Thursday, February 19, 2009

Der Reichstag

The Reichstag building is the most visited place in Berlin by tourists. It is the parliament building that dates back to 1894, when it was first opened. A fire in 1933 closed the building, leaving it in ruins until the German Reunification in 1990. Architect Norman Foster did his part to reconstruct the Reichstag to have it opened again in 1999. It is named after the first parliament to rule in its walls, it is now home to the current parliament, the Bundestag.

The Reichstag building is a long building with bookend towers adorned with German flags. The entrance is a grand one, held up by six Corinthian columns, a frieze that holds the words ''Dem Deutschen Volk'' meaning To the German People, and a pediment that features Germany's coat of arms. The biggest, and newest, attraction to the Reichstag is the glass dome with mirrored center cone that is perched atop the building. Visitors can walk up and around the dome on a spiral ramp, giving them a 360 degree view of Berlin.

Holocaust Memorial

The Holocaust Memorial, also called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, is a tribute to those who died during those insufferable times. It is possibly the most unique memorial I personally have ever seen. The memorial consists of 2,711 concrete blocks arranged in a grid-like pattern spanning an area of 19,000 square metres. This seemingly orderly memorial holds the element of confusion though. The blocks vary in height and sit atop a rolling field covered in cobblestones. The shortest of the blocks measures just 0,2 metres and the tallest way above our heads at 4,8 metres.

Amongst the blocks one can find yet more stone blocks. These, however, are much smaller and take the form of stairs leading down to a museum. The museum, like all others, offers plenty of informational pamphlets in not just their native language of German, but also many others such as Spanish, English, French, and even Chinese. Underground is set up as a series of rooms with rails of lighted information coupled with some of the most heart-wrenching photos. I'm pretty sure I learned more walking around there about the Holocaust than I did in my Honors Modern World History class sophomore year. This museum gives numerous accounts of families and individuals who went through the Holocaust and what happened to them.

It amazes me, the people who say the Holocaust never happened. One just can't deny the evidence there. No person can overlook the hard evidence that presents plans to exterminate hundreds of thousands of people just because of their religious views. It was a genocide. One particular room gave accounts of the concentration camps. Out of all the determination plants, ones sticks in my mind. I forget the name or its location, but what I haven't forgotten is the 7 step plan of cleansing then gassing Jews by the truck load, literary. These people would be ushered into a room and demanded to remove their clothes. From there they showered and were lead to a ramp where a moving truck of sorts awaited them. After being packed into the compartment of the truck it was sealed shut. The driver would proceed to drive to their place of burial while the exhaust fumes where pumped into the compartment, slowly killing the occupants. Upon arrived then were shoved into a dirt hole and covered up. The truck would drive back to pick up the next awaiting group. But of course, this never happened.

It is estimated that the memorial is seen by 3.5 million tourists each year, approximately 10.000 people a day. 490.000 individuals visit the underground place of information each year, 40% of these being non-Germans. It is definitely a site to see. Wonder around the blocks of concrete, descend into the Place of Information, and when you emerge the blocks will never look the same.

Den næste fire måneder / The next four months

Nu for en ændring. Det jeg ved ikke hvis det er rigtig, men vil jeg gerne tale lidt dansk til dig. Nu har jeg kun fire måneder tilovers! I den kommende måneder, vil jeg reflekter om hvad jeg har lavet og hvad jeg vil laver. I den første to måneder, bor jeg hos en anden familie i Rugsted cirka på Egtved. I den tredje måned, havde jeg efteråret lejren og skiftede familier. Nu bor jeg i Mølholm, men kender du det. I november, fejret jeg Thanksgiving med min familie, min veninder fra skole, og en anden udvekslingsstudent fra USA. Jul var i december og fejret den men mi familie. Det var hårdt for mig at være her i Danmark til jul, men kunne jeg godt lide en danske jul. I januar gik jeg til Heslev at bo med en anden familie på kun en uge. Det var godt at se hvordan en anden familie bo. Uge syv var vinterferie og gik min familie og jeg til Berlin på ugen. Det var rigtig sjovt!

Nu jeg er hjem og går igen i skolen, men har jeg mange ting at skal jeg lave. I marts, besøger min kusine mig. Efter hun rejser hjem, måske går jeg til en anden skole på en uge og efter rejser til Tyrkiet på en uge. I april har jeg påskeferie. Under påskeferie, rejser jeg til England at besøge min familie. Jeg skal være der på ni dage! Efter april har jeg ikke så meget at lave. Jeg skal rejse rundt Danmark fordi har jeg kun to måneder tilovers. Jeg skal tage hjem til USA i slutningen af juni.


Now for a change. I'm not sure if this will be right, but I'm going to try to speak a little danish (up above, this is just a translation of what I attempted to write). Now I have only four months left! In the coming months I will reflect on what I have done and what I will do. In the first two months I lived with another family in Rugsted, close to Egtved. In the third month, I had the autumn camp and I changed families. Now I live in Mølholm, but you already knew that. In November I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family, friends from school, and another exchange student from the USA. Christmas was in December and I celebrated that with my family. It was hard to be in Denmark for Christmas, but I can like a danish Christmas. In January I went to Heslev to live with another family for a week. It was good to see how another family lives. Week seven was winter holiday and my family and I went to Berlin for the week. It was a lot of fun!

Now I am home and go again to school, but I have a lot of things that I will do. In March my cousin will visit me. After she goes home, maybe I will go to another school for a week and after travel to the Czech Rebulic for a week. In April I have Easter holiday. During Easter holiday I will travel to England to visit my family. I will be there for nine days! After April I have not so much to do. I will travel around Denmark because I have only two months left. I will go home to the USA in the end of June.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Brandenburg Gate

It was here that US President Kennedy stood, here that the Soviets hung red banners of unrecognizable size, and here that US President Reagan uttered those famous words which united a divided Germany. The Brandenburg Gate is a predominant symbol of not just Berlin and Germany, but Europe as well. It was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a sign of peace in 1788.

Since 1791, it's completion, millions of people have walked under this gate of entrance into Germany's largest city. It was closed off in 1961 with the erection of the Berlin Wall and today stands idle in the Pariser Platz among cobbled earth to be admired by the world's people.

Twelve Doric (Greek classical architecture characterised by columns which stood on the ground of the structure, standing tall with it's 20 vertical flutes, topped with a plain capital) columns hold up this structure to form five passages under Victory's chariot. Said chariot is the quadriga - a chariot pulled by four horses. Driving this chariot is the Greek goddess Victoria, the goddess of victory.

The quadriga holds quite the history in itself. It is one of the most famous modern forms of the quadriga. When Napoleon's Marched ended in the seizure of Berlin, he had the quadriga removed from the Brandenburg Gate and shipped off to Paris in 1806. It was returned in 1814. From there, she remained with little changes beside the exchange of a wreath for an iron cross. Though the gate did survive WWII, it didn't go without damages. The communist government were convinced that the cross held reference with Prussian militarism and had it removed. The cross returned in 1990 during the reunification of Germany. Again, the quadriga was removed for a six million dollar restoration to the gate in 2000, but swiftly replaced two years later.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Berlin Dom --> the cathedrals of cathedrals

I'm not a religious person; never have been, never will be. The funny thing with that though, is that I love to visit churches, cathedrals in particular. There is something stunning and spectacular about the grander of these structures and that absolute power which they held over the people. Of course, this attractions could be attributed to the fact that America lacks in the area of Grand Ol' Churches. We just don't have 100 year and older builds laying around - Europe does.

The Berlin Cathedral is located in the Mitte district close to Alexanderplatz and the golf ball on a stick. It is by far the most impressive building I have ever walked in. It was built between 1895 and 1905 as a replacement to the original church erected in 1747. By the orders of Wilhelm II, Berliner Dom (German) was built in a classic Baroque style with an Italian Renaissance flair. The building received severe damages during WWII. A temporary roof was placed up until restorations were completed in 1993 when the church reopened.

We saw the church during the evening (excuse for poor pictures) and were lucky enough to be able to sit through evening mass. The alter is flanked by three vaulting enclaves that lead the eye to the stained glass dome. Scenes from the bible along with the apostles are carved in and along the walls that lead up to the dome. Between each enclave by the dome stand a selected few of the biblical figures who look down upon the pews. This church is by no stretch of the imagination, simple.

The Great Divide --> mauer, oh, mauer

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

U.S. President, Ronald Reagan

The Berlin Wall is probably the most notable tourist attraction Germany has to offer the world. People far and wide come to bare wittness to this graffitied cement block which once cut Germany into two halves. I was no different.

The erection of said wall lasted from the beginning of its construction on 13. aug 1968 until its destruction on 9. nov 1989. During thoes 21 years of division, an officiated number of 136 were killed while attempting to cross from the east to the west (promient organizations say a sum of over 200 were killed).

Four versions of the wall were constructed, the fourth being the most sophisticated. This version was 45,000 sections of reinforced concrete 3.6 metres tall, 1.2 metres wide, topped with a smooth pipe, and backed by mesh fencing, signal fencing, anti-vehicle trenches, barbed wire, dogs on long lines, "fakir beds" under balconies hanging over the "death strip", over 116 watchtowers, and 20 bunkers. All graffiti that can be seen over the wall is actually done by West Berliners because the East Berliners couldn't even get close to the wall.

It is incredibly interesting to see this divide. The lengths some people went to inorder to gain their freedom is amazing. What we lack in America by way of history is completely made up in Europe and probably just Germany alone. Often times I find that we just aren't taught enough of the past in school. It is up to the individual to seek out the answers to the questions. Being able to say ''Yes, I have seen and touched the Berlin Wall. Yes, I have been to multiple museums and learned from the source the history that is skipped over in school.'' is just something special.

The Berlin TV Tower

The Berlin TV Tower (Fernsehturm) is the center point of Berlin. This golf ball look-alike is stuck on a 365 metre tall stick planted in Alexanderplatz. It features a 360 degree view of the Divided City at 204 metres.

Some interesting facts about the Space Needle of Berlin:
- It was built in 1964 and took 4 years to build
- It is sometimes referred to as the Telespargel, "tele-asparagus", by East-German journalists
- Bloggers (apparently) have begun referring to this tower as Death Star from Star Wars (I like golf ball on a stick personally)
- When the sun shines brightly on the observatory, the glass reflection appears as a cross. This phenomenon is referred to as the Pope's Revenge because the communist government suppressed the church during its atheist regime

Technically we saw this on the second day, but seeing as our Monday arrival was darkened by the rising moon, it was really the first thing we saw. Two elevators take observers up to 204 metres. People then proceed to press their noses against down-slanted pains of glass for views of the intricate labyrinth of Berlin's infrastructure. Most all buildings worth their weight in tourist attraction can be viewed from the tower and if you don't have the eye to find them, maps along the railing clearly point them out in German, English, and French.

The tower also offers a cafe hovering a mere 3 metres higher, a gift shop by the toilets, and a bar for the husbands who were quite clearly dragged there by their busy-body wives. Fog covered the city during our visit so extremely distant sights where hidden from our optic nerves, but non the less, the view was spectacular. The city layout is nothing of a grid-block American city. Buildings are rounded to fit the winding streets and nothing is shorter than 5 stories. Tourists also get to view the milling-about fellow tourists down on the court area in front of the tower. Besides the view, the largest attraction to the TV Tower is the location of a Starbucks in its base(my personal favorite because Denmark lacks the existence of the five-dollar coffee wonder we call Starbucks).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Berlin - The Divided City

Berlin, winter holiday 2009, was amazing, spectacular, astonishing, impressive, wondrous, stupendous... the list goes on and on. Never before have I visited a city that can just take one's breath away in not just shear volume, but also history and landmarks as Berlin.

Nicknamed the Divided City, Berlin is home to about 3.4 million people over an area of 344 sq miles that dates back to 1192. This city has seen almost 1000 years of history, most notably WWII and its involvement with the Soviets. Creditable landmarks which distinguish this city from other European metropolitan areas include the reminisce of the Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer), the Brandenburger Gate, the Reichstag building, the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom), the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Schloss Charlottenburg (largest palace in Berlin), the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (the Old Tower), the Zoologischer Garten Berlin (home to Knut), the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (largest crossing station in Europe), Siegessäule (the Victory Column), Alexanderplatz, Gendarmenmarkt, and Potsdamen Platz.

All in all, mix together almost 1000 years of history, 170 museums, 108.509 dogs, 424.590 tree lined city streets, and more graffiti than LA and New York City together could handle and out pops Berlin, the capital city to Germany – Denmark’s source of cheap liquor.

Each day I will be doing a post on each of the 11 new photo albums I have posted in order to better display the over 300 photos which I took. This starts tomorrow so be on the lookout each day for something new and inspiring from yours truly.

A/N: this is my 100th post!!! *pats self on the back*

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Some FYIs

Well, I get another week for holiday! Week 7 is desinated winter holiday here in Denmark. My family and I are taking to Berlin, Germany for the week. Obviously I haven't left yet, but this is just an FYI so you all can get prepared for some serious posting on my venture into the capital of Germany.

I most likely will not have internet so I'll do my best to order my pictures and write boring ol' Word documents so I can get my trip up to you quickly upon my return.

Also, here is a basic outline of my coming adventures in the dwindling months I have left.
  • Week7 - Berlin
  • Week12 - Rebbecca's visit
  • Week 14 - possible trip to Czech Republic (this is way up in the air)
  • Week 15 - holiday in England
  • Week 22 - holiday (Jyllandstur even though I'm not going)
  • Week 22 - Jelling Music Festival (3 days)

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Yesterday I went to speek to a school about myself and my country. Quite an honor to be a guest speaker of my country even though it was to only 100, give or take, students. So, I talked a little about myself, showed them some pictures of the Mojave, bored them with information about school and sports, and concluded with a little bit about being an American. Following this 40 minute or so lecture, I was asked questions. Luckily they didn't ask anything too indepth, such as what caused the financial crisis or what our president will do. Mostly the questions were of my opinion on various things included weapon possession, but one questions did stump me. Surprisingly, that questions was this:

Can you give an example of American culture?
And honestly, I couldn't. It wasn't later that someone gave me the suggestion of Thanksgiving or the fact that we tend to excentuate our holidays, but in truth, it got me thinking. Truely, what is American culture?

Wikipedia devides the Culture of the United States into literature, television, dance, visual arts, theater, cuisine, fashion, and pop culture. Wikipedia also divides society into; social class and work; race; group affiliations; technology, gadgets, and atutomobiles; rugs, alcohol and smoking; sports; food and clothing; education; languge; religion; housing; gender relations; death rituals; household arrangements; and regional variations. Are all of these things culture or just a part of culture? What is culture? Can such a thing be defined? Does it change? Can you generalize?

The answers (as stated by my opinion): All of thoes things are merely a part of culture, it is what makes up culture. Culture is just a way of life. In all reality, it can't be defined. Of course it changes. Generalizing can only be done to a certain extent.

So, American culture; a delectable mix of cultures around the world. Imagine every country's culture being a colout. Now mix all of thoes colours together. Chances are you will recieve gray - one big blob of gray. That gray - the culture of America, or at least as seen by my eyes.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII

As the AFS winter camp came to its ends, Kyle Shriver and I had decided to watched football's game of the year together. It was a late night for us. Kick off, though early for America, didn't occur until 12.30 in Denmark. The game concluded at 4.15 with a spectacular win by the Steelers. Much can be acredited to Ben Roethlisberger, who I heard much of that night due to the fact that he bought Kyle a PS2 five (or however long) years ago. Unfortunately this wasn't Polamalu's game. Most dissapointing though, was the lack of American commercials. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of commercial breaks, but only about 5 constantly repeating Danish commercials ran. Half-time also lacked especially seeing as I slept through it.

As you would imagine, school wasn't a priority for me especially seeing as I was 30 min south of my home, where Kyle lives. It was worth it though. Our day didn't begin until noon and was begun with a long walk to Vejen, where the train station is.

People are fish and air is water. Swimming up stream:
difficult. Walking upwind: impossible.

Odd thoughts, thoes are, but completely fitting to the walk we walked. I don't ever think has there been a time that wind has been that cruel to me. It was strong and constant and chilling to the bones. My body spent the entire train ride home warming up. I'm just glad I didn't have to walk that hour home like Kyle. Hopefully you didn't loose any fingers to frostbite in the endeavor, Kyle.

*spelling errors, I know. Just pretend they were right and move on.