Friday, July 10, 2009

Day 13 - Berlin, Pop quiz, Book Reviews, Observations

Day 13
- Quotes of the day
- We have nothing new to report for Day 13
- Berlin Pop Quiz
- Book Reviews
- Observations

This above all — to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

It's you and you only, I'm been thinking about
But you can't see in and it's hard lookin' out

The weather: well, since we don’t go out much anymore, it’s not easy to report on the weather. Today: clear, cool, sunny, overcast, rain, lightning and thunder, rain, clear, cool, perfect, rain, drizzle, cool.

We do some light cleaning, easy packing, small replenishment shopping (ground coffee), afternoon snack at a café (and wait out another shower), discuss how many euros we need for the last 18 hours in Germany (2 more ATM visits?), work on the blog, read, knit, watch the Tour de France (in German, almost as much fun Wimbledon, except there are 175 guys riding in the race), dinner at Nu (our corner Asian spot).

Berlin Pop Quiz:
You might score higher on the quiz if you first read the Observations section below. THB does not recommend that you try to score higher, that might put you in running for the prize.

1.What was the name of the song the young Bob Dylan was singing in the S-Bahn transfer spot? Five points
2.What day did THB’s toiletry kit fall into the toilet? Five points, 5 points extra if you can state the time plus/minus 1 hour
3.What famous artist was warming the gallery where we waited out the torrential rain storm? Five points
4.Name the famous restaurant Vuillee and his friend recommended we eat at our last night in Berlin? Fifteen points if you get it right, 10 points if you guess their second or third choice
5.What was our neighbor’s obsession? Five points, and an extra 10 points if you can name the city on his baseball cap, plus 5 points if you get the name of the team
6.By what time had DB mapped out the last day? Five points, and another 10 points for coming within 15 minutes of when we scrapped that plan
7.How many different metro stops did we exit from or transfer at? Ten points
8.How long did it take us to get to Spinnerei from the time we were standing at the tram spot? Five points, and another 5 points for coming with 10 minutes plus/minus for the return trip, and another 5 points for getting the return conveyance right
9.What (famous?) artist is at the bottom of THB’s list? Ten points for any right answer
10. From what play are half of the quotes of the day taken from? Zero points, you have to get this right, minus 10 points for each wrong answer
11.Alex, I’ll take the visual question for thirty points. It’s the Daily Double! For sixty points, identify the item in the picture

12.Name at least two famous sites that THB and DB did not visit during the trip? Five points for each correct answer
13.Is THB more:
Ten points for selecting d), all other answers minus two points
14.How many garbage barrels were there in the alley on the way to Cookies Cream? Five points
15.What was the name of the magazine the dog on the metro was panhandling? Five points, and 10 points if you give the translation in English
16.How many more questions will there be on the pop quiz? Five points
17.What percentage, to the nearest 5%, of people eating outside smoke? Ten points
18.What percentage, to the nearest 10% (the quiz is getting easier, no?) of people in Berlin have a bandage on either their left or right wrist? Some other wrist than the left or right? Ten points
19.How many open bottles of beer did we see on the metro during our two weeks? Five points for coming within 5 bottles
20.What Chennai hotel did we stay in during our first official stop on the tour? Fifty points for even knowing where Chennai is
21.How many pictures of towers are included to-date in the blog? Ten points
22.How many times did THB take money out of an ATM? Ten points, and another 5 points for the correct (damn, they have to be correct? Who put that in there?) number of days THB did not take money out of an ATM

Total points possible: 230 (or maybe 250? 275? Please don’t report a score of over 400)

Prize for the highest score (you have to score the quiz yourself, and if you come within ten points of the correct overall answer, give yourself another 5 points), a t-shirt from Copenhagen in your Danish size (please provide your Danish T-shirt size before Day 3 in Denmark)

(Bonus bonus question: which favorite ballplayer of THB’s is having a major party in his honor soon? Give yourself an Oakland A’s T-shirt in your US size if you get this right)

Book Reviews:
Winnie and Wolf, A.N. Wilson: The love affair between Richard Wagner’s daughter-in-law and Hitler, written in the form a manuscript by father to his daughter, the adopted love child of the affair. Mostly takes place in Bayreuth from about 1930 to 1939, with much of the “manuscript” a set of flashbacks to key moments in Wagner’s and Hitler’s lives. If you are an opera fan, this probably is a pretty good read (and seemed accurate and plausible, even the love child part). Not particularly apt for learning about Berlin. No Kindle edition available.

Rosa, Jonathan Rabb: A thriller set in 1919 Berlin, using the death of Rosa Luxemburg, a socialist trying to bring about a communist revolution in post-war Germany, as the key element of this police procedural. Much intrigue between the police and the predecessor to the Stasi. Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz is a stop on the U2 U-Bahn line, and several metro stops under construction are the sites where murdered bodies are found. Above average read if you enjoy mysteries and are in Berlin when reading the book. Available in Kindle.

Book of Clouds, Chloe Aridjis. A short, mystical story of a young woman in Berlin in the 90s. She takes a job as a transcriber, typing up monographs by an aged Berlin historian. Much reference to oddities of Berlin, post 1989. An excellent read, regardless of where you are when you read the book, above and beyond, breathtaking if you’re in Berlin. The author’s first book, a true revelation. Available in Kindle (though not when I bought it).

- It takes a while, even though obvious, for us to realize the parallel to being in Viet Nam. In VN, the big date there was 1985, when they went to a market-based economy. The American war was very secondary (except in the context that the North now ran the country, not the South or the old capital of Hue), even though to us 1975 was the big date. Here, in Berlin, they do not talk much of WWII, it is mostly about 1989 and the fall of the Wall. They clearly are not ignoring the Nazi regime, Germans will definitely bring it up in casual conversation and say that it wasn’t right and they own that. Most of what goes on in the city though is really about West and East. Almost all discussions revolve around placement on one side or the other and the changes since the fall of communism. We don’t think this would be true in other German cities (though Leipzig clearly had a before and after feel, so maybe it would not be true only in other German cities that were always in the West).

- Public Drinking: We saw a lot of open brewskies on the street, on the subways, people standing at those tall tables outside take-away spots, sometimes with 3-4 more unopened bottles awaiting their fate. We didn’t see people acting drunk (and something tells me you are not allowed to ride a bike drunk either, let alone drive a car). The locals we talked to said it is a recent happening and that they don’t like it and don’t know how to stop it.

- Biking: The riding on the red lanes is so accepted that we even saw police pull over bikers that were riding in the street instead of in the red lane (i.e., up on the sidewalk). We think there must be a number of serious accidents between pedestrians (tourist used as an epithet here) and bikers. DB thinks maybe that explains the number of bandaged wrists we see. Even little kids, age 2, are riding around on mock bikes (wooden, no gears or pedals, use their feet to propel around, can coast if they want) and kids age 3 riding real bikes. When our friends from Trestle Glen showed up, Larry had a bandage on his wrist. Both DB and I immediately thought he had already had a run-in with a biker by his second day in Berlin. Unfortunately for Larry, it had happened early in his trip and been getting no better.

- These people eat a ton of ice cream, lots of cakes or custard-like torts, tartes, drink (caffeinated) coffee non-stop, any time of the day. Hey, maybe that’s why we think this is our demographic, we look (body type, facial features, clothes) more like the folks here than most anywhere else in the world. And, we’ve joined right in on the dietary norms. Did we put on the first-two-weeks five pounds?

- Panhandling does happen here, often approached while eating or on the S- or U-Bahn by people selling the equivalent of the Street Sheet. There is a bit of begging on the street, very little. Trivia: the panhandling dog was selling a magazine (I think) called Motz.

- Smoking here seems worse than the US in the 50s or 60s or 70s (as best we can remember), particularly among people between 15 and 50. We see people put cigarettes in their mouths before the subway train has hit the station, let alone the doors have opened and they are on the platform (and the platforms are also non-smoking zones if indoor)..

- You can see how the US is so far behind on environmental global warming issues (and this is just the “personal” list, not related to business level stuff):
1. Apartments (some, most?) are triple sealed (two sets of windows, one serious shutter system)
2. Public transportation and bikes far outnumber cars, so much that there appears to be little traffic here (of course, except for the one rainy afternoon we take taxis)
Many smart cars and nobody drives a car as big as a small SUV in the US, even the trucks are smaller (though cars are bigger than they were 10 years ago, not a good sign).
3. Apartments (some, most?) do not have a/c or dryers, and smaller refrigerators
4. Even the wide sidewalk design seems environmentally sound, as people sit outside on nice days and evenings and restaurants don’t have to use a/c (the coldest place we found in Berlin: the lobby of the Ritz Carleton), and people are comfortable using blankets left out on the chairs (we heard outdoor space heaters were made verboten)
5. You can’t use a toilet without being expected to leave ½ euro (70 cents), maybe this is an environmental suggestion of making you pay as you go (ooooooooh, a very bad pun) and encouraging less usage
6. The vast majority of people in the city (all?) live in apartment buildings, there is almost no single-family housing anywhere near the city center, which is as environmentally friendly as you can get.
7. The outer S- and U-Bahn stations have escalators that start up when someone approaches, otherwise they are off when not used

All this adds up to far less energy usage per capita than anywhere in the US, my guess is that even NY doesn’t come close, and it is supposedly the best city in the US.


  1. Be careful offering t-shirts from Copenhagen - Leslie reports that they are all terrible and don't fit well.

  2. So that is why nobody has reported his or her pop quiz score yet! We're on day two and of course trying to find our way technology-wise and exchange wise. Haven't spotted any t-sirts yet...

  3. i got a bad score. maybe 12 points.