Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Visite from Le Suisse!

NOTE: When I get visitors it becomes harder for me to update, since "Hang on a few minutes while I update my blog" doesn't really fit for an ideal hostess

Phil was the official photographer of the weekend, and as such it was all the more a disaster when his camera battery died, so I'll just paint a vivid picture of the weekend myself.

Thursday night he came to town (early! Yay!) and we went out to an american diner to have dinner before going to see a movie. At the diner the waiter heard my accent and decided that he should speak English. I find this behavior annoying, so I eventually pointed out that I could in fact speak his language. When I did this, he began speaking quickly and with a thick accent, like "I'll show her," but I showed him showing me by replying in an equally impenetrable Swabian (Tuebingen-style) accent.

Friday and Saturday are kind of milling in my mind, swooshing in between till I can't really remember "when WAS that?" SO I will try to name off as close as I can what I did and when.

Friday started off with some breakfast and a bit of wandering around locally. I don't remember a whole lot about this day except that we went to see the partially rebuilt new Synagogue, which is gorgeous and golden and the security guards are really nice.

Phil and I also went to Alexanderplatz to try to get some tickets to this jazz concert, but they weren't being sold, so we chose for a quieter night here. On our way out we ran into a protest (because you can't be in this town without protests). This one was actually hilarious becaue it was a frothing crowd up in arms about--get this--DATA PROTECTION PROTOCOLS FOR GERMAN INSURANCE COMPANIES!!!!!!!! Those b@#($#$! I couldn't believe they'd gotten that much enthusiasm together for it, but hey, more power to you guys. Sometimes I wish we could be more political, but then the endpoint of such things are protests like this, street puppets of AOK Insurance Presidents and masses of people burning insurance card forms.

The evening was actually pretty chill. For example, the two of us managed to cook a real dinner together, of more than one type of dish. Then we went to a relatively local bar, FOGO.

Fogo is a weird bar. It has smoking inside (how is that legal? I have no clue at all), beach sand on the floor, and weird, Aztec style murals of Che and Jesus on the walls. The big upswing of this place is that the drinks are 2-for-1, so I could feel THRIFTY! Haha.

Saturday was a bit more tourist. Phil and I went to the Gemran version of Capital Hill, Unter den Linden, which apparently my subway car goes right to. We saw Humboldt, the Spree River, the Pergamon (but the weather was too nice to justify a trip in), a small art market, and then we went through the Brandenburg Gate, where the Germans didn't disappoint by providing us ANOTHER protest. This one had a bit more of a point in that they wanted the troops out of Afghanistan. The protesters had signs and stickers and Mexican women yelling LOUDLY but having to be translated and rainbow banners. We just passed through them on our way to the Reichstag, which is as beautiful as ever with its glass dome and heady "we make big decisions in this building" feel. Then we joined up with the protest (don't worry folks, I haven't gone radikal yet) so we didn't have to wait at the traffic lights and got off the protest train at the new Holocaust memorial.

It is AMAZING! Lots (over 2000) of finely compressed concrete blocks standing in a series of hills, so up top they only look about a foot different in height, but as soon as you walk in you can disappear into them. They are also at slight angles, so they aren't perpendicular to the ground, but they are in a perfect grid, so you disappear into the rows and columns. I don't know if it's ok to say this, but it was actually rather great to walk around inside it. After that we went back home for a bit of a rest, because we were going out proper that night.

Where we were going was a concert for Alexander von Schlippenbach's birthday at Radialsystem V. Yes, I know, that sounds complicated. Let me explain it another way: we went to a massive concert to celebrate a German jazz pianist held at a converted pumping station, which looks SO COOL AND MASSIVE inside.

The first part of the concert was Alex, looking like a high school football coach/history teacher (high waisted pants, squarely cut hair), wailing away free-jazz style at the piano. The next act was him in a trio of equally normal-looking but ROCKING older gentlemen, and then came a big break.

During that break another band was playing in another room; this band had the night's only woman, but we didn't go in, because we wanted to get some brews from concessions. when I didn't order the pilsner, the girl at the counter went "ARG!" like "Not again!" and I said "well, we could order something else" but she was just bemoaning the fact that so many people were going for Weissen beers, which they didn't order enough of. The last act was a 14 piece band going CRAZY! They were loud and exciting and filled the cavernous pumping room with sound. It was so loud and wild that some of the more...errr...traditionalist folks (that's a nice way to say it) couldn't take it and left the room. We stuck it through all the way. They didn't play in songs exactly, more like one long song in which each person got to get up and play loudly or quietly whatever the heck was in their minds, and that was seriously amazing. After the concert I ran into one of the three trumpets, and all I could say was "wow," to which he responded "Vahs eet loud enuff?" Yes. And awesome.

Today the weather was nice (rare), so we went out on an adventure to find this brunch place I'd read about on the internet, but let me say, it was well worth getting lost (people are nicer on Sunday, too, so they directed us around), sat down for a fantastic, non-melon-centric brunch and coffee (I was getting grumpy without my coffee, Philippe can attest),

and then, to kill some time, we went on a safari through a hip corner of Berlin for an ironically-made cupcake (we could have also ordered a Dr. Pepper float!), and a swing through some cool but edgy places. One great scene was a sign that said "welcome to the HARZ-IV Arena" with a homeless man sleeping right on the wall with the sign as well. HARZ IV is like the German form of welfare or labor reform, so it was kind of an EXTREMELY ironic situation. I then had to take Philippe back to the station, so he could go off to Lausanne. Even though he'll only be gone 10 days this time, it was still sad to see him off, and I was a pouty little southern mess on my way home.

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