Saturday, December 24, 2005

Weihnachten ist am 24. Dezember...Wait, what?

As I write this entry, I am sitting ganz allein in my apartment. Pablo went home to Köln and Christian went home to Düsseldorf, so I have the apartment to myself. It's actually not too bad, but I really don't go into the living room or their rooms. I cleaned the other day so the whole apartment is spic and span clean. Hurrah.

I discovered that Germans celebrate Christmas (Weihnachten) on December 24th. Weird, right? I found out from Pablo one night when we were watching TV together and there was an ad that said something about the "1. Weihnachtstag." I asked what that was, he answered that it was the day after Weihnachten which is the 25th. I was like, "What are you talking about? No, Christmas is the 25th! You're shitting me!" I had to check a calendar to make sure, and sure enough, Arsenal (the cinema where I have to see films for film history) is closed today, the 24th, but not the 25th. Talk about getting culture.

Liso and Marisa came from Prague and will be here in Berlin for the next few days, along with Alex's family. It's been interesting so far because Alex has been grading Marisa on her performance in front of her parents. This means that Marisa is not allowed to swear (any words, such as "sucks," "crap," and anything worse than that), talk about sex in any form (including nudity), talk about drinking or drugs, and basically, just not saying anything that could offend Alex's parents. Last night Marisa got a B, mostly because she started going off on how some woman had "propositioned her" and then the first time she had tequila. I'm only wondering what is going down right now, since Liso and Marisa went touring with Alex and her family. I didn't go because I'll have to do the same things next week when Lannie comes.

It doesn't feel like Christmas at all. So, I'd just like to share some random thoughts:
1. Christian just called to wish me a Frohe Weihnachten, and I felt really stupid on the phone. I still hate talking on the phone in German because it's still really difficult. I also felt even more stupid because I didn't notice the little tree in the corner of his room that he wants me to water. I was like, "Wait, you have a little tree in your room?" Sometimes I think he must think I'm the stupidest person he's ever come across. Oh well, such is life.

2. It's amazing how the Stella McCartney H&M stuff hasn't sold out here because I read some articles and heard from my sisters how bad it was in New York. Let's just put it this way: I found a crapload of stuff for 30-70% off, which is unbelievable that it's still there. I bought the wide leg pants and the jean jacket. Couldn't resist.

Dinner with the Romeros last night

3. I called all my friends last night because they were at Matt's house. I'm sad that I'm not at home in New Jersey to spend the holidays with all of them since we always get together during the holidays. But it also felt good because they haven't forgotten me.

4. I've come to the conclusion that I really, really love it here in Berlin. There is no other city in the world like it. I'd seriously consider moving back here after college to work if I could find a job. Sure, I get anti-Americanism once in awhile, but it doesn't come across a shock (though it always still sucks when it happens).

5. I have discovered listening to Radio Eins here. It's awesome and I must thank Nils for recommending it. They play everything from Franz Ferdinand to The Beatles and then have news, as well as callers. Since I have nobody to speak in German to, it's been helping me out with listening comprehension so that I don't become completely retarded (as in my first observation) with German. And I'm listening to Radio Eins right now as there is a reading of some Christmas story. Excellent.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Top of the Reichstag Smells Like...Döner.

After mixing up military time (16:00) and regular time (6:00), causing me to be 2 hours late, Nils showed me around the area where he interns, walked through a historical Friedhof (English: cemetery), and then went to the top of the Reichstag. I found it interesting that the building he works in is outfitted with solar panels on top, so that the electricity produced can be sold. I asked him how was it possible to get a lot of electricity if it's always cloudy in Berlin, but apparently it just works. Although Nils is not from Berlin, he's like my personal tour guide and knows a lot of handy little facts about the city, as well as history. It sort of makes me think, Wow, I wouldn't be able to pull out handy dandy little factoids if I showed someone around New York or Washington, D.C. But anyway...

Surprisingly, we didn't have to wait too long to get into the Reichstag. It was a five minute wait, so I suppose being 2 hours late might've paid off, in the fact that we didn't have to wait in a long ass line. Nils said people can wait about 2 hours just to get in, but we were lucky. All we had to do was walk up to the entrance and go through a security check (which both of us set the metal detector off).

The inside of the Reichstag dome is really cool and very practical (typical German engineering). There are mirrors that catch the sunlight so natural lighting can be used down below while discussions go on and of course, everything is controlled by computers. However, there is a large rotating shade that moves as the sunlight moves, so that the sunlight isn't too strong on the mirrors. Practical, environmentally friendly, and efficient. What you would think of Germans, right? In my opinion, the inside of the dome reminds me of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi, when Lando Calrissian flies the Millenium Falcon to the center to destroy the reactor. (And yes, this is dorky, but seriously, just look at the picture!) People who like Star Wars will probably agree with me. (Speaking of Star Wars and going on another digression, Nils said that Germans don't say "Herr Vader," meaning "Mr. Vader," rather, they just say "Lord Vader" just like in English.) I tried finding a picture of the Death Star to put it up here, but I can't find one at the moment. You'll just have to go watch the movie or trust me.

To explain my title for this post, the funny thing is that as soon as we got to the top of the Reichstag, I sniffed and all I could say was, "Es riecht wie....döner!" (It smells like döner!) Go figure. Berlin smells like döner, I swear. Not that it's a negative thing or anything, I just found it amusing that even the top of their government building smells like it. Ironically, it's a Turkish import.
Yet another tangent: Right now I've got an Ohrwurm, Nerf Herder's "Nikki Webster." I don't know why. And Ohrwurm is such a great word. It literally means "ear worm," but it means a song that you've got stuck in your head. I'll probably use that when I get home because saying "I've got a song stuck in my head!" takes more effort than "I've got an Ohrwurm!"

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Final Draw - WM 2006/Wetten, Dass...

So Friday was the final draw for the Weltmeisterschaft 2006 (World Cup), where basically they chose which teams would play against whom. I had gone out to eat with Alex, Zoey, and Meredith, and came back to my apartment to find Christian, Pablo, and some of Christian's friends ("Matze," Sebastian, & his girlfriend) sitting in the living room around the TV. Of course, this was not nearly an important event to me as it was to them, especially since I know nothing of which teams are good and which are not.

I decided to sit down and watch, and all I can say is it was a pretty European moment. Every so often, someone would either receive or make a phone call on his cell phone to say, "Kannst du es glauben?!" or something (Can you believe it). Basically, the whole program was a bunch of guys standing in a crescent, picking balls out of these large bowls with team names and games on pieces of paper within the balls. It wasn't all that intriguing, but at the same time, I thought it interesting to watch the reaction of the people around me. Everyone was hoping that the U.S. would end up in a game against Mexico, but it didn't happen. Schade, because that would be fun to see.

It was also pretty cool that Germany was picked for the opening game. I'm sure it's going to be crazy and I'm really looking forward to it. Germany will also be playing a game here in Berlin, so I'm hoping to get tickets for that least I will have some sort of association rather than blindly cheering for a team I have no sort of feelings for. However, I wouldn't really care if I wound up seeing a game that I don't care about either team, because it would just be an experience to go to a World Cup game.

Last night before Alex and I went to a movie with Meredith and Zoey, we watched TV with Christian, Pablo, and Sebastian. It was this program called Wetten, Dass...(Bet That...) which I think we need to import to the U.S. To put it simply, it's Letterman's Stupid Human Tricks but an entire show. The twist to it is that they have all these celebrities on, and then they bet the celebrity about the stupid trick.

Stupid tricks last night included a guy who could name any Beatles tune being played by three guys with brooms and a kid, when blindfolded, who could tell you what stuffed animal was in front of him by feeling it with his barefeet. I'd like to comment on these, um, "talents," if you will. First, the guy & The Beatles songs with brooms. How the hell do you figure out you have a talent like that? Do you practice Beatles songs with brooms? And why would you do either? I guess it could be a pretty interesting pick up line: "Yeah, so I can name any Beatles tune that is played with many people do you know that can do that?" Regardless, I guess it was a pretty unique talent, and ziemlich geil.

Then the kid who could identify his stuffed animals by feeling them with his feet. Um, three words: What. The. Fuck. Seriously! What sort of child sits around and feels his stuffed animals with his barefeet? Does he have any friends? Or do his friends indulge in this strange behavior as well? Christian, Alex, and I were definitely making fun of him. I mean, what kind of "talent" is that? If I were the kid's mother, I would be worried if he just sat at home all day feeling stuffed animals with his feet. That's just weird.

The last thing I would like to comment about last night's episode of Wetten, Dass... is Robbie Williams. He was on performing, and God only knows why he is so popular here. The people in the audience were going NUTS for him, as if it were just like Beatlemania. I mean, girls were crying and screaming and tearing out their hair practically. I'll admit it wasn't nearly as maniacal as with The Beatles, but it was pretty close. He walked around the audience while performing, singing "to" people, taking pictures with their cameras, etc. During the performance, I just had to say, "Ich verstehe nicht, warum Robbie Williams so populär ist. Er ist SO langweilig!" (I don't understand why Robbie Williams is so popular. He's SO boring!) Everyone just sort of laughed and agreed.

So for anyone who is coming to Germany any time soon, be warned: Robbie Williams is EVERYWHERE. He's taking over Europe, apparently. I keep thinking, "Robbie Williams...he's that dude that sang that song 'Millenium' and 'Angels.' Why is he so great?" He's on posters, advertisments, commercials, etc. He's even playing the Olympiastadion here in Berlin, which would be the equivalent of playing Giants Stadium at home. If Robbie Williams had a concert in the U.S., I feel like he would be lucky to fill Jones Beach Amphitheater. It's so strange to think that Robbie Williams is actually popular...

Currently listening to Nerf Herder's "Pantera Fans In Love"

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Christmas Time is Here....Again.

Once again, I have some more pics to post, and stuff to say, so here goes. This weekend I went with Nils to a flea market over at Prenzlauerberg, where Alex met up with us. It was really great because you could find every and anything you could think of, from old German board games to ugly furniture from the 1970's. I managed to get a Christmas present for my dad, which I hope he likes, but I'm not going to say what it is here in case for some reason he actually does end up reading it. It's really a hit or miss, but I guess you can't really go to a flea market ("Floh Markt") with anything super specific in mind. Apparently this market runs year round, but I'm not so sure about that, considering that it gets really "Arschkalt."

I'd just like to digress on the word "Arschkalt" for a second. Christian taught me it, and it literally means "ass cold." Basically, it means it's fucking cold out. I didn't believe him when he said it and thought he was totally bullshitting me, but it is now one of my favorite words. I try to use it whenever possible: "Is it Arschkalt outside?" "I think it's going to be Arschkalt tomorrow." "It's Arschkalt now." Of course, it doesn't sound nearly as great in English.

Topographie des Terrors & part of the Berlin Wall

But back on track: Other things I did this weekend included going to the Topographie des Terrors (aka old SS headquarters) with Alex, but it was just so Arschkalt (see, there I go again) that we couldn't read everything. More pics are up on Flickr. I also went to a party with Christian where it was slightly awkward for me because I didn't know anyone and my conversation topics are limited by my languge skills. So then that's when I just got up and danced with the other four people that were dancing. Good music, though: Hot Hot Heat, Weezer, Le Tigre, Modest Mouse, Violent Femmes, etc. It was like a WRMC party in German.

As for Christmas time, I've mentioned that the Weihnachtsmarkt over on the Ku'damm is amazing. And that, it is. I finally got around to bringing my camera around and taking some pictures. The best way to describe the atmosphere is like a carnival without the huge rides (ferris wheel, salt & pepper shaker) with a holiday spirit and the scent of alcohol on the air from the numerous Glühwein stands. Glühwein is a malt wine, I think, and sort of tastes like a warm Sangria minus the fruit. That's the closest I can describe it, and I should be bringing home a bottle or two.

Anyhow, yeah, the Weihnachtsmarkt doesn't really have anything super exciting as Christmas gifts, in my opinion. (The flea market was probably better and more unique) But the FOOD. I shared some zeppolis with Devin the other night walking through it. (Zeppolis or fried dough, whatever you call them, are called "Quarkbälle" here) I actually haven't walked through the market during the day, but I really love it at night because everything is lit up and it's a little colder, so you just feel so comfortable all bundled up.

As always, there are more pics up on my Flickr account. It's sort of hard putting them up on the blog and trying to put the ones that are most representative of what I'm talking about. I'm just sticking a few on here at the end just because I really like them, and in case you don't want to look on Flickr. I'd also just like to add that I'm really getting into the holiday spirit and I'm looking forward to when Lannie comes to visit me. Yay for Christmas!