Saturday, September 30, 2006

German food

Germans make the worlds finest cars. They make the worlds most comfortable shoes. Where they do not excel is in the making of food.

Berliners should be on their knees thanking their Turkish neighbors every day for bringing them flavorful, scrumptious Doner and Kabap. In recent decades thousands of Turks have immigrated to Germany and many have settled in the bustling Kreuzberg neighborhood where we’re staying. You don’t have to walk more than a block from anywhere to find a stand or restaurant selling gyros and kababs. Some are better than others, of course, but they are all good.

I think Berliners must eat at the Turkish joints a lot, as well as at the many Italian places and other ethnic restaurants we saw. Because if they ate anything like the schnitzel I ate last night on a daily basis, we would see a lot more fat people in Berlin (we’ve hardly seen any) – or maybe just fewer people, because they’d all be dying of heart attacks. Schnitzel is breaded pork with cream sauce, and it often comes with French fries (which they call here by their French name, pommes frites). It is quite bland. And no one seems to be interested in serving fresh veggies or anything healthy with it.

That said, the Germans make wonderful breads and pastries. There are backeries on every block, selling rolls, loaves, danishes and big pretzels that are almost crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. There are soft, delicious rolls at our big breakfast every morning, and we can slather them with fruit compotes or make them into little sandwiches with deli turkey and swiss cheese slices.

We can sustain ourselves easily on the big breakfast buffet that’s included in the price of our room, the cheap, yummy and large Turkish gyros and the bakeries – including Dunkin Donuts.

Thoughts on German fashion

This city is mullet-crazy. We see mullets. Lots of mullets. Everywhere. On dudes, on chicks. The other morning we saw a small group of school kids on a field trip and at least two of them had mullets. And at least one of them was on a girl. Yikes!

I’ve noticed a lot of Pumas on German feet. Berliners also seem to like American baseball fashion: I’ve seen Yankees hats, a White Sox jacket and at the market in the Hermmanplatz across from our hotel, tie-dyed Dodgers tees for sale.

Women seem to like wacky boots; lots of embellishments, details, etc. Red boots over white pants seem trendy. I haven’t seen all that many folks wearing Birkenstocks. But, since I love Birkenstocks, I had to check out the Birkenstock store in the central district yesterday. They’re half as much here (since they’re made here!) as they are in the US. So I bought an awesome pair of purple thongs. Super-awesome.

The leggings rage seems to have caught on quick here. I’ve also seen miniskirts over cargo pants. Miniskirts just with regular stockings turn heads.

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is brightly-colored shoes that match the top. Like bright pink or lime green. Very interesting.

Last day in Berlin

On our last day in Berlin we decided to take a trip outside the city to Potsdamm, where King Frederick the Great built his Schloss Sanssouci, or “palace without worries.” It’s about 40 minutes outside the city, but, as with the city itself, easily accessible via public transit. We spent a little more than two hours there and barely covered half the grounds. And we didn’t even go inside the castle, as this requires the purchase of an 8 Euro tour, which was sold out until three hours after we got there. So we walked around and explored the immense tiered gardens, strolled numerous hidden paths with wondrous statues of people and creatures and structures in the Rococo style -- even a huge obelisk. We toured the grounds of the Fierenkirche (Church of Peace) where King Frederick is buried. And we had a picnic lunch by a pond on a bench in the shade while we watched the tourists and day-trippers stroll by.

Yesterday afternoon we visited the Technikmuseum, a huge museum built on the grounds of an old train station. (As with many modern Berlin buildings, the architecture was impressive.) It houses boats, trains and planes of all eras. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of the exhibit information was translated into English.

Tomorrow morning we will check out of our hotel early and catch a 7:45 train to Prague. Aufwedersehen, Berlin!

Friday, September 29, 2006

More in Berlin

Here's Nathan's email to our family about our day.

Oh, and I'm happy to report that Dunkin Donuts in Berlin is as good as in Chicago!

This morning Kathy and I had another yummy breakfast at our hotel,
> then bought our U-bahn passes for the day. We were up early and the
> museums don't open until 10, so we took a walk and bought some cold
> remedy for Kathy at a drugstore and picked up some diet coke
> (Coca-Cola light here) and beer to drink later at a little grocery
> store. Then we dropped that stuff off at our hotel and took the U8
> line up to the Alexanderplatz U-bahnhof (subway station). We walked
> from there through the park that surrounds the Fernsehsturm, a very
> tall and bizarre-looking TV tower, and continued on to "museum
> island". We went to the Pergamon Museum, where they have giant
> reconstructions of a temple that was originally in the Greek city of
> Pergamon, and also of one of the outer gates of Babylon, the Ishtar
> gate, that was built during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II. We
> listened to the very informative audio tour in English, then wandered
> around to some other parts of the museum, including the wing holding
> Helenistic artifacts: statues, columns from temples, etc.
> We then walked back to the Alexanderplatz U-bahn station, stopping
> en-route long enough for Kathy to take some pictures of a giant
> fountain containing statuary of Neptune or Poseidon and assorted
> minions, and to get a drink and donut from Dunkin Donuts. Then we
> came back to the vicinity of our hotel, picked up a cheap lunch from a
> doner/pizza place across the street from our hotel (lots of yummy food
> for $4 euros!) and ate it and rested in the room a bit.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

In Berlin

We got to our hotel around noon yesterday. The window in our room overlooks a plaza that is surrounded by shops and some little take-out and fast-food restaurants. I was amazed
that there was a Dunkin Donuts down the block on the corner -- they
don't have any Dunkin Donuts in the Bay Area, but they do in Berlin. We still haven't tried it, so we'll see if it's as good as back in Chicago. We ate a quick lunch at a little doner stand (think Turkish gyros) down the street. It drizzled on and off all day.

After lunch yesterday we went to Checkpoint Charlie, which has an interesting
little history exhibit about the Wall, Cold War, etc, but is overrun
with people selling silly souvenirs and other touristy garbage. After
a short time there, Nathan got extremely tired, so we sat for a bit
and then took the U-Bahn (subway) back to our hotel. It's really easy
to take the U everywhere; we can see the station entrance from our
room and we've never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a train. And
it goes everywhere we've wanted to go so far, and probably everywhere
we'd want to go.

We got back to our hotel around 5 and immediately went to bed. We
slept almost 12 hours, and hung out in our hotel room until breakfast
time. Breakfast is included with the room and is a buffet, with eggs
one of three ways, lots of tasty bread, cheeses, lunch meats, fruits,
veggies, yogurt, and juice. There were also some...meat loafs? They
were these slices of something that reminded me of these soaps I've
bought called Primal Soaps. The slices are made of something clear
(fat?) and have bits of meat and maybe peppers and maybe olives
suspended in them. I tasted one. Very strange.

We were out of our hotel by 9 a.m. armed with a guidebook and our day
pass for the U-Bahn, purchased at the front desk. We got to the Mitte
(middle) section of Berlin, but only after being delayed by one stop
because of our car being crammed full of kids on some kind of field
trip; we couldn't get to the doors in time! But the next stop was
close enough to our destination, so we got off and walked a bit south
to Unter den Linden (Under the Linden Trees), a main promenade through
central Berlin. This took us to the Brandenburg Gate, which, if you
did a Google Images search, you would recognize from the fall of the
Wall, when the East Germans stood on top of the wall as it was coming
down in front of Brandenburg Gate. It's huge and has an amazing statue
on top.

Then we walked a little further to the Reichstag, which is more than
100 years old and is now one of the main parliament buildings. We took
an elevator to the top (after waiting "only" an hour) to view the city
from the glass cupola, which has at its center a structure that Nathan
thought looked like a device a villain in a Bond movie would use. I
thought it looked like a cousin of the Bean in Millenium Park. After
that we took a boat tour on the Spree River, which is the main river
running through the city. The tour covered the Reichstag, several
other government buildings, the spot where Berlin originated as a
fishing village in the 1300s, the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral,
modeled after St. Peter's in Rome) and Museum Island. This includes
the major museums in Berlin, including the famous Pergamon, which we
plan to hit tomorrow. It's supposed to be amazing!

After the boat tour we walked around for a while looking for a lunch
place. We finally found an authentic-seeming German place where Nathan
ate Currywurst (a sausage with curry sauce on it, also commonly found
on the street for a Euro) and I had some goulash, which the waitress
warmed me was "really hot." I figured the German definition of "really
hot" was different than mine, and I was right. I enjoyed it. The restaurant had the
tables mashed together, so we sat by the open front window and some
businessmen on lunch sat next to us and offered to help us translate
the menu. Most people know English, it seems; we encountered another
friendly volunteer translator on the subway this morning.

It's about 4:30 p.m. and we're at our hotel relaxing for a bit. We
plan to go back out again in a bit and maybe check out Potsdammer
Platz, another big site in the main part of the city.

Here are a few pics!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Gross, yet cool

This is my upper right wisdom tooth, extracted today after it started to chip. Look at how the chipping has started to reveal the black decay of the cavity! Grody. Yet awesome.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Banned book week

Someone sent this to my mothers' club mailing list (um, "A Light in the Attic"?!? What is wrong with people...):

every year, the last week of september is the american library association's banned book week. 2006 marks the 25th anniversary of this event.

BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

please consider reading a 'banned book' in the coming week (or anytime for that matter!) or read one with your child. at the very least, please just look at the list(s) of books that have been banned or challenged in some capacity. i think you will be suprised (judy blume books? where's waldo? to kill a mockingbird? where did i come from?)

i checked out the RWC public library site, and as far as i can tell, they're not doing anything to promote this.

if you''d like to read more, here are some helpful links:

ALA banned books main page

ALA explanation of banned/challeneged books

ALA 100 most challenged books 1990-2000

even more complete list of banned books on wikipedia

some great quotes on censorship

"We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."
-- John F. Kennedy

"Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance."
-- Lyndon Baines Johnson, February 11, 1964

"If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed."
-- Benjamin Franklin, 1730

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The real question is, what do they sound like?

My star's turned TURQUOISE!!!!

I just got this email from Ebay:

Congratulations! You've achieved a feedback rating of 100! With a Turquoise Star beside your user name, you are an active and well-established member of the eBay community.

We want to thank you for helping make eBay, The World's Online MarketplaceƂ™, a safe and vibrant place to trade. Your success is our success. We're cheering you on every day.

We hope you'll download your Turquoise Star Certificate and display it proudly. You've certainly earned it! (You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you don't have it, get it here.)

Again, congratulations on your success, and keep shooting for the stars!

Meg Whitman
President and CEO, eBay Inc.

Um, are you KIDDING me?!? An achievement certificate?!?!?!? Since when did Ebay's marketing become the purview of second graders? What acolossall waste. What were they thinking?!?

Wait 'til Next Year

A documentary on the Cubs' futility premiers on my birthday.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Is it possible to forget?

If you were older than, say, 8 in Spt. 2001, I don't know how you can not have every image of that day burned onto your brain. I remember hundreds of little details, even from before I heard the news. The perfect blue of the sky as I rode my bike down Foothill Expressway. That second set of rings on my cell phone from my husband in our apartment in Menlo Park. Stopping after a light and taking the cell phone out of the little pouch on the back rack of my new Bianchi. Listening to the message and not believing. The sign-off of that message: "Be careful." Calling friends who had relatives in New York. Looking up at the plane-less sky.

I still feel a twinge of something -- dread? -- every time I see a jet high in the sky. I still have regular nightmares where I see a plane crash.

I know that sad, sick feeling I felt when my husband and I walked past Ground Zero during our trip last spring to see a game at Yankee Stadium. (Why do people pose for pictures in front of those fences?)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bob is the man.

Yet another of Kathy's blogs.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Screw it

I give up. I can't do it. Maybe Jason is right about the aspartame (sp?) being addictive...