Saturday, June 28, 2008


So our internet connection has bitten the proverbial dust, and without it, my blogging has been seriously curbed. However, I feel the need to share and show some of the things that we’ve been seeing and doing during this, the last two months of our stay in Berlin. It’s been strange coming to the realization that we actually have to leave, especially with the beautiful weather and all the German pride of the national football team going to the European Meisterschaft! With our return to California coming nearer, we’ve been venturing into previously unseen territory, namely the eastern pockets of Berlin that we’ve been lightly warned against (poor = angry and dangerous, but that occurs all over the world, really). We live on the eastern edge of the Ring, and to the east of us is an area not frequented by tourists or Westerners, and we’ve normally been the non-frequenters I speak of. However, we headed that direction, to look at the hulking mass of the old Stasi headquarters and the Plattenbau so quickly thrown up in the satellite neighborhoods of the DDR. Visions of Moscow danced in my eyes.

plattenbau on frankfurter allee

This expanse is not one kilometer from our house, but I’d never seen it up close. I look a little foreign, and coming from a place such as Oakland, where I tend to try to avoid any clear and present danger, I was always tentative to head this direction. Notice how the multi-colored stripes dress up the buildings. Pretty, isn’t it?

Just across the street from these quirky monstrosities is the former headquarters of the Staatssicherheit – Stasi to most. It’s been mostly untouched since it lost its power in 1990, and since then it’s been converted to a museum documenting the various nefarious workings of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik. Most of the original buildings still stand, and their centers of surveillance and record-keeping still bear the serious facades of DDR days, while some buildings seem newer, desperately attempting to lift themselves from their sad infamy.

stasi antenna
stasi block

Elsewhere, the East seems to be much like American suburbs: lots of trees, lots of strollers and elderly benchwarmers, McDonald’s, freeway entrances lined with billboards. If it weren’t for the tram and train tracks cutting through, I would believe it were some outlying suburban sprawl nudged up against any American city.

And now, as work wraps up and I have more time to explore the neighborhoods and alleyways of the city, I’m sure to find more bizarre scenes of an uncomfortable morph into the 21st century. However, this weekend will be devoted to Euro 08. Wanna see?

deutschland v portugal 2

Deutschland beat Portugal, formerly favorites and now out of the championship. Tomorrow night it’s Deutschland v Spain… if I could add in the sound of firecrackers and shouting, the experience would really come across, but as it is, you’ll have to settle for this lo-fi screenshot to imagine the fervor. I’m tentative when it comes to the packs of raging, semi-nude celebrators dancing in the streets, but it’s quite a sight. Better than the anti-Scientology demonstration; better than the loud and tangled Pride Parade that we accidentally stumbled upon; better than the bright and tedious Sex and the City premiere that we accidentally stumbled upon; but the sum is always greater than its parts, and all of it has been amazing. Does it sound like I’m wrapping things up here? In a way, I am, focused on the details of our upcoming year in the UK, dreaming of saltwater taffy and Bay Area breeze, but I love Berlin; walks through the city inevitably leave me pleased and appreciative. Especially when the weather is nice.

paddling - katie and julia

I’ll be back with more before we leave this great city, but in the meantime, I and all the German football hooligans share the same sentiment: FINALE. Everyone cross your fingers. See you soon.