Wednesday, March 15, 2006

DeutschLand Part II

Hello again! Before I continue recounting my fantastical adventures in Germany, I wanted to tell you about my trip last Monday to a Gymnazium in Kosice. A Gymnazium is like an American high school, and one of my colleagues asked me to talk for a bit to her friend's 4th year conversational English classes.

The 4th year of Gymnazium is their last year, and these kids have senioritis like nobody's business. I thought the visit was a wash until I received this e-mail:

My name is ____. You were on our lesson on Monday and you made me thinking about improving my speaking abilities. I've learnt English for nearly 14 years. I know english grammar quite well In my opinion but I can't speak fluently because all words I know are mixed in a second and I can't find the right one... So thanks for your coming. I hope we'll meet again. I heard that americans are selfish and stupid and so on, but all American people I've met were friendly and as we say "v pohode"(it means O.K.) . You too.

Slovak-American relations improving one e-mail at a time. Isn't it beautiful?

So back to Berlin...


Tuesday was a big day for me, because the conference had organized a guided tour of the Reichstag, which required me to wake up at 10(!).

The Reichstag is the seat of the German Parliament, sort of like our Capitol building if you're into forced comparisons. The history of the Reichstag is fascinating, here's a link to the popularly held belief that the Reichstag was burned by the Nazis in an attempt to take over the government. That does seem a bit like something they might do, although we really shouldn't judge.

Here's "The Stag" from the outside, as we wait in the freezing cold to enter:

I went with my friend Michael, the tour guide from the day before, who was also lucky enough to have scored a ticket for the tour. We noticed that "The Doppelganger" was there, someone who looks exactly like a guy from our program, Chuck. Here is Chuck:

And here is the Doppelganger:

2 Freaky!

Inside the Reichstag we were allowed to sit in the gallery, and we were given a lecture on its history by a very serious German guide. I also got a free pin, so I see the whole thing as a success. Here is the main chamber:

On the wall you can see the symbol of the German Federation, a big eagle. The guide made a joke about how Germans call it the "Fat Hen". Well, to be more precise, he gave us this information in the form of a joke. Without smiling.

Here is where the new Prime Minister of Germany, Angela Merkel, gives her fiery speeches denouncing things:

I would like to be a bit hypercritical for the moment and note that in my opinion, for such a wealthy and industrialized Federal Republic, the seats that the representatives have to sit on look really uncomfortable. And they're purple.

The last part of the tour took us to the roof, which is a dome designed by a very famous architect whose name I apologize escapes me. It is very shiny, as you can see, and tourists can walk to the top of the dome and see across all of Berlin (unless the top of the dome is covered in snow)(which it was)(what can you do?):

What an interesting tour! And it was like you were there, isn't this blogging thing amazing?

We then headed to lunch, and on the way I saw this cool dog. This is your dog picture for the month:

And now here's my obligatory story and picture of a meal I had. We decided to go to a vegetarian Thai place because Michael is a vegetarian, and I don't generally care what I eat as long as I can digest it (for example, no grass). We both ordered the pad thai, and we asked for it to be spicy, because when you ask for something to be spicy in Europe it is never actually spicy but you can make yourself feel like if you really wanted something spicy it would be available to you and you wouldn't have to fly all the way to Morocco and deal with all that business just to get something spicy. So of course, the food came and nearly burned off both of our faces:

You might look at the picture and have your eyes drawn to the bright red pepper, and think this was the problem. It wasn't, it was the fact that the whole thing had been doused with a sauce that was a combination of gasoline, black Chinese peppers from hell and gunpowder. We both lost the ability to speak, as we were drawn deep into our minds in order to avoid the pain, much like POWs forced to endure genital electrocution, I assume. I don't know for sure. That food was hot!

It was that we were forced by the heat to drink German beer, which is great. I didn't think I liked German beer, but after having German beer in Germany, I can say that I like it very much, and that it is "the bomb"(slang for the kids).

The Thai waiter laughed at us, which made me mad, and I will not be going back to that place again. That'll show them.

On the stroll back to the hotel I took these pictures of Berlin which illustrate, to the extent that poorly shot pictures can, how fast Berlin is growing:

We also saw some remnants of Berlin's past:

And then there was this, the funniest thing I saw in Berlin. It will give you a chance to test your translation skills:

Finally, in front of the hotel, I saw a guy with a hot dog stand on his back. Which I took a picture of:

It was a great day of sightseeing, in which many sights were seen. But I had to get to bed early because the next morning I was traveling to Hannover.


So I got up early and took a bullet train to Hannover to meet up with my old buddy C.S., who those of you who were involved in the Lenexa independent/garage/more specifically my parent's garage music scene circa 1995 will surely recognize as the bass player and chief lyricist of the band W.T., a combination orchestral/reggae/lawncare/swearing group that garnered much critical acclaim from people who were not overly critical. And here he is:

In his hand you can see his reason for being in Hannover, as he is a sales manager for a company that sells many types of GPS gadgets. The one he is holding is handheld (is that redundant?) and can be used to find restaurants and whatnot in whatever city you are in (except maybe Ulaan Battor)(Did I spell that right? If so, good for me).

This company sent C.S. to Hannover because it is the site of the largest electronics show in the world, CeBIT. Hannover goes crazy for CeBIT:

I had the pleasure of going to the thing the day before it opened to watch the different companies set up their booths. The convention is inside 30+ gigantic hangers, organized according to the type of product. Here's some pics:

This was an absolute orgy of electronics, if you'll pardon my language. I saw over ten different booths which seemed to specialize in AA batteries. It was all a bit overwhelming, so we headed into town to check out "the scene".

Someone had told me that Hannover was the most boring town in Germany, and I disagree, although I've only been to two towns in Germany, so who cares what I think?
Here are my most interesting pictures of Hannover:

It was a great time, and it is always a pleasure to run into C.S. on any continent. On that note, this post (the whole post!) is dedicated to the newest addition to the C.S. family, G.S., who at the age of only 9 months has learned to crawl. It took me until I was six!

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