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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Favorite World Cities: My Vote
Created by John Eipper on 03/30/21 3:26 AM

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Favorite World Cities: My Vote (Helen Pitlick, USA, 03/30/21 3:26 am)

I certainly haven't traveled as extensively or in-depth as other WAISers, but loved Berlin when I visited a couple of years ago! It felt like the right mix of cosmopolitan and provincial, sophisticated and weird, international and local, hip and unpretentious.

There were all sorts of themed bars and restaurants that were part of the fabric of the city, not novelty attractions (my favorite was a dachshund-themed bar with complementary dachshund-shaped fries, which sounds super tacky but was actually a quiet, understated place to get a beer), and everywhere we went was welcoming to travelers without catering to them.

One of my colleagues at the time was German, and one day at work we had talked about kegeln, an old-timey German bowling game that's sort of like candlepin bowling (I like bowling a lot). So I found a place to kegel in Berlin, in a tiny, creepy basement room in a cafe that looked like it hasn't been renovated in a century, and it was a blast, even if we couldn't figure out the rules.

There's history everywhere in Berlin (good and very bad, obviously), but the graffiti and street art keep it modern. You can go to an outdoor market and drink red and green Berliner weisse in a garden while your traveling companion gets a tattoo, then buy a vintage dirndl and a zine about a cat and finish the day with a four-course meal at a celebrated vegan restaurant.

San Francisco is maybe the closest equivalent city that I've been to, and I hope that the cool and weird things don't get priced out of Berlin by tech money, though I am sure that's already happening.

JE comments:  Berlin is undeniably cool, even though I'd pass on the tattoo (I am not that cool).  Great memories from my one visit, in 2009.  A confession:  I'm something of a wanted man in that city, as six months after our visit, I received an official letter with an €80 fine for some traffic infraction in my rented Seat Ibiza.  I have no idea what I did, or how they found me, and I threw the letter away.  (Probably shouldn't have admitted this on a public website.)


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  • Memories of Berlin in the Early 1990s (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/31/21 3:37 AM)
    Helen Pitlick's post on Berlin (March 30th) inspired me to share this memory:

    In my first trip to Berlin in the early 1990s, I was asked to organize a panel on the management of technology for a big conference. Our hotel was in West Berlin but the really impressive government buildings were mostly in East Berlin (amidst dilapidated houses) or their border.


    For the conference I invited Robert Bell, then my Dean, and Ron Marston, then CEO for HCA. In separate days off, I walked with each of them from the hotel to the Brandenburg Gate or vicinity where the action was. It felt like my long walks from near the train station in Rome to the Vatican (around 10 miles?), but it was more charming. Once walking back from the Gate where I had bought a VOPO helmet for my son, it was so heavy that after a while I put it on my head only to be insulted by a West German teenager for wearing it.


    On a shorter walk, at the time Dean Bell (he later became President of TTU) and I visited Humboldt University. We were very well received and shocked by the lack of resources at such a famous university. Bell had the idea of coming home, collecting all the unused books we could and shipping them to Humboldt University. I worried they might see it as an insult, but perhaps I was wrong. The project at least got us all on an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, mug shots an all. That made me have more faith in Robert Bell's ideas.


    The German food was always strange to me but I learned to appreciate it because of a local German restaurant in Johnson City, Tennessee, where they are masters at it. It also must be healthy food since the Germans tend to look healthier than Americans in general.


    JE comments:  Tor, please tell us more about Humboldt U during the earliest years of Reunification.  Humboldt U is now one of the world's finest, but it was probably quite impoverished at the time of your visit.  Along these lines, I found this 1994 piece from the Chronicle.  Enjoy!


    https://www.chronicle.com/article/tennessee-technological-u-helps-build-a-library-in-berlin/?bc_nonce=gt7ie0ot0pmoc72jgpil&cid=reg_wall_signup


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