system) on his master thesis!! I was so proud of him after all his hard work over the course of the semester and we popped a little bubbly in Kollwitzplatz to celebrate.

IMG_3805 We spent our last weekend in Berlin fervently packing, trying to shove two years of our lives into three suitcases and 4 boxes. We were able to get almost everything done by Monday night so that we could spend our official last day, Tuesday, savoring our city. We took the 100 bus from Alexanderplatz to the Brandenburg Gate. Then we walked through Tiergarten, visiting the Rose Garden and the site of our 2012 engagement. We laid out blankets and spent a few hours reading and enjoying our absolute favorite place in Berlin. We then hopped back on the 100 to Zoogarten for our final trip to our favorite biergarten, Schleusenkrug. We shared a flammkuchen, a pretzel, a piece of Apfelkuchen and of course a slew of beers and spent a few hours reminiscing on our time in Berlin. Schleusenkrug was the very first place we visited when we arrived in Berlin and we thought it only fitting that it should be our last. It was the place we came to celebrate our engagement, my first job in the city and Dave completing his thesis. It’s a really special place to us and we were sad to bid it adieu.

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IMG_3914 IMG_3923Post Schleusenkrug we went home to enjoy our final Berlin sunset (with some späti beers) at the Wasserturm. Then we finished packing up, had a last beer with Matteo and hit the hay. Wednesday morning we got up early, left our keys with the downstairs neighbor and hauled our three 50 pound suitcases and 4 incredibly heavy carry-on’s to Schonefeld airport. 20 hours later we arrive at the Chebuske home in Maine.

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It was incredibly hard to leave Berlin and we miss it everyday, but we’ve been adjusting well to life back in the States and we have a big day coming up in just three weeks;) We couldn’t be more thankful for the two amazing years we spent in Berlin and we hope it won’t be too long before we return. We met so many amazing people, were blessed to visit so many amazing places and fell in love with the most amazing city we’ve ever been able to call home.

Berlin, du bist Wunderbar! Bis bald!

I love June!

June was off to a rainy start in Berlin. The last two weeks of May were also a little rainy, but with intermittent days of sun. Luckily the weather is turning and we’ve had so much going on the past month there has been little time to be annoyed with the weather!

For those of you who don’t know we’ve decided to officially move back to the US at the end of August. We’ll be spending about two weeks in Maine and then heading out to California to prepare for the big wedding! We’re not sure where we’ll end up post-honeymoon, but are going to look for job opportunities in a couple of our favorite cities, probably staying with my parents for a month or two while we figure out our next move. Hopefully this doesn’t mean the end of our international adventures though, we’d both love to live abroad again in the future and we’re going to miss Berlin and all our wonderful friends here immensely!

Besides buying plane tickets home, figuring out some visa details, planning our departure and full-time work (for me at school and Dave on his thesis) we’ve been able to have a lot of fun since our return from Greece. We’ve taken advantage of sunny days by visiting Berlin’s many parks and outdoor cafes. I signed up for a Japanese cooking course (in German) with my friend Saskia and had a great time cooking and eating Japanese food the last fewTuesdays. Take a look at my homemade sushi plate presentation:)

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I’ve also been able to spend a lot of time with my work-besties. Jon, Irene and I even had a “sleep over” the other week. Our sleep over included wine, martinis, dancing in our pjs and watching Priscilla Queen of the Desert. A few weekend ago they also persuaded me to finally visit a club in Berlin (something the city is known for). And though dancing past sunrise is not usually my cup of tea, I have to admit I had so much fun! Dave and I have also hit up a couple different bars, kept up our promise to try new restaurants and take advantage of all that the amazing city of Berlin has to offer.

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This past weekend for my 28th birthday Dave surprised me with a weekend trip to Munich. We’d both visited the city when we’d studied abroad, but had solely seen the inside of the fair grounds at Oktoberfest. Turns out there is more to Munich than that! Though the beer and giant pretzels still rank pretty high on the list of “things we love about Munich”.

We left early Saturday morning and as soon as we got there we headed to the Augustiner Keller. Maß beers were the perfect welcome to the city and we even got to enjoy some traditional German music. After our time at Augustiner we headed to the English Gardens and enjoyed a great evening exploring everything. We even rented a row boat to see the gardens from a different perspective and then enjoyed dinner at another beer garden inside the English garden.

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Sunday morning brought my birthday and luckily another sunny day! We started the day with some ice coffees (my faves) and then a guided tour of the city (I love history!). From what we saw Munich is a much more “traditional” German city than Berlin. When the city was destroyed (about 80%) in WWII they took pains to reconstruct everything exactly as it had stood prior to the bombings. Everywhere we went we saw locals and tourists wearing lederhosen and dirndl. Munich’s population is about 1.3 million, but it has a little bit of the small city feel. We learned a lot about the city and saw a good chunk of the Old Town.

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After our tour we visited (what else) a biergarten for lunch and to rest our feet. We had a delicious lunch of Weißwurst, pretzels and beer- so German! Unfortunately it started to drizzle a little bit towards the end of our meal. We decided to head back to hotel for a nap and so I could skype with my family. After our rest we headed back out to see the old town at night and to find a spot for dinner. We found a bierhall with a good looking menu and had another delicious German meal (with some complimentary shots!) to celebrate my 28 years. It was a great birthday and I’m so grateful to Dave for planning everything!

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Our last morning in Munich started with a big, traditional German breakfast…we kind of have a theme going here: lots of traditional German beer and food. There was a “Munich Breakfast” on the menu that included a 1/2 liter of beer, but we both opted for coffee instead. We then walked up to the top of St. Peter’s to view Munich’s famous Glockenspiel from above. The rest of the day was spent souvenir shopping, a little more touristing and some last minute beer drinking. Towards the end of the day we ran into the weirdest thing- 2 huge tributes to Michael Jackson and his monkey Bubbles. The pictures don’t quite capture the absurdness of the memorial, but we both thought it a bit creepy. Ahh….people of the world you make us laugh. On the way home we hit some major traffic due to all the flooding in Germany because of the rains and didn’t make it home until almost 3am, but it was worth it!

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The next morning came a little too soon for my liking, but I had an awesome surprise from all my wonderful friends at work. They showered me with flowers, gifts and a delicious homemade cheese cake and made me feel so special! I am still enjoying the cheesecake Sandra made:) Such a wonderful birthday treat.

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IMG_1288 IMG_1289 IMG_1291The first half of June has been action-packed and full of fun. Plus the fact that it doesn’t get dark until almost 10 makes it easy to be motivated and get out and do stuff after work! We can’t believe how fast time is flying, but we’re working hard to enjoy every minute left we have in Berlin and can’t wait to update everyone again soon!

The 8-month Mark…

Today marks 8 months since we packed up our belongings into 3 large suitcases and left Boston for Berlin. I still can’t quite believe that I get to say, “Oh, I live in Europe.”- pretty surreal. It’s been a wonderful yet challenging experience and I think it’s only going to get better!

The biggest challenge for me initially was having to worry about how exactly I was going to legally stay in the country after my initial 90 days in the Schengen Zone. As my 90 days came to a close in December and I was still without a job I was getting pretty stressed out. Didn’t really help that in Berlin it would get dark at 3:45 in the afternoon literally making me feel like I was “in the dark” all the time. Luckily my problem was solved (or rather postponed) when I decided that to sign up for intensive German classes that would allow me to remain on a student visa. In the meantime I was able to secure a free-lance position with an international company and was provided with the paperwork I needed to secure a free-lance visa. Unfortunately the job fell through when not enough people signed up for the English courses, but at least I’d been able to acquire my much desired visa.

I’m no stranger to job searching, as I had taken the plunge twice before when we moved to DC jobless and then Boston. And let me tell you- job searching in 2007 as a fresh-faced college grad with no experience was a walk in the park compared to the Boston job search in 2009 and the Berlin experience in 2011/2012. Luckily things always have a way of working out in the end. In Boston I searched in vain for 5 months, but then landed my dream job at Northeastern (a job I still miss all the time). And here in Berlin I finally received the offer I’d be praying for when in late April I was offered a position as a Kindergarden teacher at an international school in Berlin!  I won’t start work full-time until September 1st due to our lengthy trip back to the States this Summer, but I’ve been working a couple days a week pro-bono to get a feel for the school, meet some of my colleagues and get to know the kids. So far everything is wonderful! Each class has between 15-20 kids and 3 teachers (pretty amazing S:T ratio!). Of the three teachers, two are native German speakers and one is a native English speaker. The idea is that the kids are exposed constantly to both languages and learn to understand and speak both through immersion. It’s a really interesting place to work and my colleagues seem great. I’m so thankful to 1. have a job! 2. be still in a school environment and 3. be at a place that will expose me to some great people!

Though the past 8 months did bring some stress with the visa situation and the job search so much more our time here has been stress-free and fabulous!  We’ve traveled to 6 different countries, celebrated our first Christmas together, explored so much of Berlin, met some great people and of course, got engaged!!!  My highlights thus far include the TEFL program I completed in Prague back in Oct/Nov, traveling with Maddie in Belgium, Prague and Berlin, our Christmas in the Black Forest, our engagement in March and our trip to Ireland for Saint Patricks day. Dave too has enjoyed the traveling, but has been much busier than me on the work-front. He’s finishing up his second semester in just over a month, working part-time at a non-profit and will soon begin his search for an internship come Fall.  Good thing he loves his program and economics so much- with all that’s happening with the Euro Crisis it’s an interesting time to be studying finance anywhere, but especially Berlin. When asked about his Euro highlights he mentioned his ski trip to Austria, his birthday trip to Ireland and drinking glühwein at the Christmas markets.

All in all I’d say we’ve been pretty happy here in Berlin and are excited for the next 8 months and beyond!

Dem Deutschen Volk

 

Erste Mai

May 1st is a national holiday in Germany, roughly the equivalent of Labor Day back home. Adrian and I took advantage of the day off to take a trip to a huge carnival in Kreutzberg. We had a great time so I decided to put together a little blog post about the experience.

We had been out very late the night before at a friends house… in fact we didn’t make it home till after 4am! The Berliners think nothing of staying up that late, but for Adrian and I, that is about as late as it gets. Incidentally, when we finally made it home to Prenzlauer Berg and got off of the train, the streets were still packed with people so that will give you a bit of an idea of just how nocturnal the Berliners are. Unfortunately, we aren’t ‘true’ Berliners, so we didn’t wake up on May 1 till late in the day, probably about 12:00 noon.

Adrian wasn’t feeling very well, but we knew we would regret not going to Kreutzberg, as we had heard really good things about the festival. Kreutzberg is one of Berlin’s most popular neighborhoods and it is by the city’s most trendy spot. Trendy people can be a little insufferable at times, but they at least know how to throw a good party. Had a quick bite to eat and a cup of coffee and headed out.

The weather forecast was predicting rain, but when we left the apartment the sun was shining and it was nice and warm. I noticed that there were fewer people out and about than normal in our neighborhood and wondered if fear of rain was keeping people in for the today… I quickly found out this was not the case. It seemed everyone in Berlin was headed for Kreutzberg and the festival. The U-bahn train was absolutely packed with people. The closer we got to Kreutzberg also, the more people sardined there way on to the train. I could tell it was going to be a day of crowds (as most days in Berlin seem to be, if you come from Maine).

A quick word about the Erste Mai celebration: as I said, it is the German equivalent of labor day. Thus the left leaning portion of Berliners and Germans use the holiday as an opportunity to rally in support of pro-labor policies. Berlin has it’s fair share of activists, communists, anarchists, and other revolutionaries, but unfortunately, the holiday in recent years has been taken over by “demonstrators” who are looking to cause trouble, not promote social change. The last few years had been especially bad in Berlin with protestors burning cars, smashing windows and indiscriminately destroying private property. To make matters worst, Berlin’s far right groups use the holiday to demonstrate as well, so clashes between the two groups can quickly get violent.

The Berlin Police seemed determined this year to keep things under control, so once Adrian and I arrived, we were immediately struck by the massive police presence. It is fairly rare to see police officers in Berlin in general, so to see literally hundreds in one place was slightly surprising. The officers obviously had a plan for controlling things this year, as they funneled us orderly into the city blocks set aside for the festival.

The main artery of Kreutzberg is a busy street called Oranienstrasse which is crowded on normal days with outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants, but today the street was totally shut down to any automobile traffic and was packed with party goers. There were vendors selling street food every few feet on the side of the street and packed restaurants and bars selling beer and other drinks to anyone walking by with 2€. There was music everywhere, with a different stage literally on every street corner. There were people of all ages dancing, drinking and eating street food everywhere. It was quite a lively atmosphere to say the least!

Adrian and I spent the first hour at the festival just walking around, checking out the different stages and enjoying some of the live music. The festival is free of charge so there were no “big name” musicians playing, but it was cool to see some of the local Berlin groups, who ranged from abjectly awful to passably decent. The most popular type of music in Berlin by far is electronic techno music, with repetitive kick-snare drum beats and some synth layered over it, so that type of music was everywhere, but we saw ska, rock, reggae, punk, folk, rap and even traditional Turkish music. Our favorite was probably the reggae… there something about a sunny day and a little reggae that makes you think you’re on a tropical island.

After wondering around for a while, we stopped for a bite to eat and enjoyed a little people watching. As I said, the streets were packed so it was fun just to watch the different people walking by. Berliners make some interesting style choices to say the least… sometimes I wonder if this country ever made it out of the 1980s. The anarchists and other activist were easy to pick out of the crowd as they general have interesting and colorful hairstyles, as well as more than a couple facial piercing and at least one unfortunate tattoo.

We left the festival in the mid afternoon, hoping to avoid any potential riot and once we arrived at our apartment, it started pouring rain. I felt bad for everyone who got drenched, but felt like we made the right choice on leaving a little early. I heard from a co-worker that nothing happened later that night as the police made sure to keep all the demonstrators under control. Looks like their planning and effort paid off… I was glad to hear no one got hurt!

The German People

One of my favorite things about my classes here in Berlin is the international make-up of the students. We have 32 students in our class from 20 different countries. I love talking about different cultures and politics of various countries so it’s been a great opportunity for me to learn more about places like Russia, Romania, Turkey, China and everywhere in between.

But the program is in Berlin, so naturally we have the most Germans. Of our 32 people, I think 8 are German… so a quarter of the class. Naturally living here has given Adrian and I a lot of opportunities to meet and talk to many other Berliners as well and to learn about the city and its dramatic history. It’s impossible to walk around the downtown are and not see at least a remnant of the Berlin Wall, if not a monument to the Holocaust or some other horrific part of German history.

The truth is, the wars between the US and Germany happened not that long ago, so they do come up fairly often in conversation. Many Americans even to this day when asked about Germany, first think about Nazis. It’s a sad fact that Germans wish wasn’t the case, but in Germany, you soon learn that it is impossible to run from the uncomfortable truths of your nation’s past.

What many Americans do not realize about Germany, is in addition to the time of the National Socialist regime of the 30s and the war, the dividing of Germany into east and west was also an extremely difficult period for Germans… and especially Berliners. When the city was divided, the wall was put up in secret over night. This surprise split up friendships, ended jobs and ruined lives forever.

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Christmas Traditions

Though we just celebrated our 5 year anniversary last month, this will be the first Christmas Dave and I spend together.  We’re both sad that we won’t be with our families for the holiday, but are looking forward to creating new traditions together.  We got our tree (more like a mini-shrub) this past week and decorated it with some of the ornaments we’ve picked up on our European travels.

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In thinking about new traditions we’d like to start this year we got talking about our favorite traditions from Christmases Past. We thought it would be fun to do a joint post and share some of our individual favorites!

We even have music to set the mood as you read…

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The best Christams tradition is spending time with family… my family also happens to be obsessed with doing things exactly the same every Decemeber. We have a set schedule that we rarely ever waver from, we eat the same exact foods every year, we have the same people with us in the same place, and of course, we always tell the same jokes.

One Christmas tradition I love is on Christmas eve, we always go to my Aunt and Uncle’s house to eat cheese fondue. Bo and Kristie always make three different kinds of fondue: Parmasen, Swiss and Cheddar. Every year, each member of the family ranks the cheese sauce in order of which they liked, from best to worst. You would think that since we have the same cheese every year, people would always have the same order, but it usually changes for some reason (yes we actually record what people say, we’re very interested in rating and debating in my family).  When we were younger, the kids used to perform a Christmas pageant, where we would act out scenes from the story of Christmas. We have grown a little too old for that tradition though, so now we just sing Christmas carols. My cousin Anina posted a youtube video of our singing one year, but to avoid embarrassment I won’t link to it here (we are somewhat tonally challenged).

Another one of my favorite traditions is the way my family gives gifts. Instead of putting “Love: Dave” on the tag, we include a hint to what might be in the gift. For instance, if I bought someone a new kitchen knife, I might put “From: Martha Stewart”. I usually get a gift from Dan and Paul Hackett or from Terry Francona. It’s a good way to add some creativity into gift giving… everyone always gets very excited to try and guess what is in the gift based on who it’s from.

Another of my favorite traditions is eating Lobster Bisque on Christmas day. We always buy the lobster fresh on Christmas eve and my Mom makes the bisque before hand. We have a lot of people over to our house for Christmas: Me, Cara, Jack, my mom, my dad, my uncle Bo, aunt Kristie, Anina, Mary, my grandfather and  of course the dogs. Everyone gets everyone else at least one present so opening gifts takes a long time. By the time we finish, everyone is starving and that huger makes the bisque even more amazing every year. Delicious!

Adrian

There are a number of things I love about Christmas, but what I love most is the anticipation leading up to the big day- maybe that’s why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday…  You get to enjoy an amazing Thursday chock full of food, family and football.  When you wake up the next morning, you still have three days off of work/school and it’s universally acceptable to start listening to Christmas music and begin holiday preparations.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions growing up always begins on the 1st of December.  It’s the day the Christmas books come out!  My mom has been collecting Christmas books since I was a baby.  I think she began with the intention of getting one new one each year, but we were never that consistent. Overall we probably have more than 30 books though- many inscribed with the year and circumstance in which they were given.  While the scratch-and-sniff candy canes and trees in Barnaby’s First Christmas only contain hints of their former glory and I cringe every year when Jim tells Della that he sold his watch in The Tale of Magi there’s nothing quite like looking back at some of your favorite stories each year to bring about that holiday feeling.  My two absolute favorites are The Littlest Angel and The Year of Perfect Christmas Tree.

Since graduating from college I’ve enjoyed shorter Christmas vacations at home, but even when I’ve only made it home a few days before the 25th my parents have always saved the decorating of the tree until I arrive.  I’m usually the “light lady” (we’re a fan of white lights…something Dave and I agree to disagree on) and it always takes a good number of hours to sort all the decorations and figure out where everything is going to go. Maddie and I each have ornaments that we and we alone are able to place on the tree.  We always try and get the favorites up front and put the “less desirables” near the back. I’m a fan of a fully decorated tree- just because no one sees the back doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to be decorated…even if it’s with the more generic ornaments. The Amy Grant Christmas C.D.is usually playing throughout the decorating and after Amy finishes up we move to Gloria Estefan and other Christmas mixes. After the tree is complete we then get to set up the manger.  It’s always fun to unwrap the manger my Uncle John crafted years ago and set up the main players in their spots. The little black sheep is my favorite.  It always feels so comfy and cozy when the decorating is complete and I can read my Christmas books in front of the Christmas tree!

The final tradition I’ll go into a little depth about is our Christmas Eve routine.  Every year we get gussied up and head to church for Christmas Eve service.  The service is my absolute favorite of the year.  The service is primarily a song-fest.  In between songs pastor shares the Christmas story with the congregation and usually a special musical piece is done by the choir or a musical ensemble. The final part of the service is the best- all the lights are turned off and candles are passed to everyone in the congregation.  As the pews are dismissed one by one everyone sings Silent Night on repeat. It usually takes 5+ times through all three verses to get everyone out, but as it’s my favorite Christmas song I always enjoy the tradition. After the service we head up to Kersting Court to visit the snowman.  Every year someone drives down from the mountains with a truck-bed full of snow and crafts a snowman in the square.  As Southern Californians it’s always a novelty and a treat to pose with the snowman on Christmas Eve. The night ends with hot cocoa and peppermint schnapps at home and the opening of the first gift. Usually we watch a Christmas film or play a game and then go to bed dreaming of sugar plum fairies and nutcrackers.

Christmas itself brings a big hearty breakfast, the opening of stockings and then presents-we open one at a time, youngest to oldest.  After presents there isn’t much in the way of a scheduled out day. Usually an afternoon nap is had at some point. We always receive new games and movies from “Santa” that we enjoy in the afternoon and the many, many tins of cookies are eaten all day long.  My Grandma always sends us loads of her specialties and I particularly enjoy the wreaths and white chocolate dipped pretzels. The nice things about California is that you can spend part of almost any day of the year outside.  Last year I sent Dave pictures of me doing a crossword puzzle in the backyard in a t-shirt…ah the good old sunny California.  Dinner is typically something done up on the BBQ and then we spend the rest of the evening relaxing, game playing and enjoying each other’s company.  No huge traditions for the actual day other than lots of togetherness, but it’s still always one of my favorite days of the year!

Obviously we are a bit sad not to be back home for Christmas spending time with family, but are looking forward to starting some new traditions! We miss everyone back home… maybe you guys could tell us about your favorite traditions in the comments?

Love,

Daverian

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

We’re Finally Here!

After a grueling trip- which included a two hour bus ride from Portland, a 1+ hour delay on the tarmac in Boston (before the 6.5 hour flight), a fight over a $500 baggage fee in London (followed by an additional 30 minute delay on the tarmac there), the 1.5 hour flight to Berlin and then a lost bag in Berlin (which has yet to be recovered)- WE HAVE ARRIVED!  Thank God for hospitable Germans and their beer!

Biergarten in Tiergarten!

We have been trying to stay awake since our arrival with the hope of quickly getting accustom to “German Time”!  Tomorrow we’re going to try and get mobile phones, test out the U-Bahn system and grab a few more drinks at one of the famous Berlin biergartens- because even though the weather is beautiful, most close down for the season come October 1st.  Hopefully we’ll have more entertaining and intriguing posts to follow in the future, but wanted to get the first actual international post under out belts.  We’ll leave you with a few already noticed differences/adjustments we’ll need to be making in the next weeks, months and years….

1. Everyone in Berlin follows traffic signs.  They don’t walk when the light isn’t green even if no cars are present. For our fellow Bostonians- a huge culture shock!
2. Standards tipping etiquette calls for 5-10% of the total bill…should help to lessen the shock of being on the euro.
3. 24-Hour clock, AKA “Military Time”
4. No ice/no tapwater
5.  No more puritan liquor laws!!!  That’s right, we bought a beer from the vending machine in our hotel and I’ll bet we can do so before noon on Sundays if we please:)

Well, look for another update soon and hope everyone is well and life is fabulous! We miss you and love you!

Auf Wiedersehen, 

Daverian

Wilkommen Geld

Just got a letter from the Berlin School of Economics and Law about our upcoming orientation schedule this september and this tidbit caught my eye:

For students of universities in Berlin who have registered their accomodation in Berlin after 19 March 2002, and have previously had a primary residence in another state or country are entitled to receive €100,- as “welcome money”.

Imagine an American city paying all new students $100 just for showing up! Makes this Yankee shake his head in disbelief.