Sunday, August 9, 2015

Day one of Berlin

So. Last Night, we arrived at Berlin, tired from a day of travel, hungry as a pack of wild coyotes, and incredibly curious.  The others went for a self-guided night time tour of Berlin. I went to save the world from me being cranky, and had an Italian Dream Pizza, and a nice night’s sleep. And Italian Dream Pizza is, apparently, pesto and mozzarella on a thin crust with marinara sauce. This is what I get for eating at a hotel bar. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t bad. It just was. Each slice varied in tastiness, which is what happens when a bartender is forced to spread pesto on a pizza crust.

This hotel, by the way, is simply lovely. The rooms are not the giant American sized ones of course, but the décor is just right, and when you first enter, the TV flicks on to play soothing music.  This is because to have electricity you have to insert your room card into the electricity slot.  Electricity slot, by the way, is how the hotel translates it into English. It is a very literal name.

After my lovely night’s sleep, and very German breakfast of chocolate croissants, and not the unfamiliar deli meats that have been a part of every German breakfast buffet here, we were off to attend lectures! This time, to cover the aspects of the German Space Agency that are in no way related to space. Along the way to the DLR Berlin site, I admired the route we took with cat like curiosity. Let me tell you, along the route we took, there was not big city traffic. There wasn’t even small city traffic. There was not a single traffic jam whatsoever. There were an awful lot of cyclists and trains and buses, but no traffic jam. These things may or may not be related.

Oh! Also, can I just say that I adore the little classical art house décor. I don’t have the word for what they were, but it was, essentially, a painting cut out of the stone attached to the building. It’s not a sculpture how I normally think of a sculpture, but it was certainly sculpted. Either way, America should take up the habit.

Also, Berlin, I forgive you the lack luster graffiti of my arrival! Oh, my heart is smoothed for the masterpieces of signatures and scenes that I have seen on this day. Such beauty! Truly you have talented graffiti artists Berlin. Mostly just mindless taggers yes, but your shining pearls certainly outshine those who can little more than sign their own name.

Of course, shortly after some lovely graffiti, we saw IT. You know what I mean. That famous wall. Every inch of it that remained along our route was covered in beautiful murals, almost all dedicated to peace, and some of which that had stood for longer than I’ve been alive. (Betcha feel old now don’t you?)

It was very touching, for the most part. I think I pretty much just held down my hand on the take a picture button for my camera though, and let it go wild. The 200+ photos will all be stitched together….later.

There’s so much to tell you! Urgh, I just don’t have enough words people. Like, how do you move on from something as astonishing as The Wall, to the fact that Germany is dotted by weird little huts shaped like strawberries and painted like strawberries that sell strawberries! Here’s a hint. I did it just like that.

It’s so very different being here now, compared to when I was here last. I think northern and southern Germany are clearly two different beasts, especially when you throw Berlin into the mix.

For instance, before, I didn’t see many hobby/community gardens. Here, there’s long fields of community gardens where you can rent a plot, build a shack, and do all your hobbies there that you can’t do in your apartment. Let me tell you, there’s a lot of hobbies out there that don’t fit in apartments.  I was incredibly confused the first time we went past one, and asked our German Group Leader. He explained that people go there on the weekends and garden, or do other outdoor hobbies. I even say one with a shallow pool in it. A wise choice in this near 100 degree weather.

And oh, along the way we say the prettiest of trains. It is a train that you wouldn’t hesitate to board, and you would feel like you stepped back in time to step through the door, for surely, something as pretty as this could not be a modern train. Then you enter it and see the seating and yes, yes it is a modern train.

Anyway, we did reach the DLR Adlershof site, and proceeded to be informed of the other things German NASA does.  Such as traffic research and building 3D maps. I assure you, both fo these had much longer and more scientific titles before I got to them. What really tickled me pink though was our speaker from the Institute of Planetary Research. He spoke largely of asteroids and the Philae mission, played silly NASA videos from other asteroid missions, and informed us if a bolide (the Russian asteroid from a year or something agoish) comes down to earth, we should avoid being near the windows, so we don’t get hurt.  Even 50 km away. In American, that’s about 32 miles.

Oh, did I mention the coolest bit? The DLR Adlershof site is startling near Albert Einstein Straße. You can bet I got a picture of that, and a picture of me standing there, looking all too happy.

We also got a tour fo the DLR site, in which I got to see the Exomars camera development model, stare longingly at a full size model of the Philae lander, and admire several spectroscopy machines and the lovely rocks the samples for those machines came from. I am told that they make their own samples in the room attached, because the industry standard samples aren’t good enough. He said it like that too.

Of course, after this we had lunch in a college cafeteria of the local university. Between that and my college university, I adored the German university’s décor ten times more, but the food choices were not particularly varied, or great in number, so I’d have to select my university’s for food in both variety of flavor and choices to be had. Either way, I’m rather fond of my university’s cafeteria food, and tired of potatoes, so I don’t think this was at all a fair assessment.

Oh! This was not the end of my day, by far people. Not at all. We concluded our organized activities by a thirty minute visit to Frederick the Great’s summer palace. This was such a favorite place of this guy that he insisted on being buried there. And as I cannot escape the Almighty Potato in Germany, I might as well tell you. This man had baby potatoes all over his grave. There were like 25 on his gravestone. Some had faces. One had a tiny Prussian toothpick flag. Seriously, Germany, we gotta have a talk about those potatoes.

There’s good reason for the potatoes on Frederick’s grave by the way. This man is the man who popularized potatoes in Germany. My guide informed me that legend had it, before him, people grew potatoes for the flower rather than the root (the thing you eat). He then went and made it all kinds of ridiculously popular to eat them, by planting a field, and posting two men to guard it. People assumed they must be rare and valuable, then stole them, planted hem, and this somehow led to them eating them? The story was not clear on that last point.

Seriously though Frederick. Potatoes? Everywhere.  Good job on that.

On the way back, of course I saw some very excellent graffiti and some of which was clearly commissioned graffiti, but still graffiti none the less. Germans have their public art scene down people. Public art is all over the place. Gorgeous. We need more of that America. Come on. More.

We also passed by an ebay center, which was unexpected, largely because I’ve never seen an ebay center ever before, and yet, there it was in Germany. Then, back at the hotel I had to race, one more time.

Germany is basically one giant race for me this trip guys. I speed everywhere. This time was to the Apotheke aka the Pharmacy. The race was because it closed at probably 6, but maybe 7, no one knew. It was, of course, closed. So we had to go much farther to find a 24/7 pharmacy.  The local pharmacies all take turns having one night a week in which they are 24/7, so it can be tricky finding one. We did it though, and after four days of trying to get to a place that closed only minutes after I got back to the hotel, I finally got more aspirin for my knee. Seriously. Four days of running out of time.  This is why I’m always racing.

Afterwards, I ended up at dinner in a Biergarten, in which I drank the Sprite and had a salad as I wasn’t too hungry, and my companions had a Pig’s elbow.  This is the translation they provided. It was HUGE. Looked good, and I’m told was delicious. It’s still a pig’s elbow though. Eisbein is the name of the dish, if you ever have one, and they suggest you get it fried so the fat on it is crunchy.  By the time we were done, it was time to write my blog and go to bed.  Tomorrow is the big government building, and a tour of the big monuments, followed by ‘free time’ in which I shall explore museums to my heart’s content.

One Final Byte: Suck the marrow out of every single day.

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