Poland!

Well, (finally!) here is our post on Poland! But first, a little update:

Cori had a great time playing a bit of tour guide to Angela, Amber Mooney (who you will meet in this post)’s sister, and her college group on Friday. Angela and her group are going on a 10 day tour of Europe and it was really fun to meet them all and witness first-hand their immediate impressions of Berlin! We were both going to try and meet up with them again while they were in Berlin, but unfortunately, we both we laid waste by a horrible cold over the weekend. So, for Memorial Weekend, while most of the Americans back at home were visiting graves, having family reunions, BBQs, going to the lake, and having a nice, long weekend, we pretty much sat in bed and watched movies, read, blew noses, and Cori vainly tried to keep her food down. However, we do have a new-found appreciation for the BBC “Tom Brown’s Schooldays” and the classic 1939 version of “The Four Feathers”.

Anyways, Poland! We went over the long Easter weekend and had a great time with Cori’s friends Jake and Amber Mooney. The last time Cori had seen them in person was when she took their wedding pictures in Washington State back in 2008! 6 years, 3 Mooney kids (Eric, Amy & Emily), and 1 Thonen wedding later, and Isaac got to meet them for the first time in Poland. Our friendship has definitely been international!

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Our welcome basket from the Mooneys!

The Mooney’s hospitality is awesome. After being cooped up in the big city of Berlin, both of us were glad to be in the small town of Kolo, with the Polish countryside all around. Our weekend involved going to see castles, a basilica, the site of a former extermination camp, bike riding, an Easter dinner, and playing with the Mooney kids. And we LOVED IT. Here’s pictures to prove it.

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We had a wonderful time, and can’t wait to see them again!

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Traveling and Documentation

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Well, it is high-time that you were all updated on the doings of the Berlin Thonens. Since our last post, we have traveled to both Poland and Ireland, via train and plane! However, we will update you on those adventures in the next few posts, which are already in the works! We just received our extended visas, so we won’t get deported in June. 🙂 This was the last of our official documentation that we needed to receive, since we had just obtained our registration papers a week or so ago. It seems that just about everything in Germany depends on those registration papers, and those take the longest to get. Before you get that though, you need an address where you live, but to pay rent, you need a German bank account to transfer the payment of funds. And to get a German bank account, you need to be registered… A nice game of round robin right there! However, we have a nice landlord who lets us pay in cash, which really helped get the ball rolling. Since we are now registered, we were also able to enroll in the required healthcare program, and now Cori can get an appointment scheduled for the tests she needs done for the pregnancy. It’s all coming together!

After two months in a foreign country, we feel like we are settling in; Isaac into his routine of school, and Cori into her daily life here. Public transportation is natural now, even if it does take a while, especially as we have to walk 10 minutes to get to a bus, train, or subway. Only buying enough groceries which you can reasonably carry 5-7 city blocks, and then fit into a tiny dorm-sized fridge isn’t actually so bad anymore, though it does take a lot more meal planning! Even having a washer that takes 2.5 hours to wash and then hang drying all the clothes seems normal now. It really is true that America is all about convenience.

But what we miss, what we really miss, is our Thai restaurants back in Wichita. And chips and salsa. Mexican food here is shameful.

In other news, we have found a church here! It feels a lot like our church back home in Kansas, and the fellowship is very friendly. The services take place in an old American Armed Forces chapel, and services are held at 2:30pm, so we have plenty of time to travel the hour it takes to get all the way to that part of town.

Berlin Tip #4: In order to look like a Berliner, keep a good stock of books or earbuds (to plug into your smartphone) handy. When traveling via public transportation, you will need either one or the other at all times to avoid eye contact with your neighbor.

Life in Deutschland

This week marks the 5th week of our living in Germany; it’s hard to believe it’s been that long already! We’ve explored the city at least 3 times every week, had food from all over the world (the pizza is almost as good as it is in Italy!), and seen numerous memorials and museum exhibits. Our German friends Michael and Judith have been awesome – Michael helped us get around the city the first few weeks and made it so our transition was very smooth; he even made us our first German meal of Jagerschnitzel!

Michael Neptunes fountain

Speaking of German food, here, Isaac demonstrates one of his favorite ways to eat a brat:

Brat 1 Brat 2

Judith is a friend of one of our midwives back at home in Kansas and is also an OB, so Cori loves knowing her here in this foreign-to-us country. She also showed us around to some of her favorite parts of the city, many of them close to where we live.

Judith

For instance, there’s an old abandoned airport (Tempelhofer Feld) within walking distance from our apartment that has been converted into a park where people bike, jog, walk their dog, and even garden! Cori’s been there a couple of times by herself to explore the homemade gardens and get out into the fresh non-city smelling air.

Tempelhoferfeld Tempelhofer gardens

About a week ago we traveled to a suburb of Berlin called Potsdam. Potsdam is located in what used to be Russian controlled Eastern Germany, but the town’s eastern border was shared with the U.S. controlled sector of Western Berlin. A bridge along this border was where the U.S. and Russia exchanged political prisoners during the Cold War and until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. We went to see this bridge, but it was raining, really cold, and at the end of the tram line, so we didn’t stick around long! Potsdam, however, is a beautiful and quaint kind of city with a Dutch sector.

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It even has a small area of houses clustered together that were built in the early 19th century after the Russian style at that time for a Russian choir that had a very interesting history. Also, in this colony there is still a family that can trace its roots back to an original choir member.

Russian house

While in Potsdam we bought ice cream – Cori wanted Armadas’ Dream (chocolate and pistachio), which was, in her words, also “her dream”.

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We also went to King Frederick the Great’s summer palace (you can see a picture of the flowers of the spectacular entrance over to the right in the Instagram photos).

Summer Palace

Embarrassing tourist moment: While at a Thai restaurant in Potsdam, I (Isaac) messaged our German friend, Michael, to ask him how to say something in German and he replied back, “Meine Frau hat sich im badezimmer eineeschlossen” which is roughly translated as, “My wife is stuck in the bathroom.” …Yes, Cori got stuck in the bathroom… She sent me a message while I was waiting for her that read, “So, I might be locked in the bathroom…” So, after I finished laughing at her message, I went to the bathroom to lend a helping hand. But, as expected, I couldn’t figure it out either. Therefore I went to an employee and tried my limited German on them. “Meine frau….um…stuck…bathroom *hand gestures*”. Two employees who seemed to comprehend our predicament proceeded to follow me to the bathroom. But despite my protests and insistence on them coming to the women’s room, they went into the men’s room and gave me a demonstration on how to flush the toilet, handed me a roll of toilet paper and left me with assuring smiles and a thumbs up. So…needless to say they were no help! Finally, Cori figured out how to turn the key really hard on the inside and open the door. We left that restaurant as fast as we could with me laughing and Cori kicking me. 😉

Tulips CobblestonesTeirgarten

Just a few days ago, we went to the Eastside Gallery, which is the longest remaining portion of the Berlin Wall – about a mile long. In 2005, Berlin tried to restore some of the famous paintings on the Wall, but discovered that it was impossible (mostly due to the poor quality of paint used for the original artwork as well as vandalism), so they decided to white wash many parts of the wall and have the original graffiti artists return and repaint their artwork (there was/is some politics and copyright issues with this). Here are a few that we felt were thought-provoking:

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And lastly, we will be heading to Kolo Poland for Easter to spend it with a few of Cori’s old friends – the Mooneys!

Teirgarten

Berlin Tip #3: An umbrella or raincoat, don’t leave home without them (if it’s springtime)! Even if the forecast says there is no chance it will rain, don’t believe them; they lie.

Our home!

Well, we’ve settled into our apartment, unpacked all of the suitcases, ordered the hotspot for our internet, and found the nearest movie theater (and only 3 bus stops away)! We live on the third floor of a four story building, along a residential cobblestone street in the district of Neukölln. Cori made her first German recipe last night – a dessert called Milch Reis, which is similar to what we call rice pudding in the states. Isaac is learning adjectives in his second week of studying the German language and Cori can usually understand how much she owes the store clerk without peeking at the cash register.

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Our street

Last Sunday, we went to a large flea market in the north side of Berlin, close to a remaining section of the Wall. There were so many venders! And so much to look at! From jewelry to books, beer steins to pottery, clothes and Soviet keepsakes from before the Wall fell.

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Oh and if you don’t already follow our blog here by email, we added a widget just to the right where you can sign up if you want to receive an email every time we post! And… We have added an info page on our baby! Just click on that up at the top of our page and you can follow along to see how big our baby is at any given time!

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Berlin Tip #2: When meandering around any European city with a pregnant wife, always carry a euro in the off chance that you might find a public restroom.

First week!

Well, we’re almost ready to tidy up our first week here in Berlin! The first two days we had nice, warm weather and our friend Michael showed us all over the centre area of Berlin and many famous sites. The last several days have been colder (10*C/50*F) and a bit misty at times, so we haven’t gone site-seeing as much. The U-bahn (subway), and the S-bahn (train) are the easiest to get around on, we just need to memorize which routes go where! The bus routes are a bit more tricky, as there isn’t a map or app that shows where they all stop at.

Our temporary apartment has been very lovely, and we share it with two girls – the owner and her friend. It’s located in a quaint part of town called Schöneberg and is not too far from the S-bahn and very close to the bus line Isaac will probably take to school. Tomorrow, we move into our permanent apartment, which will be about a 40 minute ride to school for Isaac and is located in the district of Neukölln, which is just east of Schöneberg.

For fun, and to get to know the city better, we like to randomly hop on the bus or S-bahn near our apartment and see how many transfers it takes to get to where we want to go.  For instance, last night we took the S-bahn to Brandenburger Tor and the train let out right in front of the city’s most iconic structure.

Brandenburger Tor

 

Learning the language has been…different. 🙂 I enjoy learning languages, especially how to mimic the proper enunciation, and a lot of the words make sense, they really do. For instance, a Bakery, or Bake Shop, is called a Bäckerei. I mean, that’s close enough, right? However, you really do feel like a small child when you can’t read anything. I tried to find some pickles in the store the other day and had the hardest time trying to figure out what flavor they were – I love it when they put pictures of spices on things! 😀

Isaac is learning the alphabet at school – hehehe, I feel like I send him to kindergarten every afternoon! I plan to learn how to count to 25 on YouTube after I finish this post, and then we will quiz each other.

I will end this by giving you tips in case you ever come to Berlin.

Berlin Tip #1: Do not walk in the bike lane. You will definitely be rung at with a bell and possibly even cursed at.

Almost there!

Well, our flight leaves tomorrow afternoon! 15 hours of cramped, highly-pressurized cabin air and a few movies later and we will be saying “entschuldigen sie” “instead of “excuse me”.

Please follow along as we experience Germany by clicking “Follow!” up at the top right of the side column and submitting your email; this will ensure that you receive an email every time we post a blog entry. Or you can just bookmark this page and check back frequently. And please leave us comments!

See you all again soon! And next time, we will probably have pictures!