Apparently it has been a week since my last entry… Time is moving quickly and days are blurring together. I’m almost half-way through the program and I feel that I only just arrived and that I’ve been here for years, all at the same time. The lack of contact I’ve had with friends and family at home is a pretty good indication of how comfortable I am in this city with these people and with my friends in the program.
I’ve been learning a lot in my German class, using just about everything we’ve been taught and then some. Kelsey is fluent in German, so traversing Germany with her is great for picking up conversational nuances. My sustainability class has been fascinating too, albeit a little scattered. We’ve looked at Dubai, the slums of Lagos, and, most interesting to the various Architecture students in the class, the Philological Library at the Freie Universität Berlin, designed by Lord Norman Foster and opened in 2006. It is a “squashed egg” shape affectionately referred to as “the Brain”. It is a free-standing structure supported by a tubular steel spaceframe between an inner glass-fiber membrane and an outer layer of glass and aluminum panels. Various vents can be opened in the sides of the inner membrane and sides and top of the outer membrane to facilitate air circulation: allowing warm air out and cool air in during the summer, and allowing for fresh air movement during the winter. Heating originates in the basement level where fresh air from outside is warmed in a double floor, then circulated up through the two free-standing concrete pillars that support the three levels of stacks and work stations that utilize radiant-floor heating. All in all, the library uses 38% less energy than other libraries of a comparable volume.
This past weekend (18-19 June), Kelsey, Pily, Seth, Megan, and I took a bus to Dresden to experience the weekend-long street festival and to visit some breathtaking Baroque architecture. The palaces, bridges, and churches in the Altstadt (old-town) were beautiful – grandiose examples from the height of King August the Strong’s power. In the Neustadt (new-town), a more “alternative” and progressive feel persists. The street festival was full of world music, techno DJs, artists, food from around the world (all of which is delicious), and vendors selling everything from Turkish kitsch to hammocks to ridiculous wigs. The party in the streets went on until around 2am Sunday morning (when the local polizei made the rounds so everyone in the neighborhood could sleep) and resumed around 10am with more booming techno and thronging masses in the streets. We checked out of our hostel, ate a huge brunch, and then spent some time with Seth’s friend Tina before catching our bus back to Berlin at 6pm. The whole weekend feels like one long day.
We’ve begun to settle down into more of a routine, opting to hang out in the park or in town with friends during the week instead of going out to see the sights (partially out of financial concerns, partially out of exhaustion). Our four-day trip to Krakow is quickly approaching, and after that we plan to visit Copenhagen, Freiburg, and possibly Prague; we’ll see how our money holds out (most of us have turned to grocery shopping to cut our spending, myself included – I’ll resort to salami, swiss, and lettuce pita sandwiches for when I get tired of falafel…).
Now that we’re all realizing that we need to slow down a little bit (even though we’re running out of weekends) I’ll be able to update this blog more often, and hopefully more completely. More to come soon!