Berlin, Take My Breath Away
Another weekend, another great trip to visit friends in new places. This weekend I went to Berlin to visit IMD classmates Matt and Lucy. I arrived late Thursday night, crashed at Matt's place, and awoke early to accompany him into work. His office is conveniently situated in Mitte, so, while he worked on Friday, I walked around and took pictures of Berlin's cool buildings (see my facebook album).
Berlin's architecture is really cool. Much of it has been rebuilt since WWII, and some of it even since Germany's reunification. The result is beautiful, very modern architecture juxtaposed with beautiful, very old architecture. Downtown Berlin is very walkable, making a great deal of sight seeing accessible in a short amount of time. I began at the Berliner Dom and made my way down Unter den Linden. This took me past the Lustgarten, German History Museum, opera, St. Hedwig Cathedral, and Starbucks (They're everywhere!), arriving at Pariser Platz and Brandenburger Tor.
Pariser Platz was mostly cordoned off for for the 2009 World Track & Field Championships, where Rice alum Funmi Jimoh will compete later this week. It's too bad the timing didn't work out but I'll be cheering her on in spirit! I tarried a bit in this square, watching them set up the athletic facilities and eating my first meal in Berlin: a "Berliner!" This was the subject of great controversy after, upon my arrival the night before, I tweeted "Ich bin ein Berliner" and was told by many that I was a jelly doughnut. Fortunately some quick wikipediaing revealed that I--and JFK--were both in the right.
Making my way through the Brandenburg Gate, I veered right to walk around the Reichstag and surrounding government buildings then moved back in the opposite direction past the Holocaust Memorial to Potsdamer Platz. As Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in IMAX 3D wouldn't be showing until the afternoon, I spent the next few hours getting in touch with my musical side, first paying a visit to the Berlin Philharmonie and then the Berlin Musical Instrument Museum.
That afternoon Matt ducked out early from work so that we could enjoy some currywurst and Smash Ball before Lucy arrived from Norway. Upon Lucy's arrival we went out for dinner at Massai, an East African restaurant that served up food reminiscent of the time we all spent in Kenya last year. Although the samosas we ate there were much better than those we were used to in Nairobi, we still found it to be pretty authentic.
After dinner we did some bar hopping but ran into one disappointment after another--one bar was closed, another advertised numerous drinks that they couldn't actually make, etc.--so we called it an early night.
Saturday morning began with breakfast at a local Turkish bakery--yum--then more walking around downtown. Matt took us on a tour of the Berlin Wall and the bunker where Hitler spent his final days. We wrapped up with a leisurely beer lunch outside the zoo and then napped it off in the late afternoon.
Saturday evening began with Thai dinner and was followed by excellent cocktails at The Velvet Lounge--stark contrast to the night before! Street prostitution is legal in Berlin so it was kind of shocking to witness obvious hookers soliciting johns all along the sidewalks between the restaurant and bar. I suppose it's the oldest profession in the world but I was still somewhat taken aback by how overt it was. We finally called it a night and were treated to Bollywood's greatest hits on our taxi's DVD player--what a finish!
Sunday morning was lazy and featured pancakes made with Matt's crazy awesome unbeatable pancake flipping technique. Lucy deserves some credit, though, because the recipe was Australian. They make a heck of a team and it was a heck of a weekend in Berlin. The sight seeing was wonderful but the best part was the company. Thanks for hosting and you're both welcome at my place in the US anytime!