Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kind of hard to say Good-bye

Well, time to think about packing up and going home. What a piece of luck to have had the chance to settle down in Berlin for four months. Of the many good things that I'll miss, here are photos of two. The first is "Paulchen" (little Paul, literally, though not so little at all ), definitely the ugliest and probably the most beloved dog in our neighborhood. He goes for an hour-long walk every morning with his keeper, someone who loves to talk to him. Actually it's a love-hate relationship. He gets scolded a lot.
The second is my line dancing class at the 'Seniorenclub in der Herthastrasse'. Maybe you can tell from the picture that we bonded pretty well. Lots of fun on Monday and Tuesday afternoons and a great bunch of people, and I'm missing them already.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Germans' love affair with English

Take a look at this poster, which is all over the city right now. It starts out fine, going along in German, and then all of a sudden it closes the deal with an English sentence. Now, we keep asking ourselves, when and why did the Germans decide that their language wasn't quite good enough ? English words pop up everywhere, not just when there's a good reason (that is, no German word exists, such as 'laptop'.) Some here are beginning to view it as a problem, including the Chancellor Angela Merkel who's had some sharp words to say about it, but I've the impression that most young people just imbibe it, maybe not so much as the language of the U.S. and Great Britain but as the language of the world.

Strolling around a Berlin Christmas Market

It's easy to find an outdoor Christmas Market here, there are so many. St. Nick put in an appearance at the market in our neighborhood yesterday, and you didn't need to stand in line to talk to him. If you like low-key, find one of these local Christmas Markets. You can buy fine crafts, not so fine crafts, junk . . .and food . . . or play games or do art projects, if you're a kid. If you go into the city center, you can check out the other kind of market, with some surprises, like the stall selling all kinds of brushes (!!!) Not what you had in mind for giving this year ? Maybe a wooden ornament instead ? You can eat yourself 'satt' here, too, of course. Or spend a little time hanging out around Onkel Jou.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A rather creative, athletic St. Nick

St. Nick is popping up all over the place here in Berlin, a slimmer, more athletic Santa than we usually see in the States and more often on his way up than on his way down. He's good at pulling himself up with a rope and climbing up ladders. Once in while you spot him drifting down with a parachute. He uses a little backpack instead of lugging around a huge sack. Works well, since then he has his hands free for all that climbing . . . .

Monday, December 1, 2008

"Stumbling Blocks"

These are a few of Berlin's 1400 "stumbling blocks" (Stolpersteinen), small paving stones, about 4" square, covered with brass and placed in the sidewalk directly in front of a house or apartment building where a victum of the Nazi regime resided. Each has the name, date of birth, and fate of a person who lived at this address. An artist named Gunter Demnig came up with the idea about 15 years ago and today these stones are in many German cities, whereever a school class or neighborhood group has taken the initiative to place them.

Leierkastenmann and Lucy

Yes, that's me, caught in the extremely unlikely act of posing with one of Berlin's many organ-grinder men. Judging from the sky and my jacket, must've been back in October when the weather was warmer ! This guy was hanging out near the Brandenburg Gate where all the action is, but you'll see his twin all around the place, including in front of my local grocery store here in Wilmersdorf. Do you like his monkey ?

St. Nicholas in Spandau

Another take on good, old St. Nick, this time touching down in Spandau, Berlin's oldest suburb. The Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church) here dates from the Middle Ages. Inside is a new sculpture (below) depicting St. Nicholas as both the esteemed Bishop of Myra, reading the Bible, and as an engaged helper, rescuing a shipwrecked sailor. His motto: "Do good, and share with others."
In front of the church (above) this handsome statue celebrates Prince-elector Joachim II, who introduced the Protestant faith to Berlin and Brandenberg in 1539.