My posts have been sparse recently because I’ve traveling for nearly a month. Luckily, I have some great stories and photos to share from said travels. Stay tuned!
First up on my March-April travel itinerary was the Annual Fulbright Conference in Berlin. The official goal of this conference was to provide an opportunity for networking with other Fulbrighters in Europe, Fulbright Alumni and the German Fulbrighters headed to the US in the fall. I believe the unofficial goal was to see what happens when you put a bunch of nerds together for a week with copious amounts of free food and alcohol. All told, there were about 500 of us on the first two days. (The Germans going to the US did not stay for the whole conference.) As you can imagine, it was a fun-filled four days. Fulbright footed the bill for transportation to and from the conference, most of our meals, and put us up in the pretty swanky Park Inn hotel on Alexanderplatz. In addition to wonderful food, we also got some swag in the form of Fulbright shopping bags and a Fulbright musician grant CD. When we weren’t eating, we
- attended welcome events at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, the [German equivalent of the] secretary of state’s office and the city hall,
- heard a concert from each of the Fulbright musicians in attendance. Fulbright has a program for musicians and artists to go abroad as well,
- had a “dish session” with the other English Teaching Assistants to share ideas, vent problems and get re-inspired,
- attended research presentations held by the folks with research grants,
- attended a panel discussion on the Euro Crisis with editors of DIE ZEIT and die tageszeitung,
- heard an excellent talk on business practices, diversity and the situation in Greece by Telekom’s head of Human Resources
- learned from Fulbright alumni how to stay in your host country,
- and danced all night at the closing party in the Kulturbrauerei.
Of course, we also had some free time to do some sightseeing. My roommate for the conference was Carolyn, fellow ETA in Niedersachsen, friend from orientation and former travel partner to Hamburg. Carolyn had the brilliant plan to form a running group for the mornings before the conference as a fun way to meet folks, get some exercise and see Berlin. Despite lots of purported interest on Facebook, we were the only two who participated on the first day. No matter; we had a delightful run through Prenzlauer Berg On the second day, the lovely and talented Rachel joined us for a short run followed by exercises in the yard in front of the Berliner Dom. On the thrid day, none of us went. Carolyn was tired, and the city streets were wreaking havoc on my country knees. Or I’m old. The verdict is still out.
Sightseeing often took the form of long walks back to hotel, since Fulbright often provided a bus for us to the events, but let us find our own way back. Carolyn’s minor obsession with Ritter Sport chocolate, one I happen to share, led us to the Ritter Sport Chocolate World with some other folks from our group. We thought it was a museum, but it was really more of a glorified store. Still, it was fun. Keeping with the theme of junk food kitsch, Carolyn graciously agreed to go to the Currywurst Museum with me. We ended up not going into the museum itself, but the gift shop was really enough. We also strolled down the main drag, Unter den Linden, and took in the architecture. The sun shone was shining for most of the time in Berlin, which made it great just to enjoy the company of others outside.
While we did have some free time, I wanted more. I ended up stickng around for an extra day on my own to do the things no one else would probably want to do. First, I went to the Pergamon Museum. The Pergamon belongs to the list of Berlin must-sees, but I had not yet seen it. Pergamon was an ancient Greek city in what is now Turkey. The museum contains the Great Altar of Pergamon, rebuilt inside its walls. The museum also houses the Ishtar Gates from the city of Babylon. Normally I don’t go in for this kind of thing, but this museum is truly spectacular and well worth a visit. The Pergamon also has a temporary exhibit called the Pergamon Panorama. This two-story, cylindrical structure is actually a giant screen on the inside. Visitors climb the stairs to the tower in the center and look out onto a 3D rendering of the city of Pergamon. It as pretty cool, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again.
The rest of my day consisted of eating beef and noodles at a little Vietnamese restaurant, shopping for vintage sunglasses in the Hackescher Markt, reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo over coffee and cake at an outdoor cafe, and catching a film at the Deutsches Historisches Museum. The museum has been hosting a Fritz Lang retrospective to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their movie theater, the Zeughauskino. Fritz Lang was a German-American filmmaker most known for Metropolis. The film I saw was While the City Sleeps, a 1956 thriller set in New York. The plot deals with a journalist, a major newspaper, and a serial killer, who targets women. It is really about the relationship between men and women, and business and power. This was a perfect fit considering my current Stieg Larsson addiction. (The original Swedish title for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was Men who Hate Women.) After that, it was back to the my hotel, Aletto Schöneberg, for some sleep and breakfast before taking the train back to Damme.
Overall, this week in Berlin was a success. Thanks to all of my cocktail, running, strolling, dancing, dining and networking partners at the conference. You all are amazing!
And now for the photos:
- Pergamon Museum
- Fernsehturm (TV Tower)
- Deutsches Currywurst Museum
- “Frannz Club” Kulturbrauerei
- Park Inn Hotel
- Aletto Hostels and Youth Hotels
- Zeughauskino (Deutsches Historisches Museum Fritz Lang Retrospective)
- Ritter Sport bunte Schokowelt Berlin
- Neue Wache Memorial
- About Fulbrigt Germany
- BVG – Berlin Public Transportation