Looking back

Well, it’s about that time. I’ve got my boarding passes printed out, my bags … ready to be packed, and my very successful going-away party taking its toll. And so I’ll take a moment to reflect back on my year in Berlin.

In short, it’s been a hell of a year. Work-wise, I’m honestly a little surprised at how productive I’ve been. I’ve written 61 stories and posts for 11 publications, including The New Republic, Foreign Policy, Slate, The American Prospect, Monocle, Der Spiegel, die tageszeitung, Handelsblatt, and, most frequently, the Los Angeles Times. I’ve covered everything from nuclear power to the euro crisis, from museums to the topless girl on page one of the Bild tabloid. In the process, I’ve probably learned more than in any other year of my adult life.

My reporting has taken me to Dresden, Leipzig, Hamburg, Erfurt, Brandenburg, Düsseldorf, and the tiny village of Kleinensiel. And my leisure travels (thanks, Easyjet) have seen me off to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Bruges, Luxembourg, Marrakech, Budapest, London, Warsaw, Krakow, and the Dalmatian coast of Croatia.

Here are a few things I’ll miss about Berlin:
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Pick your poison

As I write this, it’s simultaneously thundering, pouring, and hailing out. It’s typical Berlin summer weather. It’s rained every day this week, and will rain every day until my departure for the greener pastures of Washington, DC, on Monday.

Only are they greener? On no day this week does the high temperature in Berlin come within ten degrees of the low temperature in DC. What’s better, sweltering with frequent sun or cool with no sun at all? Guess I’ll soon find out.

No, but there are many things to look forward to in DC, and just as many to miss in Berlin. Don’t worry, a sappy retrospective post is on its way….

Germany’s Icarus turn: How a cloudy country became the world solar power leader — and got burned

The story of Germany’s ascension to world leader in solar energy — and subsequent crash — is a fascinating one. So fascinating that I wrote 4,000 words about it. Check it out.

Oh, and a bonus photo of the scene on which the curtain rises:

Teufelsberg, for real

Back in October, a friend and I took an impromptu trip out to the Teufelsberg to catch a pretty sunset. But we hiked up the wrong hill and were only able to see the famous old spy station from a distance.

At last, I’ve righted that wrong. Another friend was in town, so I dragged him onto the S-Bahn, into the woods, through a hole in the barbed-wire fence, and into the technically-sealed-off Cold War listening post.

Here’s what we found:

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Behold: Pirates!

On May 16, I told you that my piece on the German Pirate Party would “appear in the LA Times in the next few days.”

Well, it seems their definition of “few” is more expansive than mine. But at long last, here it is: my experience hanging out with the party chiefs at their victory celebration in Düsseldorf, and my thoughts on the party’s future.

A special evening and a special honor

Permit me some very brief horn-tooting. Last night in Berlin, I was presented with a journalism prize, my first since high school, for a story I wrote in the fall. The Arthur F. Burns Prize is given annually by the German Foreign Ministry to one German and one American alum of the Burns Fellowship (which I did in 2010) for a story written in the previous calendar year. This year, the jury selected this story of mine on nuclear power in Germany, published in The New Republic.

I can safely say that last night was the first occasion on which I received congratulations from multiple U.S. ambassadors and the NATO commander. It was an honor to be among so many journalism, politics, and business VIPs, and it was more than a little surreal to be at the center of it all. Thanks to any Burns folks who may be reading this. I hope to live up to your very high standards.

For any Germanophones among you, here’s the press release from the Foreign Ministry.

Update: Ah, here’s an English version.

It is June…

…and this afternoon I wore a winter coat and a hat as I walked through my neighborhood. Thanks, Berlin.

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