Back where we started

7 08 2011

Number one: My camera died.

I left Monzelfeld at 7:04 Thursday morning. My camera was still operational. But when I reached Berlin in the afternoon, my camera had stopped working…

I have no idea how it happened. I kept my camera in my laptop bag, which I went through great pains not to bump around. And now, somehow, it is dead. My soul. The lifeblood of an Asian tourist. After serving me well for over 2,000 photos, it decided it had had enough.

But I digress. My train was to take me from Wittlich to Cologne, then from Cologne to Berlin– a somewhat indirect route of 8 hours total. I had a 45-minute layover in Cologne, so at my host sister’s recommendation, I stepped outside the train station to see the cathedral:

At this point my camera was still operational.

And after a couple hours, I was there: Berlin! The city where we started, and the city where we’ll end. In fact, YFU even put the exchange students in the same youth hostel as last time. Talk about déjà vu. Except this time, in addition to the American and Indian exchange students from the first orientation, we were joined by students from France, Finland, and Serbia! Talk about awesome.

The first night in Berlin was already way, way better than the first time. We only had one “icebreaker,” where everybody had to introduce themselves in German and their native languages. I tried for Japanese, but as my head was full of German, it turned out like this…

And finally, that first night, we discovered that our advisers (or “teamers,” as they called themselves) were much more chill than our previous ones. They let us go for two hours into the city– only stipulation was to return at 8:00. My group and I went to Alexanderplatz, where we happened upon some sort of strange street-performer festival. The Internationales Straßenfestival Festival? Does that sound familiar to anyone?

With a street performer in Alexanderplatz.

Later that night we went to see the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This memorial, designed by architect Peter Eisenman, is a grid of huge, square concrete pillars arranged on a sloping hill. The intention was to mimic the uneasy disorientation that Jews experienced during the war. And at night? Alone? It works.

Though the pillars are aligned perfectly straight, the slanted floor gives the illusion that they are not.

Finally, we saw the Brandenburger Tor at night and the Sony Dome.

The Brandenburger Tor at night.

The Sony Dome at night. Note that these pictures were not taken by me-- some other students were kind enough to let me copy their photos to my laptop!

And that was merely the first night in Berlin. The next day we were to tour around the city! I, of course, sans camera. Coming next!