Mullets, Museums, and Mail

Posted on January 29th, 2012 by

No, that's not the future; it's a library

He'll be our model

It’s Fashion Week here in Berlin. Unfortunately, I didn’t get an invite to the festivities. But seeing as I like to wear scrubs on a fairly regular basis (not out of necessity, mind you, but rather for comfortable), I guess I can’t blame them. Fashion here in Berlin is ridiculous. You can genuinely wear anything you like (except for sweatpants for some reason; I still can’t fathom why Germans don’t love these things). This week, one man showed me how truly magical pants can be. I can only dub these things as “mullet pants.” I’m sure most of you are familiar with the saying about mullets that goes, “Business in the front; party in the back.” These pants were half khaki, half jeans (as I like to call them, “Business-casual in the front; party in the back”). He’s ready for all occasions. Except maybe for sports. Can you say “zip-offs”? Next year, I’ll definitely be getting an invite to Fashion Week.

The German banking system and myself have had quite the struggle these past couple of weeks. I was unable to get into my internet banking, so I went in to my bank about three weeks ago. Germans love their security, so they can’t just tell you the password. Instead, they have to send it in the mail. While there, I decided to order a credit card as well. Over the course of the next two weeks, I received seven pieces of mail from the bank. All helpful, but none being the password I needed to get into my internet banking which is the gateway to using any of the other information I received. So at the starting of this week I went back to my bank (which I should mention is in Rudow where I originally lived; so like 45 minutes away…). We sorted out everything and then on Thursday I finally received the password. I log in to my internet banking and realize very quickly that words like Überweisungsvorlagen, Sammelüberweisung, and Umsatzanzeige mean nothing to me (this is not going to be as smooth a process as I had hoped). The most important thing I needed to do was set up my credit card. The way my “credit card” works is that my account has another sub-account which I need to put money into and then the card draws money from that. So in essence, not a credit card at all (I’m not sure if it’s this way because they don’t trust me or if all German credit cards operate this way). After help from google translate and eventually one of my roommates, I got it all squared away. Interestingly, whenever you do any kind of transaction online, you get a new code sent to your phone which you then need to put in to complete the transaction (like I said, those Germans love their security). So different from my bank in Fargo where I once forgot my wallet and had no identification, but I think her quote was, “Well, if you can say that name I think that’s proof enough.” I love Nodak.

I witnessed one of the craziest, most outlandish things this week. I was at an u-bahn station and I see a disheveled looking man slowly saunter towards the tracks at the very end of the platform. He proceeds to pull down his pants, squat, and drop the kids off at the pool (BUT THERE’S NO POOL; JUST TRAIN TRACKS). And this was during the day. I’m not sure why in my mind that makes it so much worse, but I feel like I could justify it so much easier at nighttime. Either way, it was utterly ridiculous. And of course, I couldn’t look away.

No, that's not the future; it's a library

Humboldt University is another university in Berlin that we tacitly belong to as students at the Charité (with our school mainly just being a hospital, we get to use some of the facilities of the other universities). Because of this, we got a tour of their library which is absolutely incredible. It’s an eight story behemoth in the heart of Berlin known as Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm-Zentrum (named after the Brothers Grimm). Our tour guide was the most classic old German intellectual. The man had a white beard, a blazer with the elbow pads, and a fine cane. He was undoubtedly angry at the world and constantly made hilarious snarky comments about “uneducated children” (children = anyone under the age of 50). But what I loved is how egalitarian he was with his harsh words. He’d get us, our professor, and any random student we’d run into that was breaking a rule in the slightest. The only old man who I can think of that is more awesome would be Maurice Sendak (watch his interview with Stephen Colbert and you’ll surely agree). Anyway, this place was absolutely gargantuan. Apparently, doing two laps around this building is equivalent to a lap around the Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium). Add to this it’s eight story staircases, and it’s a library and gym all in one. One of the floors even has a Kinderstube, which is a room where children can play while their parents read. Those Germans think of everything.

Quick side note: I got a pair of alpaca socks at the Turkish market (they really do sell everything, and it’s always gloriously cheap). Highly recommended. My alpaca mitt now has some friends.

This weekend, I got to play foosball. It’d been ages since the days that my brother and I would play in our basement (by play, I mean me getting a Godfather One, garbage can involved monster beating), but I’ve still got some game. I proceeded to win the first few matches and just as I was starting to gain some confidence/getting cocky, we played some legit ballers. Foosballers. We didn’t score once. Apparently, Kicker (as the Germans call it) is fairly popular at dive bars like this in Berlin. I guess Berlin even sends a team to the world championships nearly every year (just a bit more serious than my basement). I’m just going to blame it on all the smoke-filled air (I never realized how amazing the smoking bans are back home).

How Deutsche Post rolls

I had to send a letter and some other forms to the DAAD here in Germany. This meant having to use the Deutsche Post  for the first time. Surprisingly, there’s no such thing as a return address. I’m not quite sure what happens if the address you send something to doesn’t exist, but you definitely aren’t getting that letter back. Second, my letter needed 90 euro cents ($1.20) in stamps. It wasn’t even that heavy. No matter what your thoughts are on the US Postal Service, you’ve got to admit that being able to send a letter anywhere in the country for 42 cents is pretty unbelievable. Someone needs to tell the Germans about this (and then remind them that their country is over 25 times smaller than America). But then again, I guess that could explain why the USPS may not exist too much longer…

 

German engineering does more than just the Passat

This weekend was also the Lange Nacht der Museen (Long Night at the Museums). For ten euros, you could get into virtually every museum in Berlin between six at night and two in the morning. We started at the Sony Center, which is right near Potsdammer Platz, just as it began to snow. The Sony Center is a semi-outdoor complex with a roof which looks like the top of a circus tent made out of steel (it also has a crazy probe looking deal; see picture). They must have had some left over metal from this, because the ground has sheets of metal every ten feet which are treacherous when wet. With the snow, I thought someone was going to break a hip. If this were America, lawsuits (and overweight folks) would be flying all over the place. Anyway, we eventually went to the German film museum. The first room we entered had mirrors everywhere with a small meandering pathway in the middle and was definitely my highlight of the night (that wasn’t meant to sound that narcissistic). As you walked on this path, it felt like you were in massive chamber with walkways above and below you. Looking down, I actually felt a little scared that I might fall into the seemingly never-ending abyss. Then, the craziest part. You see yourself walking on one of the paths down below you. It was like having an out of body experience and was all almost too much for my brain to handle. From there, we hit up a bunch more museums. Some highlights. In the Guggenheim there was a picture of a young Asian girl standing in Tiananmen Square with a portrait of Mao in the background wearing a Western style shirt that said, “It’s all good in the hood” (so much irony). In the German History Museum you could buy souvenir napkins. To me, something disposable seems like an odd souvenir. Are they going to roll out with Kleenex next?

Anyway, so caps another week. Winter’s finally starting to hit and I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. At least I can always look at the temperature back in Fargo and feel good about myself. Thanks Nodak. You always have been good to me.

Hugs and hand pounds,

Hassie

 


One Comment

  1. Carl says:

    Hass,

    I just thought you should know that first class stamps from the USPS are now $0.45, not ) $0.42. I hope this makes the transition back to the States slightly less traumatic for you.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/postal-service-says-stamp-prices-are-going-up/2011/10/18/gIQAmwDPvL_story.html

    -Carl