Berlin, part I: The Fulbright Conference

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,
  • “networked,”
  • 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:

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About heidihefeweizen

I am a 29 year-old American woman who has received a Fulbright scholarship to work as an English teaching assistant in a German high school.
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10 Responses to Berlin, part I: The Fulbright Conference

  1. logorrheic says:

    I almost lost it when I read this: “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.”

    True story.

  2. Best thing about going to Berlin is walking it. I spent a lot of time on the Museen Insel and in art galleries, but that’s my thing. My husband and I caught the train from Zurich to Berlin and it was quite a journey. I’d love to see more of Germany by train, bicycle or by foot.

    • My husband and I did Zurich on foot in 2004 and absolutely loved it. We didn’t go into a single museum, church or other cultural building; all we did was walk, eat and drink. It was wonderful.

  3. I love the bearded men pic! :). Thanks for the hot tips for Berlin. My summer to do list is growing!

  4. lemoutonnoir says:

    Um. Yarn + coffee shop? Why aren’t all yarn shops also coffee shops? Best idea ever.
    Also, thanks for the unquenchable ritter sport craving. My fave is marzipan or that one with the cookie center (brown wrapper).

    • KNUSPERKEKS! Those are SO good. I love a marzipan pastry, but not so much a chocolate-covered chunk of it. Also, business suggestion: let’s both move back to the US and open a yarn + coffee/bakery + imported candy shop.

  5. kathleen says:

    Mmmmknusperkeks! That’s my favorite Ritter Sport for sure. I had no idea they had a whole store devoted to that! How very American of them (see: M&Ms World in your soon-to-be hometown). I love the stack of giant Ritter Sports in the store! I’m kind of working on a photo series of me with oversized/inflatable food items, so I’ll add this one to my list.

    I am thrilled to see that you went to the Currywurst Museum! At some point after you had already left Berlin I was like, “Shit! I totally meant to remind Amanda that that place exists!” (I may or may not still have a souvenir from there intended for you on my fridge… why am I so bad at mailing things that require more postage than is readily accessible?) I don’t even like currywurst, but the exhibits were super entertaining and really well done. But you’re right, the gift shop is pretty awesome in and of itself.

    Also, yarn + cafe??? I’m pretty sure Karen would have never left that place had it been in Freiburg. That is most excellent.

    Sounds like this was a great weekend. I went on two DAAD-sponsored Stipendiaten trips while I was there and had such a great time. The first was all the young people on my particular scholarship and the second was ALLLLL DAAD grantees — Tanya and I ended up bailing on a lot of the boring sessions in that second one and went daytime bowling and watched Eurovision instead.

    Ok. Ending this book now. Can you tell I’m slightly envious? 🙂

    • How could I forget about the Currywurst Museum?! I’ve been wanting to visit ever since you told us all about it. The colorful world of Ritter Sport is pretty centrally-located, so it’s worth a few minutes of your time. I forgot to mention that you can make your own chocolate bar there.

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