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Brazil 1, Germany 7 (Credit: The Telegraph)

To all new students: welcome to Berlin. As you make your way through the city, you will hopefully immerse yourself in the endless exhibitions and concerts, wide-ranging festivals celebrating all things from film to butter, engaging street art, striking museums adorned with (not uncommonly) stolen artefacts, shabby clubs that will reject you thrice in a row, and countless döner places that will have you believing döner is as much a part of the German cuisine as a schnitzel. At this point, it just might be. Many things in Berlin will enchant you, but it is only fair to warn you that there is also an adaptation period (which I have affectionately nicknamed my existence here thus far) that most non-Berliners will have to face.

Coming from Brazil, I don’t think the cultural differences could be any more striking than I have found them to be. After 17 hours of flying, one goes from saying “good morning” to strangers on the street to inadvertently sharing one-second eye contact at the U Bahn – which here could be interpreted as risqué flirting. Why would one look a person in the eyes? We have shoes for that.

Indeed, it is a peculiar day in São Paulo when the handrails of the train are not used for pole dancing by a teenager with a sense of humor or a street artist as a performance prop. I was not naive enough to expect a Carnaval at the U-Bahn, but it did surprise me when I dropped a water bottle on the train by accident and observed that the facial expressions that ensued could contextually fit a funeral. I know you are big on recycling, Germany, but I was going to pick it up.

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Una with the partisan women in Zagreb, Croatia (Credit: Personal Archives)

Una Blagojevic, a Serbian 2013 BA graduate, has been around the world. Currently residing in Budapest, Hungary and beginning her master’s thesis at the Central European University, Una looks back on her time at Bard Berlin, then ECLA*, with great fondness. I sat down for a late-night Skype chat with Una to discuss the transformative and orienting powers of core courses, her shift from Berlin to London to Uganda to France to Budapest, and the consistent and enduring eccentricities of Pankow wildlife.**

Tell me about your time in Uganda.

My Uganda trip was quite amazing! After I left ECLA, I was planning to stay in Berlin for my  master’s, but the program I applied for was all in German, and my knowledge of German was not high enough. I also couldn’t find any scholarships to do my master’s in England, so I was quite unhappy and disappointed. And then, just totally coincidentally, a friend of mine saw that there was a safari company in Uganda looking for interns, which was a totally new thing for me because it had nothing to do with my undergraduate education at all.  

Right. After four years of doing school, this is something completely different.

Yes, totally different! Sometimes when I tell people that I spent a year working for a safari company they think that this was some kind of place where people go to shoot animals, and I would never do something like that. I didn’t do that and this was not that kind of company. They had some lodges all around Uganda, large lodges in the savannas of a national park called Kidepo Valley. I spent approximately four months there. It was so beautiful. I was always in nature, helping out. My tasks also included working in an office and helping with boring administrative stuff, documents, calculating budgets in Excel. I always wanted to escape from this sort of work after finishing my Gymnasium. There, in Serbia, you usually go and work or study in a department, like natural sciences, math or physics After I finished Gymnasium  I said ‘Never again!’ and then I turned to humanities. It was nice to do it again in Uganda, though.  

What was the community in Uganda like?

Even though the administrative work was boring, I was very close with the staff, helping out as much as I could and also hanging around with the guests. It was a very small, intimate approach to work, so we would all eat at a big table and they would serve us and we would all sit and talk about which animals we’ve seen and things like that. Sometimes I felt like it was strange because it was a place where very rich people would come and spend time in a ‘wonderful African, Ugandan experience’. Sometimes I was kind of not sure what to think of myself being there. But I had this great time where every day was filled with new and crazy experiences. I lived in a small hut, too, made out of wood and leaves and such: They tried to make it as natural as possible to give an ‘explorer’s experience’. I lived in one of these, and in the morning I heard animals making such crazy sounds, and, even though the hut was off the ground for security reasons, we would get woken up by screaming animals. It was always wild boars.

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Students in the Summer Language German Intensive Program visit the Hamburger Bahnhof. (Credit: Irina Stelea)

The BCB Summer Language German Intensive Program came to a close earlier this month. From the 10th June to the 10th July, a handful of students from various universities immersed themselves in the German language and took part in cultural events across Berlin. This podcast includes snippets of conversations with some of the participants on their experiences at BCB and in Berlin.

Featured songs, in order of appearance:

“Komm Doch” by Die Caufner Schwestern (1978)

“Sonnenallee” by Rio Reiser (1990)

Essay by Mark Twain, source here.

 

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portrait of pankow

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It is finally weekend time. Tired of city life and daily errands, the civilized and sophisticated you yearns to break free from the chains of the metropolitan lifestyle and “go back to the roots”.
Luckily for you, we have discovered the epitome of country life in the big city – with animals to pet, huts to admire, and cooking on an open fire. Welcome to the children’s farm (Kinderbauernhof) Pinke-Panke in Pankow! The farm is just slightly past the beautiful Bürgerpark, through which you should stroll too, for a remedying-via-laughter view of the lovely playful goats that entertain passers-by on a daily basis.

Pinke-Panke has existed in Pankow since May 1991. It is now home to three timber-framed buildings with animals, a large playhouse with kitchen, and a game room. All buildings are traditionally built as wooden structures, with a framework from clay or mud. Ecological principles represent the forefront of this farm. As a place of adventure and play, meetings and joint projects, Pinke-Panke is open to all interested children, adolescents, and adults alike. The founders of the farm believe that the care for animals and the engaged observation of nature let the children see the interrelationships between natural cycles – and consequentially plant the seeds for a (an even) more nurturing character in them.

If you wish to know more about Kinderbauernhof Pinke-Panke, visit here.

Below you can see some glimpses of the atmosphere captured at Pinke-Panke on a Saturday afternoon:

Click here to see the photo gallery!

Abandoned Iraqi Embassy (Photo by Adam Mandel-Senft)

Abandoned Iraqi Embassy (Photo by Adam Mandel-Senft)

A description of students’ exploration of Pankow’s abandoned Iraqi Embassy.

In the haunted lies the deepest vacuum of the mind, in the ghosts are the people we’ve known, in blank space is everything imaginable.

“Did you hear that?”

“It was just a car.”

“Do you think they saw us?”

“The lights are going in the other direction, they already passed by, just hop over.”

Berlin is a city that is known for vibrating with life at any time of the day or night. But as the city is growing, many places have been left behind to disintegrate on their own. Even these places, the abandoned buildings of Berlin, have their own sort of life as people sit on their roofs for drinks with friends or explore the dark with graffiti walls and rickety staircases. Unlike further into the city, the abandoned buildings in Pankow see very few visitors and still hold their frightening emptiness that makes exploring them so fun.

Our adventure into the abandoned Iraqi Embassy started in the middle of the night:

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Stories from Pankow

 

Blog reporter Lucas Møller set out to explore the neighbourhood around the campus. Pankow has many hidden gems, among them a record store owner who shares his love for vinyl, a teacher who keeps a pet donkey, and a children’s bookshop which offers regular reading sessions.
Translation in the donkey segment provided by Philip Euteneuer (BA 2017, Germany)

Photo gallery:

 

Löwenkämpfer statue. Photo by Heidi Kontkanen

Löwenkämpfer statue (photo by Heidi Kontkanen)

Our series of Berlin-revelatory interviews with ECLA of Bard faculty and staff continues. This time our guide through Berlin is Prof. Matthias Hurst, who has been a member of the faculty at ECLA of Bard since 2003, teaching various courses in film, but also literature and philosophy. We took the chance to find out more about Matthias Hurst’s life in Berlin, his insights and suggestions on how to enlarge our experience of the city and, last but not least, his ideas on the various facets of the ‘film capital.’

1) Where are you originally from and how long have you been living in Berlin?

I was born in Heidelberg (in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg) and for a long time I lived in or around this wonderfully romantic town. I also studied at the University of Heidelberg and worked there as a lecturer. I started working at ECLA in 2003 and moved to Berlin in 2005.

2) In which district do you live? Tell us a bit about it. Why did you decide to live there?

I live in Pankow/Rosenthal, not far away from ECLA of Bard. To be close to our campus was one of the reasons to move into this neighborhood. It’s a quiet district with lots of nice, clean houses, surrounded by nice, clean gardens with accurately mowed bright green lawns and nice colorful flowers, little bright white fences around the gardens … It’s creepy, like in a David Lynch film, you know, when there is something bizarre and evil lurking right underneath the neat, polished surface of middle class order and tidiness, something vicious hidden within petit bourgeois smugness. Maybe that’s another reason why I have decided to live here …

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