Berlin

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Last week I travelled to Germany for a business trip and spent the weekend with friends in Berlin. It was great to be back even though it was strange to be in Germany as a visitor.

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I was reminded what a great city Berlin is and noticed the differences compared to living in the Detroit area. Berlin was packed with cyclists and using a functioning public transport system was nice, too.

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We visited the Computerspielemuseum where you can try out tons of old computer games on different platforms.

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Then we walked along Karl-Marx-Allee which features interesting old soviet architecture.

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On our last day we visited the RAW compound which is an abbreviation for the catchy name Reichsbahnausbesserungswerk. A place where – back in soviet times – train maintenance was performed. Now the buildings are ruins and form a large alternative area with a skate park, bouldering walls, cafés, and clubs.

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We visited for the craft beer festival and tried German craft beer. Some American breweries were also present.

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Of course, a lot of Döner was eaten:

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We saw “Der Gerät” in action which is a fully automated Dönerspieß shaving device that will harvest the Döner just at the right time.

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Oh, and proper vehicles were driven on proper roads <3.

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Sleeping Bear Dunes

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Last weekend we drove to Traverse City which is located in the northwestern corner of Michigan. The drive there takes you through three hours of nothing. At least, in the end the roads got quite curvy and were fun to drive. Finally no overcautious people and crazy speed limits taking all the fun. Also, we took the Tiguan for a short off-road tour on some unpaved forest paths and saw a live turkey on the way.
We staid in a wooden cabin half an hour outside of Traverse City. In the city itself there is nothing going on this time of the year and the weather was’t that good either. We had a fun wine tasting tour, though, where we visited four different vineyards and tasted their wines. Three of them were rather disappointing and definitely too expensive for their quality. The Chateau Grand Traverse was our favorite and we bought a few bottles. It was explained to us that the vineyard is one of the oldest in the region and that it was built with support from Germany.

On our way back we made a stop at the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

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The rather silly name originates in an even sillier legend:

According to the legend, an enormous forest fire on the western shore of Lake Michigan drove a mother bear and her two cubs into the lake for shelter, determined to reach the opposite shore. After many miles of swimming, the two cubs lagged behind. When the mother bear reached the shore, she waited on the top of a high bluff. The exhausted cubs drowned in the lake, but the mother bear stayed and waited in hopes that her cubs would finally appear. Impressed by the mother bear’s determination and faith, the Great Spirit created two islands (North and South Manitou islands) to commemorate the cubs, and the winds buried the sleeping bear under the sands of the dunes where she waits to this day. The “bear” was a small tree-covered knoll at the top edge of the bluff that, from the water, had the appearance of a sleeping bear. Wind and erosion have caused the “bear” to be greatly reduced in size over the years.

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The dunes are definitely worth a visit and with warmer weather and less rain it would probably be really awesome.
The dune formation is huge. It took us about 40 minutes to cross them to get to the shore of Lake Michigan.

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The shore provides the right stones for some stone “flitsching” action (whatever that is in English…).

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Kentucky Derby

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It’s been a while since my last post but yesterday’s party is definitely worth writing about. Lindsey and Aaron invited us over to watch the Kentucky Derby – an event that I’ve never heard of before. That’s a horse race (actually it’s more than one but only one of them is really famous) about which they say that that’s the most watched two minutes in sports every year.

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Everybody was supposed to dress up in typical derby apparel and we placed bets on the horses.

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Apparently, not knowing anything about the sport helps a lot when you’re betting on it. I won a few bucks without knowing what’s going on (as I did during the Super Bowl).

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Of course we had drinks, specifically Mint Juleps which tasted very good but were also pretty strong because they are mostly Bourbon, syrup and ice.

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We played a fun game called Bags which is pretty straight forward and fun to play outdoors. It reminded me a little bit of Kubb which is something we should also play soon. I wonder if that’s popular in the U.S.

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Later in the evening, drones were flown…

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… and placed on other people’s rooftops. Other people with National Rifle Association stickers on their car – so you probably don’t want to mess with them.

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It was a great party and I really look forward to more activities like this during the summer. After the cold winter, Michigan now really shows what it has to offer. With 27°C it already feels like mid-summer.

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