Today was our last day in Berlin; we had a train to catch in the early afternoon for Jena. However we had a few more unique pit stops to make before we could say goodbye to Berlin. I was very quickly growing attached to the city. The public transport is great, street food is pretty solid, there is a ton of cultural art stuff going on everywhere–it has everything I need in a city.
The one thing I found weird was a certain driving habit that is normal in all of Germany. Say there is a car waiting to turn left, but there is a pedestrian crossing the crosswalk. Both parties have a green light, so the car will basically drive as close as it can get to the crosswalk and wait for the passenger to finish crossing. Now back home, this driver would be seen as a very aggressive and inconsiderate driver; however here, this is just how they do things. I was fascinated by this. I was slightly upset the first time it happened, but as it continued to happen time and time again, I realized that’s the norm here. And now you know.
Before leaving our hosts, though, Noel wanted to show me his school, which he was quite proud of. It was called the SfE, which in English, translates to the School for Adult Education. It’s a self-sustaining alternative school. For example, every week, one class is chosen to prepare breakfast meals in the cafeteria; every week, a class is responsible for cleaning the school; every week, a class is responsible for manning a discussion forum about how the school is running and what can be improved. It’s not government-run, so the students have to a pay a tuition of 160 Euros.
The school is housed in a simple enough-looking building. The student centre/cafeteria looks like any other student centre, complete with tables and chairs, a stage area, and large windows for plenty of sunlight; however once we entered the hallways, as a teacher, I felt like I wasn’t in Kansas anymore–at least aesthetically speaking. The hallways were covered in graffiti, which students are encouraged to do. I thought that was pretty cool.
The school’s history is proudly displayed on the walls as well. (Though it’s unfortunately all in German.) There was a school strike at a private school called Gabbe-Lehranstalt. This was in protest of what many saw as “an authoritarian headmaster, reactionary school regulations, overcroweded classrooms, performance pressure and the dismisssal of pupils and teachers for political reasons.The strike led to the creation of the school. There were initially 500 interested students and 70 teachers ready to teach.
Some things that make the school unique from public schools:
– There are no grades or explicit demands.
– While they do use a curriculum framework, pupils and teachers decide the specific content together so as to use the student’s own interests and strengths to guide their learning.
– Pupils and students decide together when a student is ready to take an exam.
Apparently a documentary was made about the SfE, so if you speak German and are interested in education, go hunt it down and tell me what you think!
So after a quick visit to Noel’s school, it was time to go see some weird stuff. First up, the Currywurst Museum. Currywurst is basically a slight variation on a pork sausage. It was invented at the end of the 1940’s, when Germany’s economy, much like the country itself, was left in ruins thanks to the war. There was rationing and rampant black market sales and hoarding.
Enter Herta Heuwer to the rescue. The Currywurst was a product of frugal inventiveness. Herta ran a food stand with ingredients bought from British soldiers, and she started experimenting with all sorts of combinations of ingredients. And suddenly the Currywurst was born.
Herta never revealed her secret recipe though–even after huge companies offered very lucrative deals. When her husband passed away, she burned all documents pertaining to her creation. She was even invited on television shows to be praised for her secret-keeping skills.
Of course, we couldn’t very well leave the museum without trying some Currywurst ourselves. While the sausage was good, I have to say that it doesn’t stand up to Toronto street meat. Maybe I’m just biased. Sorry, Herta.
After the museum, we went to check out the Art of Banksy Exhibit. I was really excited about this one, and it definitely delivered. The man is a bloody genius.
After Banksy, we headed for the train station to catch our train to Jena. On our way there, though, we passed by the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe.
While it is a beautiful sight, I have to say that it is the weirdest memorial I’ve ever seen, only because it doesn’t FEEL like a memorial. The atmosphere is far too light hearted. It seems more like a hangout spot than anything else. I even saw some teens racing and chasing each other through the aisles. It kind of undercuts the emotional weight of the whole purpose of the memorial. Although maybe that was its intention? Maybe it’s meant to turn something grotesque into something that brings people together and ignites laughter in the city? I can’t be sure. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to check out the exhibit underground because we had to catch our train. Maybe next time, Berlin. Until then, keep doing what you’re doing.