Blogging from Berlin

Dresden and Wittenberg: Pieces of German History

December 15th, 2011 by dspeterson

After touring around Berlin again for several days, the next two days brought me to Dresden and then Wittenberg. Dresden is a mixture of both historical and modern life, combining the past and present together through series of renovation. Due to the heavy bombing in World War II, most of Dresden had been destroyed, so for me, as both a lover of history and a German major, it was fascinating to see how much the city has recovered and restored many of its famous buildings and churches. It is living proof how much the people there value their history, which has become so engrained into their culture and their idea of identity, I believe.

Wittenberg was similar to Dresden because of its own vibrant stroke of Germany history but unlike Dresden, it’s more of a smaller town and you can still feel a sense of a medieval setting in Wittenberg as you walk about. Touring Wittenberg and learning more about Martin Luther expanded my knowledge more on Luther, his life, family, and the beginnings of the Reformation and who else were vital players to that powerful movement. Even though I have been to many towns featuring Martin Luther and his ideas, I still feel I have plenty to learn about the man behind the Reformation.


Back in Berlin

December 15th, 2011 by dspeterson

Now, I am back in Berlin and after those three days since my return, I realized there is still much to see in this huge, grand city. One the first day back I had the experience of walking through Berlin’s Topography of Terror, a museum that displays all the atrocities committed by the Nazis, their victims, and who the important, deadly players were during the Third Reich. The tour guide there provided so much detail and facts and gave me another perspective to look through while we gradually went down each and every wall of examples, studying each picture and understanding what the entire collection represents.

The next day there was the Charlottenburg Castle and the Reichstag, or the German Parliament. The Charlottenburg Castle was so beautiful and the weather was pleasant enough for simply walking around the castle, admiring the architecture, taking pictures, and enjoying the view. The Reichstag, on the other hand, left a different impression on me instead of just being a grand building with baroque-esque architecture. The Reichstag seemed to be very concentrated on having balance and equality in their governmental system while heavily implying that everyone in the Reichstag serve the people of Germany, not themselves. Lastly, the glass dome of the Reichstag represents transparency in the German government and how they strive to obtain that ideal. In my opinion, this concept sends not only a powerful message to the German people, but also to the whole world, showing everyone that the German government will not hide anything from anyone and will be open and honest. To me, that is an idea that should be followed everything, for transparency in a government brings more trust in the regular people who government should be serving.


Things to keep in mind when taking the train…

December 13th, 2011 by mamatos

It may have only taken me two weeks but I have finally figured out the train situation here in Germany. 1. S-bahn may take a bit longer but it is above ground and looks pretty.
2. U-bahn is fast and direct but you may lose some of the views.
3. Make sure to read the signs more than once to see if your platform has changed.
4.Always trust your instincts. If the train looks like it is going in the wrong direction, don’t get on it.
5. Press the green button to open the doors, the will not read your mind and open for you.
6. Finally, when in doubt, take a train to Potsdamer Platz and hop on the U-bahn back to Bahnhof Zoo.

The only thing I haven’t quite gotten down is standing in place while the train is in motion.

What to do when in Berlin

December 13th, 2011 by mamatos

The first time I ever travelled abroad, I did not take advantage of the time I had and stayed in my hotel when my scheduled day was finished. This time around I have been determined to enjoy and experience as much as I possibly could. I have gone shopping, visited museums, walked up and down the beautiful boulevards, ate different foods at different restaurants, danced and talked. One might think that list is enough to wipe out any student studying abroad. However, there was still one thing that had been on my list for the longest time and I was determined to make it happen. Since I have a radio show at WONC, I go to my fill of concerts and enjoy experiencing new music. As soon as my deposit was paid for this trip I went online looking for concerts I could go to while abroad. This past Sunday I was able to hop on the U-bahn that led me to a place called the Magnet Club. Once inside I was able to see my favorite band performing live. Although I had already seen them three times in Chicago, it was a completely new experience to see them in Berlin. The crowd was wonderful and very respectful and we only had to leave a bit early to catch the train back. I am happy to report than my list of things to do in Germany has dwindled as we come to the end of the trip. just a few more things left to do.


December 13th, 2011 by mamatos

Is it possible to fall even deeper in love with a country than you thought possible? After arriving in Erfurt, Thuringia, Germany, I realized it was. This medieval town in the hills of central Germany captured my heart and had me wanting to stay for the rest of our trip. I quickly realized that Erfurt had a lot more to offer than just a pretty view and nice buildings. There was an abundance of churches to visit and explore, streets with cafes to peruse and the most welcoming group of colleagues to work with. After meeting Professor Buttmann and his three students, we began our intense and informative study of the reformation. By the end of the three days with them, I felt as if I had learned more about the reformation than I thought I would. We finished our stay with a trip to Weimar, which was lovely and relaxing after our fast paced schedules from the days before. As sad as I was to leave Erfurt, it was wonderful to return to Berlin and explore a city than stays open past 8 pm.

Erfurt, Gotha, and Eisenach

December 12th, 2011 by dspeterson

After leaving Berlin and all of its wondrous, diverse culture and history, I then travelled to several other German cities. The next one I stayed at for many days was Erfurt, Germany and instead of staying at a regular hotel, I had the pleasure of staying at the Augustine cloister where Martin Luther himself once stayed in. My group and I were also given a tour of the cloister. During my stay in Erfurt, I saw many sites, all ranging from Dominican and Franciscan churches to St. Severus to the Old Synagogue. Seeing all these grand, old churches (and a synagogue) was a great experience for me because not only was I able to learn about their history, but also notice the differences in architecture and see how they vary throughout the time periods. It is amazing how long these buildings continue to stand (even though some of them took damage during the second world war), their renovations and longevity are enabled and paid for by the public, who constantly see these churches as not only a part of their rich history but also a part of their culture.

Some of the other cities I saw and toured were Gotha and Eisenach and each city contained their own vibrant piece of history. Both cities have traces of Martin Luther’s influence and through the many tours to more churches, a city hall, a palace library, and Wartburg Castle, I was to witness that influence and learn more about the past and culture of Gotha and Eisenach.

Now, I am back in Berlin and there are still many more sights to come. I’m looking forward to the rest of trip and see more what the city of Berlin has to offer.


Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

December 1st, 2011 by mamatos

Having never traveled to a country where I speak and understand a language other than English, I expected to have some issues communicating my needs to the German speakers. Having been in Germany for two days now and I have had none of the issues that I expected to encounter. To start off with, I worried about using my German. Although I have taken German for six years, I was still insecure about my ability to speak it. In our classes, we spend so much time discussing cultural and historical topics that I have forgotten simple German conversation along the way, or so I thought. As it turns out, my conversational German is just fine. Also, the Germans are very friendly and encouraging when they hear you using their language. They respond with a very clear and articulated manner that allows me the time to formulate my response. I have been able to order and ask for what I need and buy some great souvenirs and food. So far I have enjoyed using my German as much as possible while I soak in the city. Berlin has treated me well so far and I look forward to the rest of the trip.

First Day in Berlin

December 1st, 2011 by dspeterson

                Today has officially been my first full day of traveling and experiencing Berlin, Germany. From the morning to the evening, I have been walking, soaking in all the sights and cultural knowledge akin to a walking sponge, and taking pictures like a madman. Berlin is definitely a melting pot of culture, art, and history and even now anyone can walk along the streets of Berlin and see old and modern buildings standing side-by-side and also witness pieces of German history scattered all across the city, showing how much Berlin has developed and flourished over the years.

                Furthermore, I have had countless opportunities to practice and improve my German speaking skills. I talked to the stewardesses on Lufthansa, several regular locals in Berlin, and to three of my friends and fellow German classmates. Every time I am able to speak German, I have slowly become more comfortable and confident in my abilities to speak more and listen carefully to what the other person is saying. I hope I’ll be able to speak plenty of German in a smooth, clear manner for the rest of the trip.


The Countdown Continues

November 14th, 2011 by mamatos

As of one minute ago the countdown I have running on my computer says there are only 15 days 11 hours and 22 minutes left till we leave for Berlin. By we I mean the 2011 D-Term Berlin class. My name is Melanie and I am a fourth year German major at North Central College. As a German major, I am looking forward to improving my language and cultural comprehension on this trip. As a college student, I am just excited to be going somewhere new and exciting during Winter break. This will not be the first time I have been to Germany, having visited in 2007 on a European tour, however, it will be the first time I travel with the purpose of examining and learning from the culture.

It would be nice to say that every time I take a trip, I prepare in advance for all the places I want to see and experience. In reality, I usually spend more time planning what to bring with me (although, most trips I take are to visit family). This time around, it is different. Having had pre-trip classes as well as writing assignments due before we leave has helped me feel much more prepared. I expect that I won’t be struck with the panicky feeling of “Oh! I should have researched this better.” Instead, I have spent even more time outside of the classwork researching places to go in my free time. It has been great fun and has helped get me through these hectic last few weeks at school.

With about two weeks left before we leave, I feel as if I have a million things to do (outside of final projects and exams) but the work load brings about a feeling of excitement and good anticipation rather than nervous butterflies. Hopefully the mental lists I have made will help keep me organized in the coming days.

I plan on using this blog as an opportunity to record my thoughts and reflections on our daily excursions, so hopefully I’ll be able to update it frequently. My plan is to check in on here at least once more before we go.

Until next time,

Potsdam, the Hohenzollerns, and the Prussians

December 16th, 2010 by ghwolf

The snow provided us with post card perfect images of the many castles in the Prussian Royal Gardens in Potsdam, home of the Hohenzollern royal family.