Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for Travel!

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all of my family and friends in the US!

Since I wasn't able to be home yesterday to celebrate and was thus pumpkin-pie less, I decided at the very least I still deserved a nice piece of cake. That, and a long weekend in London. So yesterday afternoon, I took my time strolling through Soho until I found the quaintest cafe I could with the most homemade looking cakes possible. I was not disappointed with my ultimate selection. I ordered a slice of what you see above: buttercream cake with rose petal jam. Fancy, no?

I will be in London for five days and plans include spending some time with relatives (chicken tagine for Thanksgiving dinner yesterday!), a reunion with study abroad friends, a "Yanksgiving" celebration, and plenty of Thames strolling and cafe-sitting-people-watching inbetween.

Back in Berlin on Tuesday with hopefully many stories to share.

Monday, November 21, 2011


They even crossed out Bethesda! And yes, I know it's a horrible picture of me.

As of today, ich bin Berlinerin. To say eine (a) Berlinerin would be the same grammatical mistake JFK made in 1963 that left the country giggling for years to come. Oh, and there's an "in" at the end of Berliner because I'm a lady. Well, female anyway.

Back to registration. In Germany, it's required to register yourself in a city. When you move to a new city, you register. When you move out of a city, you give notice of departure. When you switch apartments or houses, you keep them informed. All with a trip to your local Bürgeramt, and you better be prompt about it! Apparently if you wait longer than 2 weeks you can be fined, as a girl in the waiting room informed me today. Thankfully I was still under the 14 day mark.

I suppose I've made it all sound a bit tedious but in truth it was pretty painless. I was there and back with my requisite stamps in under an hour. It included a 10 minute walk to the center, a few minutes searching for the right room, acquiring a number and filling out a form (that included a question about my religion), 10 minutes in another room handing over my form and passport, a few stamps here and there, and a 10 minute walk back home.

The whole process was... dare I say it... efficient.

What apparently was less efficient were my follow-up questions about ID cards, health insurance, and passports. In fact, the woman found my question about renewing my passport anywhere other than at the citizen center so humorous that she laughed in my face. So I guess I pulled a JFK after all.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gesehen: Humbold Box Expo

I thought it could be fun to launch a sort of series. Basically, a cuter way to organize mini (i.e. lazier) posts that include a photo or two and a couple lines. It will be called "Gesehen" which means "Seen," as in, "I've seen this and want to share it with you!" (I think I may have watched too many Gossip Girl episodes that generally begin something like, "Spotted: Serena traipsing around town with a mystery beau"). The above quote I spotted on a wall at the Humboldt Box.

"The study of languages is the world history of human thought and perception." - Wilhelm von Humboldt

Fun things ahead this week: a recap of the MPI Immigration & Identity plenary, my impending encounters with German bureaucracy, and a trip to London!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jonny & Charlie (and Siegfried)

Saturday afternoon, Priscilla, Micha, and I had just exited the metro and were trying to orient ourselves when an old man feeding ducks on a little bridge 100 meters away took note of us. "Where do you want to go?" he called out to us in German, wildly waving a half empty bag of bread in the air. We approached him and asked how to get to the Museum Island. He gave us directions and then noticing our accents, asked where we were from. "I'm from Florida," Pris responded. "Ah, Florida," nodded the man, "and how is my old friend Siegfried doing?" At this point I exchanged looks with Pris wondering if we should make a speedy exit, but then the man reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a series of photos, the first of which was of him and his wife with Siegfried & Roy. Then came a photo of him as a young child with Charlie Chaplin during Chaplin's visit to Berlin in the 30s. And then a photo of him shaking the hand of Charlie Chaplin's daughter, many years later. When he turned around the photos we saw that each picture had been turned into a postcard. We also learned his name was Jonny, and that he was 91 years old.

"I have many friends all over the world," Jonny told us. "We write each other and they ask me for information and I ask them for information and this is how we learn about different things." I'm almost ashamed to say that the first thought that popped into my head was, "I wonder if this guy has ever heard of the Internet." But then I thought about how much I learn from my friends all over the world, stuff that Google can't really teach me, and that it would be nice to have a pen pal. So using Micha's back for support, Jonny wrote down his address which is now lying on my dining room table. Now I just have to find a way to turn the below picture into a postcard and send it to him. I hope he likes it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pris comes to town!

This weekend, my good friend Priscilla and her boyfriend Micha came to Berlin from Düsseldorf to spend a few days with me. Pris and I have been friends since we met in a summer study abroad program in Tübingen, Germany over 7 years ago. Jess, du hast uns gefehlt!

Here we are being silly back in 2004:

Here we are, no more silliness, in 2011:

Just kidding! We are still silly:

The two days were filled with sightseeing, delicious Turkish food, cocktails, laughing, public transport, the "Sophia game" (otherwise known as "Celebrity"), brunch, free Sachertorte, views, small smoky bars, and more public transport. The whole time they had to listen to me gush about the city (what can I say, we're still in our honeymoon phase, Berlin and I) but they handled it pretty well and were fantastic sightseeing partners-in-crime. Stay tuned for a story about our new friend, Jonny, and his old friend, Charlie. In the meantime, here are a few pictures:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Welcome Wurst

Today I arrived in Berlin. After putzing around the apartment for a couple hours attempting to get my internet to work and unpacking a bit, I felt the hunger pangs hit and decided to take a walk along the nearby Ku'damm and find something for dinner. A bit of Ku'damm background: When the Wall went up, the Ku'damm became the de facto "center" of West Berlin because the city's true center was on the east side. It has since become the ritziest street in the city and one of its most famous avenues, sort of Berlin's version of Paris' Champs-Élysées.

My plan was to head up as far as the Gedaechtniskirche (which is unfortunately being restored until mid-2012 and is totally covered up) and then back down the Ku'damm scouring for restaurants along the way. The thought of sitting down in a real restaurant and interacting with people (ok, the waiter) was more than I could bear in my totally dazed, exhausted state. So instead, I decided to treat myself to the best 2 euro snack Germany has to offer: a bratwurst of course! When I took the first bite I realized how hungry I actually was and devoured the entire thing in the course of one block. I took a picture of myself eating but I look so deranged from fatigue I only dare publish the solo wurst shot.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Two Blogs, One Berlin.

When I was growing up, I wanted many things: to be an archaeologist (for the entirety of the 4th grade, what kid doesn't at some point?), to be 5'8'' (only a quarter inch short so can safely check that off my list), and to have a "cool" name like Stacy or Diana (pretty happy with Sophia these days). But one, let alone TWO blogs? No, that was not something I wished for. But here we are, with blog #2, adventure #3984753, and for probably the first time in my life, pretty much no idea what's happening.

My first blog, Sophia's Monde, was born in 2007 when I was freshly out of undergrad with the exciting plan ahead of spending eight months teaching English in France. When I set out to name the blog, I thought it would be cute to do a play on words with the book Sophie's World. It was my world, that tiny town of 19,000, and oh, was it grand. There were markets, and cheese, and beautiful beaches, and great friends who danced with me on beautiful beaches, and culture shock, and funny students, and language learning, and I was very happy.

Now I am once again crossing the Atlantic, this time to Berlin. A city I may not have thought much about as a child but that I have thought about a lot in my more "adult" years. I've been very intrigued by Berlin and it's eclectic, artsy, gritty, international, dynamic nature. Plus it's full of immigrants! So I'm going. And I have no idea when I'm coming back. Not to be too dramatic or anything.

To name this blog, I thought about things I like about Germany and immediately what sprang to mind was food-related, no surprise there: Kaffee und Kuchen, or for my Anglophones, coffee and cake. Traditionally taken at 4pm, it's for some a daily routine and others a more occasional treat. I liked the idea of my blog being something I sit down to every day, like Kaffee und Kuchen, but at times it will likely be more of an occasional treat. I hope to be able to say the same for the Kuchen.

Now is the point where you are probably confused because this blog is actually titled Kaffee und Suchen. Good catch, everyone! Some jerk has already claimed kaffeeundkuchen for their URL so I had to reevaluate. When I thought about what rhymed with Kuchen, I came up with suchen, which just so happens to mean "to search." And boy, will I be searching in Berlin. Searching for a job, for new friends, for adventure, for the quickest way around German bureaucracy, and most certainly, searching for the best Kaffee und Kuchen in town.