20 January 2011

Berlin - Highs and Lows

Scaffolding - a tourist's worst nightmare
Although Maggie and I enjoyed visiting Germany's capital and largest city, our trip was not without its disappointments.  To start with the "Berlinjustices":

-The Reichstag, Germany's parliament building, was closed due to threatened acts of terrorism scheduled for March (note that our trip took place in January).
-The Metro line to the Olympic Stadium was not in operation, hindering my latest compulsion - visiting every former site of the Olympic Summer Games.  Two down, twenty-two to go.
-The landmark Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche was, like practically all other sites I visit in Europe, covered in scaffolding. 

Spreewald Pickles - the Cold War's
tastiest symbol
But other places we visited were "Berlinincredible," including my favorite place we visited - the KaDeWe Department Store.  Other sites in Berlin (in fact, most other sites in Berlin) serve as stirring memorials of World War II, the Holocaust, the Cold War, and the painful division of Germany into East and West, but only KaDeWe has eight giant floors with nearly 400,000 items for sale!  The store itself  - Europe's second largest - was an amazing spectacle, even for non-shoppers.  In fact, the only thing that we bought there was an authentic, canned Spreewald Pickle.  It was the the only type of pickle available in East Germany under the GDR, so it's a damn good thing it's so delicious!

Der Ampelmann (crosswalk dude) - a cute
symbol of life in East Berlin, currently
being exploited by souvenir shops and
unemployable art students across the city.

The Spreewald Pickle is a good example of today's word of the day - Ostalgie.  A combination of the German words Ost (east) and Nostalgie (nostalgia), Ostalgie refers to the lingering affection for life in the East during the Cold War.  The most visible simple of this emotion is the Ampelmann - an adorable crosswalk symbol used in Berlin and other German cities behind the Iron Curtain.

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