German History Museum

I've spent the last couple of days in the newly renovated "German History Museum", which is the coolest, most comprehensive, and certainly, in its way, the most depressing museum I've ever visited.

It consists of two floors in the enormous Prussian-era armory absolutely crammed with artifacts collected and assembled to tell the story of Germany from the Roman's first contact up to today. The number and quality of original artifacts, paintings (Napoleon the Emperor!), documents (posters from the election of '33!), suits of armor (right out of "the Holy Grail"!), books (annotated Mein Kampf!, cars (Trabant!) and so on and so on and so on is just amazing.

And overwhelming. I think I may not have time this trip to actually see the whole thing through, and truth be told, I was so depressed after swimming through the intellectual sewer of the '30s and the rubble of the '40s, I don't know if I have the emotional energy to try.

Don't know if I can take the Stasi years this trip.

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who'da thunk it?

So... there I was with my lady friend near the Berlin Hauptbahnhof last night, that enormous new train station north of the Tiergarten. A profusion of colourful tents has sprung up all around it this week, apparently some kind of music festival going on.

We were walking, in professional capacity, towards a yoga festival in the next park over. The sun was setting as I suddenly heard the swelling sounds of a string orchestra, and then a semi-operatic male voice drifted out into the cool evening air... and I recognized it.

It was none other than... Klaus Meine.

Klaus Meine of the Scorpions! Yes indeed, it was the Scorpions in the flesh - performing easy listening hits with the backup of a classical symphony orchestra in a circus tent in Berlin.

If anyone had told me a couple of decades ago - rocking out to "Blackout" under clouds of suspiciously fragrant smoke - under what strange circumstances I'd be hearing that voice in 2006, I don't know if I could have believed it.

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so it's basically the same routine here as it was in san francisco... ie, work work work, eat and sleep. doesn't seem right, does it? in this of all cities...

still, a little culture absorption is going on. my german has improved a great deal just be swimming in the atmosphere... or if not improved, then my level of self-criticism has certainly dropped. not to the point that i was moved to strike up a conversation with the 10:00am, beer-popping, stuffed aardvark-clutching tattooed neerdowell slouching across from me on the S-bahn this morning, but hell, i speak the language better than the bazillion turks here, second largest turkish city on the planet - or so i've been told.

could be... i eat "turkish" food several times a week, but by that i mean "döner", which is as turkish as a mission burrito is mexican, just as delicious, and just as food-coma inducing. sat on the edge of the spree rived today, watching the sun set over the train tracks and munching away, sipping my beer and contemplating the civility of a country that doesn't mind if you have a beer or two walking around it's streets, riding it's trains, or sitting in a park. on the other hand, full of nazis! well, not really. not really "full", i mean, and truth be told, the nazis in question are just another gang... in the northern and eastern parts of the city it's punks vs. nazis much like sureno vs. norteno or sharks vs. jets... violent social clubs which mark a certain phase of life, and then fade away... mostly. still a scary right-wing presence here, but very small, and truth be told, widely despised. as it oughtta be.

anyway, i've been here often enough that i've pretty much seen the sights worth seeing, and am sort of itching to do something other than work... snuck away yesterday to my favourite museum, the "alte national galerie", full of 19th century romantic paintings, including a whole floor devoted to my old misanthropic friend caspar david friedrich. the occasional coffee with friends, a dinner or two... i did get to go to a shabbat service at the neue synagoge in oranienburgerstrasse... a gorgeously enormous golden onion-domed building in mitte. google it - it's a knockout, and you can see the domes from all over berlin. not many berliners actually know what it is, as it turns out. havi tells me that this synagogue attracts the sort of misfits of berlin... lots of converts, people who can't stand the orthodox crowd, general oddballs... the hard part was just getting into the place, heavily guarded at all times, and the interrogator whom we had to make it past was a russian guy whose hebrew was so bad he couldn't even tell that h. was israeli, to her extreme irritation! the place is a shell, as it turns out, with the interior completely burned away... kristallnacht or the allies, i'm not quite sure... anyway, interesting to have been inside, if nothing else.

what i'm really wondering, though, is what the hell is wrong with the beer in berlin? in a well-regarded beer guide, there's a chapter on berlin (by their own admission) which is only there because it's the capital city... there's not much here worth drinking! which is to say, i'm drinking a "berliner" lager right now. :) it isn't bad, but if you've been to almost any other city, not to say village, the local brew is enough to make one weep! what they have here is "berliner", "schultheiss", and "kindl", each lamer than the last... cool, golden, and dull as dishwater. what happened to berlin? perhaps it's the proximity to poland. i mean, didn't prussians drink beer like proverbial fish? please explain.

and that's probaby enough of a ramble for this infrequently updated blog... off i go.

schon wieder ein zufall in berlin

so I hadn't been in berlin for more than a couple of days before being struck by the kind of coincidence that *always* happens to me here. sat down at a cafe in prenzlauerberg for a quick... okay, for a slow beer on a muggy afternoon, and grabbed a copy of the morgenpost for browsing purposes. flipped open the paper, looked at the photo off the girl at the top of page 7, and... i knew her. the only person i *know* in prenzlauerberg, and there she is in the sort of "celebrity kids who live in this neighborhood" section... you know the kind. minh-kai is a local celebrity, a vj on germany's version of mtv for years, a tv star (first vietnamese detective on german television!) and film-maker... she's a friend of a friend, and stayed at my apartment in sf a few years back.. okay, fine. i had been feeling sort of guilty that i hadn't called her since blowing into town, and took this appearance as a sign. we're having coffee this weekend.

List Of Actual Subtitles Used In Films Made In Hongkong

I am damn unsatisfied to be killed in this way.

Fatty, you with your thick face have hurt my instep.

Take my advice, or I'll spank you without pants.

Same old rules: no eyes, no groin.

Greetings, large black person. Let us not forget to form a team up together and go into the country to inflict the pain of our karate feets on some ass of the giant lizard person.

...and so many, many more!
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i was browsing in the kids section of a giant german bookstore, looking for a souvenir of sorts...and i stumbled across a copy of christiane f. - the story of the 13 year old german junkie-prostitute who worked the bahnhof-zoo train station in berlin in the 70's.

two days later i was actually in the bahnhof-zoo, and left a souvenir of my own - i deposited a kidney stone directly into berlin's sewer system.

connection? you decide.

ich bin von Deutschland endlich zurückgekommen

so...i'm back from three weeks traveling through germany, where i (among other things) ignored the fact that such a thing as the *internet* existed. yay!

i am now:

battling jetlag with grim intensity;
still thinking occasionally in fractured german;
waking up startled in my own bed;
eating too many corned beef hash breakfasts at herb's diner on 24th street;
pining for cities that have a sense of history that extends past last weekend, and beyond the borders,
- that remain conscious following the 2:00am hour,
- that have direct access to their own cultural and artistic history,
- that are efficiently connected by rail,
- that are clean (even the dirty parts), welcoming, and full of energy,
- that are full of girls named silke, viktoria, miri, natalie, sophie and minh-khai,
- and that each make their own special sausage, not to mention beer...

but still, on the whole, even though, and at least, glad to be back.


just trying to put myself in the proper state of mind to spend three weeks in another country. it's no big deal, right? i need only to lower my internal reserve and open myself up to whatever happens. the moment. anything but what i *imagine* will happen...

i just had lunch with the happiest person i think i've ever had the pleasure of sitting across a table from. she'd just had the kind of mental breakthrough that everyone who's ever wondered if they were getting things out of life dreams of having...she'd gone through some sort of workshop of the kind that i instinctively scoff at, but the evidence was right there in front of me - the girl was absolutely glowing! i mean, she looked like someone who had just fallen in love. i've never seen anything like it...just beautiful.

and inspiring. her mind and eyes are open, and she was so so positive about life and the future that it was impossible to not be infected...and she also recommended that i visit Köln next wasn't on my agenda, but what the hell?
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