Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jeff and Niko visit

Hi friends!

I'm glad nobody has killed me yet for lack of blog posts. Somehow I've been really, really bad about it (surprise!). But enough with the excuses, I'll just start writing and maybe you'll all forgive me. Maybe... maybe you already have...

 In the interest of saving time and getting these pics posted, I'll keep the commentary short. The story naturally unfolds with the pictures anyway, and you know the old adage about each one being worth a thousand words. They practically speak for themselves. I do want to set them up properly, though, so you will be treated to an introductory paragraph.

At the end of June 2011, I was lucky to be visited by two very special people. My longtime friend from college, Jeff, showed up first. He was on break from school in Pittsburgh, where he is busy being very smart and scholarly and showing a 5-year PhD program in Philosophy who's boss. So I was very excited that he chose to take some of his precious summer break to come spend two weeks in Germany with me. A few days later, a plane flies in from the south of Germany and brings us my dear friend Niko. Thinking about it, I realize I've known Niko for almost as long as I've known Jeff, since we met the year Jeff and I were studying abroad in Tübingen, Germany. Niko is still living and working in good old Tü, and is always happy to have me stay with him when I visit my old secondary college town, which I last did in April. And I was equally happy to host him in Berlin.

Introductory paragraph #2: At this point in time, I was still waiting for my work permit to be processed, so I had plenty of free time for my visitors. The timing could not have been better. The weather was nice, I was living in a place that had enough sleeping space for everyone, and there were a few concerts that Niko and I were excited to attend (unfortunately, they were not so much Jeff's style of music, so he did not attend them with us). So please enjoy the photo documentation of this very lovely time in Berlin.

Enjoying the nice weather on the Landwehrkanal. The weather has not been like this for at least a week now; at the time of this posting it has been raining steadily for 1.5 days.

Jeff and I on his first night in town

Fete de la Musique: Hipsters in front of Angry Chicken

Time for Hefeweizen at Dachkammer in F-hain

The old furniture and cute lady servers made this bar Jeff's favorite place to go out at night in Berlin.

Jewish memorial again...

...but this time with Niko and Jeff!

Probably too many smiles for being at a Holocaust memorial


AmeriBear at the US Embassy

Niko is a strong young chap.

Neue Synogoge

Found a hill in Berlin. They are few and far between.

Conquered the hill, way to go me.

Jeff showing the synagouge how to be emo.

Some sort of art we stumbled upon in Montbijou Park.

Niko called this the Telespargel (TV-Asparagus) because he read in a guidebook that this is the nickname for the TV Tower. Turns out that this is not true.

Gay parade

Quite a show. We got there after the parade was over, but the party was in full swing.

and I found a super-friend!!

he was really cool and said pretty much everyone asked him for a picture. I believe him

In the Tiergarten Park, escaping the gay parade party madness for a while

How long have these bottlecaps been there?

Getting beers so we can sit in the park and drink them, which turned out to be one of our favorite pastimes.

Off to Potsdam! Here is the original Brandenburger Tor, but it's not as famous as the one in Berlin.

The weather cooperated to allow us a fantastic day trip to Potsdam, which is about an hour's train ride away from Berlin.

This park, Sanssouci, is giant and takes up like half the city. No joke.

Tried to capture Niko in his element, that is, with his electronic cigarette in hand

We went in this! It's got a giant room decorated with shells all over the walls.

On the way home, we stopped off at Wannsee just to have a look around, and eat some Döner kebap.

It was here that a real punk told us that we'd found the nicest, most beautiful spot in all of Berlin. "Bwoah" was the word he used to describe it, I believe. He was friends with the ducks and swans there, and had been living there for 3 years by the water.

Enjoying the pretty view

It reminded me of being on the Puget Sound

Berlin boat!

Serious memories of the PNW.

this is Berlin in a nutshell. Found this taped to a lightpost in Treptower Park. Drugs on the honor system.

Niko and I at the Williams Fitzsimmons show

I don't remember why I thought I should take this photo.

BBQ to celebrate the nice weather on the last day of July. On the left is my old roommate Lony, whom I lived with for all of May and June.

Simon, from Germany, and Tim, from Australia. Tim and I play music together some, more now that William is gone. We have weekly Saturday BBQs when the weather is good, meaning we've missed 2 weeks' worth of BBQs now. Have I complained about the weather to you guys yet??!?

Friends of Lony's

Our little BBQ area

Among some posts at Tempelhofer Park, an amazing giant open car-free space that is right next to my current apartment

Women's World Cup team spirit

One final group shot before Niko had to head back south.

The church across the street from my old apartment in Kreuzberg


We happened upon these fireworks a few days before the 4th of July.

Don't know what they were supposed to be for, but I just pretended they were to celebrate American independence.

My old room at the old apartment

The girl whose room I was subletting had this baby doll

It just... looks really realistic.

My favorite pilsner at the moment. Having a cold one at the Intertank

Jeff helped me move house and then we went to buy some stuff at IKEA.

No IKEA trip is complete without some Swedish Meatballs!!!!

And we even had bottomless drinks. You can't usually get that anywhere in Germany.

Thanks, IKEA!

Have you met the cutest U-Bahn in the world? Well, let me introduce you to ol' 2-Car U4.

Only 5 stops! Why did they even build this thing! Aw, but it's adorable, so we'll keep it. Please Mommy, can we keep it?

The subway stations are just so classy sometimes!
OK, so quick interlude here. Jeff and I went to a BOMB Bavarian restaurant in the Wilmersdorf area. He'd been there once before with a relative of his and made it his personal mission to return to it. It's called Zum Hax'nwirt, which is German for "The best experience  involving fried ham hocks you will ever have in your life." It became such a big deal to us that we kept putting it off for various reasons (not enough time, had eaten too much for lunch and didn't want a big dinner, blah blah blah) but it came to be Jeff's last night and we'd run out of time. So we waited all day to eat and worked up an appetite getting a giant, heavy old computer monitor to my apartment, which was a huge task (did they really not make flat screens until after 2002?). We basically earned the giant rivulets of grease and pork fat that we were about to pour down our throats. The prospect of this meal made me so happy that I did a Schweinhaxe happy dance right in front of the restaurant.

The magical, mystical interior of the Bavarian restaurant

Waiting for the waitress to bring us mountains of delicious food

Gratification is finally here, and it tastes like pork.

Ham hocks in our bellies and love in our hearts.

Celebrating the Fourth of July

Wet, rainy 4th means sitting inside and watching some beer pong in progress

Sophie is German but her husband is American, so she got to come to the party

Beer pong is the most American thing you can do on the 4th, I've been told.

Putting Jeff on the train to Tübingen. Sad to see him go! Jeff, please come back as soon as possible!
So that was the visit of two of my very favorite gentlemen! Niko and Jeff, please feel free to come back at any time, together or separately. Hope this is a good advertisement for anybody who has been considering visiting me but hasn't gotten here yet. It's fun! It's exciting! We can eat ham hocks together and I will dance!