Saturday, June 30, 2007

At Last, an Exhale

I've been very busy this week, but I'm afraid it's only been with pretty boring things. Between struggling through my Hebrew homework and sweating through my work for Success, I haven't had much time to do anything. But I finally finished my article on Wednesday, and to celebrate I called Tammy in Tel Aviv and headed down there to spend the weekend with her. We alternated time between the beach and Tel Aviv nightlife, which was great fun. I only just got back to Jerusalem, having waited for Shabbat to go out before the trek, so it's late and I'm tired and sun-spent. I think I'll eat something and then read myself to sleep. Ah, bliss.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Two nights in Munich

I arrived in Israel in the wee hours of the morning, hot and exhausted, and proceeded to my apartment to sleep fitfully for a few hours before heading to Hebrew class. All is well and peaceful in Jerusalem, but I still owe a post or two to Germany before I bring you across the water.

So, Munich. My first night there, Andy and I packed a picnic and sat down by the river eating sausages and drinking wine, surrounded by teenage Bavarians who were doing the same, only with more cigarettes. You can see them behind us here:

I look very carefree drinking out of a plastic cup.

Andy eating milch strudel and letting Germany know what he thinks about fascism.

Then we walked for hours around the city, Andy showing me such landmarks as he knew, and snapping pictures of various old buildings and clocks and the like.

The next day I was on my own, and I wandered to a few museums, including one that, oddly enough, has an exhibit from CLEVELAND. There was my hometown, smack in the middle of Germany. Obviously I went to the museum, but I didn'y pay the extra 2 euro to see the Cleveland stuff because hey, I can see it anytime.

Next I went to the Residenz, home of multiple Bavarian kings, including crazy old Ludwig III (or was it the II?), who had an obsession with building castles he would never live in and died mysteriously. Apparently the kings of Bavaria couldn't stand to live in the same chambers as their predecessors, so they would just build a new wing, resulting in a walk through the assorted over-the-top styles of Europe. I especially like the Baroque style, and hope my parents will consider it for their bedroom that they are at long last remodeling. They could line the walls with gilt mirrors and portraits of their daughters:

Things I also saw:

1. The big church, the name of which I don't recall, that is the symbol of Munich. No building can be higher than its spires, visible behind me. (see, I really was there!!)

2. The Hofbrauhaus, 400-and-some-year-old brewery and inn and sight of who knows how many barfights, where in modern times old people come to drink and Asian people come to take pictures.

I saw this group of men, looking so Sound of Music (yes I know it was Austria) that I had to take a picture. My first thought was how adorable they were. My second, of course and inevitably: where were they during the war? How old were they? What were their parents doing? I got used to this doubletake at seeing anyone over the age of seventy in Germany.

3. And last but not least, lots of tacky things I didn't buy.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Not So Brief Apology

Yes, I know... Promises were made and promises broken on this blog. But what can I say? Internet connection is spotty, and I am just having too much fun to make good on things written after a few fine beers.

So I owe you a few days. Well here's one: the first day here.

First I took a nap. I sent Luise and Andy (who came to visit from Munich) off on their merry way and slept. After a couple hours I was awake enough to go see some German stuff, and it's a good thing I slept because we rode around the entire city. Or so it seemed at the time. I must say I miss riding a bike. In spite of the fact that every time I got on and off I accidentally flashed a few naughty bits to unsuspecting Germans, and in spite of the fact that it turned said naughty bits black and blue after several days, I had a ball. I also think I look very good on a bike. I present as evidence: Luise and myself on bicycles, looking very posh and European.

And a closeup:

Luise gave us a very nice tour of East Berlin, which included:

1. The Cafe Moskau, visible behind Andy, which was THE place to come in the glory days of the GDR and where East Germans came to dance the night away beside their soviet brethren.

2. The Fernsehturm, or television tower, pride of the GDR, visible behind Luise, who can now have a banana any time she wants one.

3. The "World Clock." Luise tells us that it was where her countrymen gathered to travel. "It was like seeing the world!" she says. Except that it's a big clock. We told her to stand in front of it and look deprived, but it was just too ingrained in her to smile at the tourist destination of her childhood. She must have so many happy memories there.

4. The statue of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, deities of the socialist state. That would be Andy peeking out from behind their stately grandeur.

Some things were not as funny. Some things, in fact, were pretty difficult.

Like Brandenburg gate, scene of numerous Nazi rallies and marches. I haven't really gotten into what it feels like to visit Germany in terms of its atrocities, but there's time enough for that. Suffice it to say that I didn't want to ride through that gate. And I would have given it the finger except that I don't want to scandalize my mother on the Internet (though I'm sure she shares my sentiment).

These are memorials to the people who were shot trying to escape from the GDR. The last one was a 21-year-old boy, who was shot to death in February 1989, just nine months before the wall came down.

We must have ridden for several hours, stopping intermittently to drink a beer or eat, if you can believe it, enormous pretzels.

At night, Luise took us to this incredible place, the Ballhaus, a little ways from her apartment. It's been open for a hundred years, and has been used as a restaurant and dance hall for most of that time, barring the war years when Goebbels shut it down as it perpetuated "activities not in line with the ideals of the state" or something, which I suppose meant people having a good time that didn't involve torture of some kind.

Before we went inside, Luise led us up this old staircase where we found this:

You can't see it very well, but it was the old ballroom reserved for the wealthy, while the less fortunate danced downstairs. They left it exactly as it stood after the war, damaged and dessicated.

Downstairs, of course, had been rebuilt, but it's still used as a dance hall. People of all ages (it made me realize how rare it is to see intergenerational social events that aren't weddings or funerals) dance to old time music, and it was a blast. We ate meatballs and schnitzel and drank Riesling, and Luise and I danced until the floor was too hot and smoky for us to stand it.
Andy and Luise looking like they're on a date.

Me and Andy, pre-dancing mania.

The band, playing all the old favorites.

When we could dance no more, we wobbled away on our bikes, bought more beers, and sat on the edge of the river until I was too tired to think straight. It was a wonderful day.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Der Flohmarkt

So I am safe and sound in Berlin. The flight was not terrible, aside from the extremely loud American student who talked the whole way about nothing (read: "pronoun like verbed to the like noun, and pronoun verbed like with the like adjective noun and like totally verbed!") in a very loud voice right behind me. I have vague trazedone-hazed memories of composing a long and angry diatribe about her on this blog while I was trying, unsuccessfully, to sleep. But I am here now and most of my bitterness has dried up in the on-and-off Berlin sunshine.

So you'll have to wait for the details of my first day here, as I forgot my camera and thus had to take pictures with Andy's camera and now have to wait until I see him in Munich to get them...bla bla bla...excuses excuses....end result: I'll write about yesterday today, and today tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow and two days ago the day after tomorrow. You see? You'll get two days in one! It'll be a special treat, like when you were allowed two scoops of ice cream and you could choose TWO ENTIRELY DIFFERENT FLAVORS. Ah, bliss. I find it hard to wait myself!

Anyway... yesterday. We (meaning Luise, Andy, and myself) had coffee and croissants on Luise's balcony, then hopped on our bicycles and rode to this huge flea market, where Andy promptly got lost and we spent the next hour alternating between looking at stuff and looking for him. Once we had him safely back in our company, we decided we were hungry. And in Germany of course that means it's time to find some wursts.

So find them we did, and sat with wursts and beers (actually Radlers, beers mixed with Sprite...they come prebottled at the flea market!!!) in this inner courtyard that was covered with sand and hippie-esque Germans who were also eating wursts and drinking Radlers.

Behind Andy, who ate not one but TWO wursts, you can get a better idea of the crowd. What you cannot see are the three men passed out sleeping on the couch behind us, while a baby, who we found out later belonged to one of them, played with her feet and made cute baby noises from a stroller parked next to them.

After Andy flew home to Munich, Luise and I decided it was time to eat. Again. So we had spatzle, and my but it was good.

And after we ate spatzle and had what was most likely our sixth beer of the day, we went to see "Notes on a Scandal" at an open air cinema, where we had a bottle of wine and sat cooing happily (Luise, of course, talked the whole time) and looking very much like fat old ladies until the wee hours of the night.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Testing 1, 2, 3

It's been two years since I kept a blog. In that time, I left Israel, moved to New York with Dave, broke up with Dave, converted to Orthodox Judaism (why, oh why did I not keep a blog during that bizarre fourteen months?), settled happily into life as a bad (read: reform) Jew, became an editor at a business magazine, and got myself published. What I did not do in this highly productive time is BOTHER TO GRADUATE FROM HEBREW UNIVERSITY. So tomorrow I'm off to visit Luise in Berlin en route to Israel, where I am going for six weeks to finally get the albatross of my masters degree surgically removed from its current location around my neck.

You can read about it if you want.