i’m in berlin now, and they have a funky german keyboard with the “z” and “y” keys (amongst others) in strange places. this is greatly reducing my typing speed. anyhoo, i arrived yesterday around 6pm or so and just walked around town a bit. the hostel at which i’m staying is by far the nicest one so far. there are 6 beds in the room (which i share with a couple from england, another couple from somewhere else, and an undergrad from alabama who is in berlin for several weeks doing research for his senior thesis), and we actually have our own bathroom and shower! woo-hoo! most of the hostels simply have communal bathrooms shared by the entire floor (or even several floors). it’s also very clean, quiet, and nicely located to many of the city’s more interesting historical sites and whatnot. today i wandered around on foot to see the following sites:

  • checkpoint charlie haus museum – museum based at the location of “checkpoint charlie,” one of the most famous border crossing stations of the berlin wall when the city was still divided. fairly interesting stuff there…lots of artwork related to the wall and stories of daring escapes and whatnot.
  • berlin jewish museum – very large and modern building, providing an interesting overview and history of judaism, particularly with regards to judaism in germany (not suprisinglz).
  • berlin wall – most of the wall has been torn down, of course, but i saw several small chunks of it at various sites, as well as the longest remaining portion (took lots o’ pics). there is also line on the ground throughout the city outlining the former location of the wall.
  • the bunker where hitler killed himself – i’m not entirely sure i saw this simply because it is a totally unmarked site, but according to my guidebook, i was at the right place….interestingly, it now serves as a sort of recreation center with a small park and track next to it.
  • brandenburg gate – this is a huge gate near the center of the city that has come to symbolize berlin. napoleon marched through it when he conquered the city, the nazis stormed it when they came to power, and the soviets blocked access to it when they built the wall just a few meters away from it.
  • potsdamer platz – this is supposed to be the new “commercial center” of reunified berlin, which basically means there are lots of stupid shopping malls, hotels, banks, and whatnot. and just to show how much of a commercial center it really is, they even built a gigantic imax theater (right across the street from mcdonald’s and starbuck’s, of course). gag. the whole area looks like one huge construction site, too…

so that’s about all of berlin i’m likely to see. i wish i could spend more time here, as it’s a huge city and i only explored the little section that’s within walking distance of my hostel. but tonight i need to figure out how i’m going to get to sweden tomorrow (it’s a bit complicated because my eurail pass doesn’t cover travel through denmark, which is how one would typically get from german to sweden via train….i do get free passage on a ferry between germany and sweden, but i don’t know if their schedule will mesh with mine) and then do my laundry. i’m goin’ commando and wearin’ dirty socks today as it is, so i figure i should clean myself (and my clothes) up a bit before hitting the conference. incidentally, europeans do not like to put much ice (if any) in your tasty water and soda beverages, and it is very difficult to find big gulp-sized drinks here (much to my dismay). what a strange new world i’m in. more from sweden!

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