Archives for the month of: October, 2011
Brandenburger Tor

Every October Berlin illuminates its prominent buildings during the Festival of Lights. At night Berlin takes on an entirely different character as the city is transformed into a massive work of art. For 12 nights a year, you forget the dirt and grime of the city. Berlin seems almost beautiful.

“Faces” at Posdamer Platz
Berliner Dom
(Chameleon Facade) 

There’s a party atmosphere along the streets as scores of people are taking photos and commenting on the lighting effects. This year the work of Teresa May was impressive. She has transformed the staid 19th century Berliner Dom into a sort of reptilian chameleon. Equally impressive was the “Faces” installation that projects a series of changing faces. Even the illuminated trees along Unter den Linden (one of Berlin’s major streets) become magical. No wonder this event attracts 300,000 visitors. It has something for every artist taste: Kitsch to High Art. 

Unter den Linden
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


Another Photo of Bare-Chested Putin

Few people were shocked when President Medvedev of Russia announced he would not seek re-election, effectively ceding the presidency back to Vladimir Putin. It was clear from the start that Medvedev was never more than a placeholder for Putin, and Medvedev’s plans to move Russia toward more democratic principles were just sound soundbites intended for a gullible audience.


Putin Earlier this Month
For the last three years while he was sidelined as Prime Minister, Putin has never left the public eye. We’ve seen Putin hunting a gray whale in the Pacific, riding a motorcycle with a group of bikers, posing bare-chested while fishing, and diving down to the sea floor to recover an ancient amphora. His most recent photos have him standing bare-chested (yet again) in front of a doctor confirming that he’s in excellent health. The message is clear: Look at me, I’m the strongest man in the country, if not the world.

Putin Last Year
Yet, Putin seems to have been doing more than just posing for the cameras. His face seems to have changed. Has Putin had a facelift or has he just got plenty of sleep? When you look at recent photos of President, oops, Prime Minister Putin, the wrinkles around his eyes seem to have disappeared, and his face looks smoother and more youthful. Perhaps, Putin has adopted the mantra made famous by Fernando in the 1980s, “It’s not how you feel, it’s how. You. Look!”
Another Photo of Bare-Chested Putin

Few people were shocked when President Medvedev of Russia announced he would not seek re-election, effectively ceding the presidency back to Vladimir Putin. It was clear from the start that Medvedev was never more than a placeholder for Putin, and Medvedev’s plans to move Russia toward more democratic principles were just sound soundbites intended for a gullible audience.


Putin Earlier this Month
For the last three years while he was sidelined as Prime Minister, Putin has never left the public eye. We’ve seen Putin hunting a gray whale in the Pacific, riding a motorcycle with a group of bikers, posing bare-chested while fishing, and diving down to the sea floor to recover an ancient amphora. His most recent photos have him standing bare-chested (yet again) in front of a doctor confirming that he’s in excellent health. The message is clear: Look at me, I’m the strongest man in the country, if not the world.

Putin Last Year
Yet, Putin seems to have been doing more than just posing for the cameras. His face seems to have changed. Has Putin had a facelift or has he just got plenty of sleep? When you look at recent photos of President, oops, Prime Minister Putin, the wrinkles around his eyes seem to have disappeared, and his face looks smoother and more youthful. Perhaps, Putin has adopted the mantra made famous by Fernando in the 1980s, “It’s not how you feel, it’s how. You. Look!”
Top of Die Siegessäule in Tiergarten

Blog Spot has a nice feature that allows me to see statistical information about my Blog readership. For example, I can find out which countries read the Blog. As expected, most of my audience comes from the United States and Germany. What’s interesting is that I get more site visits from Israel, a country of about 7.7 million people, than I get from Canada (35 million) and Great Britain (62 million) combined. 


Yesterday, an article in the Berliner Zeitung shed some light on this perplexing phenomena. According to Eshko Nevo, a prominent Israeli writer, Berlin is the “in” tourist destination for young Israelis. Young Israelis see Berlin as Europe’s future. Berlin is a cosmopolitan city with a thriving arts and music scene, cheap rents, and an inviting atmosphere for foreigners. Moreover, obtaining a resident visa or German passport is relatively easy for Israelis who can show some ancestral connection to Germany. Finally, there’s an established Israeli expat community in Berlin of about 10,000-15,000 residents making social connections easier to establish. For young Israelis who see Israel hopelessly mired in a cycle of fear and uncertainty, Berlin seems like a place to make a fresh start.

This influx of foreigners to Berlin isn’t limited to Israelis. There’s an increasing number of Spaniards, Russians, various Eastern Europeans, and even Americans making Berlin there home. 
Top of Die Siegessäule in Tiergarten

Blog Spot has a nice feature that allows me to see statistical information about my Blog readership. For example, I can find out which countries read the Blog. As expected, most of my audience comes from the United States and Germany. What’s interesting is that I get more site visits from Israel, a country of about 7.7 million people, than I get from Canada (35 million) and Great Britain (62 million) combined. 


Yesterday, an article in the Berliner Zeitung shed some light on this perplexing phenomena. According to Eshko Nevo, a prominent Israeli writer, Berlin is the “in” tourist destination for young Israelis. Young Israelis see Berlin as Europe’s future. Berlin is a cosmopolitan city with a thriving arts and music scene, cheap rents, and an inviting atmosphere for foreigners. Moreover, obtaining a resident visa or German passport is relatively easy for Israelis who can show some ancestral connection to Germany. Finally, there’s an established Israeli expat community in Berlin of about 10,000-15,000 residents making social connections easier to establish. For young Israelis who see Israel hopelessly mired in a cycle of fear and uncertainty, Berlin seems like a place to make a fresh start.

This influx of foreigners to Berlin isn’t limited to Israelis. There’s an increasing number of Spaniards, Russians, various Eastern Europeans, and even Americans making Berlin there home. 

It’s been raining the last few days so I’ve had to rely on the Berlin subway to get around town. Compared to other transit systems, the Berlin U/S-Bahn is relatively reliable and easy to navigate; however, the 2,30 ($3.00 USD) one-way ticket is steep by Americans standards.


My preferred mode of transportation is the bicycle. It’s cheap, quick, and invigorating; yet, for all of its advantages, it does have a downside: it isolates you from the community. So my occasional subway excursions allow me the opportunity to observe German culture “up close and personal.”

These days, the first thing I noticed on the subway is people interacting with their Smart Phones. People are surfing the Net, listening to music, watching videos, texting messages, or just chatting on these small-tech wonders. Technology has come along way in my lifetime!

It seems like yesterday that the first Sony Walkman was introduced (1979). The Walkman was the dawn of portable music. For the first time, you could carry around your own music library. You were no longer dependent on the radio or confined to the house if you wanted to listen to music. Granted, you still had to carry around cassette tapes, but these were manageable, not like vinyl records. I can even remember Hi-Fi stereos, 8-Track tapes, and the introduction of color TV. In their day, all these devices were tech miracles. 


As technology advances even faster, I find harder to keep pace. As soon as I’ve achieved tech competence on one gismo, another gadget comes on the market. That’s one reason I’ve been reluctant to get a Smart Phone. Do I really want to invest time and money on a device that will be out-of-date in a few years? Will the Smart Phone become the BetaMax of the 2010s? But now it seems inevitable that Smart Phones are here to stay. In all likelihood, they will become a necessity like the personal computer. Welcome to the 21st Century.

It’s been raining the last few days so I’ve had to rely on the Berlin subway to get around town. Compared to other transit systems, the Berlin U/S-Bahn is relatively reliable and easy to navigate; however, the 2,30 ($3.00 USD) one-way ticket is steep by Americans standards.


My preferred mode of transportation is the bicycle. It’s cheap, quick, and invigorating; yet, for all of its advantages, it does have a downside: it isolates you from the community. So my occasional subway excursions allow me the opportunity to observe German culture “up close and personal.”

These days, the first thing I noticed on the subway is people interacting with their Smart Phones. People are surfing the Net, listening to music, watching videos, texting messages, or just chatting on these small-tech wonders. Technology has come along way in my lifetime!

It seems like yesterday that the first Sony Walkman was introduced (1979). The Walkman was the dawn of portable music. For the first time, you could carry around your own music library. You were no longer dependent on the radio or confined to the house if you wanted to listen to music. Granted, you still had to carry around cassette tapes, but these were manageable, not like vinyl records. I can even remember Hi-Fi stereos, 8-Track tapes, and the introduction of color TV. In their day, all these devices were tech miracles. 


As technology advances even faster, I find harder to keep pace. As soon as I’ve achieved tech competence on one gismo, another gadget comes on the market. That’s one reason I’ve been reluctant to get a Smart Phone. Do I really want to invest time and money on a device that will be out-of-date in a few years? Will the Smart Phone become the BetaMax of the 2010s? But now it seems inevitable that Smart Phones are here to stay. In all likelihood, they will become a necessity like the personal computer. Welcome to the 21st Century.

A couple of weeks ago, I was lamenting the fact that I couldn’t find popcorn at the grocery stores in Germany. I was watching TV and suddenly had a craving for America’s number one “movie watching food.” It’s a sad fact that most Europeans have yet to discover the culinary delights of POPCORN. Well today, I noticed that Kaisers, the local supermarket, was “introducing” popcorn. There was an elaborate display at the front of the store with three kinds of microwaveable popcorn: regular, caramel and sweet. I eagerly purchased the regular with the hope it will taste like the popcorn back home (cross my fingers). Now, the stores need to stock oatmeal, another essential food item that’s missing from the German diet.

A couple of weeks ago, I was lamenting the fact that I couldn’t find popcorn at the grocery stores in Germany. I was watching TV and suddenly had a craving for America’s number one “movie watching food.” It’s a sad fact that most Europeans have yet to discover the culinary delights of POPCORN. Well today, I noticed that Kaisers, the local supermarket, was “introducing” popcorn. There was an elaborate display at the front of the store with three kinds of microwaveable popcorn: regular, caramel and sweet. I eagerly purchased the regular with the hope it will taste like the popcorn back home (cross my fingers). Now, the stores need to stock oatmeal, another essential food item that’s missing from the German diet.

Germans aren‘t modest when it comes to public nudity. It’s not uncommon for public parks, beaches, campgrounds, and swimming pools to have areas or times of the day reserved for nudity.


There’s a long history of nudism or naturism in Germany. In the early 1900s, German naturism was viewed as health giving and seen as a way to achieve classlessness: everybody is equal once clothes are removed. For the most part, Germans don’t equate public nudity with sex. In locker rooms at gyms, public swimming pools and restrooms, you often find female attendants cleaning the sinks, floors, or shower areas while men are in various stages of undress. No one seems to mind.

By contrast, the United States has always been puritanical when it comes to public nudity. (I wish Americans were as puritanical about violence, overeating, and war as they are with public nudity, but that’s another story.)

A few days ago, a German friend told me of an experience he had at an American beach. When he asked the lifeguard where the nude section (FKK) was located, he was astonished to discover that most American beaches don’t permit nudity, and that nude sunbathing is a criminal offense in most parts of the USA. It just confirmed his stereotype that Americans were conservative religious extremists.

BTW: Here are the English lyrics to “Das ist Berlin.” (My best guess)

That is Berlin, Berlin, the eternally young city
That is Berlin, Berlin, it has my love
Right in the center of the world
She has the Lord God
You’re my Berlin, Berlin, pearl on the Spree
Who knows you just as, Berlin, 
You can never say goodbye
Because your magic can never escape
You’re my Berlin, Berlin, Berlin, pearl on the Spree
Who saw you as Berlin,
You can never say goodbye
Because your magic can never escape
You’re my Berlin, Berlin, Berlin.