Alexa’s Blog – Day 4

The following events transpired on 5/15/13.

Ah, another busy day in Berlin. Today was special because the weather was lovely – the sun was out and everything! That’s a huge change from the chill we’ve been dealing with since we arrived.

We started our day at ZDF sitting in on their late morning talk show, which was wonderful. The hosts seemed so laid back and the audience was calm and collected – the exact opposite of what American talk shows seem to be like. I couldn’t understand what was going on but I was able to get the gist of it from their visual aids. It hardly felt like we were on a television show at all. The set was so convincing as a cafe.

After sitting in on the show, we were able to get a short tour of the studio with a group of Palestinians followed by a meeting with Wulf Schmiese, one of the hosts. He is an insanely interesting guy with a background in hard news and it was different to see someone with his experience now hosting a talk show, of all things. It did get a bit awkward at a point because one of the Palestinian women proceeded to go into full-on lecture mode on poor Wulf over an issue in their country. I was impressed at how quickly Wulf bounced back from that and was able to give them an answer that turned things away from their struggle a bit.

After our ZDF visit concluded, we visited a chocolate shop and had lunch at Maximilian’s near the American district and enjoyed more wonderful German food. I was inclined to be cheap today so I played it safe with potato soup, cabbage salad and a beer. The food here hasn’t disappointed me yet.

Our big day continued with a visit to Deutsche Presse Agentur, where we had a meeting with Christian Rowekamp and Michael Keppler who talked about their mission to serve their clients before they served themselves. They had such a great perspective with DPA that was unfamiliar to me because they are so committed to being behind the scenes and staying there. I loved Michael’s photo of the Pope’s hand – I swear I’ve seen it before. I want to look for it online to see what American publications have featured it, because I know I’ve seen it before.

The DPA newsroom is exactly how I think a newsroom should look like. It’s separated yet open. Everyone in their own department but no one is confined into cubicles or on separate floors. I think that unity is important for all elements of news to flow together. It seems like everyone at DPA would be close knit for this reason.

After leaving DPA we headed back to the hotel where I caught up on some much needed rest. I ate leftovers and crashed on my bed. I definitely needed that recharge for the Reichstag visit.

The Reichstag was absolutely stunning. Places like these hold so much history and seem like they have a life of their own. The outside is beautiful. The inside is beautiful. I can’t say enough about this place. Historical sites are one thing that I prefer to do alone. I like having my own time to process all the information, read, analyze photographs, and just enjoy myself at my own pace. The photographs on the ground floor of the dome were so compelling. I was captivated by them, especially a photo of a young man carrying his bike through the hole in the Berlin Wall. There was another photograph with a caption that said: “NSDAP parliamentary group leaves the auditorium; only Joseph Goebbels remains as an observer.” How chilling.

Now that I have some time tonight relax and reflect before another crazy day tomorrow, it’s safe to say that I couldn’t be in Germany with better people. I was a bit nervous initially signing up for the class because I went in knowing one person, and I know that I’m inclined to be very quiet in class and not interact with anyone much. I find it difficult to talk to people. How am I going to go on a 12-day trip with people that I see in class once a week? Thankfully, everyone in this class is just awesome and we’re all pretty weird, which definitely helps. I speak sometimes, too! If anyone reads this, you are wonderful and don’t ever forget it!

Alexa’s Blog – Day 3

The following events transpired on 5/14/13.

Before our official visits even started for day 3, the students took matters into their own hands. We had free time until 1:00 pm, when we had to meet up for our visit to Deutsche Welle. But first, we took the train to East Berlin and checked out the East Side Gallery, which is a memorial to the Berlin Wall as well as a showcase to the beautiful artwork painted on the remnants of the Wall from renowned 1990s artists. Each and every piece was so unique and beautiful.

Yesterday and today, we spent copious amounts of time riding the train and just as it was starting to get easier to navigate, we were thrown through a loop and I was confused all over again. Thankfully we have some solid navigators in our little group and we arrived back at the hotel just in time to leave for Deutsche Welle. Which, of course, involved more time spent on the train. We ended but being a bit late for our meeting at Deutsche Welle due to a wrong turn and a lot of walking. My feet hurt just thinking about it.

At Deutsche Welle, we had a fantastic lecture from Fabian van der Mark, the Head of office managing director multimedia global (whew!) followed by a tour of Deutsche Welle’s inner workings. We were able to see the news rooms, control rooms, and even hang out in their studio before a broadcast. And – best of all – we went onto the rooftop and were able to catch a glimpse of the beautiful view of Berlin that these lucky journalists get to see every day.

Following the Deutsche Welle meeting, we had a short group meeting and scattered to find food (“scattered” being a word used lightly – seven of eleven of us decided on Italian next to the hotel) and took a stroll through Arkaden, a shopping center in Potsdamer Platz. And finally, our long day ends early. I can’t wait to get some rest. I feel like I’ve never been as tired as I was today. Here’s to looking forward to a very busy tomorrow.



Alexa’s Blog – Day 2

The following events transpired on 5/13/13.

What a day! We got our first taste of public transportation by way of the U-bahn to our first big media visit of the trip – a lecture at Freie Universitat by Dr. Elfriede Fursich. She supplied us with a ton of great information comparing German and American media. I was most surprised that Germans rely heavily on the radio and it has been the staple in the media landscape for decades. Still going strong, it contrasts immensely from the United States’ addiction to the Internet and social media. It’s a lot to think about, and definitely got me into the mindset of thinking about why their culture is the way it is.

Freie Universitat is a lovely campus. On our walk to the main building, we passed clusters of housing that were absolutely stunning – traditional architecture, beautiful pastel colors and stucco texture, balconies and flowers – I was ready to move in right then! Dr. Fursich told us that the housing around campus used to be a predominantly Jewish neighborhood.

Our afternoon visit was followed by free time for the rest of the night. I ended up walking through Berlin to exchange my US dollars with our guide, Lorena, along with Aimee, Katie, Connor and Michelle. It was like having our own private tour. It seems like Lorena knows just about everything and she was telling us all about the American sector that we were staying in and currently walking through. There was a piece of the Berlin Wall outside of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and a sign that alerted travelers that they were entering or leaving the American sector. You could certainly tell – there was a McDonald’s and a Dunkin Donuts not far from the sign.

Katie, Connor, Michelle and I stopped in at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and were blown away at the history. There were endless rooms full of stories, clothes, and artifacts from the escapees and other important figures from the Cold War and the dark days of the Berlin Wall. The most chilling room of all was filled with terrible stories of abducted and missing children.

After leaving Checkpoint Charlie, we met up with the rest of our group and continued exploring until it was time to leave for the club. I had never been to any kind of nightclub before so I was expecting the stereotypical techno music, strobe lights and fog machine. That’s exactly what we got at Tresor. We had a blast! And it’s great that Germans can’t dance because it made me feel better about how ridiculous I looked. What a great night – and looking forward to day 3!


DAY 1 – Start of an adventure

jewish mem

Me standing in the middle of a Holocaust memorial in Berlin


What a day. I am exhausted. But it had to be done. We had to push through today even though many of us were sleep deprived and slightly off-put by loss of luggage.

Despite crying babies, delayed flights due to lightening strikes and emergencies and rain, today was beautiful.

It was beautiful because of the wave of culture we just dove into.

It started with Paris. Even though we were just in the airport for a transfer, the fashion, the language, the poise and even the modern bathrooms were such a delight to behold.

Both of our tour guides went above and beyond to make us comfortable and to engage into the history and culture of Germany at the same time.

Half-dazed, I could still appreciate the fascinating and mysterious memorial for the Jews of the Holocaust in Berlin.

I managed to take as many photos as possible of all of the magnificent buildings, monuments and even relics of the Wall while on the bus and walking through Downtown. It was a wonderful hands-on history lesson.

Berlin is a different world. Modern architecture stands near aging cathedrals. Bicyclists speed past pedestrians on the sidewalk. Men wear bright blue skinny jeans with sweaters around their necks. It’s a little bit of a culture shock, and I love it.

As Americans, we are always searching for the antique and the ancient – where we came from – how were things back then. It is a yearning I am finding that will probably never be satisfied. But some Americans who tour Europe and other places bring upon themselves a bad reputation because they fail to respect these old cultures while they seek to expand their own.

My hope is that we not only diverge from following in the footsteps of those tourists, but also that we change the minds of some natives about Americans.

I’ve waited my whole life to come to Europe and I have rehearsed through my head many times what I would probably be doing and seeing – but never in a thousand years would I have guessed it would be anything like today. But that’s OK because something different is never necessarily something bad – it’s just the start of an adventure.

Alexa’s Blog – Day 1

When finally we landed in Berlin after a long night and day filled with delays and lost luggage, I was so tired that I could even begin to think about starting our tour of the city. After meeting the tour guides, it was clear that there would be no time for rest and we would be promptly be thrust into all the splendor that Berlin has to offer.

holocaust memorialI am so thankful for our guides for keeping us awake and thinking. Today’s bus tour of Berlin was such an easy and convenient way to see the city and get the overview of some stunning landmarks that I can’t wait to see up close and in person in the future. We made a short stop at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and, like most Holocaust remembrance sites, the meaning and physical representation wour as chilling.

After taking a moment to recharge and browse some local shops, we ended the bus tour in front of our hotel, which apparently has the strangest and most European things – a pull-out bed, two bathrooms (sort of), complimentary beverages in the fridge, and a quirky layout and color scheme.

Our down time was short lived and we headed out to our first official dinner as a group at a biergarten-style restaurant that pulled out all the stops in our delicious meal. I also ordered my first beer tonight from an actual restaurant! It’s the little things you can do overseas that you can’t do at home that get you excited.IMG_1713

So far, I have been running on about an hour and a half of sleep since yesterday evening when we boarded our Delta flight. I do not sleep well on transportation (trains, buses, cars, you name it), and my parents had me paranoid about the small crack in the plane’s nose from a previous flight. Between the two issues, I did not sleep a wink from Pittsburgh to Paris, leading to a very testy, yet delirious Alexa all day long. Tomorrow aims to be much less stressful and I can’t wait to spend the day at Freie University and exploring Berlin!