Three Observations From Berlin

Thank you Andrew, for the chance to post on an irregular basis on this blog. I’ll do my best to throw some intermittent stuff on here, probably not as theme oriented as any previous posts.

I haven’t seen "Sicko" yet, but in the theme of all things health-care related, I can report that I visited the Charite hospital in Berlin recently with acute respiratory distress and waited 5 hours to be examined while wheezing and gasping in the emergency room.  I’m a reasonably fit mid-30s male (with periodic asthma and bronchitis at the moment), and on balance, don’t look like I’m about to collapse from any major physical ailments, but a 5 hour wait for a pulmonary problem seems excessive in any circumstance, since these can turn critical very quickly. Granted, when I was finally admitted, they pumped me so full of drugs (bronchio-dilators, muscle relaxant, painkillers) so as to leave me more or less floating, and they did have their hands full with a screeching junkie in the next room, but I still wasn’t impressed. I also don’t like not being told what medications I’m being given, or having blood taken without being told why. The last time this happened in Düsseldorf, in the context of an employment-related medical exam, the nurse sheepishly removed a tube of blood she was drawing from my arm in mid-spurt when she realized that that tube was to test for pregnancy-related ailments.  I’m pretty obviously male.

I was told recently that it is a Berlin tradition, when giving your phone number, never to mention your area code (030), the premise being that someone in Berlin would have no reason to call anyone outside of Berlin and hence, wouldn’t be aware that other area codes exist. I’m going to counter that silliness by concluding my phone calls with people from the "Province" (the Rest of Germany) by thanking them for their tax contributions to keeping this city afloat.

Finally, I saw Vikings on my way to work last week early in the morning. A group of tall, stocky people in fur boots and jackets and helmets with horns were drunkenly playing fiddle, horn and drum music and singing chants on the Hackescher Markt at 7:30 am while stamping their feet and swaying.

Enjoy the well-earned vacation, Andrew!

Introducing the Photo Caption Contest!

Your scribe is going on a much-needed vacation to Greece and then to Berlin and won’t be back until August. I hope Ed Philp will contribute a few posts while I’m gone, but he’s got a fancy new job now, and less time.

There will still be posts, though! Using the magic of delayed posting, I’d like to inaugurate a new feature here. It’s called the German Joys Photo Caption contest.  I post a photo, and instead of me saying something clever about it I let my good-looking, highly intelligent readers do so. It’s kind of like the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest, except you don’t win anything tangible. Plus, it’s generally crappier.

Winners will be chosen by moi when I get back. Feel free to post in any language, and at any length — everything from Goldt-style absurdist mini-essays to wisecracks.

Here’s the first entry, some nice window-dressing from a photo taken in Duesseldorf, June 20o7:


My entry (building on the oft-noted German penchant for politically-incorrect sculptures):

"And now, here to play Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No.3 In A, Op.69, please extend a gracious welcome to…Sambo ‘Jive-ass’ Washington!"

If you can top that (and I think you can), fire away in comments. Back in August tanned and fit; have a nice July.