Ich Bin Ein Berliner!

11 Apr

Another month, another Fulbright conference – this time in Berlin, Germany! Rather than fly to Berlin, I decided to take a train and bus, allowing me to stop off and explore the German city of Hamburg for a few hours along the way.

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I saw the city hall,

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the harbor (the largest in Germany, third-busiest in Europe and 15th-largest worldwide),

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and ate at a fantastic French art nouveau restaurant called Café Paris that came highly recommended by Christine at the Danish-American Fulbright Commission – and it did not disappoint (reservation recommended).

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I arrived in Berlin later that evening and awoke the next morning ready to explore the city before the conference began the following day. I began at Potsdamer Platz,

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then walked through the Tiergarden to the Reichstag, home of the German Parliament,

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then on to the iconic Brandenburg Gate

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and then to Museum Island

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and the Berliner Dom with its view over the city.

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Next was a stroll around the Hackescher Markt area,

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with a break for a Weihenstephan Kristall Weissbier,

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followed by lunch at Chen Che, an amazing Vietnamese Tea House hidden at the end of an alleyway – don’t leave Berlin without visiting!

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Up next was the Berlin Wall Memorial along Bernauer Strasse. I had always thought of the wall as just that – a wall – but the wall was in fact two walls with a treacherous no man’s land in between, filled with barbed wire and guard towers.

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After that was a stop at Mauer Park to watch the ongoing graffiti-ing of remnants of the wall

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followed by wiener schnitzel and a schwarz beer at Prater, Berlin’s oldest beer garden.

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The next morning, I was up early for a run across the city to the East Side Gallery, a collection of Berlin Wall concrete slabs with some of the best and most iconic graffiti paintings. Below is the famous “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love,” sometimes referred to as the Fraternal Kiss, by Russian artist Dmitri Vrubel. As a lampoon of Socialist Realism, the painting depicts the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev kissing East Germany’s former party boss, Erich Honecker.

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Later that day (Sunday, March 15) the conference kicked off with a bus tour of some of the Cold War sights around the city. Our guide was a former U.S. foreign service officer who worked in Berlin for much of the Cold War. He told us stories about traveling to the eastern side of the city to go shopping – something U.S. foreign service officers were permitted to do in an attempt to de-stabilize the east’s economy by spending western currency. We drove past tourist-filled Checkpoint Charlie and visited the Palace of Tears.

Later that evening we attended a reception with all the American Fulbrighters in town for the conference – mostly from Germany, but also several stationed in countries across Europe – as well as the group of German Fulbrighters getting ready to go to the U.S. We capped the night with beers at the nearby and shamelessly touristic Hofbrau Haus with friends both old and new (shoutout to Ashley, Michelle and Megan)!

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The conference continued the next day with group break-out sessions about different topics, followed by presentations about each group’s discussion. Later that night, we attended another reception which included musical and dance performances by a few Fulbrighters as well as a presentation by Cem Özdemir, co-chairman of Germany’s Green Party. One of my flatmates and very good friends back in Århus, Anke, is from Germany and is a big supporter of Özdemir and the Greens, so I made sure to get Mr. Özdemir’s autograph before he left the event. Here’s a happy Anke with her personalized Cem Özdemir autograph:

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Tuesday was filled with presentations by both Fulbrighters about their experiences in different countries as well as Berlin city government officials at Berlin’s City Hall. That afternoon, a group of us visited a bi-weekly Turkish market, where I tasted the most outstanding döner kebab I’ve ever had (it’s still unclear to me why this European street-food sensation has not been introduced in the U.S. – a visionary food cart vendor could undoubtedly make millions off the idea).

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Wednesday kicked off with more small group sessions, followed by a series of five-minute presentations by 12 different Fulbrighters on their research projects with Q&As afterwards. Topics were wide-ranging and the presenters were concise and articulate, making the presentations one of the highlights of the conference. Things wrapped up later that evening with dinner and a send off party. What a great opportunity the conference was to meet fellow Fulbrighters from all across Europe and hear about their experiences (shoutout to the close-knit group of Madrid-based Fulbrighters) while exploring Berlin!

The next morning I boarded an early bus to make the 9-and-a-half-hour journey to Koblenz, a city in western Germany on the Rhein River, to visit an old friend. Stay tuned!

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2 Responses to “Ich Bin Ein Berliner!”

  1. Nancy Macias April 13, 2015 at 5:11 am #

    Hi Nathan

    BIG NEWS just now on TV (8 PM mountain time)f you haven’t already been alerted by your friends on Capital Hill. Bernie Sander’s has just announced he will give his decision to run for President by the end of April. They also said he is being received positively by hundreds of people when he speaks. YEA

    Of course you know Hillary announced today on a platform similar to Bernie. Wonder Why????

    I liked your blog on Berlin and am so happy you are such a good writer, photographer and willing to share your adventures. I also am happy Max is coming soon and you two will travel for 10 days. I would like to know where you want to take him. Also, will you pick places you have not been? A chance to fly the TERRIBLE TOWEL in new territory?

    Tomorrow I see the surgeon and will put on my hearing aids which I already know are set way too high so I am regaining slowly, my hearing. I also can hit the poo tomorrow as it just opened. My life always changes so much when I can swim.

    Your dad is in New Orleans for his first trip which he will enjoy. I spent a week there when Uncle Brad was there in Up With People and did the half time show for the Super Bowl.

    Also, watched the Masters and an awesome young 21 year old win it. Worth reading about when you have time. Also spoke with Max and sang Happy Birthday although I couldn’t hear him. 20 years old. Wow. Much love, Grandma

    Date: Sun, 12 Apr 2015 11:08:44 +0000
    To: nancym7537@hotmail.com

  2. Barbara Romano April 17, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    Hi Nate,

    Can you pleas email me.

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