The Happy Berliner

• Exciting News! •

My friend Maria, an exchange student from Germany I met ten years ago, was getting married! Though we were heading over there under gloomy financial circumstances, it wasn’t an event to pass up.

We weren’t really sure what to expect, since we did no research on Berlin sights nor did we know what German weddings were like. I had a feeling, from all the stuff she had sent over the years, there were traditions upon traditions–traditions seeping with tradition topped with a sprinkling of older traditions that give rise to modern traditions!

Maria herself was a walking tradition: she is enamoured with Mozart, classical music, and anything to do with ancient Greece. I had no idea who she was marrying–I had never met this Stefan fellow, but I was sure he had to be a great fit for her. Didn’t know that he was enamoured by prostates and how to genetically cure their ills, but then again, I had no idea she was working in ancient Greek medicine, either! [On a side note, prostate comes from a Greek word meaning ‘one who stands before’]

Of course, we had to endure the traditional red-eye flight across the pond. Not finding the seats comfortable enough, Ryan couldn’t sleep. Everyone had finally quieted down and I was dozing when I stirred, Ryan decided to announce, through pressure-plugged ears, that he couldn’t sleep. I’m pretty sure everyone in the back half of the plane heard it.

• Berlin Architecture: Modern or Bullet-ridden •

I think it’s hard for Americans to imagine modern war on home soil. I think that might be one of the allures of going to Europe: there is modern and ancient and everything in between architecture, diverse cultures, and most alluringly, the hint of the most dramatic and epic times in modern human history.

To see a church bombed to ruins in WWII strikes a certain chord, but to see the ruins preserved as a memorial and that memorial sandwiched between two modern buildings strikes a deeper chord. This is the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche, near the Zoo.

This is the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, a massive train station, the biggest in Europe [so says Wikipedia].

 

 Tour guides, apparently fishing for a good story, call this the ‘Elephant Washer’. I’m not sure what the building actually is, but the crosses represent the 7 or 8 that tried to swim between East and West Berlin.

This is the Berliner Dom and if you take a close look [or click to enlarge] you’ll see patches top to bottom. If buildings could talk!

 

If you think you’re having a bad day…

You can find these all around Berlin, usually outside residences, but also occasionally outside business, too [I assume where there used to be residences]. They generally say the name, when they were born, and where and when they died or were deported. The first marker, Julius Goldstein, was deported to Auschwitz in 1943, but they don’t have information on when he died there. This is Maria’s door to her apartment building.

• The Happy Berliner •

Now that I’ve painted the dreary picture of atrocities and post-modern guilt, let’s move on to some cheery subjects!

It was fascinating to see a German wedding! The cake isn’t just sitting on a table–NO! It gets its own entrance, with dramatic music, fireworks, and all!

Probably the strangest tradition to us Americans would be the fact that the bride and groom serve the cake to the guests. Another interesting tradition is that the guests to the reception bring flowers or floral arrangements [I think], which makes it easier to decorate the reception area! We also got a ‘wedding newspaper’ that tells funny stories about the bride and groom, how they met, and Q&As about each other. Ours was painstakingly translated into English! But other than that and sawing logs [to show you can work together] and the bride and groom throwing money, neither of which happened at this wedding, there aren’t too many differences. [PS Instead of ‘Musical Chairs’, they call it ‘March to Jerusalem’!]

The beautiful bride, her blurry groom, and Opa from the Sea giving advice on how to build a house with your kids and bare hands and no Lowe’s down the street.

Berlin is, of course, a huge city with a large night scene, museums all over, and a great public transportation system.

Check out the thumbnails below for my favorite shots of Berlin and the Baltic Sea!

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