Posted by: jackterrett | March 7, 2010

Deutschland mit Stanis ist Wunderbar!

Following J-term, I spent the first two weeks of Spring semester at Middlebury tying up loose ends, hanging out with friends, and wrapping up the Indoor track season.  Although it was fun being at college and not taking any classes (I reveled in taking the Student out of Student-Athlete, basically becoming a full-time track runner…), I inevitably got very bored.  My days consisted of long meals in the dining halls, attempting the daily NY Times crosswords while watching the Olympics, and of course track practice.  After two weeks, I sensed I’d outstayed my welcome as the local bum and headed home for a couple of days to say goodbye to the family before leaving for Europe.

I had decided to spend my first few days in Europe doing a little exploration rather than diving straight into work, so I was able to visit my friend from Middlebury, Stanis Moody-Roberts, who was in Berlin studying abroad.   I flew out of Boston on the night of Tuesday 23rd February, and despite a long arduous connection at Heathrow, caught my next flight to Berlin.  I arrived at Tegel Airport midday Wednesday and found Stanis waiting just outside the gate!  I hadn’t seen him since the beginning of J-term, so it was great to catch up.  Over the next few days, Stanis and I, along with a friend from Maine, Brendan, took to the streets of Berlin, tracking down all of the major tourist attractions – the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Fernsehturm, the Tiergarten, Checkpoint Charlie, and so on.  We were very successful in taking cheesy, yet charming, photos of us in front of almost every single one!  The weather throughout the week had been quite grey and dreary – winter in Berlin is definitely not the ideal time to see the city’s beauty.

Being in Germany, we had to sample the traditional cuisine, therefore for breakfast one morning we prepared ‘Weizwurst’ and ‘Brezeln’ (white sausage and doughy pretzels).  Delicious though it was, Stanis’s German flatmate laughed at our idea of a “true German breakfast”.  Like any stereotype, this one is only loosely based on fact!  Speaking of food, Stanis and I sampled the “best burgers in Berlin”, located in a renovated public toilet underneath the train tracks.  We can both attest that they tasted unbelievable, and nothing like toilet at all!  The apartment that Stanis is staying in is a decent enough size and located very centrally – in the Neukolln ‘bezerk’ (German word for borough), on the border with Kreuzberg.  The city centre is only about a 45 minute walk, which we did several times to avoid the 2,10 euro subway cost.  It turned out to be a fantastic way to explore the area.  Stanis and I managed to fit in a run (his first of summer training apparently…) and discovered an underground music venue, hidden in a derelict building behind mountains of rubbish and barbed wire.  Several people were standing around drinking forties and smoking pot and they all looked very much like my Facebook profile picture.  Stanis reckoned I’d fit in very well, but I decided not to introduce myself.  After all, it was 10 in the morning.

It was fascinating to see the distinctions between former West and East Berlin.  The location of the wall has been marked by a trail of cobblestones that runs the entire length of the wall – it runs a very zigzag path at times, across roads and under buildings (in fact a café had the line painted on their floor in yellow to mark its path).  It was amusing to notice, whether by coincidence or not, that the Russian embassy is located in one of the biggest buildings in the centre of the Former East Berlin.  One of the more subtle differences between East and West are the lights at pedestrian crossings/crosswalks.  In former West Berlin, the “walk/don’t walk” traffic lights are generic human figures while in former East Berlin, it’s a quaint figure of a man with a hat on.  Typically, it’s easy to know when you’re walking around Berlin whether you’re in the West or the East, simply by looking at the pedestrian traffic lights!

On the morning of Sunday 28th February, I bid Stanis and Berlin farewell.  I managed to navigate the public transport system with ease as I got to Tegel and flew on to England.  Berlin was a lot of fun and helped to force me onto European time, which I’d need to get me up for work the following week.  I’ll keep you posted on how everything goes!

Check out my Facebook page for lots more photos from my weekend in Berlin with Stanis!

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