(I am now back from Berlin, but I wrote this while I was there in the vain hopes of internet access)
I'm in Berlin. I have not yet eaten a berliner, but I have had several apple specialities. Nicole tried the currywurst and the green beer (eww). It also comes in red, but I can't imagine it's any better.
What's with tourists' need to scribble all over preserved sections of the Berlin wall? Look, here's our heritage of oppression and the artwork we created from it, says Berlin. Oh, I think I'll draw my name on it every 2 meters, says tourist.
The Maryanne Amacher installation going on here is really really awesome. If you can get to it, you should go. The photography museum was not so great. Potsdamer place sucks. Alexander platz gets better with time. Kurfürstendamm no. East Side Gallery yes (go quick before somebody else with a sharpie gets all the good spots to scribble on.)
I saw Brandenburg Gate for the first time. (Last time I was here, it was under renovation.) It's nice looking. Then went to the Reichstag building. The Bundestag was in session. I thought I saw Merkel, maybe. Or perhaps wishful thinking. (A guard told me she was there today and will be back tomorrow.) You can get in for free and walk to the top of a tall dome, from which you can peer down at the assembly. Earlier in the evening, I was walking around and thought I saw the reincarnation of Checkpoint Charlie. It was exactly the same sort of thing, but it appeared to be outside of the US embassy. Why can I be just several meters and a plate of glass away from the Chancellor of Germany, but the American Embassy (arguably a much less important attraction) is blockaded like the cold war?
The next day, I went to the Jewish Museum in Berlin. I am going on the record officially as saying that comparisons between Republicans and Nazis are overblown. However, there are disturbing parallels. In spite of these, there are important differences. Fortunately, the American economy is not as bad off as the German economy was during the time of the Nazis. The democracy (as such) is longer established and more stable. And we aren't winning any of our foreign military adventures. If these conditions were not true, the current crisis in American government could be much worse.
The Jewish museum is ok. I wish it could have talked more about culture and practices rather than highlighting a few super-wonderful people. If most Jews were living at sustenance levels, for example, it doesn't make sense to only highlight the life styles of the tiny rich minority.
Today, Cola bought a very old accordiany lens kind of camera. It takes the same kind of file as another of her weird cameras. I got her a battery-powered sewing machine. She is much more taken with the camera. There is a weekly flea market across from our hotel. I almost bought a very cheap, old hand-powered coffee grinder, but, as Cola noted, it was rusty. The café near my apartment in The Hague has it's cheapest coffee grinders starting at 50€ (!!!), so I thought it might have been worth fixing the antique up, but I'm not sure of a food safe way to de-rust metal.
Today, we also met Ellen's friend Jörg. He's cool.