Sunday, October 2, 2011

Welcome to Berlin!

25 September 2011

Things I learned about Berliners today:

Virtually every Berlin apartment building has a balcony. Germans are very connected to the outside, despite living predominantly in “people coops”. They "move" a lot: walking, bike riding, etc.

Children have much more freedom of movement here than in America. Parents send their kids out to play in the city of Berlin without qualms, confident that the children have been instructed in appropriate and safe behavior.

Pets are treated much the same way. Dogs are often seen running about unleashed and following their owners through the public areas of Berlin. The animals are well-trained and responsive, but allowed to manage their own behavior.

When we landed we made it through the Passport Kontroller, then we picked up our baggage. We were met at Tegel Airport by Brigitte of the DBV (the German equivalent of the American Farm Bureau). Brigitte was a McCloy Fellow last year and served as our host in Berlin. She informed us that the Berlin Marathon was being run today, and thus we would alter our schedule a bit. We took the bus to Brigitte’s part of town, and then staked out a location to watch the start of the marathon as it made its way by her corner. We took some pictures of the first runners, many of whom appeared to be African. Next we ducked around the corner to a baker to buy fresh breads. Yay for bruchen!

We were welcomed to Brigitte’s apartment by her 10 year old daughter Marta. She was a charming young lady. We had a very typical German breakfast, which reminded me a great deal of what Frau Bricker would serve at home: fresh breads, cheeses, meats, coffee. After eating, we watched part of the Marathon on television and saw the first gentleman cross the line. I will be forever certain that he appears in one of the pictures I took early that morning!

We spent the afternoon walking EVERYWHERE around Berlin . . . or at least it certainly seemed like it when I was hot & tired. (I was prepared for Germany to be cold; Germany decided to trick me!) We walked by the Brandenburg Gate, the Adlon Hotel, the Resichstag. We saw the end point of the Marathon, took a cruise on the River Spree, and toured the Palace of Tears. It was with relief that we all finally returned to Brigitte’s for a delicious dinner. Martha helped to cook an amazing meal of pork, potatoes, peas, and carrots. Shane, Chad, and Tracy enjoyed the Bitburger Beer -- a favourite of my Christopher -- and I had some lovely wine. We eventually headed to our hotel (in a Mercedes-Benz taxi, no less!), and I was ready to shower and SLEEP!

My first impression of Berlin: beautiful, green, and friendly!

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