September 28, 2013
We are back from the bustling metropolis of Berlin. Although we were in the city for five days, I feel like we did not even scratch the surface of this international city. According to my doktorvater, the only real way to experience Berlin is to live there, which refers to the layers of cultural and historical features. And speaking of scratching the surface:
I would not be accurately describing the city if I failed to mention the endless construction and cranes. There was so much construction it was comical (this picture does not do it justice). We international students joke with each other about the construction in Germany: whether one is in Munich or Berlin or any Germany city, one finds construction zones. This stems from several features. First, it is a sign of the German economy, which is booming. There is money for bigger and better and newer. There is no such thing as a recession over here and the unemployment rate, for example, hovers nationally around 5%. Buildings are constantly being renovated, streets are being repaired, and workers enjoy incredible benefits and vacations. Second, the construction reflects a German concern for things to be well taken care of. Third, the endless construction is in no way related to an inordinate lengthy time period or delays in competing projects.
One example of the construction shows what I’m trying to say. Recently the Subway line near our apartment was renovated. Shortly thereafter, a seemingly nice square in front of this station was completely remodeled. Then one day on our way to the subway, what had been a perfectly fine looking apartment complex had been torn down, and within a matter of days another was being constructed in its place. In come the cranes. Later that week on our way to the Subway again, there were now two other buildings on the same street undergoing renovation, hence more cranes and scaffolding. So now the joke is that one German sees another beginning a construction project and says, “Quick, our neighbors are renovating. Let’s build something too!”
This is the inside of the Reichstag, where the famous glass dome is also situated. We heard a lecture here, which was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I am still trying to get a feel of German politics. The system is so different, and I think better, than in the US. Being in the Reichstag was particularly interesting in light of the elections that took place this month in Germany.
We had a great trip but there is no place quite like home–we are glad to be back in Munich!