Another day in Christmas heaven…
Today I saw many Berliners buying and carrying natural trees. For an American it may seem a little bit late for one to buy a Christmas tree. We start decorating the Christmas tree in our house as soon as Thanksgiving is over, and by now the Christmas trees would go on sale at Walmart… but here in Berlin Christmas is Christmas and it hasn’t been exploited yet… we can argue about that… but it is just my opinion.
Enjoy more pictures of Berlin under the Christmas spell.
I was doing some research about the Christmas markets and I found this in Wikipedia. It is an overview of the history and origin of the Christmas markets in German speaking Europe. It gives an idea about the importance of the Christmas markets in European countries.
“A Christmas market, also known as Christkindlmarkt, Christkindlesmarkt, Christkindlmarket, and Weihnachtsmarkt, is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. These markets originated in Germany, Austria, South Tyrol and Alsace but are now being held in many other countries.
The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German speaking part of Europe. In many towns in Germany and Austria, Advent is usually ushered in with the opening of the Christmas market or “Weihnachtsmarkt”. In southern Germany and Austria it is sometimes called a “Christkind(e)l(s)markt” (German language, literally meaning “Christ child market”). Generally held in the town square and adjacent pedestrian zones, the market sells food, drink, and seasonal items from open-air stalls, accompanied by traditional singing and dancing. Popular attractions at the market include the Nativity Scene (a crèche or crib), Zwetschgamännla (figures made of decorated dried plums), Nussknacker (carved Nutcrackers), Gebrannte Mandeln (candied, toasted almonds), traditional Christmas cookies such as Lebkuchen and Magenbrot (both forms of soft gingerbread), Christstollen (Stollen), a sort of egg bread with candied fruit, Bratwurst, and for many visitors one of the highlights of the market: Glühwein, hot mulled wine (with or without a shot of brandy), or Eierpunsch (an egg-based warm alcoholic drink). Both help stave off the cold winter air which sometimes dips below freezing. Many other handmade items, toys, books, Christmas tree decorations and ornaments (and in recent years less useful gadgets) can be found at a Christkindlmarkt.
Berlin claims over 70 markets, which open in late November and close just after Christmas.”
Yes yes and yes! It is this time of the year, it is Christmas time!
It is the magical time, the beautiful, the nostalgic, and most of all the fattening period of all!!! lol lol
When I was growing up in Beirut we didn’t have White Christmas. To get in the spirit we had to watch American movies and dream of snow. Some times we would put fake snow spray on the windows but it got old and tacky so we stopped.
All this to say that in Berlin I am definitely living the White Christmas dream
Not only with the snow that doesn’t dry off the ground since few weeks, but also the beautiful famous German Christmas Markets! I think Christmas was born in this country!
There is all kind of Christmas markets here, the big ones, the medium ones and the one on each corner of a street. You don’t need to look up on the internet to find where they are, just wander in the city and you will hit at least few!
Enjoy the pictures of the Christmas markets that I will be sharing for the next weeks. This one was taken in Schloss Charlottenburg Christmas market, and it seem to be one of Berliners’ favorite.
When I started writing this post about Berlin East and Berlin West, perceived from a foreigner’s (who just landed in the city) point of you, I couldn’t stop thinking about Beirut East and Beirut West during the civil war. It is so funny how much the two capitals have not only four similar letters the B, E, I and R but also hundred of other similarities. They both got caught up in the middle of a power struggle between two big forces.
It is, obviously, not in the nature of the Berliners or the nature of the Lebanese to be contempt with one ideology and to accept one identity. Far from that, they both are torn between East and West, Capitalism versus Communism (Germany) Christianity versus Islam (Lebanon). I wish it was as simple as I am explaining it, but it is not; each of the two people have West and East in them, and sometimes it is so hard to tell the difference.
I think from what I have seen around me in Berlin, even the people of the West who stayed in the westernised part of Berlin carry lots of socialism and equal social justice feelings in them. The Lebanese too, no matter how religious they might be they all carry at the same time christian and islamic beliefs in them, yes it is complicated, or let’s say we complicate things; it was simple in the beginning and then one idea emerged from the other and they all exist because of each other… Ok this post is getting a little bit too serious, and this was never my intention in my blog, I want to always keep it light, cute and simple.
I love the fact that destiny brought me to Berlin to find answers about the Lebanese war, of course not literally but in a philosophical way to why war happened in Lebanon, and why the Lebanese allowed it.
When I wrote the blog about crossing the Beirut borders and comparing it to Berlin (One day in 1985 in Beirut) I had no idea that four years later I was going to be in Berlin and see what happened here.
Anyway, here are the pictures of Check Point Charlie, a very typical place to visit while in Berlin. Check Point Charlie was the military passage from West Berlin to East Berlin, where passports had to be stamped with a visa in order to cross to the other side of the same city. You will see the one side controlled by the Americans and the other side which took pride for not being a profit sector.
Hello my dear bloggers friends, I have missed you!
So here we are again moving to a new country, this time to Berlin, Germany!
After a little bit less than two years in Sudan (which seemed like eternity) here we are back to Europe, and this time in a place where I have never been before, Berlin.
What can I say about this city… still cannot place it in a category… still wondering…
It’s definitely Europe but not the mid and south Europe I know. It is not Paris, it’s not Italy. No wonder you don’t hear people saying: “oh this year I’ve got to go to Berlin to check the trends, the fashion, and see what it is going on in the world”, well not. However the Germans of Berlin are the nicest people I have ever met! Berlin, definitely, brings the best of you. You cannot help it here but feel calm, confident, happy and relaxed.
On the cultural side; Berlin is charged with history, and not the good one; when you walk in the city you can easily take a visual and spiritual trip back to the Nazi regime and the Cold War. The remorse, the regrets, the painful memories of the past, are all still weighing on the city, once divided between capitalism and communism. The Germans are doing their best trying to deal with their painful history, but they are not really getting over what happened, and a very sad morbid atmosphere lingers over the city.
Anyway, I hope to be able to catch all this with my lenses, and witness the evolution over the years.
Today I am sharing my first pictures of the Berlin Wall!
My Friend Gwen, when she first saw the pictures, said to me that she didn’t know that there was so much wall left. Well in fact, Gwen, the wall was built on each side of the two Berlins; the west side which was totally (I think) destroyed (and you can buy pieces of the wall in the souvenir shops) and the east side which is still standing, and turned into an open air gallery with beautiful paintings and drawings, and this is what you see here in my blog.
Enjoy the pictures my friends! And I promise to take you with me in my journey in Berlin for the next coming years.
Yesterday the State Department issued a statement ordering departure of all non-emergency US government personnel in Sudan, which means if I was still living in Sudan I was going to be forced to evacuate. I am glad I am not living there anymore, but I am worried about my friends and colleagues who are still there.
I wrote the following text six months ago before I left Sudan but I never published it because I didn’t want to get in trouble or jeopardize our last days in the country. I wanted to have a smooth exist and never look back.
Here is the text, after I heavily censored it to make it politically correct so it won’t put me, my husband or friends in danger, but I wish I could tell you more about the place… I wish!
Even though this text was written few months ago, mainly during the regional Arab Springs, unfortunately it still describe the situation in Sudan and maybe it will always be news.
“It is been more than a year since we arrived to Sudan, and as we get ready to move to another country I look back to see what I have learned from living in this country. All I know is I cannot wait to leave this very sad place.
To describe Sudan I can say its ‘middleastafrica” because it is in Africa but it is more Middle Eastern than African.
Sudan suffer from a deep identity crisis, almost like most countries in the Middle East. Where religion and ethnicity are more important for the citizens than their loyalty to their country.
Sudan used to be the biggest African country -until July 2011 when the south seceded- which could have been strategically and economically a strength that Sudanese people should have taken advantage of to improve their economy and live better, but no, they opted for war and insecurity. Unfortunately Sudanese in majority, especially in Khartoum, are Arab-wannabe, which sound really ironic, since Arabs themselves are not very proud of being Arab anymore. You can see that Arabs nowadays are working hard to earn the Arab-pride back with the Arab-Spring, to which Sudan is not even close to earn, with its eternal summer, that looks more like a long windy winter; obviously Sudanese didn’t get the memo….
Since I arrived here in 2010 nothing has changed. The road are still not paved and people still die from malaria. The resentment against the West is still predominant, but of course Sudanese dream of moving to the West, because it’s a better place. Sudan is definitely not becoming more tolerant when it comes to religion and ethnicities. Salafis, which is an extremist sect, is trying to gain more power. In 2008 Salafis assassinated Jhon Grandville a USAID employee because he was partying on new years eve. The Sudanese government arrested the killer, but the latter managed (somehow) to escape from prison.
We have been in Sudan one year, five months, two weeks, I have no idea how many hours and minutes, but who is counting….
As we get ready to leave in few months I wonder if I will miss anything here.
There is one thing I am going to miss for sure; the friends I made, but this I will keep for ever.”
God protect my friends, and all the US government personnel working for peace and to make this world a better place.
The house is empty, the movers were here yesterday and they packed everything.
The house is more silent. Since all objects are gone I breath better and it’s less noisy. I told Jim: “I feel that our stuff in the house speaks and whispers to me…”
Since they are gone, it is calmer and serene. I will not hear their constant conversation in my head anymore: “clean me, change me, I am getting old but don’t get rid of me, I am fragile please handle me carefully…”
They have a power over me, the power of carrying all the good memories, the faces of family and friends, places we went to, money we spent buying them, the effort we did to carry them from country to country and continent to continent… They are gone now, at least for a while…
Some time I fear that they will be lost in the sea or in a plane crash during the move, but I wonder if I will not feel free from the burden and the attachment, if it ever happens. Will I miss them? Will I remember them? No. I think I will start over with new objects to collect and move them around, again. Why do we do that? Why can’t we human being live in an empty house with just basic necessary stuff? Why do we need choices and options even if we never use them, ever?
Years ago I was at the airport leaving Beirut to visit my sister in Paris, and at the boarding gate I recognize a woman activist, very well known in Lebanon for trying to assassinate one of the warlords, she was arrested by the militia and spend years in confinement. She was newly released and was going to give a conference about her years in prison. She was sitting right next to me when came two young people going on vacation with four carry-on, they were complaining that they had to pay overweight for their other two checked-in luggages. She looked at them, laughed and said: ” you will be surprise to know how little things we need in our life.” She was referring to her cell where she had almost nothing and no belongings, and yet she was able to make it through the years.
After our stuff are gone, and until we will get them again at the other end, Jim and I will have to live on two suitcases for months. By the time we get our stuff back, we will realize how unnecessary they are, since we were able to go on with our lives without having them around.
I cannot believe that I haven’t shared with you my pictures of Dubai. I have been to Dubai three times in less than six months this year. I love this city. You cannot understand the beauty and the magic of this place until you visit.
Enjoy the pictures of Burj Khalifa, which is the highest tower in the world, and the pictures of the beautiful hotel we stayed in.
I used to preach that there are no cultural differences between people coming from different countries. I based my conviction on the fact that since we are all human being we should all feel the same and have the same values. My husband, who grew up in a different country always say: “my wife and I never had any problem because of cultural differences, but we do have differences because of our different gender.” But this is another story….
Living in Sudan definitely made me think twice before saying that cultural differences don’t exist. The Sudanese I met here think that the American culture is not what they aspire to; my co-worker Hamid keeps telling me that his American friends are not close to their family. American families, he believes, are scattered around the U.S. and they hardly visit each other during the holidays or even when one of them is sick. Hamid explained to me: “in Sudan when a member of the family is sick, his relatives take a day off from work and go visit him. If a Sudanese is in the hospital his relatives go the hospital and stay outside his room no matter how long it will take and until he checks out. Sudanese young people never leave the house unless they get married…” and so one, listing a long list of good family manners that seem very nice, but do they work for everybody? I guess this work for some countries, but not for us. Maybe it works in patriarchal societies or in countries with absent governments. I believe that in countries where governments provide security, stability and protection to their citizens the citizens feel confident to be by themselves and don’t have to rely on their family. The pursue of happiness, freedom, and the chance to be able to fulfill what a human being need in order to reach maturity and independence, is a quality of life that very few countries are able to give to their citizens.
It’s 11:00 p.m. and as I try to go to sleep I hear the dogs outside barking, and I say to myself this is maybe going to be their last bark before the police patrol shoots them. Yes, here dogs are terminated on the street, periodically. Sudanese fear that dogs may bring disease.
The special cleaning truck just parked on the street. Cleaning trucks in Sudan come every week to empty the sewage, since there is no sewer system. This is a privilege that middle class families can afford; to hire truck to vacuum out the dirt that builds up in a whole under the houses. Maybe the government could start a pipe line not for oil (for once) but for the sewage.
I have to ignore the barking, and try not to inhale too much of the neighborhood smell filling the air from the truck, and then I can go to sleep, so tomorrow my co-worker Hamid will tell me how much the Sudanese are different because they care about their families. We definitely have cultural differences.