Wabash Blogs Immersion 2008: Germany

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March 10, 2008

Thank You

- It’s Monday and we all got back quite late Sunday evening – around 11:30 PM and that’s after leaving Berlin around 1:30 AM (Indiana time). The trip can certainly be deemed a success; it was filled with culture, challenge, and a ton of fun. The week could not have been so successful without the help of Professors Tucker and Zara as well as Professor Tucker’s father, Alen Tucker and Professor Zara’s husband, Chris Klein. Without the help of these individuals the week would not have gone nearly as well. We would all like to extend a large hand of thanks to all the work that these individuals put into planning this trip.

- Students of German 202

March 08, 2008

Final Berlin Adventures

Cole Hatcher '11: The day began as most have thus far, most of us woke up a little later than what some would desire, some fresh bread and cheese with a quick cup of coffee to open our eyes, and a brisk walk to meet Professor five minutes later than what he would desire. But soon we were off on our sore legs and sore feet, and just as soon we forgot the small annoyances, as we all knew this was our last full day in this beautiful city. After greeting Professor and hearing the day’s itinerary we fell into our short walk to the S-Bahn, which would eventually lead us to Pergamon Museum. Pergamon Museum is a collection of what has obviously been recovered from the ancient Greek city of Pergamon. Most of the exhibits in the museum have the subtleties of classic Greek art and sculpture, but the first room that you are led into lacks those common subtleties. It strikes you with the overwhelming size and beauty of the steps with its surrounding sculptures and columns. After climbing one step, I found out, to my chagrin, they were unusually steep steps that were particularly deceiving as to their amount. I was not about to be out climbed by a little Italian boy that I soon found passing me. After destroying the boys hopes for victory, and a little trash talking, I reached the top victorious. Now I was ready to view some history, I sifted through the exhibits displayed in that particular room, reading as much as I could find. I eventually found all I could and decided to make the trek back to the bottom, but that was before I saw my opponent laughing as he climbed, what I'm sure was not his second voyage to the top. Feeling somewhat defeated, I decided to travel the rest of the museum in hopes that the rest of the museum would be more uplifting. And not to my surprise it was. Several of us moved room to room sometimes discussing amongst ourselves the displays, but more commonly we viewed each piece to ourselves. One and a half hours quickly passed and we all found our stomachs empty and unhappy. Lunch was enjoyed, but we quickly found ourselves walking again. Professor Tucker wanted to finish the day with enough time for everyone to have chance to go where they wanted after. Next on the places to view was the modern Potsdamer Platz, after a presentation from Fillip Lempa we headed to the Memorial for the German Resistance in Berlin. It is a memorial for those that were killed after the attempted assignation of Hitler by Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. With the last presentation of the day over the attempt and the persecution of all possible conspirators, our last full day in Berlin with Professor Tucker was complete. We finished our day as we pleased with the only stipulation being a packed bag before heading to bed for our last nights sleep in Berlin.

Farewell from Berlin,

-Cole Hatcher '11

Images: Top left: Barry Ooi, Bottom Right: German Resistance Memorial.

Wabash's vast reach

Sam Prellwitz '10: When you fly a few thousand miles over an ocean and stay in a European city you don't expect to see people associated with Wabash college that just so happen to be in the city. Mark Shreve, alum of Wabash College class of 2004, just happened to be visiting Joela Zeller, a friend to the German department of Wabash the same week as our eventful expedition. In doing so, Joela served as a great tour guide, showing us the Turkish area of Berlin, and Mark entertained with stories of his time abroad, both as a student and now as an employee of a study-abroad company in Italy. By the end of the day, we had a greater understanding of both what it’s like to be a German confronting contemporary German issues as well as what it is like to be an American, Wabash man fully immersed in a foreign culture. We would like to extend a special thanks to both of these individuals for facilitating such contemporary cultural immersion.

- Sam Prellwitz 

Luke Blakeslee '11: Today, our second-to-last day of touring, we spent exploring the diversity of Berlin. Unbeknownst to many, Berlin is a highly diversified international hub. The city underwent great diversification after World War II, when a national guest workers program invited laborers from other European countries, especially Turkey, to help rebuild the country after the War. The original program called for skilled male workers to come, work, and leave within three years. However, the men often settled in and made Germany their permanent home, immigrating their families up to join them. Today more than 2 million Turks live in Berlin, making up the largest non-German group in the city.
A large portion of the city's diversity is concentrated in Kreuzberg, a borough in the very center of Berlin. The giant Turkish population lives and works primarily here. Many of the people in Kreuzberg speak only Turkish, making communication for us an interesting experience. Fortunately for us, we were joined by a native Berliner and friend of Dr. Tucker, who gave us a personal tour of Kreuzberg. She navigated us through the busy streets directly to the Kreuzberg Museum. There we learned the history of Turkish migration to Germany. In visiting their community and culture we were able to enjoy an outdoor market and authentic Turkish restaurant. Our meal at the restaurant consisted of a wide array of different kabobs, spices, and breads, finished off with a Turkish dessert tea.
Kreuzberg is an interesting part of the city for another reason, too. Being on the far eastern side of the former West Berlin, it was a border town edged by the Berlin Wall. In the Kreuzberg Museum we also were able to see how the borough had changed since the era of the Cold War. Before and after photos revealed how the once harsh confrontation zone between East and West had changed into a bustling city center.
We left the borough footsore and belly-full, but excited by the day's new cultural experience. The trip's second-to-last tour was a top-notch day.

-Luke Blakeslee '11

Pictures: Top - Group shot in front of the Kreuzburg Museum, Bottom - Turkish market.

March 07, 2008

Filip Lempe '11: Today we were able to have a taste of the multi-cultural dimension of Berlin. After our tasty breakfast at the hostel we headed for Kreuzberg, a district in the middle of Berlin. Because of the continuing strike of the public transportation workers, we were forced to walk more than we were supposed to. However, because the weather improved, most of us didn't mind that at all.
Our first destination was the Kreuzberg Museum where we learned about the many immigrants who are a vital part of Berlin. We watched movies, looked at photographs, and admired exhibits. We also heard a presentation about the multicultural Berlin by a German native.
The next stop was the Kreuzberg Bazaar. It was a magical place with many stands offering fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, traditional Turkish food, and much more.
Last but not least, we experienced some truly Turkish cuisine at the Hasir Restaurant. We had an opportunity to try many different dishes, which was great news to all the food lovers. The relaxed atmosphere, better weather, and interesting presentation made this Friday very enjoyable.

- Filip Lempe

March 06, 2008

Free day

Nick Durm ’11: Today was our free day to go out and pursue an individual interest we have in Berlin. Luke and I went to Olympiastadion. I'm a little bit of a jock so I have a strong interest in everything about sports. Stadiums, especially with historical background are a strong interest of mine, so this was right up my alley. For those who don't know, Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium) in Berlin was built as part of a greater sports complex by Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich for the 1933 Olympics. We got in and had almost free reign over the stadium to explore. We had an audio tour through headphones that were really informative. For example, it played a bit of a war of words Jesse Owens and Adolph Hitler had through the media during those 1933 Olympics. Owens won three gold medals that year and Hitler refused to shake his hand because of his race. Luke and I went from the very top row to the very front row and got plenty of pictures to document our tour.

After that we met up with Harrison and did a little wondering around some of the shops around town. We hit the KDW (Kaufhaus Des Westens - A massive department store full of about everything you could ever want from many western nations) as well as Nike and Adidas outlets. Tonight we're going out to dinner with Dr. Tucker's father to San Marco, an Italian restaurant down the street.

Thanks for reading,

-Nick Durm ‘11

Full Trains

Sam Prellwitz ’10 – Things were slightly complicated today. At three o'clock this morning (German time) the U-bahn (one of the two main train systems in Berlin) along with the bus line stopped running. This is a result of the strike by members of that specific transportation union. The city of Berlin is now left with only one train system, which makes life especially difficult when attempting to get from one place to another. The normal routes that a person can take aren't applicable and everything has been re-routed. Not only has it been re-routed, but also because there are only half the normal amount of trains running every train is packed full with hundreds of people who would normally be riding the U-bahn. This situation has made for some additional headaches, but more importantly a bunch of fun! We’ve been testing our ability to navigate the city with only half the lines and it’s certainly a challenge sometime to even squeeze onto the train. This is especially so when it’s a large group of us. It has certainly added an interesting detail to an already fun trip.

Much of the experience here in Berlin has been in the form of art. The art is not typical; it is actually often in the form of Graffiti. Berlin is one of the most graffiti filled places in the world. Perhaps not because it has the most people who participate, but rather because it is not as readily covered by new layers of paint as in most other areas of the world. This certainly gives Berlin a highly distinct character. The obvious area that has graffiti is the Berlin Wall. We went to see a section of the wall, which may or may not be the most colorful stretch of wall on earth, but nonetheless it is quite colorful. The section of wall is called the East side Gallery. Historically it was perfectly clean. The east side of Berlin did not allow any form of Graffiti. After the wall fell, this section of the wall was preserved and 118 artists came and painted a total of 106 paintings. Since the original paintings were created, over time they have been either defaced, or simply added to, depending on your opinion, by numerous amateur graffiti artists. The original paintings portray the desires of the East Berliners during their time under the Soviet Block. They often portray images of jumping the wall and many other desires while under the oppressive and gate-keeping East-Berlin government.

Experiencing Berlin has been just that, an experience witnessed from every aspect of its broad culture, where even a walk down the street is a cultural experience.

- Sam Prellwitz '10

Pictures: Top left: Group in the train station, Bottom right: The East Side Gallery.

Callum Davies '11: Last night five of my class mates and myself had the pleasure of dining at “Cape Town” a†local South African Restaurant. The cuisine was exotic to say the least, and many of us chose to widen our palettes with a stew like combination of Wilder Beast, Springbok and potatoes seasoned with various spices and served in a miniature individually sized cauldron. The atmosphere was inviting and had a very authentic feel to it, and although it was not traditional German food, it was in my opinion some of the better food that I have had in our 4 days here. Today we where given the liberty of sleeping in for an extra hour and a half seeing that we would be compensating for the public transportation strike. As we where not able to make use of the U-Bahn we relied on the S-Bahn and our feet to get us around, and I can attest that we did our fair share of walking today. We visited the East side gallery, which is adored with art and graffiti speaking out again the division of Berlin. I was a little disappointed that I was unable to give my presentation about Karl-Marx Alle today due to the strike. The memorial to the fallen hero’s of the Soviet Union was in†our next order of business. This attraction was one of my personal favorites due to its sear size and the monolithic presence. The Soviet warrior wielding a rather large sword and holding a child in his other arm struck me more so than any of the memorials we have visited yet. I look forward to tomorrow where I intend to make my way to the Spree river and take a boat tour of the city to get a different perspective of things.

-Callum Davies '11

Pictures: top right, Soviet War memorial, bottom left, class in the middle of the soviet war memorial. 

March 04, 2008

Sliver of Light: The Jewish Museum

Barry Ooi ’10: The trip to the Sachsenhausen concetration camp was a little bit of a letdown, probably because I had been eagerly awaiting this visit. I think I was expecting something more raw and graphic, rather than the polished memorial site and scattered shiny new buildings interspersed with the old, moldy ones. Reading the stories plastered around the site gave me an idea into the suffering and brutality of life in the camp, but for most of the time, I was muttering curses at the wind and rain.

The Jewish Museum did a better job in putting us in the shoes of the persecuted. One section of the museum, called the Holocaust Tower, was a fairly large, irregularly-shaped room with an impossibly high ceiling, and dark walls with harsh corners. It was unheated, and the only light came from a small, vertical window at the very top of the room that cast a mere sliver of light, almost like a beacon of hope. Sounds and voices from the outside world could be heard. The effect was a disconcerting one; I felt tiny, caged, and worthless, and although there was the sliver of hope, I knew in the back of my mind that it was an empty one. A wall-ladder was placed mockingly several feet beyond my reach, and led straight to the ceiling on the opposite corner from where the window was. Such a simple exhibit, but it perfectly conveyed the feelings of the Jews at a time of oppression and persecution. I left the room feeling slightly relieved.†

All-in, another entertaining-though-rushed day, thanks to our dictatorial professor, Dr. Tucker. I'll give him a piece of my mind over a beer tonight.

Tsch∏s from Berlin!

-Barry Ooi

Pictures: Holocaust Memorial in the Jewish Museum in Berlin.

An important, difficult day

David Birrer '11: Today’s theme in our Berlin immersion trip was Jewish history and the Holocaust. We started the day by traveling to Oranienburg, which is north of Berlin, to see the Nazi concentration camp, Sachsenhausen. Walking to the street to the entrance of the camp and seeing the stone and barb wire wall was very surreal, and it was amazing and saddening at the same time to be at a place that has such a sad place in history.
Going past the outer gates and heading towards the actual camp, the first thing that immediately caught my eye was the gate that read, “Arbeit Macht Frei,” or in English, “Work will set you free.” I’ve always loved history, and especially the history of WWII, and so seeing this gate, which is pictured in most textbooks, was especially poignant. Inside the camp, the first thing that caught my eye was the expanse. Textbooks and movies do not give you a true picture of the expanse of the concentration camps, and it was stunning.
In the Sachsenhausen trip, I think the most memorable part for me will be the history exhibit that was in one of the reconstructed Jewish barracks. In the barracks, I could see the sleeping quarters, restrooms, and meal quarters of the Jews, and what struck me the most was how confined the space was, how there was no privacy or space, and how unlivable the situation was. Seeing the condition first hand definitely made me appreciate the privacy and freedom that we take for granted at home. Overall, going to a concentration camp has had an effect on me, and experiencing the history first hand is something I will always remember.
After Sachsenhausen and lunch, we visited the German Jewish History Museum. By far, the most poignant part of this trip was walking through the memorial in the museum called the, “Shalachet,” or “Fallen Leaves.” In the exhibit, you walk towards stone balconies on what the museum refers to as leafs, but what are actually flat faces carved in iron. The faces gave a ringing sound that combined with the voices of tourists to create the ringing sound of people crying or calling in the exhibit. It’s hard to describe the emotional response, but it was extremely powerful, and it’s something that will always stick with me. It was an amazing way to remember the people of the past. So far, the memorials and places that we have visited have had a profound impact on me, and it has been amazing to be in places that have such storied histories.
~David Birrer Wabash ‘11

March 03, 2008

Mehr von die zweite Tag in Berlin

James Kowalik ’11: Our first full day in Berlin began with a visit of the Brandenburg gate and the Reichstag. The interesting glass architecture of the German Parliament building reflected the modern view of a transparent and open government to its citizens. After that our group visited the Holocaust Memorial. This interesting display contained a series of stone blocks that rose in height as you moved closer to the center. After a while you start to lose a sense of your surroundings being isolated by rows of blocks. The effect is a feeling of being a lone and lost, a feeling many at the time-shared during the war.

In the evening we saw a play called Gegen Die Wand, an interesting account of the life of a Turkish woman seeking a husband to free her from an overbearing religious family and the effects on her and her husbands life. I especially enjoyed the real aspect of the plays interpretation of the film. The skill of the actors struck me as extremely professional. Working without props or very elaborate set designs the emotion and tension seemed as real as the high-end film version. The play was truly spectacular and the practice for my German was well appreciated.
-James Kowalik

Pictured: Top left - James Kowalik in the Holocaust Memorial, bottom right - Cole Hatcher and Harrison Stone in a crowded train.  

Die zeite Tag in Berlin

Thomas Warn '11 During our second day in Berlin, we visited several of the city’s historical and memorial sites. Our first stop of the day was Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), which marks the old western boarder of the city. As part of our immersion trip, we heard a presentation from Harrison Stone, who explained some of the historical significance of the gate. On the way to our next destination, we walked on the location where the Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer) used to stand. The next site on today’s excursion was the Reichstag, the main German governmental building. We stood in line for at least half an hour; it felt like waiting in like for an amusement park ride. Just like a ride, it was nevertheless worth the wait. At the top of the Reichstag, we walked around the enormous glass cupola. There was a ramp the spiraled around the dome for people to get to the top. The view of Berlin from the top can’t be described by anything else but breathtaking. We were fortunate enough to have a nice enough day that we could see a great deal of the city from our vantage point. Once we were back on the roof of the Reichstag, we heard our second presentation of the day from David Bierr. After lunch we were off to Bebelplatz. Here, on May 10, 1933, hundreds of books were burned by Nazi students. Our final presentation of the day was given by Cole Hatcher. Our next stop was across the street to the Neue Wache, which is a memorial to the victims of war and tyranny. This was the end of our scheduled tour for the day. I then headed back to the hostel to make sure that I had left my wallet there, because I had realized sometime after lunch that I didn’t have it. Luckily for me, when I back to my room, I found it under a chair. Later today we are going to see a play, Gegen die Wand. We watched it in class before the trip, so this should be an interesting production.

-Thomas Warn

March 02, 2008

Mehr von dem erste Tag in Berlin

Sam Prellwitz '10: After fourteen hours of traveling we arrived in Berlin. It was about 4:00 AM back home. The clock on the plane read 10 Uhr, meaning ten in the morning. That meant, even though some of us had hardly slept during the long journey over the Atlantic, no sleep was in order until later in the night. 

A full day was still to be had, and, being on a tight schedule, we were forced to cram as much into, even the first day, as possible.

On the journey to Berlin I hadn’t thought much about the language part of this excursion. I found out quickly how much I would be using the language even in the most basic ways. One particular experience came with my first time ordering food. I went to a small Backerei (bakery) and ordered a small lunch. It took me a little longer than the usual customer, but I was able to maneuver through the vocabulary that I do have and ordered. 

I also found that the first time using your knowledge of the German language is the most challenging. After that first order, I began to feel much more comfortable and was able to use the language much more freely, whether that was asking about having the internet at our residence, the Corner Hostel, or simply talking with others on the trip to figure out which train to take in order to get back to our Hostel.

Within the first day in Berlin, we’ve experienced plenty. It’s been a whirlwind on the plane, to the bus and the train and then on foot, but in making it we’ve already soaked up a feel for the culture here. We’ve gained in an afternoon an appreciation for the German and specifically Berlin culture that never could have been obtained in the classroom.

Please stay tuned for more exciting updates in the days to come! We’ll be sure to keep you up to date with all happenings.

Vielen Dank!

- Sam Prellwitz

Images: Top right: local bakery in Berlin, Bottom left: Immersion students viewing the Mercedes building and Die Gedachtnichtskirche. 

Der erste Tag in Berlin

Harrison Stone '10: After a long flight, we finally arrived in Berlin, Germany this morning. We've been exploring the city most of the day in the cold, wet, and windy east German weather. 

We visited the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtnichtskirche today. The Kirche (Church) was destroyed in the Second World War, but what little of the Church remained has been preserved. The Church is characterized by its bombed steeple, blown out stained glass, and devastated spires and walls. It stands as reminder of the horror of war. 

Standing in the shadows of this imposing and haunting structure, we all felt a deep sense of sadness as we gazed upon the destruction in front of us. 

Our first day in Berlin ended on a happier note, however, with all of us gathering around to eat traditional German cuisine.