My laptop of 4 years finally decided to die for good this time, so I have sadly not been keeping up with the blog as much. I must say though, I think Berlin might be one of my favorite cities I have ever had the privilege to live in. Every day there is some festival or event going on, and the are so many parks and green areas where you can go run, rockclimb, play soccer (Fußball), swim, or picnic. So far I have only broken one pair of cleats and lost alot of pride on the Fußball fields here. Being decent in the U.S. translates to being the last pick for teams here most the time. Anyway, back to the important things, reports on touristy things, facets of school in Germany, and some random encounters with German and other foreign peoples, nightlife in Berlin, plus of course the pro tip of the week.
There are so many touristy things that you should do in Berlin if you are ever lucky enough to visit this crazy but amazing city, however; after this week I think a visit to the national gallery and museum island should be at the top of the list (if you enjoy art). Not only does the national gallery organize all the works by time period, but they have entire rooms devoted to some of the well known 19th century German artists such Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Caspar David Friedrich. It was amazing to see works such as “abbey among oak tree” and “medieval city on a river” I remember learning about a few of these in the AP European history class I had senior year, so to see them in person was really cool.
Also I was lucky enough to meet up with the Notre Dame group in Berlin and get a ticket to the Berliner Philharmoniker which turned out to be one of my favorite musical experiences to date. Going to this, everyone dresses their best, they’re drinks and some mixing time beforehand, but as soon as everyone gets to their seats and finishes applauding the entrance of the conductor, there is nothing but dead silence. You could have heard heard a pin drop as the audience awaited for the story (told by and orchestra and chorus) to unfold. Finally it began, the story of Oedipus, and it did not disappoint in any way whatsoever. You could tell everyone was on the edge of their seat awaiting the next line from the chorus. It seemed as if the very air had an electric current that froze you in your seat. If anyone reading this has a chance to catch a performance here, please do yourself a favor and go! The next day I went to the Zoologischer Garten (One of Berlin’s zoos in the Tiergarten), and could not believe both the beauty of the park and the diversity of animals they have. Also, I don’t know how they haven’t had many accidents in the park yet, because there is literally nothing separating you from the animals in some enclosures. For example, the first animal we stumbled across was a rhino in its enclosure, however this “enclosure” was literally the area in which the rhino lived, separated from you be a fence that was only a foot and a half or two tall. Also you could get extremely close to all the animals. Personally, I thought this was amazing, but there were some people in the group who were alittle freaked out. All in all I would definitely recommend the garten to anyone who plans on staying in the city for awhile.
Berlin is considered by many Europeans that I’ve met to be one of the biggest centers for good nightlife and music in all of Europe. From what I have heard they have every kind of club one could think of here, from the fancy wear a blazer to the club, club, to the punk bars, to techno houses that go until 10 am in the morning, they have it all. Also, compared to other big cities, Berlin is relatively cheap for going out, which is always a plus. I have also been told that if you are into EDM Berlin is the place to be, there is a club called Berghain which is considered the world capital of techno at the moment. This club is in an old power plant and sports 60 foot ceilings in the dance floor multiple bars and regularly holds 1500 people every night, However; do not show up before 2 am on most nights because they don’t open until 3 or 4 and go until 10 or 11am. If you are into EDM and don’t mind the usual scene that encompasses a techno club, this is a must see. Berlin claims to be the birthplace of real techno and many EDM genres so this music is a large part of the nightlife culture of the city.
Now to school. I am now 100% sure that the only way to become truly good at a language is to live in the country in which it is spoken. Not only do people from Germany not follow their own grammar rules in daily conversation, but they have so much slang which I have never learned in my classes. I find the classes extremely useful for helping me navigate the never ending rubix cube that is German grammar, however; to truly understand everyday speak, common slang phrases, dialect differences, and cultural references one really needs to be immersed into the culture. I think this is the fastest I have ever increased my own language skill. I found myself talking to one of my German friends the other day about a book I was reading, describing relatively complex ideas in German and I hardly had to think about what I was saying. There were no long pauses to think about how I should conjugate a verb or what word to use and he understood all that i said, needless to say I was pretty excited. Although I learn alot in class, I think it is out of class that most of my vocab comes from. I play Fußball with German people, go out with German people, and hang out with other foreign students learning German. When I hang out with these people I feel more free to speak and am usually doing something fun, so I remember what I learned more because I am usually pretty into what I am doing. Also, Im not worried about losing points on a test, homework assignment, or paper so I feel more comfortable making mistakes and learning from them. I think this is how a language is best learned “ohne ängst”
Finally the pro-tip of the week!!! This is going to seem negative, but when in Germany do not smile at random people as you walk by on the street or wherever, even if you are just trying to be friendly. Usually the person will give you a look that clearly communicates the question “why are you smiling at me, who are you?”. I have no explanation as to why smiling at people is not really a thing here if you don’t know them, but from what I have gathered it is considered strange if not creepy.