Monthly Archives: May 2014

Celebrating Spring and Science (and Wine!)

Hello All!

It has been quite a while since my last post, and for this I apologize. After the whirlwind of travelling adventures that took place in April, May has slowed down a bit. However, I’ve still been up to lots of entertaining activities, so I shall take advantage of this blog to write about them!

For quite a few years now, Sebastien has attended a Wine Festival just outside of Berlin during a weekend in late April/early May. I often get to hear about the Wine Festival, but have always been unable to attend thanks to living in Canada. But like so many other things I have finally been able to partake in this year, I was able to come to the Wine Festival! A group of us (some of Sebastien’s friends, along with one of my good friends from England), took the Regional train out to the small town of Werder, where the festival takes place. Apparently this town is extremely quiet for most of the year, but during the festival it goes insane. Reminds me a bit of the Canmore Highland Games in that way, except that the festival goes on for multiple weekends.

The proper name of this festival is “Baumblütenfest,” and it is primarily a celebration of Spring and blooming flowers. A large part of the festival is the fruit-flavoured wine. When we first got off the train in Werder, there was a wine stand selling 1 litre bottles for 5 euros. They had tasty flavours like raspberry, strawberry, rhubarb, cherry, and pear. Sebastien and his group knew to stop and pick up a bottle here, because everywhere else within the festival was selling the bottles for a minimum of 6 euros. By this point, it was about 11am – perfect time for a bottle of cherry wine!

It was quite a long walk from the train station to the area where the primary festival takes place. We walked along a main residential street, and eventually stands started appearing along the sides of the road.

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There had been a lot of people on the train, and as everyone moved towards the festival, the streets got continually more crowded. Once we were in Werder’s more commercial area, there were lots of shops everywhere. Mostly they were selling different foods and drinks, but there were some shops selling jewelry, clothes or other hand-made knick-knacks. I was ecstatic to see that they were selling langos (a thin dough deep-fried and then loaded up with toppings like garlic and sour cream) but didn’t get one on that particular day.

After walking for a while, we eventually crossed a bridge that lead to most of the main events. We veered off to the right, where there were a lot of various rides and games for children (very much like the Calgary Stampede) and we found an area of grass to sit and relax on by the water.

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We hung out here for quite a while, and enjoyed the sunshine. We had been under the impression that the day would be rainy, so it was a pleasant surprise to see blue sky (even if that did mean I was boiling in my waterproof layers!)

After this, we went across to a more adult-themed area of the festival. At this spot, there was a stage where live performances were going on (which would turn into DJ performances during the evening) and there were picnic tables to sit at. The thing that made this an “adult-themed area” was the increase in alcohol-selling booths, and the only ride around there was a crane from which people could bungee jump over the water for 50 euros. Come to think of it, there were also bumper boats, but the bungee jumping was a more noticeable attraction.

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Sorry for all of the pictures all at once! But as you can see, the bungee-jumping crane was situated behind the stage – the picture I took from close up was near the washrooms.

For our first time at the festival, we didn’t stay all that late into the evening. But we decided to go back the next weekend, and once again lucked out on the weather. There were a few different people on the second outing, but we still had a great time. The primary difference between the first and second visits was that I got to enjoy a langos, and we stayed later into the night and danced in front of the stage for quite a while.

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One of the things I love most about Berlin is all of the outdoor events. In the future, I would love to plan trips to Germany around the beginning of December, because that’s when the Christmas Markets are all beginning, but aren’t too full yet. And the Christmas Markets are pretty legendary!

Similarly, there are a fair number of Easter Markets that go on. A few days after Easter, I went to work and found out that I wasn’t needed in my first class because the students were writing a test. Since I had 90 minutes to kill, I headed back to Alexanderplatz (two stops away) and got to look around the Easter Market since it was still going on for a few more days. There were rows of different shops selling candy, cheese, bratwurst, t-shirts, jewelry, and other goodies. Based on my addiction, and the fact that I will probably not have access to any once I’m back in Canada, I bought a langos. There were quite a few beer booths and sitting areas around, but they weren’t very busy since it was still 10am on a weekday by this time.

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The most exciting parts of this Market (besides the langos, of course) were the merry-go-round and the goats. At least, I think they were goats…I’m not quite up to snuff on my different breeds of sheep and goats. But there were also bunnies beside the goats, so in general there were a lot of adorable critters. And the merry-go-round was a double-decker one! In the end I resisted the urge to take a ride – it costs money and I didn’t quite blend in amongst the 6-year-olds. But it was fun to look at and take pictures of!

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But enough about animals and merry-go-rounds. The last exciting thing I wanted to mention in this blog took place this past Saturday, and was the “Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften,” or in other words, long night of sciences. Berlin is known for it’s various “Long Night Of” events, and in the past Sebastien and I have been able to attend both the long night of Museums and the long night of Libraries. The concept is that people pay one fee, and are able to walk in to any number of institutions. On the long night of museums, we were able to make it to about four museums between 5pm and midnight. For the long night of sciences, various libraries and universities were open, and you could go and see experiments take place. Sebastien, being the amazing planner that he is, took the time to make sure that we could hit up a lot of different things that specifically interested us. We started off at the Humboldt University Library, where they were offering tours of the library and a look at some of the “behind-the-scenes” work of a librarian. Of course, the complicated part of this entire evening was that everything was in German; even if my conversational skills in German are now fairly good, my understanding of complex science is pretty terrible! Our first plan was to join a tour of the library, but once I realized that this was the same library I’ve visited with different grade 11 classes at work, I figured that it was unnecessary. After that, Seb and I were able to see books being digitized. We saw how a fancy scanner is used to make a copy of each page, and after that, the librarian adjusts how the pages are seen on the computer before they are made accessible online. I learned a lot of interesting things about how copyright is involved and how this process differs from things like Google books. At least I think I learned these things: Sebastien translated most of it for me once we left!

We then headed over to the Technische Universität to catch a few lectures and experiments. We started out with a lecture on the idea of life on other planets, and this was followed by a lecture on satellites. After this, we went to see various experiments – two of which involved wind and the idea of wind resistance affecting the speed of vehicles. There was one huge hurricane machine, in which wind is simulated at different speeds. A few people got to go inside it individually, and the challenge was to see how long they could hold on to a few boxes as the wind speed increased. This was a lot of fun, especially since I could enjoy the visual experiment and didn’t have to try and understand the German. I also ran into someone that plays in my orchestra there – it’s not very often I see people that I haven’t met through Sebastien! Another experiment we got to see involved a plane turbine. I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on, but Sebastien explained it to me after we left. The experiment itself involved the energy it takes to give a plane speed. So we went into one room wearing headphones and eye protection, and watched a controlled stream of fire. When certain factors in the machine were changed, the sound of the fire got insanely loud as the pressure changed, and I was holding my headphones even closer to my ears in an attempt to drown it out.

At about 11pm, we went to watch a science competition in the lecture hall – different scientists explained their experiments to the group, and at the end we voted for the best one. The guy that won gave quite a good presentation – he was on a team trying to build a robot that could function on Mars, and he made his presentation engaging and funny.

To end off the evening, we headed to the Technische Universität Library for some dancing. You couldn’t hear a sound as you walked up to the library, because everyone on the dance floor was wearing headphones! It was quite the cool concept – there were three DJs, and each person could choose which DJ to listen to at any given time. When you looked around while not wearing headphones, it looked like everyone was dancing without music. But once you put on the headphones, you could join in the party – even if you were off the beat from the person next to you because you were listening to a different station. Who said libraries were just for nerds?

On Sunday, I went to a vegan restaurant for one of the tastiest brunches I’ve ever had, and on Tuesday I am headed to a blind restaurant with a group of my friends. We’ll be eating in complete darkness! It’s been a lot of fun exploring events that Berlin has to offer. I am down to my last three weeks of work in Berlin, and am determined to enjoy every moment before heading home for the summer.

I hope that you have enjoyed this latest blog post. Have a terrific week!

Auf wiedersehen!



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