Friday, May 31, 2013

My self portrait

My self-portrait is a rock that I found at the location below. We pass by this art piece every day on our way to the Warschauer  Strasse  train station. I choose the rock as my self-portrait for 5 reasons; even know I’d rather have 6 (since it´s a six sided rock).  1. When I think of this rock, I think of the streets in Europe. I think of how every old street is made of rocks like this one. When I think of these streets, I think of walking and exploring. I think of Janet, who loves to walk. I think of Helmut, our  70 year old tour guide, who walks everywhere. I think of walking by myself in Berlin. I think of walking with the group. I think about how my favorite way to explore Berlin is by walking.  2. When I think of this rock, which was once part of the side walk that we walked on every day, I think of all the people who have walked on it before me. Berlin has a long and fascinating history, which is especially visible through the bullet holes in old buildings and the stark architectural differences between the East and West. I can´t help but wonder what this rock´s history is, and who else I share this rock´s history in common with.  3. When I think of this rock, I think of how it was once part of the uneven and rocky sidewalk. I think of how many times I tripped and stumbled on these rocks while in Berlin. When I think of stumbling, I think of my two favorite experiences in Berlin that I just happened to stumble upon (both of which I blogged about). First, the graffiti park I stumbled upon with Stuart, which included many restaurants, cafes, a rock climbing station, a club and a market. Second, the Wasser Gallerie, which Teryn and I stumbled upon while looking for the Neue National Gallerie.  4. When I think of this rock, I think of the location I found it at (the art piece below). I think of how Berlin has managed to make art out of everything (like these boxes). I think of the new posters, posted daily about art exhibits, concerts, and things to do. I think generally of Berlin´s thriving arts and culture scene.  5. When I think of this rock, and our self-portrait assignment, I think how I can manage to make this rock look like me? ( I always seem to take assignments literally at first). I think, should I draw some blond hair on it? A face? However, as time goes on and the more I think about my rock and my reasons for identifying with it, I realize I don’t need to do anything to this rock to make it look like me. I realize that by simply leaving it as it is, and by accepting it, we resemble each other. What I mean is that Berlin accepts me, the same way as I accept this rock—just the way it is. You see, everything goes in this city, which is very different from all the other German cities I´ve been too. Berlin reminds me of a bigger and more liberal Ann Arbor. There is no typical Berliner, at least not what I observed. People from all over the world come to live here. I heard somewhere that ¼ of Berlin´s population are foreigners. This being said, I really feel accepted in Berlin. Despite my American accent, people always respond to me in German and I even get asked for directions here. Anyways, there you have it—my 5 reasons for identifying with this rock. Actually, I´ll be a little corny and say that my 6th reason for choosing this rock is that this trip truly did, ROCK. 



Thursday, May 30, 2013

Alas, our trip ended one week ago and I am headed home, too. There will be more pictures and blog entries to come.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Why I Learn German

     I sometimes feel guilty learning German. Relative to other languages, Spanish seems more practical. French sounds more beautiful. And Japanese is just cool (or so I've been told). German, then, appears to be pushed to the fringes of most students' interest. No surprise. It's true that most Germans, particularly the younger generation are proficient in conversational English. It's also true that German words are compromised of a series of sounds that might not "roll off the tongue" as nicely as the French lexicon. But why should a language be judged by it's supposed practicality or aesthetics?
     There is an essence, a beauty, in every language that can only be imitated by others. Words may have direct counterparts in other languages, but they are never quite the same. They are nuances. They are nuances because the situations and events that precondition all speech are never the same in two regions of the world. Among the numerous examples that could properly document this trend, the theater stands at the fore.
    I'm writing this blog at the end of our trip. I've seen so many pieces of German theater that I can say without a doubt that no German play can be translated into another language and still retain the  same emotion. For instance, I saw one play entitled "Murmel" in which the actors only repeated one word, "murmel." If this play were to be translated into English, the translator would need to make a very important--and potentially--damaging decision, for in German "murmel" has two meanings. On one hand, "murmel" means mumble. On the other it means marble. If this piece were performed in English, the director would have to choose one translation or the other, but regardless of the choice, some aspect of the play would be lost.
     This is the essence and beauty of a language that can only be imitated by others. It's also a reassurance that no language is uneccessary or purposeless. Language always has a meaning for those who speak it. And that's why the "impractical" and "harsh" German language has meaning for me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


 Yep, that's an obelisk.

 DDR style building

Helmut continuing to walk despite my photography. (Wir warten auf niemanden!)

 The Brandenburger Tor of Potsdam

 Gate to the Sanssouci park

 The palace of Friedrich the Great
 The golden symbol is for the Enlightenment, inside is the Praying Knave, Friedrich the Great's favorite statue.
 View of the estate from outside the castle

 Not a palace, but actually a gigantic greenhouse for oranges

 A wild pagoda appears!
 A show-off palace for guests

 Just a little something for the servants and horses....

 A tub made of a single carved piece of onyx. "A nice place to have a bath with your favorite concubine" -Helmut Franz

Chinese Teahouse