Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ich Bin Ein Berliner - Day 2

Friday morning. We woke up at a reasonable hour and got moving. We just started walking. We really didn't know what all the stuff to see was. We had some tourist maps that showed where the important stuff was. There was a really tall pointy thing in the distance, we figured we start by walking towards that. While walking that way we made our way to the river which runs through the city. We saw a gorgeous old church, bridges, wonderful architecture, boats traveling along. At this point we could not see the tall pointy thing, so we walked along the river. The main road was up ahead and at that point we saw the tall pointy thing.

(Old church = Berliner Dom)

(tall pointy thing = Fernsehturm)

There was a park before the Fernsehturm with a cool fountain in it.

We then walked past the Berliner Dom that I showed before and came upon the Lustgarten and the Altes Museum. There were a lot of tourists around.

(Statue of Frederick the Great)

We walked down the 'Unter den Linden' or 'under the linden trees' which took us to the infamous Brandenburg Gate. It is neat to see all these things first hand. It makes all the history we've been taught over the years so much more real. After the gate we walked north and passed the parliament building, the Reichstag. Berlin is, after all, the capital of Germany.

We ate some lunch at a Italian restaurant. They spoke Italian to us and German and English and it was terribly confusing. The food was great though. After lunch we went up to a Berlin wall memorial. Shown above is a piece of the remaining Berlin wall and the 'death strip.' This is the view from former West Germany.

Before sleeping we stopped at several bars, including a lovely East German bar complete with socialist propaganda and Lenin and all that wonderful oppressive government paraphernalia that just warms your heart. There is more, I'll just add another post. -Eric

Ich Bin Ein Berliner - Day 1

So we are back from Berlin. Let me tell you the tale...

We packed all our stuff up Tuesday, we had to wait until the afternoon since Sean needed to make a phone call regarding future employment. After that we walked down to the train station, a 10 minute or so walk from here. They have computer terminals setup, so you just punch in where you want to go and you can pay for and get your ticket. With a ticket to Berlin in hand we hopped on the train. We had a connection in Hannover, we should have just got a direct train, it would have been easier. Either way, we got to Berlin. Once at the station we ate currywurst. Suggested to us by Banuti, it is a traditional fast food item. It is basically a sausage chopped up with curry spices and a barbeque like sauce. Not bad.

Step one was complete, now we just needed to find a place to sleep. We had looked up a few hostels beforehand, so we walked towards them. Before we reached the first hostel we stopped at a bar. I know I really needed a drink. It turns out that the place was an Irish bar to the full extend in that everyone spoke english. We had a few beers there. While we were sitting there Clive Owen walked in (the guy from children of men, etc.) That was strange.

Now that our thirst was quenced we departed to the first hostel. The first place, 'East Seven', was full. They suggested that we go to 'The Circus' (recommended by Lutz as well.) They were full too, but this guy was really helpful. He called up another hostel nearby and found some rooms. So we walked there. By this time we had practically walked around all of Berlin. A half hour later we arrived at the 'Heart of Gold' hostel - literally two blocks from the Irish bar we stopped at previously. (FYI - the heart of gold is the spaceship in hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, one of my favorite books and movies)

After getting settled we went to get some more beers. Later that night we stumbled back to the hostel and got a much needed nights rest. I was tired, I still am. I've got two days more info, but I am exhausted now, so I'll right those tomorrow (remember, I am in the future 7 hours.) - Eric

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Feiern Wir Wie Blöd! = Lets Have Fun Like Idiots!

We are getting off our arses and going to Berlin. We looked up a few hostels and such, but we are just going to wing it. We'll be there for a couple days then come back and hang out with Banuti.

We ate at the Bavarian place again last night. They have good classic German food, but the place is kind of touristy (we've decided that we are not tourists since we are working here.) Some lady across from us order a beer, just a beer, "I'd like a beer." Jeez, you're (I almost wrote 'your' here which would have upset a certain someone :) in Germany ma'am, learn to appreciate the wonders of beer - they have more than one. Banuti told us some great stories from his year of service in the military. We laughed and laughed. A good time was had by all.

This is a great pic of Sean and Daniel trying to figure out how to do that sliding finger trick. We'll be back soon to report on our adventures, unless we have internet access there, in that case, we will do it there. - Eric

Sunday, August 26, 2007


We went and did something today. We drove about 90km east of here to a concentration camp. I know it is a sudden change from our fun thus far, but this is important.

This camp is particularly interesting and sobering to us. This is one of three sites that the V2 rockets were built - using forced labor. The V1 was also manufactured here. For those of you who don't know, the Germans built these weapons solely to terrorize the British. The V in V1 and V2 is for Vengeance. They were fired at London and indiscriminately hit wherever they ran out of fuel. The V1 was very noisy. I actually have a 1/2 scale V1 pulse detonation engine in my office that I have shown to many of you. The weapon not only took many innocent lives but also caused a certain psychological misery. As the V1 flew above you, you could hear its distinctive rumble. The hope was that you would not hear the noise stop so that you knew it was passing by. Then you would realize the hideousness of what you just thought - that someone else is going to be hit soon and not you.

This site was a forced labor concentration camp. It is also near the center of Germany, so it was one of the last camps to be liberated. Shown above is Dr. Wernher Von Braun. He is essentially the father of rocketry. After the war he came to the US and is in a large part responsible for America landing on the moon first. From 'Nazi to NASA' as a book title explains it, he was aware of what was going on here and personally examined it. Simultaneously we are exposed to the foundations of rocketry and what we love to do while being in the midst of a terrifying atrocity. The dichotomy of emotions produced by this facility are heart wrenching.

We took a tour which was in German, so Daniel kindly translated the important information. We walked around what was left of the camp. Not much is remaining since that was during WW2 and it was made of wood. The tour then continued to the tunnels which are burrowed into the nearby mountain. The main production facilities were located here, safe from bombing. Not much remains and they only recently reopened the tunnels. After the camp was liberated all the useful equipment was taken away. Then later the Soviets had control of the area (when it was East Germany) and they took everything else. What remains is rubble and a few miscellaneous parts. Shown below is a pile of V1 parts, the tunnels, a V2 rocket engine, and a model of the tunnels.

These tunnels are huge, what we walked around and what the photos show are only a few of those tubes. After the tour was done we walked up to the crematorium. This is the saddest part of the tour and it was interestingly fitting to save it to the end. Being the engineers that we are, we are interested in the technology that was developed here. There was a certain excitement to see such things. The reality of situation was driven home by the crematorium. Many innocent people paid with their lives for this. It is difficult to rectify such opposing feelings. - Eric

Meister Proper Gets Rid of Dirt and Grime

Saturday - We have yet to go a day without having multiple beers. Such is the life. Hung over, we slowly woke up, watched some fraggle rock on youtube and then departed to get some Chinese food. I had the duck. We then walked around the city a bit. We were tired and needed to sit down. Banuti had the idea to get some ice cream and it was a really good idea. They had some crazy stuff. I'll show you a picture. I had a kiwi becher (kiwi 'mug') and they had some cherry and raspberry dishes. It tasted as great as it looks.

Exhausted, we stumbled back to the apartment after stopping at the store for a few items. Sean found Mr. Clean in the grocery market. I joked to Daniel that you can no longer sing the catchy jingle, but he proved me wrong by singing the German version. We really needed some rest. We wrapped up the recovery process with a nap. After waking we went to get something to eat. Do you see the pattern - sleep, eat, drink, sleep, eat... We had pizza again. It is so different here. I had a craving for some greasy pepperoni pizza, but lo we end up with fresh ingredients. Well, I guess that is acceptable :) A few beers and a few bars later we made it home. I passed out in my jeans on the bed. Tomorrow we'll be more productive. -Eric

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Life is a Highvay

Let me start out that we will be going somewhere soon, but we need to sober up. Last night we started at the Irish pub in town. We drank Newcastle and Guinness. There was a live band. All the guy did was covers of the Beatles, Bob Marley and Bon Jovi. The guy wasn't terrible, but his music selection was lacking. They pretty much exclusively listen to English/American music here, so while sitting in the bar you'll find yourself in this weird mix of not knowing German and having the inability to communicate while listening to music that I had not heard since high school. Strange.

After the Irish pub we went to our usual wooden bar (Thanners) and had a few more beers. Then we went to some clubs and had more beers. We found one good place that was playing some great techno/remix music. It was really small, but great music and a nice relaxed ambiance. In our drunken stupor we ate the Turkish gyros again. We got back here at about 4 am.

And now for your viewing pleasure - the many emotions of Daniel Banuti. The best part is that these were all taken within a matter a minutes.

We've been here a week now, it is hard to imagine. -Eric

Greetings from the Future

Hi everyone. So right now it is about 3:00 pm here, so that makes it about 8:00 am back home. Good morning. I feel like we are in the future. Don't worry, it's nice in the future too :)

(The properly poured beer we had in the morning last Sunday)

Today when getting our morning coffee we confirmed our suspicions that we may be confusing people. We went into the bakery and I said, "zwei becher kaffee" - 'two 'mugs' of coffee'. Then she went on to speak all sorts of German which neither Sean or I understood. So then I said, "ich spreche kein deutsche" - 'I speak no German'. Then the guy standing behind us spoke to us in English and told us what she had said. He then commented that our German was very good and repeated the sentence that I had spoken earlier. So we confused this lady just like the waitress a few days ago. I guess we look enough like Germans and students in this college town and we can speak a few phrases well enough to confuse them when we say we don't speak any German. Not bad for only one week of learning.

The guy that helped us out then asked us where we were from. America - Wisconsin and Illinois. He asked Sean where in Illinois and Sean told him Bloomington, but the guy didn't know it. Sean said it's about 2 hours south of Chicago. They know where Chicago is. He asked us if we were students and I told him we were going to work at the DLR. He seemed rather impressed by that, so it seems that as long as they know what the DLR is we will get some credit for that.

(A completely unrelated photo of me at Scott's house)

We walked around the city some more after eating. It is an absolutely lovely day today, sunny and a comfortable temperature. Now we are back at Banuti's place drinking a beer. This weekend we are planning on going to some museums around the country. Next week we are going to go to France.

Au Revoir. -Eric

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mein Hosen Wunderbar

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. -Benjamin Franklin

Sean's mother commented to him that our blog made it look like all we were doing was eating, drinking and sleeping. To that I said, "what else would we do?" :) We are going to travel more eventually, we just needed a break. And for those of you wondering - 'mein hosen wunderbar' means 'my pants are full of wonders' but that is just our little joke and it is completely incorrect German.

(this is a cool photo - to me it looks like an impressionistic oil painting or what your beer looks like after you've had a few)

Tonight we went to a Greek place that Banuti likes. We got a great big pile of food and as is the pattern thus far, it was great. I had some pork and lamb. To me it tasted like elk, which is a rather esoteric description. It tasted 'gamey,' which I like. When we were done eating I ate Daniels ananus. (ananus = pineapple :) Afterwards we got a few more beers and called it a night. Here are some fantabulous pictures. (I realize that is not a word)

I am exhausted, I miss you guys, have a nice night. -Eric

Hell Yeah!

Last night we went to the 'Mexican' restaurant. We walked there with beers in hand, which is perfectly legal here. Before leaving Daniel asked us something to the effect of, "do you guys want to drink a beer while walking there?" We responded with, "is that legal?" Then Daniel, acting surprised because he forgot we usually can't do that in the US, said, "uh, yes." So I quickly chimed in, "well, hell yeah!" :)

They don't have real Mexican food here, well, at least not what we are used to. It just comes off as a regular Applebees/Ruby Tuesdays kind of Mexican with fajitas and quesadillas. It was good nonetheless. The Germans won their soccer game 2-1 against the English and das ist gut. We were at the wooden bar again. This time there were a lot of people in there, but we got the same three seats and the same cute waitress.

(Here is some photographic evidence of the Deutsche Bank)

This morning we went to get some coffee and pastries and sat at the park in town. We weren't able to sit in the bench with the neonazi symbol on it, as Lutz was so happy to point out in a previous post (the one with the picture of me eating the pastry,) since someone else was there. It was a bit warmer today than usual, decent shorts weather. We then walked east to see another part of town hoping not to get lost. We managed to find our way around and made it to the SchillerAnlagen - a big park. We heard thunder in the distance and made our way back to Banuti's home in time to watch the rain fall.

Time to take a nap. -Eric

It's a Small World

My Great Grandfather Erich August Heinrich Jacob was born in Halle, Germany in 1902. Before I departed I received a copy of his birth certificate from my Grandfather and the translation to English.

I had no idea where this city was before I got here, I figured we'd find out when we arrived. So after getting settled down a bit Banuti looked it up in an atlas he has. There are at least two cities in Germany named Halle, but the certificate says Halle/Weser. Weser is the name of a river which runs near to here. So with the assumption that they were trying to distinguish between the different Halles we figured out where it is. And after traveling over 4 thousand miles (or about 7000 km) to Gottingen and having no idea where my Great Grandfather was born I find myself 40 miles south of that location. We will travel there sometime soon. -Eric

(I realized after posting this that it may be hard to see what the map is showing. There is Gottingen by my finger on the right in bold. Halle is on the far bottom left near my other finger. North is to the left.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Reckoning Please

Today we woke up at a reasonable time. (10am - heh) We were slightly more productive than normal. Our first mission was to exchange the US dollars we had for euros. We went to the Deutschbank to see if they could exchange the money. The Deutschbank has a special place in our hearts. It goes way back to the first few weeks Daniel was in the US at UTSI. Sean, Daniel, Jens (another German) and I went up to Murfreesburo and had dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. When the time came to pay Daniel gave the waitress his credit card which had Deutschbank written on the top. So she took the card, looked at it, and laughed and laughed and went around showing the other wait staff saying,"look, douchebank hehehe." Daniel thought that she was just laughing at his photo, that was until we explained the confusion. Ahhhh, the advantages of being a foreigner in the south.

So the douchebank, I mean, Deutschbank directed us to another bank which would exchange the money. We found our way there and got some euros. Then we stopped and got a bite to eat. We are progressing steadily in our verbal skills, picking up more and more phrases along the way. We said hello to the waitress then said that we don't speak German, well, she spoke English so it was easy then. She asked if we wanted the English menu, but we said no, which confused her. We know many of the words for the different foods now, so we can decipher a menu to a degree. We successfully ordered our food. I had a pasta with olive oil, tomato, basil and feta cheese. Sean had a tequila chicken with a salsa concoction with it. The food was great by the way (shmeckt sehr gut = It tastes very good.) Then we had some coffee and paid the bill. The phrase for 'the bill, please' is 'die rechnung, bitte' which is pronounced 'dee rehkh-noong bit-teh.' We think it sounds a lot like 'The reckoning please' and that explains the title of this blog entry.

The waitress asked us where we are from. She was the first one thus far. I said, "America." and she said something like "well, I figured that." So we told her we were from Wisconsin and Illinois.

(This is for my buddy Ed who collects Absolut Ads)

Tonight we are going to watch the Germany vs. England soccer game and drink.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Du bist mein schonstes andenken = You are my most beautiful souvenir

Today it rained. So we stayed in and rested. I have a good story though. Unfortunately only a few guys at UTSI will really understand the hilarity of this joke. The three of us were walking down the street here in Gottingen yesterday on our way to the bar. We were talking about languages and the EU when Sean mentioned that he took four years of French and the only reason he took it was because there was an attractive female in the class. He never ended up with the girl, so he commented that he had wasted 4 years of his life, to which Banuti replied,"Yeah, you could have spent that time studying compressible flow."

We did go to the local bakery and get some coffee and pastries. It was another chance to practice our German. I think we are doing well. She knew a little English, so it was, in a way, disappointing. I enjoy hearing the German and seeing if I can tell what they are saying, at least when they tell you the amount that you owe since we do know the numbers. Tomorrow, if it isn't too rainy, we will travel back into town and exchange our US dollars for euros. We will also go to the store again. It is cute, everyone brings their bag with them and buys a few things. I get to take my green bag around with me and look like a real German. It is also easier for us to buy things there because there is no real need to talk to someone.

The weather is cooler here. We jumped straight from 100 F to about 60's F [(60-32)*5/9 = about 16 C] This is the kind of weather that I prefer. I like to wear pants and a long shirt. So enjoy your sticky hot summer :) it is nice here (sans consistent day long rain.)


It's Always You, Me and a German

Two years ago Daniel was at UTSI participating in the Aachen exchange program. The three of us: Sean, Daniel and I, hung out together a lot. We had very memorable trips to Huntsville to see the space rocketry museum and we went down to Cape Canaveral to see the space shuttle launch. The three of us are like pees in a pod (or astronauts in an apollo space capsule.) We all love aerospace, rockets, science. We are all more politically conservative, so we can spend hours bashing illogical government. We enjoy similar foods, beers, etcetera. We were a crew there and now we are a crew here.

About a month ago Sean and I were with Lutz (the other German :) in Cincinnati for the Joint Propulsion Conference. We were walking down the street and I commented to Sean,"You know, it's always you, me and a German." What a wonderfully sentimental line. We are very happy to be here with Daniel.

So last night we had some fun as you may have seen. Poor Banuti had to go to work today. We went to a great bar after eating. It had a very rustic feel, filled with handcrafted furniture and entirely made of wood. It had a great incandescent feel to it. These are the bars that I like, someplace cozy where you can get good beers and talk with your friends. -Eric