Saturday, 4 August 2012

MUN in Berlin

As I write this entry the German country side is flying past my ICE train windows. A beautiful Saturday morning, picturesque farms nestled in valleys, cows lazily grazing in lush meadows, church steeples signaling the next village. The stuff of post cards.

I, and my fellow classmates along with two profs (one of them is Erwin) from MUN are on our way from Berlin to Heidelberg. The twelve of us are part of what’s known as the Heidelberg program offered through MUN. It starts with a five-day whirl-wind tour of Berlin, a chance to get over jet-lag, get used to experiencing German language and culture, before plunging into intensive month-long nine credit hours of German language instruction at the University of Heidelberg. Besides you can’t go to Germany with students and teach them about Germany and not go to Berlin.

While in Berlin we stayed in a student hostel called the BaxPax. In the picture you see Erwin chatting with some of the students who have collapsed into bean bag chairs (after a full day of sight-seeing) located in the courtyard, I also took a picture of our rather provocative room key-card. In my old age I tend more towards the five star resort hotels, so I was quite skeptical about the whole idea of spending five nights with a bunch of back-packing-through-Europe types. But, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. Clean, well-run, quite after 10pm, maid-service, in a great location, and student pricing too.

Even though I had seen most of the sites we went to before, it was a lot of fun doing them again with a great group and watching them experience the sights for the first time. And then, of course Berlin is constantly changing. A perpetual building site…and according to our cabby the second biggest building site in the world after Singapore. So things are constantly changing in the city and it can be a bit disorienting if think you know your way around from last time and now not so much anymore.

What did we see and do in the five days we were here is a partial list:

Alexanderplatz (crazy busy modern shopping area)
Reichstag (German seat of government)
Brandenburg Gate (iconic symbol of Berlin)
Holocaust Memorial
Jewish Museum
Berlin Underworld (tour of underground WWII bomb shelters)
East Side Gallery (1 km stretch of remaining Berlin Wall)
Topography of Terror
Babelsberg Studio tour (Germany’s Hollywood)
Pergamon Museum (gates of Ishtar, relics from ancient Babylon etc.)
Altes National Gallerie (old national art gallery)
Here I am standing just in front of the Brandenburg gate; that's what those columns are in the background. The brown bear that’s hugging me is a folksy symbol of Berlin, kinda like the Newfoundland Puffin. Stuffed bears, pins, key-chains etc. sold at all tourist kiosks. When I saw a costumed one I couldn't resist getting a picture.

 We did lots of walking, according to one of my fellow students with a pedometer about 15,000 steps a day! In addition to taking subways and buses, eating on the run, and dropping into bed at night with a brain full of new input. Sounds tiring, but it really wasn’t. In spite of my very recent surgery I kept up pretty well and thoroughly enjoyed everything with a fun group of fellow MUN students.

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