Sunday, January 25, 2009

25-01-2009 (Week 2) - Berlin

This week we travelled to Berlin. However, before I describe the Berlin activities, there is something else that I would like to share with you. Thursday night we went out to some bars in downtown Toulouse. Not actually downtown, but an area known as St. Pierre. Myself and a co-worker of mine, Tim Slattery, happened to wonder across a foosball table with some native Frenchman playing foosball. We proceeded to ask for the next game as best we could. The game started off very poorly. As I recall, we were down 3-0. It was then that we shook off our jitters and proceeded to win the game on the last goal. We then soundly defeated our next competitors, cementing Wichita's place in foosball history. (For the purposed of this story, it' best if you correlate foosball ability with how much your host country likes football (soccer), thus making our victory an upset. :)

Berlin was a great city. Although I must admit, for the larger cities, one weekend will never be enough time. The biggest impression left on me by Berlin was the Berlin Wall (That's also what I wanted to see the most). We walked along a 1.6 km part of the wall still standing. It was amazing to think that such a structure would divide such a large city. And it was definitely clear which side of the wall you were on. The city on the east side of the wall was poorly underdeveloped, with not much industry or new businesses building there since the wall came down. It seems to me Berlin has done a good job of preserving some of it's history as a reminder, as evidenced by the wall and the bombed out church.

Friday night might after we checked into the hostel we went immediate out to sample some of the finer brews Germany had to offer. Because Schlotterbeck had lived there during a semester in school, he knew some people and we had planned on meeting up with them. He received an address from his friend and we proceeded to head there (on the way sampling one of Germany's finer Kabobs). As we continued to get closer, we noticed we were venturing deeper and deeper into east Berlin. This is noteworthy because some bitter cultural differences still exist. The Germans call this "Mauer im Kopf." (literally: Wall in the head) We were walking near what looked to be an abandoned building when we heard, "thump, thump, thump,..." and saw people standing out near the street. We made a walk-by of the situation to assess. What we assessed was a dark alley with one lit up door, with two huge Germans gaurding it. We then decided to walk down said alley. We go to the door, and just kinda shuffled around for a few minutes until we saw a few people go in. We then decided just to walk in like we knew what we were doing. that's when the two aforementioned large Germans confronted us.

They told us there are private birthday parties inside and asked why we were here. Fortunately for us, Schlotty's friend has told us there were birthday parties inside, so we just said we were invited by a mutual friend, and they let us through, simple as that. The inside of this building is what you would expect it to look like based on its outward appearance except there was loud techno music and several bars on each of the two levels. Most of us danced the night away while eating orange slices that were being passed around and trying to avoid crazy good dancing by girls who had ginormous mullets.

Another interesting aspect of Berlin is the metro. There are no gates, no gaurds, and no stopping anyone that wanted to get on the metro from using it. It is a 100% honor code system. You could just walk down to a station, and jump on a train without anyone knowing any better. Although we hear if you get caught, the fines are steep, and the German police are 'unforgiving.' So needless to say (even though I'm saying it), we bought our tickets every time.

I wish we would've had more time to stay around and see more of Berlin, but we can always make a return trip...right?


Enjoy the video blog.

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