Posts by Jonathan B.

 
 
 

The operation

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Last Monday, I had my last day of work at Charite hospital, and boy, what a last day it was! Everything started out the same as usual. The nurses and I did the morning rounds at 7 AM, entering every room after the team of doctors had finished to care for the patients. At 8 AM, I distributed breakfast to the patients (I am now really good at pouring cups of coffee with any combination of milk, sugar, artificial sweeteners, grape sugar). After I collected the breakfast trays from the rooms, however, the head nurse said that I would finally get to see an operation! She told me to report to the operation station in 15 minutes and that first I could eat some breakfast. In the break room, I sought to find a balance between eating enough that I wouldn’t get hungry during the operation and not so much that I might throw up. I had never seen an operation up to that point and I had not even been told what kind of operation I would be seeing. I decided to head downstairs a little bit early, since I didn’t want to miss the first incision, but it turned out I arrived plenty early. I entered the operation room with a new set of sterile clothes, a mouth covering and a shower cap as the nurses and doctors prepped all the equipment and instruments for the operation. The patient was lying in a bed and raised his hand slightly upward to greet me. “Hallo,” I said in reply. Once everything was ready, the procedure began by sticking a line with a camera down the patient’s throat to check for any new cancerous growths. This was actually the worst part I thought, since the patient was awake and looked like he was in a lot of pain the entire time. It was interesting to see the inside of his throat on the television screen. I only wish there could have been a more comfortable way of performing that first procedure. Next, the anesthesiologist put the patient to sleep and the head surgeon made the first incision. Once I realized that I wasn’t going to faint, I looked on with great interest as the surgeon cut deeper and found the skin tumors less than an inch under the surface of the patient’s left leg and abdomen. After the first surgeon removed a tumor, the second surgeon, who I think was doing the German equivalent of a residency, began sewing the patient back up. I was surprised by how little blood there was. The surgeons used these heated knives and prongs that immediately burned the flesh and prevented most of the bleeding. I also looked on with great interest as the anesthesiologist did his work. He recorded different readings throughout the operation and checked the patient’s pupils every once in a while to make sure that they were not too big. He told me that this was one way of measuring how much pain the patient was in. After about three hours, the surgeons used a staple gun to put the finishing touches on closing up the wounds and the anesthesiologist removed the gas tube. A few minutes later, the patient suddenly woke up and his first reaction after taking a deep breath of air was to try to get up. It took four people to hold him down before he realized what was going on and lay back down calmly. After the team of doctors and nurses used a sliding pad to transfer the patient from the operating table back to his bed, I headed back up to my station. At that point, it was 2 PM, closing time. I said my final goodbyes to the nurses and secretly left a little note for them expressing my gratitude on their bulletin board as I left.

I definitely feel a little sad that the internship is over now. There are many random things that remind me of the different patients and nurses. For example, there was one friendly diabetic patient who would always say “drücken” (push) to me in a very commanding way as I was squeezing blood out of his finger. Now, I always hear his voice in my head whenever I push a door open. I also have been frequently listening to the Berlin radio station 104.6 RTL (check it out online!), since that is the station the nurses would always have on during break. Really though, my journey toward becoming a doctor is just beginning, so I think the main part of me is really looking forward to my next internship in Heidelberg that will begin on May 14 in which I will be helping a PhD student with her project on developing laparoscopic surgery technology that focuses on an anatomical area called the retroperitoneum. Should be fun!      

In other news, there was one weird night where I couldn’t stay in my apartment, since a new person was moving in and I couldn’t begin crashing in my flatmate Frederic’s room (Danke Frederic!) until the next night. So my friend Conor was nice enough to host me for a night (Danke Conor!). We went to this Mexican restautant called Alcatraz that claims to have the best fajitas in Berlin and although I have not had fajitas anywhere else in the city, I would not dispute this claim! Finally, I checked out the Berlin Wall Documentation center one day and that was pretty cool. That’s all for now! I’ll have some traveling to report on next time. Danke furs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!

The operation

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Last Monday, I had my last day of work at Charite hospital, and boy, what a last day it was! Everything started out the same as usual. The nurses and I did the morning rounds at 7 AM, entering every room after the team of doctors had finished to care for the patients. At 8 AM, I distributed breakfast to the patients (I am now really good at pouring cups of coffee with any combination of milk, sugar, artificial sweeteners, grape sugar). After I collected the breakfast trays from the rooms, however, the head nurse said that I would finally get to see an operation! She told me to report to the operation station in 15 minutes and that first I could eat some breakfast. In the break room, I sought to find a balance between eating enough that I wouldn’t get hungry during the operation and not so much that I might throw up. I had never seen an operation up to that point and I had not even been told what kind of operation I would be seeing. I decided to head downstairs a little bit early, since I didn’t want to miss the first incision, but it turned out I arrived plenty early. I entered the operation room with a new set of sterile clothes, a mouth covering and a shower cap as the nurses and doctors prepped all the equipment and instruments for the operation. The patient was lying in a bed and raised his hand slightly upward to greet me. “Hallo,” I said in reply. Once everything was ready, the procedure began by sticking a line with a camera down the patient’s throat to check for any new cancerous growths. This was actually the worst part I thought, since the patient was awake and looked like he was in a lot of pain the entire time. It was interesting to see the inside of his throat on the television screen. I only wish there could have been a more comfortable way of performing that first procedure. Next, the anesthesiologist put the patient to sleep and the head surgeon made the first incision. Once I realized that I wasn’t going to faint, I looked on with great interest as the surgeon cut deeper and found the skin tumors less than an inch under the surface of the patient’s left leg and abdomen. After the first surgeon removed a tumor, the second surgeon, who I think was doing the German equivalent of a residency, began sewing the patient back up. I was surprised by how little blood there was. The surgeons used these heated knives and prongs that immediately burned the flesh and prevented most of the bleeding. I also looked on with great interest as the anesthesiologist did his work. He recorded different readings throughout the operation and checked the patient’s pupils every once in a while to make sure that they were not too big. He told me that this was one way of measuring how much pain the patient was in. After about three hours, the surgeons used a staple gun to put the finishing touches on closing up the wounds and the anesthesiologist removed the gas tube. A few minutes later, the patient suddenly woke up and his first reaction after taking a deep breath of air was to try to get up. It took four people to hold him down before he realized what was going on and lay back down calmly. After the team of doctors and nurses used a sliding pad to transfer the patient from the operating table back to his bed, I headed back up to my station. At that point, it was 2 PM, closing time. I said my final goodbyes to the nurses and secretly left a little note for them expressing my gratitude on their bulletin board as I left.

I definitely feel a little sad that the internship is over now. There are many random things that remind me of the different patients and nurses. For example, there was one friendly diabetic patient who would always say “drücken” (push) to me in a very commanding way as I was squeezing blood out of his finger. Now, I always hear his voice in my head whenever I push a door open. I also have been frequently listening to the Berlin radio station 104.6 RTL (check it out online!), since that is the station the nurses would always have on during break. Really though, my journey toward becoming a doctor is just beginning, so I think the main part of me is really looking forward to my next internship in Heidelberg that will begin on May 14 in which I will be helping a PhD student with her project on developing laparoscopic surgery technology that focuses on an anatomical area called the retroperitoneum. Should be fun!      

In other news, there was one weird night where I couldn’t stay in my apartment, since a new person was moving in and I couldn’t begin crashing in my flatmate Frederic’s room (Danke Frederic!) until the next night. So my friend Conor was nice enough to host me for a night (Danke Conor!). We went to this Mexican restautant called Alcatraz that claims to have the best fajitas in Berlin and although I have not had fajitas anywhere else in the city, I would not dispute this claim! Finally, I checked out the Berlin Wall Documentation center one day and that was pretty cool. That’s all for now! I’ll have some traveling to report on next time. Danke furs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!

Having fun

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

As I write this post, there are only five more days left of my internship! April is certainly flying by faster than any other month I have been Germany. You know what they say about when time flies! Here’s a summary of what I’ve been up to since Wiener Schnitzel night:

Der Zoologische Garten: The Berlin Zoo has more species of animals than any other zoo in the world! Needless to say, it’s a big place! My two flatmates, Jim and Frederic, and I spent four hours there checking out the different exhibits. My favorites were the elephants, black bears, brown bears, polar bears, penguins, sea lions, and hippopotamuses to name a few. Two more are worth mentioning. The first was the leaf cutter ants on the third floor of the aquarium (Yes, there is actually an aquarium at the zoo too! Not very big, but worth the 5 extra euros to check out). There were two display cases on opposite sides of a large room and glass tubes that went along the ceiling connecting them, simulating the long distances the ants will carry leaves back to their colonies. The next brought me back to 1996-97 when my kindergarten class at Hoover School put on a play called The Great Kapok Tree.My friend Michael and I were both ocelots. I have never actually seen a live ocelot until I got to Berlin, so that was pretty cool as well!

Philharmonie: Maybe some of my readers will remember that visiting the Philharmonie (the concert hall of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra) was the subject of my college application essay. I discovered it on my own during the 3-day visit to Berlin with my German exchange group and was very excited to be able to hear the orchestra from the lobby! Jump ahead three years later and I knew that I had to get inside the concert hall this time around. It turns out that all the concerts of the Philharmonic sell out months in advance, plus the tickets are SUPER expensive, so I was happy spending 2 euros (3 euros if you’re a student) to take the guided tour of the building that leaves from the musicians’ entrance every day at 1:30 PM. The musicians’ entrance can be reached by crossing the parking lot located on the side of the concert hall closest to Potsdamer Straße (shameless plug for the guided tour, it’s great!). Anyway, the tour begins by walking to the main lobby that I mentioned earlier. The guide remarked how compared to other concert halls, the lobby of the Philharmonie is unornate. No red carpet, no fancy decorations, instead a wide open space where friends can meet up before the concert and chat or have a drink. (I’ll tell you what I remember about the tour in case you’re not going to be in Berlin any time soon. If I bore you, by all means, skip ahead, or better yet, stop reading all together and google “cat memes” for the next hour or so.) In the lobby, there is this really cool panorama in which a photographer photo-shopped at least a few hundred clones of himself to fill the lobby, concert hall, and stage. It was quite amusing to see what he was doing all over the picture. Next, we headed up to the top level of the concert hall and as we walked in, I heard music! No, it wasn’t the orchestra, but a solo clarinetist was rehearsing on stage, so we got to hear the acoustics of the hall, which were really quite good. The guide went into all of the small details that the architect, Hans Scharoun, used to produce the best possible sound in a hall in which the orchestra is placed in the middle. He got a lot of criticism in the 60s about how it would never work. Many at the time were strong proponents of your standard “shoe box” concert hall, in which the sound bounces directly off the back wall behind the orchestra and into the audience. Scharoun though was a big fan of democracy the tour guide said, and if you look at the seating plan you’ll see that except for a small section right in front of the orchestra, all of the seats are pretty equal in terms out what you see and what you hear. Everyone ends up having a different experience depending on where they sit, but the quality of the experience remains more or less equal. Not to mention that the ascetics of the hall are amazing. We ended the tour by visiting the chamber music hall as well, where a children’s choir was rehearsing. It was pretty much a smaller version of the Philharmonie designed by a protégé of Scharoun’s keeping his democratic ideals in mind. I’ll just end by addressing one issue that might have popped up in your head as you were reading this: how democratic is the Philharmonic today with its super expensive concerts? The good news is that every Tuesday at 1 PM (another shameless plug J), the orchestra has free lunchtime concerts in the lobby that all are welcome to attend.        

Die Charite: I am still really enjoying my internship at Charite hospital, but at the same time, my rose colored glasses have definitely come off during the last week or so. It turns out that Germany’s health care system has its problems too. I had an interesting discussion with some of the nurses the other day during Frühstück (breakfast, for the nurses who do the morning shift it’s around 10 AM since they don’t take lunch) in which we compared nursing in the US and Germany. I think the main point they drove home was even though Germany spends much less on healthcare than the US, less money puts more stress on nurses and doctors to deliver quality health care to patients. For example, a nurse that cares for patients at home often has to visit up to 20 patients in a single day! I don’t know how it is in the US, but I would be very surprised if that was also the case for American nurses. In addition, doctors at the Charite have been threatening to go on strike for quite some time now. I’m not sure about the specifics, but the idea of doctors going on strike in the US is literally unheard of as far as I know. Finally, I have even come to the conclusion that my position as a student intern only exists to help cut costs even further. My only pay is free food at breakfast and lunch that is leftover from serving the patients and there is rarely a moment when I am sitting around with nothing to do. It is clear that the nurses I work with are overwhelmed with work most days and I can only imagine what it is like without a student intern to lend a hand. Probably one of the biggest things I’ll take away from this internship when it’s over is a newfound respect for nurses. I had really no idea beforehand how much they do in an 8-hour shift that tends to actually be 9 hours. In Germany, a three-month nursing internship at the beginning of medical school is actually mandatory and I think it would be good to introduce at the very least a similar option in the US. The result is that every doctor in Germany knows firsthand what it is like to be a nurse and I am sure that does tons in terms of the potential for doctors and nurses to collaborate in providing the best possible care for patients.

Wow, this post turned out to be pretty long, my apologies. I hope it was at least somewhat interesting for you to read. Stay tuned for my next post when Jonathan finishes his internship at the Charite and begins a well-deserved two week break before starting internship #2 in Heidelberg! At least the author thinks the break will be well-deserved J. Danke fürs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!     

Having fun

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

As I write this post, there are only five more days left of my internship! April is certainly flying by faster than any other month I have been Germany. You know what they say about when time flies! Here’s a summary of what I’ve been up to since Wiener Schnitzel night:

Der Zoologische Garten: The Berlin Zoo has more species of animals than any other zoo in the world! Needless to say, it’s a big place! My two flatmates, Jim and Frederic, and I spent four hours there checking out the different exhibits. My favorites were the elephants, black bears, brown bears, polar bears, penguins, sea lions, and hippopotamuses to name a few. Two more are worth mentioning. The first was the leaf cutter ants on the third floor of the aquarium (Yes, there is actually an aquarium at the zoo too! Not very big, but worth the 5 extra euros to check out). There were two display cases on opposite sides of a large room and glass tubes that went along the ceiling connecting them, simulating the long distances the ants will carry leaves back to their colonies. The next brought me back to 1996-97 when my kindergarten class at Hoover School put on a play called The Great Kapok Tree.My friend Michael and I were both ocelots. I have never actually seen a live ocelot until I got to Berlin, so that was pretty cool as well!

Philharmonie: Maybe some of my readers will remember that visiting the Philharmonie (the concert hall of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra) was the subject of my college application essay. I discovered it on my own during the 3-day visit to Berlin with my German exchange group and was very excited to be able to hear the orchestra from the lobby! Jump ahead three years later and I knew that I had to get inside the concert hall this time around. It turns out that all the concerts of the Philharmonic sell out months in advance, plus the tickets are SUPER expensive, so I was happy spending 2 euros (3 euros if you’re a student) to take the guided tour of the building that leaves from the musicians’ entrance every day at 1:30 PM. The musicians’ entrance can be reached by crossing the parking lot located on the side of the concert hall closest to Potsdamer Straße (shameless plug for the guided tour, it’s great!). Anyway, the tour begins by walking to the main lobby that I mentioned earlier. The guide remarked how compared to other concert halls, the lobby of the Philharmonie is unornate. No red carpet, no fancy decorations, instead a wide open space where friends can meet up before the concert and chat or have a drink. (I’ll tell you what I remember about the tour in case you’re not going to be in Berlin any time soon. If I bore you, by all means, skip ahead, or better yet, stop reading all together and google “cat memes” for the next hour or so.) In the lobby, there is this really cool panorama in which a photographer photo-shopped at least a few hundred clones of himself to fill the lobby, concert hall, and stage. It was quite amusing to see what he was doing all over the picture. Next, we headed up to the top level of the concert hall and as we walked in, I heard music! No, it wasn’t the orchestra, but a solo clarinetist was rehearsing on stage, so we got to hear the acoustics of the hall, which were really quite good. The guide went into all of the small details that the architect, Hans Scharoun, used to produce the best possible sound in a hall in which the orchestra is placed in the middle. He got a lot of criticism in the 60s about how it would never work. Many at the time were strong proponents of your standard “shoe box” concert hall, in which the sound bounces directly off the back wall behind the orchestra and into the audience. Scharoun though was a big fan of democracy the tour guide said, and if you look at the seating plan you’ll see that except for a small section right in front of the orchestra, all of the seats are pretty equal in terms out what you see and what you hear. Everyone ends up having a different experience depending on where they sit, but the quality of the experience remains more or less equal. Not to mention that the ascetics of the hall are amazing. We ended the tour by visiting the chamber music hall as well, where a children’s choir was rehearsing. It was pretty much a smaller version of the Philharmonie designed by a protégé of Scharoun’s keeping his democratic ideals in mind. I’ll just end by addressing one issue that might have popped up in your head as you were reading this: how democratic is the Philharmonic today with its super expensive concerts? The good news is that every Tuesday at 1 PM (another shameless plug J), the orchestra has free lunchtime concerts in the lobby that all are welcome to attend.        

Die Charite: I am still really enjoying my internship at Charite hospital, but at the same time, my rose colored glasses have definitely come off during the last week or so. It turns out that Germany’s health care system has its problems too. I had an interesting discussion with some of the nurses the other day during Frühstück (breakfast, for the nurses who do the morning shift it’s around 10 AM since they don’t take lunch) in which we compared nursing in the US and Germany. I think the main point they drove home was even though Germany spends much less on healthcare than the US, less money puts more stress on nurses and doctors to deliver quality health care to patients. For example, a nurse that cares for patients at home often has to visit up to 20 patients in a single day! I don’t know how it is in the US, but I would be very surprised if that was also the case for American nurses. In addition, doctors at the Charite have been threatening to go on strike for quite some time now. I’m not sure about the specifics, but the idea of doctors going on strike in the US is literally unheard of as far as I know. Finally, I have even come to the conclusion that my position as a student intern only exists to help cut costs even further. My only pay is free food at breakfast and lunch that is leftover from serving the patients and there is rarely a moment when I am sitting around with nothing to do. It is clear that the nurses I work with are overwhelmed with work most days and I can only imagine what it is like without a student intern to lend a hand. Probably one of the biggest things I’ll take away from this internship when it’s over is a newfound respect for nurses. I had really no idea beforehand how much they do in an 8-hour shift that tends to actually be 9 hours. In Germany, a three-month nursing internship at the beginning of medical school is actually mandatory and I think it would be good to introduce at the very least a similar option in the US. The result is that every doctor in Germany knows firsthand what it is like to be a nurse and I am sure that does tons in terms of the potential for doctors and nurses to collaborate in providing the best possible care for patients.

Wow, this post turned out to be pretty long, my apologies. I hope it was at least somewhat interesting for you to read. Stay tuned for my next post when Jonathan finishes his internship at the Charite and begins a well-deserved two week break before starting internship #2 in Heidelberg! At least the author thinks the break will be well-deserved J. Danke fürs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!     

An unofficial guide to Berlin Mitte

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Hallo alle! (Hello everyone!) I’ve been pretty busy since the last time I wrote, so I’ll do my best to sum up what I’ve been up to without making this post extremely long.

Two Fridays ago, I achieved my childhood dream of seeing the Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum. Ever since I learned about the gate in middle school and found out it was in Berlin, I have really, really wanted to go see it. Since I didn’t get a chance to see it the last time I was in Berlin in 2008, I made sure that on my first day off from my internship (Good Friday) I went and saw it. It was spectacular! I posted a video you can see in the link above, but it is better to just visit it in person if you ever get the chance. The rest of the museum actually wasn’t all that amazing, but the admission cost of 6,50 Euro was worth it just for the gate. After the museum, I wandered around Berlin a bit and managed to get into the Berlin Cathedral for free by going to a Good Friday service there. It really does seem like the best way to see a church is to simply go to a service there, which worked very well for my friend Dylan and I at Notre Dame in Paris. Speaking of Paris, there was a copy of Hammurabi’s code in front of the Ishtar Gate. It felt pretty good to know that I had already seen the original in the Lourve J

Saturday was also a fun night since my friend Emily invited me and several other students from the Middlebury program in Berlin to her place for dinner (Danke Emily!). We made lasagne sandwiches that Paula Deen herself would have been proud of and a veggie lasagne that I think she also would have appreciated after her diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Oh well, but as one of my biology professors once said “what would life be without bacon?” After dinner, some of us went clubbing until the wee hours of the morning, so that was a good time.         

On Sunday, two new people entered my life. The first is named Jim and he will be my roommate for the remainder of the month. The second is named Ben. Yeah, he’s not exactly a new person in my life as we’ve known each other since childhood, but I had a great time hosting him for a week as he travels around Europe.

I’ll employ a list here (in chronological order) to give an overview of some of the places I visited last week with Ben and/or Jim. Consider it an unofficial guide to Berlin Mitte!

Reichstag: The home of the German parliament. Haven’t found a reason yet to wait in line to go up to the roof

Brandenburg Gate: Commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II in the 1730s to represent peace. Perhaps the most iconic image of Berlin (at least on the windows of the U-Bahn)

Holocaust Memorial: The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe covers 4.7 acres with its blocks of concrete that make the visitor feel disoriented while walking through. Whether you like the memorial or not, it does immortalize the remorse Germans feel to this day concerning the atrocities committed during WWII

Potsdamer Platz/Sony Center: I made the mistake of showing Ben and Jim this place during the day. Luckily, we went back in the evening to watch Hunger Games at the Cinestar there and when we got out of the theater, both understood why this is one of my favorite spots in Berlin

Philharmonie: This crazily-shaped yellow building is the home of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra. Also the subject of my college admissions essay, as I managed to locate it during my first trip to Berlin and got to hear the orchestra from the lobby

Checkpoint Charlie: The best known crossing point between the American and Soviet sectors of Berlin during the Cold War. Today you can pay to have your picture taken with the “border guards” there.  

Gedarmenmarkt: A cool square in Berlin that is the site of the Konzerthaus and the French and German cathedrals (actually museums). Bring your camera!

St. Hedwig’s Cathedral: The seat of the Catholic archbishop of Berlin. Father Bernhard Lichtenberg, who helped Jews during the Holocaust, is buried in a crypt here. 

Schinkel Museuem: A small, free museum located in a Neo-Gothic church. Keep walking east past the museum for a nice panorama of the Berlin Cathedral and Alexanderplatz

Book Burning Memorial: Located in front of the German Opera House, this memorial is comprised of a window embedded in the ground that looks down into a library with empty shelves. Accompanying the memorial is the eerie quote from Heinrich Heine, a German poet who lived 100 years before the Holocaust: Wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen. (Where one burns books, one also burns people in the end).  

Neue Wache: A memorial for all victims of war and tyranny. Käthe Kollwitz’s sculpture Mother with her Dead Son is at the center under the oculus, which leaves it exposed to rain and snow.

Berliner Dom: The Berlin Cathedral, a famous Protestant church in Berlin. Pretty cool interior, but as I said earlier, just go to a service and you don’t have to pay for admission.

Alexanderplatz: A cool square in Berlin that is the home of the towering Fernsehturm (TV tower). About a 5 minute walk from my apartment.

Topographie des Terrors: A free museum that documents that Nazis rise to power and atrocities during WWII. Ben and I spent a few hours here last Tuesday.

Restaurant Haus Berlin: A fairly inexpensive restaurant with a pretty good Wiener Schnitzel. More importantly, quality German beer from the tap for 3 Euros.    

East Side Gallery: A 1.3 km stretch of the Berlin Wall that is also the world’s largest open-air art gallery. A bit out of the way, but must-see for visitors to Berlin.

 Kurfürstendamm: Historic shopping area in West Berlin

 Nollendorfplatz: Berlin’s most prominent gay village

Natural History Museum: Jim and I checked out this museum on Saturday. Probably the most technologically advanced museums I have ever been to. Most exhibit descriptions have a hands-on interface that lets you touch certain words and a video or picture will pop up on an imbedded screen. There is also a cool outer space exhibit that has a circular couch that allows visitors to lie down and watch a movie about the formation of the Earth projected on a moving screen up above. Throw in the world’s largest mounted dinosaur and you’ve got a museum more than deserving of its own U-Bahn stop!  

Last night, Jim also taught me how to make Wiener Schnitzel! It was quite lecker (delicious). Now I’ll have a pseudo-German (Wien= Vienna) specialty that I can make for family/friends when I get back to the US! Danke fürs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!

An unofficial guide to Berlin Mitte

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Hallo alle! (Hello everyone!) I’ve been pretty busy since the last time I wrote, so I’ll do my best to sum up what I’ve been up to without making this post extremely long.

Two Fridays ago, I achieved my childhood dream of seeing the Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum. Ever since I learned about the gate in middle school and found out it was in Berlin, I have really, really wanted to go see it. Since I didn’t get a chance to see it the last time I was in Berlin in 2008, I made sure that on my first day off from my internship (Good Friday) I went and saw it. It was spectacular! I posted a video you can see in the link above, but it is better to just visit it in person if you ever get the chance. The rest of the museum actually wasn’t all that amazing, but the admission cost of 6,50 Euro was worth it just for the gate. After the museum, I wandered around Berlin a bit and managed to get into the Berlin Cathedral for free by going to a Good Friday service there. It really does seem like the best way to see a church is to simply go to a service there, which worked very well for my friend Dylan and I at Notre Dame in Paris. Speaking of Paris, there was a copy of Hammurabi’s code in front of the Ishtar Gate. It felt pretty good to know that I had already seen the original in the Lourve J

Saturday was also a fun night since my friend Emily invited me and several other students from the Middlebury program in Berlin to her place for dinner (Danke Emily!). We made lasagne sandwiches that Paula Deen herself would have been proud of and a veggie lasagne that I think she also would have appreciated after her diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Oh well, but as one of my biology professors once said “what would life be without bacon?” After dinner, some of us went clubbing until the wee hours of the morning, so that was a good time.         

On Sunday, two new people entered my life. The first is named Jim and he will be my roommate for the remainder of the month. The second is named Ben. Yeah, he’s not exactly a new person in my life as we’ve known each other since childhood, but I had a great time hosting him for a week as he travels around Europe.

I’ll employ a list here (in chronological order) to give an overview of some of the places I visited last week with Ben and/or Jim. Consider it an unofficial guide to Berlin Mitte!

Reichstag: The home of the German parliament. Haven’t found a reason yet to wait in line to go up to the roof

Brandenburg Gate: Commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II in the 1730s to represent peace. Perhaps the most iconic image of Berlin (at least on the windows of the U-Bahn)

Holocaust Memorial: The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe covers 4.7 acres with its blocks of concrete that make the visitor feel disoriented while walking through. Whether you like the memorial or not, it does immortalize the remorse Germans feel to this day concerning the atrocities committed during WWII

Potsdamer Platz/Sony Center: I made the mistake of showing Ben and Jim this place during the day. Luckily, we went back in the evening to watch Hunger Games at the Cinestar there and when we got out of the theater, both understood why this is one of my favorite spots in Berlin

Philharmonie: This crazily-shaped yellow building is the home of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra. Also the subject of my college admissions essay, as I managed to locate it during my first trip to Berlin and got to hear the orchestra from the lobby

Checkpoint Charlie: The best known crossing point between the American and Soviet sectors of Berlin during the Cold War. Today you can pay to have your picture taken with the “border guards” there.  

Gedarmenmarkt: A cool square in Berlin that is the site of the Konzerthaus and the French and German cathedrals (actually museums). Bring your camera!

St. Hedwig’s Cathedral: The seat of the Catholic archbishop of Berlin. Father Bernhard Lichtenberg, who helped Jews during the Holocaust, is buried in a crypt here. 

Schinkel Museuem: A small, free museum located in a Neo-Gothic church. Keep walking east past the museum for a nice panorama of the Berlin Cathedral and Alexanderplatz

Book Burning Memorial: Located in front of the German Opera House, this memorial is comprised of a window embedded in the ground that looks down into a library with empty shelves. Accompanying the memorial is the eerie quote from Heinrich Heine, a German poet who lived 100 years before the Holocaust: Wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen. (Where one burns books, one also burns people in the end).  

Neue Wache: A memorial for all victims of war and tyranny. Käthe Kollwitz’s sculpture Mother with her Dead Son is at the center under the oculus, which leaves it exposed to rain and snow.

Berliner Dom: The Berlin Cathedral, a famous Protestant church in Berlin. Pretty cool interior, but as I said earlier, just go to a service and you don’t have to pay for admission.

Alexanderplatz: A cool square in Berlin that is the home of the towering Fernsehturm (TV tower). About a 5 minute walk from my apartment.

Topographie des Terrors: A free museum that documents that Nazis rise to power and atrocities during WWII. Ben and I spent a few hours here last Tuesday.

Restaurant Haus Berlin: A fairly inexpensive restaurant with a pretty good Wiener Schnitzel. More importantly, quality German beer from the tap for 3 Euros.    

East Side Gallery: A 1.3 km stretch of the Berlin Wall that is also the world’s largest open-air art gallery. A bit out of the way, but must-see for visitors to Berlin.

 Kurfürstendamm: Historic shopping area in West Berlin

 Nollendorfplatz: Berlin’s most prominent gay village

Natural History Museum: Jim and I checked out this museum on Saturday. Probably the most technologically advanced museums I have ever been to. Most exhibit descriptions have a hands-on interface that lets you touch certain words and a video or picture will pop up on an imbedded screen. There is also a cool outer space exhibit that has a circular couch that allows visitors to lie down and watch a movie about the formation of the Earth projected on a moving screen up above. Throw in the world’s largest mounted dinosaur and you’ve got a museum more than deserving of its own U-Bahn stop!  

Last night, Jim also taught me how to make Wiener Schnitzel! It was quite lecker (delicious). Now I’ll have a pseudo-German (Wien= Vienna) specialty that I can make for family/friends when I get back to the US! Danke fürs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!

Berlin begins

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

To my faithful readers:

First off, I apologize that this post and all posts until further notice are in English. I would love to continue to write in German, but so far in Berlin I have found that I simply do not have as much time as I used to to dedicate to this blog. To all my past German teachers, please do not fear, I am still speaking German for eight hours a day in my nursing internship in the general surgery wing of Charite hospital (more on that later, if you’re curious where I work type in “hospital” on Wikipedia, click “Deutsch” on the left to get the German translation and the first picture on the right is where I will spend 40 hrs a week this month). Second, I apologize that it has been 2 WHOLE WEEKS since I last wrote, but things have been pretty busy lately . . .

On my birthday (Mar 24), I successfully moved to Berlin. It was kind of a pain to lug my 50 pound suitcase to the Mainz Hauptbahnhof (Central Train Station) and transfer in Leipzig, but once I arrived at Berlin Hauptbahnhof, I was delighted to see my friend Pete, who has been studying abroad in Berlin since October. (See, I still can use some German here and there ;) The first thing that struck me about Berlin was how ENORMOUS it is. I knew it was big before coming, but for example it took 40 minutes by bus to get from the Hauptbahnhof to Pete’s place in Steglitz, a locality in SW Berlin. That felt like an eternity compared to the 5 minutes it took to get from my former residence in Mainz to its respective Hauptbahnhof. In the end though, I saw it as a good thing. There is more than enough to discover in Berlin during the 5 weeks I am here!

I had a nice time staying with Pete for three nights (Danke schön Pete!). We saw the new movie Hunger Games at Potsdamer Platz on Saturday night which was fun and also went to listen to some really good jazz music at das Edelweiss on Tuesday night. Saturday night, was of course my birthday, so Pete and I along with another friend went out to an Eiscafe(ice cream café) and it actually turned out to be the same one I went to with all my fellow American GAPP students when I was in Berlin in 2008. You can still order ice cream that looks like a burger and fries or a snowman. Weird, yet also delicious!

I spent two nights with a colleague of my Dad’s named Gregor and his family. They were really nice to host me and I had a great time with them. (Danke schön Gregor und Familie!)

Then, right before I was able to move into my apartment a week after I had arrived in Berlin, my friend Talel lent me his couch for two nights, so that was really awesome of him! (Danke schön Talel!). He also organized a nice get-together at his place on Friday night that Pete and some Wellesley friends of ours attended. The night concluded by going to a bar in Friedrichshain called the Sanatorium, where a friend of Talel’s was spinning records. It was a lot of fun!

Since then, this past Monday, my internship started and that has not been nearly as fun, but definitely super rewarding! Prior to starting, I really dreaded the thought of being around sick people for a whole month. I thought at the very least, I would have the opportunity to explore Berlin when I am not working. Instead, I honestly look forward to going in M-F at 6 AM to see “my patients” and the team of nurses that I have been assisting. I can’t go into too much detail, because of rules about confidentiality, but there is something just really powerful about the way that patients allow you to see them when they are most vulnerable and trust you to do nothing but the best you can to help them get better. Then, after you take their blood pressure or check their glucose levels (the two simple tasks I have learned so far, that I am nevertheless extremely proud of!), most of the patients just have this incredible smile on their face and say thank you in this way that makes your day. I guess we’ll see if the month takes its toll on me or if I remain in this honeymoon stage with nursing indefinitely.    

Even after just three days of my internship, I am now set on applying to med school and seeing what happens. I feel like I am behind all of the pre-med students that have been preparing before even starting college, but I know that if I try my hardest and use my brain, I will have as good of a shot as anyone else trying to get in.

That’s all for now. Gotta be back at Charite at 6 AM tomorrow for Day 4. Should be good! Danke furs Lesen und bis nächstes Mal!(Thanks for reading and until next time!)