Berlin: A first report

By: | Post date: June 29, 2008 | Comments: 3 Comments
Posted in categories: Countries

The Berlin experience started with me getting off the plane, and into the ramp tunnel thingy they attach to the plane, manufactured by a company based in Baden–Württemberg. Krämer, I think. The company saw fit to advertise not just itself (Krämer Men installing lightbulbs, Krämer Men cleaning up a party, Krämer Men being Krämer Men), but also their home state.

  • At the opposite side of the ramp tunnel thingy: “You are now stepping onto Twenty Metres of BADEN–WÜRTTEMBERG!”
  • In the corner of one ad, “Now that you’ve arrived in Berlin Airport, log in to , to find out how you can make a connecting flight to BADEN–WÜRTTEMBERG!” (… Connecting flight? Now? But I don’t wanna go to Stuttgart; it was enough of a hassle moving to Berlin. Dale hasn’t even come back to Heidelberg or anything.)

And the slogan tucked away in all the ads:

Baden–Württemberg. Wir können alles. Außer Hochdeutsch.

I was sure I missed something, but no, I read it correctly:

Baden–Würtemberg. We can do ANYTHING!!!1!!!

Except speak in Standard German.

I’m sure they think they’re too cool to speak Standard German, or too busy building airplane ramps or something. Problem is, outside of some bits of Saxony-Anhalt, none of the states speaks standard German; so this does not exactly single Baden-Würtemberg out. Still, I can see huge LolCat potential here:

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

The executive summary of Berlin (which will be enhanced if and if I get time):

  • My German sucks.
  • Berlin has a lot of ugly hurried buldings. And they’re not restricted to the East.
  • Berlin has a few wonderful Roman buildings (Good thinking, Friderice Rex Borrusice!)
  • Berlin, especially the East, has some amazingly jarring contrast, between the old, the new, and the rushed. Which gives it a lot of historical texture.
  • There are bits of historical texture that get swept under the carpet still. Hitler’s Bunker — blink and you miss it. (At least there’s an explanatory display on the site.) My friend Leslie saw how trashed The Stadium at Nuremberg is now. (I’ll use the pics when I get to it.) And the rush to tear down the East German Palace of the Republic is unseemly. The photos will speak more to that.
  • Bits of Berlin reminded me of Vienna (where I had been before). Other bits of Berlin, to my surprise, reminded me of Athens. Yes, the rushed bits of the landscape did; but also the interior layout of the apartment. Athens does not do back courtyards, though (let alone mutiply nested courtyards); and more’s the pity for Athens.
  • Ostalgie (nostalgia for the GDR) is alive and well. In fact, for tourist reasons, the Ampelmänchen (East German traffic light figure, with hat) is not only kept on in East Berlin, but is spreading to the West.
  • It’s World Cup season, so one of the few times in the decade when German flags are allowed in the open. It’s a delight to see. Especially when the cars double up, reconciling their twin allegiances: German and Russian flags, or German and Turkish flags.
  • My habitual greeting to Gert (“Auf Wiener Schnitzel!”) was converted into a night of dining at the Austria Restaurant, Kreuzberg. The schnitzel was so huge, it would have had trouble landing at Heathrow. It blocked out the sun. It left the layers of potato salad and lemons beneath well shaded. You could eat off it for a month.
  • Berlin has latterly embraced the street party as a neighbourhood institution. Kreuzberg was up for it that night: Kreuzberg jazzt!, the posters said. I didn’t hear all that much jazz; I heard some Balkan gypsy music morph into Latin. Gert pointed out that after the first few street parties, the sequence of Food, Drink, and Couple of Bands got old; but it was novel to me.
  • Grapefruit–Beer cooler. So very very wrong. So wrong in fact, it almost made sense. But it figures why Pilsner Urquell tried to get the Reinheitsgebot (the German Beer Purity Laws) enshrined in the German constitution. (Eh, ad campaign I’ll come back to.)
  • Laibach’s rendering of Bach’s Art of Fugue in Industrial Techno. (Gert played highlights to me as I fidgeted nervously about my departure to Athens.) So very very wrong in a different way, which again almost made sense. Not in the live concert, as he reported. But the album recording counterpoints Bach with their own techno noisemaking in an interestingly textured way. Much like downtown East Berlin, in fact.
  • Laura’s English is starting to have its own texturing with German interference. “You are in the near of it.” Utterly cool; she is being be-Germaned.
  • My German sucks. Thought I’d say so again. So I was not that be-Germaned — despite protests to the contrary. The protests included the purchase of a Deutschland cap — remember, it’s only every four years you can wear such things publicly in Germany. (This will cause issues with my uncle tonight when he’s watching the Euro soccer final tonight.)

Oh boy, does my German suck. Some examples:

  • Austria Restaurant

    *Nick fails to eat a quarter of the Biggest Schnitzel in Christendom*

    HEIDI THE AUSTRIA RESTAURANT WAITRESS: You know, we make a hundred of these every day.

    GERT: Well, I think the gentleman would like another one.

    HEIDI: He’ll have to finish this portion first.


  • Austria Restaurant, as understood at the time by Nick

    *Nick fails to eat a quarter of the Biggest Schnitzel in Christendom*

    HEIDI THE AUSTRIA RESTAURANT WAITRESS: Mein Hut hat drei Ecke hundred of these every day.

    GERT: Freude schöner Götterfunken another Tocher aus Elysium.

    HEIDI: Od und Leer finish das Meer first.


  • Kreuzberg Jazzt!

    *Nick buys Deutschland Football Cap*

    RANDOM GERMAN WOMAN: [in joyous recognition to Nick, sung to tune of Volare] Fi-nale!

    NICK: … woah-oah (?)

    RANDOM GERMAN WOMAN TO HER KID: See, if you say “Fi-nale” to people, they will immediately understand what you mean.

    RANDOM GERMAN WOMAN TO HER KID, AS UNDERSTOOD BY NICK: Meine Ruh is hin, mein Herz understand ist schwer.

  • Morning bus to airport

    *Gert buys ticket on bus*
    GERT: A single ticket, please.

    NICK: I also hases the single ticket, please you.

    *Coins worth €2.5 go on a tray*

    *Nick pops money into tray slots specific to each denomination. Because that’s what they’re there for, right?*

    BUS DRIVER WOMAN: No you don’t do that. If you do that in the supermarket, they’ll give you a slap on the wrist.

    *Bus driver woman mimes a slap on the wrist a bit close to an actual slap on the wrist*

    *Change pops out of other side of tray*

    *Nick tries to pop change back into the slots, because he thought the ticket was €2.50 and not €2.10

    *Bus driver woman issues sounds of consternation*

    *Bus passengers find this all very amusing, given how German they are supposed to be*

    *Gert retrieves the €0.40 change to put me out of my misery*

    *I follow after Gert*

    NICK: Uh… what just happened?

… What indeed.


  • opoudjis says:

    Yes, Dr K, I know who you are. 🙂 I’m pretty sure I saw the side of the Pergamon museum as I was heading towards Unter den Linden; I may have even mentioned it to my host (or vice versa). But it was a three hour tour of a Saturday afternoon, and I had imperfect command of manipulating the space-time continuum. Nächstes mal, oder?

  • You know who wrote this of course! says:

    You went to BERLIN and you did NOT visit the PERGAMONMUSEUM?????!!!!!

    My pills! Where are my pills?!

  • laura says:

    ach, it was a short but very sweet visit, and oh so funny! was great to see you nick 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: