Saturday, June 04, 2011


I´ve been so busy on this trip; I rarely have any time to myself to relax.

In addition to shepherding the students from place to place, making sure that everyone has what they need, and seeing that they learn the material, even when I tell them we´re done for the day, they are reluctant to go off on their own.

Yesterday, we went to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in the morning. That took much longer than I expected. When I went there in 2007, I was staying in East Berlin, which was closer. Now, we had much further to travel. We got the audio guides and that certainly helped, but even spending three hours in the camp felt rushed. Since I was here last, they built a new information center, with a very helpful film about the history of the camp.

We got back to the Oranieburg S bahn station by 2 pm, and I joined the students to help them find a chocolate shop that one had heard about in her German class. Called Fassbender & Rausch, it´s near the Gendarmenmarkt. We eventually found it and went up to the cafe. Most of them had ice coffees and cakes, I had just the iced hot chocolate. That was our lunch. The food was wonderful and they all loved their cakes. The iced chocolate was really a chocolate milk shake, with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup. It was really good.

One of the students really likes this drink called "boba", so I said I would help her find it. We headed back to West Berlin and found her the boba shop she had heard about. Boba is basically a kind of pearl tapioca that´s put at the bottom of a large glass of something cold, clear, and sweet. Virtually everyone in line was under 22, and overwhelmingly female.

From there, it was a short walk to KaDeWe. I wasn´t sure they would let us in if one of us was holding a drink, but the student offered to put it in her camera bag. "Won´t it spill?" I asked. "No, I do this all the time," she answered. "Won´t it melt?" "Boba don´t melt" she quickly answered, a line that the other students quickly picked up.

We headed to the food court and cafeteria and walked around some very expensive dining places. The fruits and vegetables looked wonderful, but forlorn, as almost every was avoiding them like the plague (well, not like the plague, actually the plague). In the toy section, I picked up a large stuffed owl and, to my shock, discovered its curriculum vitae. I will quote from the picture I took of it on my camera:

"His word carries weight. As it should. Doc Nightmare has not only been around the block a few times, he´s also an extremely intelligent owl with a solid academic background. In the early 90s he made a name for himself as a psychoanalyst for traumatized stuffed animals. Having grown tired of all the sad stories he embarked on a new path and became an actor on a ghost train and now travels from village fair to village fair to give kids and grownups a scare --which he finds very amusing! He just missing one thing: YOU!"

The saddest thing though was the nearby bear that dropped out of highschool cost nearly twice as much as the owl with the Ph.D. I don´t think children´s toys need to be so accurate.

I picked up some of my favorite chocolate, and gave a few pieces to the students so they could taste why I think it´s the best in the world.

Afterwards, we headed to Zoo station, where one student went to get her cell phone fixed, while the rest of us hung out in Hugenubel. It´s a large chain bookstore, but we just mostly enjoyed saying the name.

By the time the others got back it was getting late, so we headed across the street to Mövenpick. It´s an expensive, Swiss chain, but it´s also good. Four of us ordered the fresh asparagus soup, and the fifth went with the wild garlic soup. Everyone loved their selections. I got the veal slices in cream sauce for the main course and it was excellent. I wasn´t thrilled when the roast potatoes turned out to be a cross between hash browns and a latke, but it was far better than either (that or when covered in sauce it became edible). All of us are going through vegetable withdrawal.

The weather has been hot, leaning towards humid. Last night was not very pleasant, temp wise.

We got up this morning and headed to Wannsee. I was surprised how quickly we went through the house: in and out in 1.5 hours. The students seemed to get a lot of out of it. Rather than try to rush to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, I gave them a break. We took the bus back to Wannsee, which was now overrunn with bicyclists. We stopped at a turkish imbiss for lunch. I ordered the turkish pizza, but it wasn´t nearly as good as what I had in Kreuzberg. This tasted like the poured out all the different condiments and then rolled it up. I abandoned it for a börek, but didn´t feel all that hungry any more.

I asked someone why there were so many bicyclists, and it turned to be a big event, where cyclists from all over were planning to converge on Brandenburger Tor. One student cried out in shock when she realized that one group of cyclists was naked. As we quickly walked away, I explained how nudism became quite popular in the communist East Germany. Some people theorize it was a way for people to assert their individuality. The police had arrived and I heard them welcome the riders but then admonish those who were cycling nude. "Das is nicht erwünscht," (I´ve probably mispelled that) I heard them say. That is "this is not desirable." A groan and boos came from the crowd.

We headed back to the city center and three students came with me to the Pergamon, while the fourth (who had arrived early and already gone) went to the DDR museum. We just did the highlights of the museum, but it was still pretty warm, so we all ended up out at the cafe. We met the fourth student at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and then went down in to see the information center. I´ve been here several times and we discussed the victim-centered approach the museum takes.

After that we walked across the street to the see the memorial to gay men killed or persecuted by the Nazis. It started to rain (one student surprised us all by packing an umbrella). In a lull, they ran over and looked at it. The exterior evokes the Jewish memorial, but the window only shows a video of two men kissing. We discussed the decisions and ideas behind such a memorial conception, but the rain really began to come down. We ran into a nearby cafe to take shelter. After a nice slice of raspberry cheese torte, I decided to leave the students on their own and try to make the Komische Oper showing of "La Perichole." I bought a ticket and then an apple cider and listened to the tail end of the preshow talk.

I had a lot of problems getting the subtitles to show up on the chair in front of me (I had to bend over in my seat to see them). With the heat and humidity in the theater, I suddenly felt very tired, and began to doze off. I decided to leave at the intermission. Good idea as I was so tired I had a panic attack on the metro when I thought I had lost my back pack. It was still on my back.

I headed to the Hauptbahnhof and bought our train tickets to Prague for tomorrow. By bumping up our numbers to six, I qualified for a group discount (even with the extra unneeded ticket, it was still cheaper). I´m heading back now to pack for tomorrow. We leave the hotel at 8am.

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