Berlin’s stumbling stones

Posted on July 24, 2014

 

Outside our apartment at Hufelandstraße 31, there is a small brass brick built into the cobblestone entranceway. Our friend Christian told us about the Stolperstein – stumbling stones – across Berlin. They’ve all been lovingly placed to commemorate the millions of victims of the Nazi regime.

Artist Gunter Demnig started the project in the late ‘90s with 50 brass blocks installed throughout Berlin. Since then, it has mushroomed and there are over 30,000 stumbling blocks installed in front of homes & apartment buildings throughout Germany. Each Stolperstein is engraved with the name and details of the person who was killed by the Nazi regime. Demnig relies on local residents, schools, religious & secular organizations to research the victims, and the blocks are all privately funded.

It’s one thing for us to visit memorials to remember those who were killed, but these experiences feel abstract to us. It’s another to stumble upon these blocks and remember day in & day out that these were people who lived amongst us. It’s become a really beautiful way to pay tribute to the victims as we walk the cobblestone streets of this Berlin we’ve come to love.

For more reading about Berlin’s Stolperstein, visit: NPR and Stolpersteine in Berlin.

Ich bin eine Studentin

Posted on July 17, 2014


Berlin, Germany: Each morning I ride my bike from our apartment to Alexanderplatz for German language classes. I love being a student, and I love learning this language. It’s become a lot more enjoyable now that I’m in Berlin (which I’m loving much more than I imagined) and immersed in all things German. While I was enrolled at NYU last year, learning German seemed like work – all the cases, all the genders, all the declinations – scheiße!! But now it doesn’t seem like work at all. Each day I pass a new milestone in my comprehension, and I’m anxious to come home and practice with Thomas for hours. So…ich bin gerade ein Berliner!

Reichstag

Posted on July 13, 2014

Today we made a visit to the Reichstag, the center of Germany’s government. From the dome, we saw the surrounding buildings of the German Bundestag as well as other significant structures making up the Berlin skyline. The exhibition inside did a nice job of detailing the building’s past, its reconstruction after the war and how it’s played an integral role in German history. We realized how much we’ve forgotten from grade school history, so this visit served as a nice jumping off point for more reading and exploration of German history. Oh, and maybe good excuse to partake in the schwarz, rot & gold World Cup festivities.

‘Schland

Posted on July 4, 2014

We’ve combined discovering new areas of Berlin with public viewings of the World Cup. Fortunately, ‘schland has advanced to the quarter-finals so we’ve had a few games to watch. Today’s party was downstairs in our apartment building, spilling out onto the cobblestone streets and filled with friendly neighbors. Our friends Christian, Alexandra & Ben came over to watch, and the game wrapped up with celebration, fireworks and even more excitement for the next game on the 8th.

 

Hufelandstraße 31

Posted on July 1, 2014

Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, Germany: Prenzlauer Berg is situated in the former East, so the area is full of wide parade streets, old Communist monuments and GDR-era buildings. All of this is juxtaposed with pre-war architecture as well: relatively few structures in this neighborhood were destroyed in WWII. So, living here in Prenzlauer Berg is a really interesting mix of German history.

The hardwood floors, 12-foot ceilings and light-filled rooms in this pre-war apartment on Hufelandstraße was a perfect find for us. We’re on a cobblestone street and downstairs are countless cafés, ice cream shops and boutiques. The bike path leads to Volkspark Friedrichshain, Berlin’s oldest public park and great spot for walking, biking and people watching (now that summer & the warm weather has finally arrived). The neighbors are friendly and it’s easy to get around for exploring, sightseeing and discovering. It’s going to be a wonderful summer…

Poling in to the Delta

Posted on May 26, 2014

Okavango Delta, Botswana: Poling in to the Delta and camping overnight on one of the salt islands has has been one of our most memorable experiences to date. To understand the uniqueness of this trip requires understanding the uniqueness of this landscape.

The Okavango Delta is an enormous inland delta formed where the Okavango River reaches a tectonic trough in the central part of the Kalahari Desert. All the water reaching the Delta is ultimately evaporated and does not flow into any sea or ocean. This oasis spreads out over a 16,000 km² area, and is listed as one of the seven natural wonders of Africa.

The journey to the Delta was an adventure: we set out by 4×4 early in the morning and drove 2 hours through sand, mud and water into the last area that is accessible by vehicle. When we reached the end, we climbed a cow fence and met up with our crew on the water’s edge. From there, we got in our mokoro – a traditional dug out canoe made from the trunk of a sausage tree – and were poled through the waters of the Delta another 2 hours. We found shore on one of the salt islands – which is thought to have begun as a termite mound – and set up camp.

While on the island, we had about 5 hours of bush walking, which is a fun but fairly dangerous way of seeing the Delta’s wildlife. Our guide and head poler, M.B., gave us very specific instructions on how to stay safe – don’t talk and don’t make a move without his ok. We saw elephants, hippos, giraffes, zebra, buffalo, warthogs and wildebeests in the late afternoon and then again early in the morning. Along the way, M.B. also pointed out how the Bushmen lived on the land by using plant life and how to tell different piles of animal dung apart (see photo of him holding a cluster of impala poop pellets).

The beauty of this landscape is indescribable. Camping in the middle of nowhere surrounded by wildlife was a humbling experience, and the calm while out on the quiet water was truly beautiful. It was the quintessential back-to-nature experience and we loved it. We’re already daydreaming about ways to make it back to Botswana and specifically to the Delta for an even longer mokoro trip next time.

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