Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Re-tooling

I've started work at a place unlike any other place I've worked at before (i.e., not a law firm), doing work of a nature I've never quite done before (i.e., not in the finance/corporate/energy and natural resources fields of law). It's humbling, daunting, and quite exhausting.

I've had to exercise a different part of my "legal brain" lately, and while I go home at a decent hour and am free from constant client phone calls and e-mails, I can't say I've been relatively stress-free. In fact, playing catch-up is mentally draining. Sometimes, it can get depressing.

For now, I just hope its not too late to re-tool.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ich Bin Ein Berliner

L and I did an impulse trip to Berlin last weekend, after finding out rather belatedly that Monday (June 1) was a public holiday. Last minute air tickets were pretty cheap!

We stayed at a hotel in the former East Berlin. The area (Mitte) is grand and very beautiful -elegant monuments and wide tree-lined boulevards, with the slow meandering River Spree in the foreground.
20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, you don't feel the grit and melancholia at all, and instead, see Berlin almost as it was during the days of the Prussian Empire.

Near our hotel was the Gendarmenmarkt, built in the 17th century as a market square. In the center stands the Schauspielhaus (a concert hall) flanked on the left and right by the German and French cathedrals.

A short walk away was the Brandenburger Tor, the backdrop for many of Germany's major historical events. The Reichstag was also nearby.

After coffee at the Potsdamer Platz (just some modern buildings - no need to post pictures), L and I took the U2 subway train to the West side of Berlin, to see the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtnis-Kirche. The old church was badly destroyed during World War II, and only part of the tower remained.
Amazingly, a large part of its impressive mosaics survived the bombing. Here's a portion of the mosaics:

They built a new modern church just beside it recently, and this is what it looks like from inside:
At night, L and I took a walk to the impressive Unter den Linden, dominated by Frederick the Great (and his shadow):

We also saw the famous Berliner Dom and the eerie memorial at Bebelplatz, remembering the Nazi book burning that occurred on the same spot during those sad times (the picture of the memorial might not be so clear, as it was raining, but the memorial is actually in the form of empty bookshelves).

The next day was spent almost entirely indoors in two museums. The first stop was the fascinating Pergamonmuseum. Ancient monuments were packed up, shipped and installed into this museum (and I've never seen anything like it). We saw the Pergamon Altar, the Market Gate of Miletus, the Ishtar Gate, the southern facade of the Palace of Mshatta and the Temple of Athena.

In the afternoon we made our way to the Gemaldegalerie, Berlin's largest art museum. On the way, we saw the simple yet solemn Jewish memorial:

The Gemaldegalerie had an excellent collection of German, Dutch, Flemish and Italian painters, and I fell in love with Vermeer all over again (No pictures, alas).

And now for the food and wine... We tried typical German fare for all 4 meals we had in Berlin. We tried Bockwurst with Sauerkraut at an old bar near the Brandenburg Gate:

Boiled Beef, Wiener Schnitzel and the best Apple Strudel ever at Lutter and Wegner:

Delicious Currywurst at a stand-up stall somewhere in Mitte (located very near where part of the Berlin Wall passed, and apparently a favorite spy hang-out in the old days): 

And the best Riesling and German Pinot Noir at a restaurant called Wienstein in chic Prezlauer Berg: