Reunification Day

Hello everybody! I would post more even though I’m on vacation but it is not easy on the road. It is amazingly difficult to log on from Western Europe…more so from Germany than anywhere else so far. Internet cafes are a rarity here and few hotels have Wifi. If they do have Wifi, it is expensive. By expensive, I mean it costs over 22 euros (about $30 USD) for a 24 hour period. That’s right, $30 a day for an internet connection. So, no offense, I’m watching my connection time as I never have, not since the olden days when AOL charged by the hour. Remember that? Over 13 years ago? Well, that’s what it’s like in modern Germany. It’s rather shocking really. Even Colombia, a “third world” country is much more connected and much less expensively than a modern nation like Germany. Weird huh?

Speaking of Germany, today was Reunification Day, a very big holiday here being the 18th anniversary of the wall coming down. We went down to the Brandenburg gate with the rest of the city to celebrate. It was very strange for me. Some of you are so young, I don’t know if you can understand but it is still strange that there are not two Germanys anymore and not two Berlins (where we are now). Those of us who lived here during that time, could not have imagined life any other way. I lived in Germany from 1966-1977 (age 5 through 16). Of course many people dreamt of the wall coming down and being able to meet with their families again but it wasn’t something anyone really believed would happen. It was only a hope, something you dream of but in the manner of grey nebulous wishes you never bother to define with a hard edge because it will never happen. Sort of like planning a unicorn barbecue.

I enjoy Germany very much but Germans are not musicians (anymore); engineering is more their thing, not design. All of the music we heard at the RU party was from U.S. “artists”. Everywhere you go here, you hear music from the 70’s. I’m listening to the same music I did when I left thirty years ago. The tunes were in English of course. I didn’t see very many cool (german) clothes either. Germans are good at the execution and precision of cutting and producing but not at originating new creative or outlandish ideas as we think of them when it comes to fashion. We laughed a lot at some young men who tried to dress like urban hip hop people in the states. I remembered this because we were watching a german rapper on stage at the RU party. We agreed that if he or any of the young german “hip hop” males were magically transported to a rough patch in LA, we weren’t sure if the hip hoppers there could stop laughing long enough at their ensembles and accouterments to take offense and kick their butts.

Just like in France, dogs are everywhere. You can’t always pet them though, the owners get upset; I think dogs are an extension of the owner’s person. Some owners didn’t mind tho. One intimidating tattooed and body pierced tough guy today enjoyed that I pet his dog. It was a whippet mix, he was cold poor thing. The dogs never seem to mind. I always tell the dogs that I’m giving out free pets today and let them smell my hand before I try to touch them and they all seem to warm up to that. While they like free pets, I think they’d like free kuchen or free sausage even better but I haven’t had any handy.

A really weird thing. When we first got here, I was very excited that so many of the restaurant signs were in Spanish, making it easier to order (I don’t know how to say “I’m a vegetarian” in German) and helping to define choices altho some of it was strange; burritos were called quesadillas for example. It turns out, very few people speak Spanish, only the people who came from Cuba when this was the Soviet Bloc. A restauranteur explained to me that Spanish became very fashionable a few years ago and now, all the signs and menus are in it but not many people really speak it. Still, there’s tons of Argentine steak houses. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me since there’s lots of Germans in Argentina. Both cultures are very meat centered.

Anyway, Mr Fashion-Incubator and I will continue with our testing and quality reviews of German breweries and bakeries and report our findings later, assuming we can still waddle to an airport to get back.

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  1. Eric H says:

    “ich bin vegetarierin” or something to that effect. I’ve been telling them “Wir sind vegetarische”. However, this doesn’t always confer the proper message, even in English in ‘Merica, since that has been variously interpreted as “chicken only” or “I want a salad” or “vegetables cooked in a beef or chicken bullion”. And since “meat” is more specific in other languages, we have to be more thorough: “no beef, no pork, no chicken”, etc.

    I have never heard so much Abba, mid-career Elton John (after his rock period, before the old royalist period), Bee Gees, and other crap since the early 80s. I don’t think we’ll be allowed to leave until I’ve heard the Carpenters and Captain and Tenille. My poor ears – we had to listen to someone work their way through a very emotive cover of the Stasi anthem, “I’ll Be Watching You” right after listening to German rap (something about Freiheit).

    We saw a kid on the bus this morning who looked like a young Larry Bird — same hairdo and everything, straight out of Indiana farm country. However, this guy was “hip hop” (or, as they call it all here, “black music”): black hat, 30 degrees off center, black shirt with a gothic R on the back, oversized black jeans with the matching R on them (no, not Roca, but possibly ripped from that). Hip hop? He evidently thought so. Like a good German youth, though, he crossed the 5 meter wide road in the crosswalk after waiting for the ampelmaanchen to grant permission.

  2. Ioanna says:

    LOL I love your travel posts you guys :) So much fun to be had looking at other cultures.
    I do understand what you’re talking about Kathleen about not actually believing that the wall would eventually come down. This is how it’s like where I live now in Nicosia, Cyprus, except the wall is a makeshift barrier of oil barrels and assorted trash etc, and since Greek and Turkish Cypriots were forced to move to what became their respective sides (since the Turkish invasion in 1974) there’s not even the ‘wanting to see your relatives’ part in the equation. After so much time you get used to the situation, especially if you’ve never lived anything else, and the feeling that this is just the way it is prevails.
    Oh and I don’t know what it is with hip hop especially over any other music type, if you hear it in any other language than English it just seems so wrong! German rap LOL
    Oh free pets :) How cool! Seen a lot of German Shepherds? (lame joke ha-ha)
    Enjoy your traveling guys!

  3. Marie-Christine says:

    Net cafes are rare in Western Europe for the same reason public phones are too: everyone’s got DSL at home. At least 60% of the French if you can imagine, so you can only guess what the German rate must be. If your connection is down, some neighbor is sure to invite you in. Ditto for the phone, half a dozen people will whip out their cell phone with the least provocation. And 70-year-olds are if anything ahead of the curve. Add to that US-driven movement to privatize public services, and the tourists can just write postcards home…

    Be sure to have some real cheesecake while you’re there :-).

  4. Miss Jess says:

    Ah yes, Southern Indiana’s population is dominately German in heritage, everywhere you go in the southern reaches of our state there are German flags hanging right next to (or over!) the American flag; not to mention random German dialects being spoken in small town cafes and shops. Mr. Bird is from a tiny town in the heart of German country, as is my family – my grandparents’ families settled there because it so resembled the forests and hills of the ‘old country’. My dad is always amused at how well he blends into the German populace when visiting on business… and is equally amused by how closely many of the girls resemble his daughters (or vice versa).

  5. bronwyn says:

    When I’m in Germany I usually have to list off all the things I can’t eat, after I say “Ich bin Vegetarierin”. I haven’t figured out how to say “vegan” yet.

  6. Eric H says:

    Marie-Christine: What good does it do to have DSL at home if you’re on the road? WiFi isn’t offered here because people don’t have DSL at home (most everyone I know does, especially those from densely populated areas), it’s offered here because you might be out somewhere and want to use the laptop.

    In the US (and from what we can tell, Mexico and Colombia), even the cheapest hotels and B&Bs offer Wifi to their customers. In Europe, if they offer anything at all, it’s a single computer (no printer), a bad Wifi connection (lobby only), or a brochure that describes how to sign up for a pay-for-service HotSpot.

    I think there’s something else at play here, something cultural, like mayonnaise v ketchup on Freedom … French Fries … pommes frittes. Here you get ice in every drink; Europeans think that’s to rip the customer off, but the real reason was that it was very glamorous back when ice had to be cut and stored. You can ask for no ice in your drink, there’s no problem, but then Unitedstatesians think that you like warm cola and think it’s weird. Both sides are thinking, “Our way is better”, but that cannot be proved. At best, we can each say, “Our way is different, and I’m used to it.”

    Here, hotels are burying the cost of WiFi in the price, and that is not seen. There, we saw people stare at the laptop as if we had a sacrifice inside a pentagram on the table.

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