July 3rd, 2007

Berlin

I flew to Berlin. They got a separate basket in order to x-ray my passport. My trip to Berlin was mostly a chance to get visas. I had done a ton of research before I arrived. I was going to start with the Kazakh embassy first, since I thought that the visa would be harder to get, and do china afterwards. I got the address for the Kazakh embassy from the web and was going to go there my first day in town. I'd downloaded maps and everything. When I looked at the maps, I realized that google couldn't find the address I entered and had found an alternate location. Not what I needed.

I measure my performance based on how big my mistakes are, not how much they cost me. Normally, I do pretty well. I don't make that many mistakes and they usually aren't very big (and they also don't usually cost me very much). After I realized that my maps were wrong, I went online to double-check the address for the Kazakh embassy. Before, I had used some random site that told me the address. I had copied the address correctly. This time, I went to the official embassy site. The address was different. I also learned that there is a Kazakh consulate in Stuttgart. I consider that to be a big mistake. I was disappointed in me. Next time, I'll remember that first hand sources are better.

I went to the Kazakh embassy the next morning. It wasn't in the center of town. I posted a picture from the embassy on flickr. It was raining hard when I arrived at was 12:12. The embassy is open 3 days a week from 9-12. I was disheartened. Fortunately, they were sweet. The beeped me on the intercom and asked me why I was standing in the rain and hadn't come in. I filled in the application form and submitted it that day. I got it back, no problem, in 3 business days, just like promised. That hadn't been what I was expecting.

While I waited, I had time to do some proper tourism. I went and saw a German celebrity. I decided that it would be Ok to be a little bit of a stalker in order get a personal view. I saw Knut. He was everything that I imagined.

I also checked out some remnants of WWII. There is a church in downtown Berlin that was ravaged by bombs. Normally, the reconstruction process finishes the destruction and builds something new in place. This time, they simply left it. It was striking to see.

When I said I did some proper tourism, I meant it more here than I normally do. I took a tour. I did the communist Germany tour. I learned that there was a on SS agent for every 7 people. I also remembered why I don't normally take tours.

Berlin wasn't what I expected. Normally, capitals are the most expensive cities in a country. They are also trendier and whatnot. Berlin was not that at all. Berlin was one of the least expensive places I went in Europe. It was very hip, but not trendy (lots of artists that don't have enough money to go to the trendy bars). I tried Sudanese food for the first time in my life. I had an epiphany while eating that sandwich. I was walking down the street, slowly realizing that Germany hadn't been doing it for me. The society is very closed, in what I consider a negative way. Stuttgart, however, much more so than Berlin. I was working on concluding that I didn't like Germany, but as I reached the end of my sandwich, I was incredibly surprised to realize that I had a new favorite country. I couldn't have imagined that I could make that jump. But how could I not love a country that would combine fried goat cheese, baba ganouj, peanut sauce, and falafel in a sandwich. Not that I know very much about Sudan, but I know that I love it.