A whole lot has happened since my last significant post. A brief update to try to catch up:
Last month, I took a trip to Dresden on a long weekend with my host family. During my first trip into former East Germany (other than brief time spent in the Eastern part of Berlin), I got to experience Dresden, which is a beautiful Saxon city that was a cultural, musical, and architectual center before heavy bombing during World War II flattened cultural landmarks and crippled the city. During 40 years under East German rule, very little was rebuilt and dozens of a type of building called a Plattenbau were erected. The Plattenbau, which was an especially popular method of construction in East Germany, is a cheap apartment building made out of prefabricated concrete slabs.
An example of Communist-era cookie-cutter apartment buildings.
An example of a beautification project.
The Zwinger, an example of the beautiful architecture that was destroyed during the war but rebuilt afterwards.
The end-of-year seminar in Berlin was a great weekend. We reflected on our year, visited the Bundestag to tour the Bundestag and meet with the respresentatives who organize the government side of the program and prepared ourselves for arriving in the United States and the possibility of "reverse culture shock". Angela Merkel even stopped by and said a few words to all of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange participants.
One of the highlights of the weekend was definitely our thank-you presentation. We sang a spoof of the '80s German hit 99 Luftballoons in front of cameras, a couple hundred other exchange students and the American ambassador to Germany.
Another exciting part of the last few weeks has been the Euro 2008. Every day there's world-class soccer on TV, and there's always something fun to do when Germany is playing. This whole country is absolutely crazy for soccer and it's a great time to be here. Hopefully I'll have another more detailed update about the Fussballfieber here.