The Grand Duke will play! Sonja is off visiting an archive today, so after a lazy morning with plenty of coffee, a large breakfast, and several hours of German news and culture on the radio (auf Deutsch naturlich!), I've managed to pull myself together to head out and run a few errands. First off is our local internet cafe, but the real point of the trip is to find a card and flowers for the Grand Duchess since tomorrow (June 24th) is our third anniversary.
We already purchased a porcelain tea service for each other while we were in Bremen last week, but I want to have a few additional small things to brighten the apartment when Sonja returns home later this afternoon. Then, this evening, it's off to dinner with a few friends. Tomorrow, we'll pobably kick around Berlin, specifically the Kreuzburg area of the city where Sonja lived for about two years in the mid-90s when she was a graduate student, doing research for her doctoral dissertation. Thursday, I will visit Berliner Zinnfiguren at some point and maybe find some additional figures to splurge on. We'll see.
Yesterday, the Grand Duchess and I toured the city, including the former site of Checkpoint Charlie, Humboldt University, and the large hole in the ground where the East German Palace of the Republic once stood (the former site of the Royal Palace -- The Schloss). We also had a delightful late lunch on the top floor of the Ka De We department, in the former West Berlin. Sonja tells me that the changes in the city over the last ten years or so are hard to fathom. Indeed, there is much high-end shopping along with expensive restaurants, bars, clubs, and cafes in both halves of the once divided city. In the former eastern half of Berlin, most of the buildings have been refurbished or replaced, and many inhabitants of the city are very well dressed and display conspicous affluence even if Berlin has the reputation of being a largely working class city.
For me, it's hard to reconcile the city I am in now with the black and white images of the former East Berlin, which I saw periodically on TV and in news magazines as a child, teenager, and young adult. The changes are simply amazing. But, the Grand Duchess points out that they have come at a cost, and the city of Berlin is now broke, so doing anything else generates considerable discussion and debate among the citizens and city government.
Just a few days remain now before the two of us head home next week. There is still a lot I'd like to see, but time is always a problem, and some things will just have to wait until a future visit. Sonja is already aiming for two years from now (Summer 2011)! Apparently, there is some kind of big grant that she wants to apply for before too long since the cut-off point is 42 years of age. It's some kind of big stipend meant to assist younger female academics. I think she has a good chance given her record of generating funding for her research, but the Grand Duchess tells me that the competition for these grants is stiff, so we'll have to see how it goes. In any case, we'll be back here before too long one way or another, so if there is something I miss, I'll see it the next time around. Ok, I've got some flowers and a card to find. . . Bis später männer!