Breaking up is hard to do...
Trip Start Jun 09, 2010
39Trip End Dec 31, 2015
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So, what have I been up to? Saturday, I spent the day outside of the city in one of the nice lake districts (on the west side, I think, but I really was just along for the ride so I don't really know), to watch Silja's husband David perform in a dragon boat race with a team for his work (see photos). It was pretty cool, and nice to be in a festive atmosphere with a bunch of Germans doing something ordinary (i.e
Sunday we went to the suburbs in the afternoon to look at some land that Silja and David are thinking of buying to build a house. Once again, it was nice to get out and see a different part of the city, and to see what German suburbia might be like. To be honest, it looks a lot like every typical housing suburb I've seen in every American town. Silja and David have been working a lot on deciding whether to buy the land and build the house because they need to upgrade from the place they're living in now
Today, we had a really slow start to the day, but I finally got back into the city to explore somethings I'd been wanting to see. I had the best of plans to visit a museum on the Stasi today, but after wandering around for over an hour, I just couldn't find it. I'm usually great with directions and pride myself in finding my way around pretty well, but I think I've just about decided that the museum doesn't exist anymore! I was really excited to see it, too, because when I was in college, my senior thesis for my history degree was on the Stasi. For those who don't know, the Stasi was the East German secret police, their version of the KGB, and were quite renowned for being the epitome of state-sanctioned paranoia and oppression. The had such a tight grip on the East German citizens and had detailed files on nearly everyone in the country. Even going so far as to collect samples of peoples' scents in mason jars to make tracking more effective with dogs and such. Pretty crazy!!
After I gave up on the Stasi museum, I wandered around town for a while to see what I might stumble upon. I found one of the three remaining surveillance towers from the Berlin Wall Era! I was so surprised to find it, and I literally almost walked right into it. Amazing, there was no sign-age, no plaque explaining what it was, it was just sitting there in quite a dilapidated state (see photo). But there it was none the less. This got me going on a Berlin Wall kick, so I started seeing what else I could find from the Wall. In the past, I've visited the East Side Gallery, which is the longest surviving section of the wall in the city, and is covered in paintings, not the original graffiti. Since I've been there several times in the past I wanted to find some of the less famous, more authentic pieces of the wall, but there's not much left. Near the "Topography of Terror" exhibit, which is a pretty bland exhibit on the Gestapo from the Nazi era, there is a pretty long segment remaining (see photo), and it was incredible to imagine that there was such a wall literally dividing the city in two. David was telling me some stories from that period last night, since he grew up behind the wall
After my wall experiences, I headed to the former West Berlin to visit one of the largest department stores in the world. From a portion of the city that had to make due with so little, I went to a portion of the very same city that had all the excesses of the west. The name of the department store is KaDeWe, and it is 7 floors of everything you could imagine. Think Harrod's in London. Of course, my favorite part to visit is the 6th floor.... the food hall. Literally hundreds of variety of sausage, hundreds of cheeses, exotic fruits and vegetables from around the world, every type of chocolate imaginable, and imported foods from every corner of the world. I went straight for the Dr. Pepper. Mmmmmm. And I decided to treat Silja and David to a home cooked dinner of Mexican food, something that is nearly impossible to find outside of the US, and Mexico of course. Oh, there are Tex-Mex and "authentic" Mexican restaurants to be found, but believe me, they don't come close to the real thing. So, I hunted around KaDeWe to see what I could find. I managed to find cans of refried beans, a jar of guacamole, some flour tortillas, taco sauce and fajita seasoning. The cheese was actually a bit harder. With hundreds of varieties, there was nothing like shredded cheese we'd find at home. So, I settled with some white cheddar and had the deli shred it for me. They looked at me quite funny but obliged. The simpler ingredients, I'll buy at the local market, some peppers, an onion, and some chicken breast. I'll whip it all together to make quesadillas, I think. From East to West, it's amazing the differences that existed in one city. Now of course, the wall has been down for just over 20 years, and to the casual observer, you can't even tell whether you are in East or West
Breaking up is hard, but reconciliation is bliss. Silja and David are a perfect example, she from the West, he from the East. Their baby is like a symbol of the reunification, one of a generation that will never know what existed here for so long except for what they see in the history books, museums, or stories from their father.
I'll try to post more this week. Hopefully I'll find that Stasi museum or at least make it out to the HQ. Also, on Thursday, I'm heading north of town to visit the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and the Belower Forest Death March Museum. I'll definitely post after that visit. I know Debbie is anxious to hear about that for her summer school class. By the way, for Samantha, I've been eating pretty normal food, but of course the German food I've eaten is mostly sausages and potatoes of varying varieties. They like their meat and potatoes here! And the mustard is so much better! And Jade, I'll post an entry later in the week about my upcoming trip to Iran. This is running quite long, but since I'm leaving Friday morning for that leg of my journey, I'll definitely post by Thursday night. And thanks to everyone else for commenting on the bog, it really helps. I haven't had a chance to respond individually to the comments, but it is encouraging to know that people are actually reading this and enjoying it. I'll do my best to keep 'em coming!