Archives for September 2010

It was one of those days.


The important thing to notice is the placement of the wooden clothespins. That’s Grade 3, my students from last year… who know the rules.

Sometimes it’s just hard to not talk…

xo, jill

Next Stop: Copenhagen

Where the people are far too beautiful.

Early in the morning I woke up to catch a bus to Copenhagen. Unfortunately, it was pouring down rain. Fortunately, I bought an umbrella the day before!

The bus ride was comfortable enough. I dozed my way through the German countryside.

A ferry crossing brought us to Denmark…

then just a few more hours to Copenhagen.

Luckily, the sun was out when the bus came to a halt. Realizing I had no clue where I was, I puttered around towards the tourist office and bought a Copenhagen Card. The card includes 3 days of transport and admission to several sights. I headed just outside the city center to my hostel. After a quick chat with the proprietress, I was ready to check out the city.

I started walking. Here are my first views of Copenhagen:

xo, jill

Alternative Berlin.

“Do you smell that urine smell? It will follow us all morning.”

My last day in Berlin I was up bright and early. My first stop was the East Side Gallery where the defunct Berlin Wall was put to good use. The East Side Gallery stretches 1.3 km, features the work of artists from all over the world, and serves as a memorial to freedom.

As you can imagine, an open air gallery poses some unique challenges. Because of graffiti, many sections of the wall have recently undergone restoration.

Next I joined a tour promising to show off the “alternative” side to Berlin. I’ve always thought the word “alternative” was a funny descriptor… but the tour was highly recommended by a friend, so I went for it. Our guide informed us that we’d be smelling a lot of urine on the tour… so I knew it was going to be good.

One focus of the tour was local street artists. As we walked around the city our guide pointed out various artists and challenged us to find their works throughout the city. Here are few that stood out to me. (Because the city doesn’t have a lot of money to clean it up, graffiti is especially rampant.)

The larger paintings were done with city approval. The astronaut is actually strategically placed to look as though it’s holding the shadow of a flag flying across the street (well, until the lighting was adjusted).

We also visited a squatters’ community, an illegal garden space, and a beach bar. It’s always enjoyable to see the side of a city that the postcard companies overlook.

After the tour I met up with Sandra again for lunch. She took me to a Singaporean restaurant which was a first for me.

Later in the evening I met up with Derick, a Canadian I met on the alternative tour. We ate dinner at a Lebanese restaurant (it had been awhile!) and took a walk through the city. We revisited the Brandenburg Gate and walked for ages towards the Victory Monument. Too bad it was under restoration!

All in all, a fabulous last night in Berlin.

xo, jill

Pretty little Potsdam.

Pretty little politics.

My second day in Germany I took the train to Potsdam, a small city just outside Berlin. My initial plan was to rent a bike and pedal around the town. However, upon arrival I impulsively joined an all too expensive tour group. When the weather turned to rain a bit later in the afternoon, I didn’t regret my decision too much.

The small city of Potsdam has long had a political history. It was the site of the Prussian court until the 1900s. Later in the century, Potsdam hosted political moments such as the Potsdam Conference, held at Cecilienhof.

This was Stalin’s room during the Potsdam Conference.

These chimney’s are faux but certainly stylish.

Further back in history, Prussian royalty enjoyed relaxing at the palace, Sans Souci (without cares).

After the tour I explored the stretch of touristy shops, visited a German film museum, and novelty snacked in the park, before taking the train back into Berlin.

xo, jill

A messy beginning.

To say the least.

The first day of school was last week. As you can see from the picture, my room only looked marginally better than it did on the first day last year.

Don’t worry… it’s looking a bit better now.

xo, jill

More walking.

Plus talking.

During the morning tour of Berlin, I met Dana, a Canadian traveling for four months around Europe. After the tour we decided to stick together, eat lunch, and explore a bit more of the city on our own.

Before I get into that, here are a few photos I missed from the tour.

The Brandenburg Gate is one of the main symbols of Berlin… but perhaps even more famous is a certain balcony at the Hotel Adlon.

Look familiar? It’s where crazypants Michael Jackson dangled his baby!

Walking around with Dana we sought out a few museums and chatted about our travels. Our first stop was the DDR Museum. It’s an interactive museum that showcases what life was like in East Germany. On the whole, the museum was interesting, though crowded. A few displays were a bit strange… like when you open a drawer marked “Childhood in the GDR” and see a creepy baby doll staring back at you.

Next we took a long walk to find a museum that shows what school was like in East Germany. Apparently they aren’t too fond of visitors there because although the sign was marked open, we were hastily ushered back outside. Instead we ended up at a museum mostly all in German displayig the life and furniture of a family whose importance was unclear. Oh well.

The rest of the afternoon we kicked around Alexanderplatz and enjoyed the sunny weather.

(This sign had me so confused until Dana pointed out that it’s just upside down. Duh!)

After bidding farewell to Dana, I shifted hostels. This was the place I planned to stay all along. I don’t know if I understand exactly what’s going on there… but it seems to be some sort to community center/hostel/commune type place. On the premises is the hostel, a kindergarten, bike repair, a kiln, and performance spaces.

The signs reading “People before profits.” made me smile, but I’m not sure if they are somehow affiliated with the Irish political party.

That night I met up with my friend Sandra for dinner. I met Sandra in high school when she was an exchange student. She decided to continue her studies in the United States before returning to Germany about 3 years ago. It was so fun to catch up and hear all about living in Berlin.

xo, jill

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