Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rats, Drugs and Berliner Roll


Maine's state symbol is without a doubt the lobster.  In Berlin, it's the bear, and you see evidence of it throughout the city.  There are bear statutes everywhere. However, I would argue that Berlin's real symbol is the rat.  It is estimated that Berlin has five rats for every person in the city.  With a population of 3.4 million, that means there are approximately 17 million rats living among us.  How many wild bears does Berlin have? None, I imagine.

But why the rat?  Every city has its share of these cute furry creatures.  Why should Berlin have the prestige of being known as rat city?   The simple answer:  they are both so similar.  The rat like Berlin has a history of being viewed as dirty and even evil.  Both have survived wars and plagues; yet, they are resourceful and nothing keeps them down. They survive and even thrive. 

A couple of weeks ago, I needed some Aleve (Naproxen Sodium).  I recently had knee surgery and the doctor recommended Aleve as an anti-inflammatory drug to help reduce swelling.  In the USA,  Aleve is an over-the-counter drug that is easily obtained.  That is not the case in Europe.

In the UK and in Germany, a doctor's prescription is needed to get the drug.  In Norway, it's a bit easier to get, but there is a catch.  Aleve is only approved for sale, as a non-prescription drug, if it's used for the relief of menstrual cramps.  In other words, the pharmacist will sell the drug but only for its approved use. Well, long story short.  I bought the Aleve, and I feel great.


Last, but not least.  There's this urban myth that claims President Kennedy's famous statement:  "Ich bin ein Berliner" means "I am a jelly doughnut," and not "I am a Berliner."  I asked a few natives what the statement really means. Well, the answer is not that simple. To a native Berliner, President Kennedy's statement did mean "I am a jelly doughnut," but only to people familiar with Berlin slang.  A "Berliner" is known in Berlin as a jelly doughnut or jelly roll, but only in Berlin.  In other parts of Germany, the statement means a person from Berlin.  I hope this settles this burning question.

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