Sunday, April 24, 2011

Berlin :: Week Five

I can't believe that we're into our sixth week in Berlin. I'm so happy to be here and while the prospect of going home has it's comforts and has my favourite people, the reality is setting in that I don't really want to go home.

Week five was an awesome one. The weather here has been unrelentingly beautiful with cloudless blue skies and above 20 degrees every day! (Sorry to rub it in Canada, I hear it's not so nice there.) AND Michael and Patrick arrived! I miss them so much since they moved to Halifax and so it was a pretty amazing thing to be able to spend a full week with them. And we didn't waste any time embarking on a week of Culture & Cocktails. And I made some more fans of Berliner Weisse in them too. (The consensus in Germany is that it's a trashy drink but whatever, it's tasty.) And we discovered a whole bunch of new things, like the Prater biergarten, which is apparently Berlin's oldest beer garden, and is awesome. And so we became regulars.

I'm happy to say that the we were on a winning streak with the food this week. We took the boys to the best places we've been so far, and found a few new ones, including -- oh mon dieu -- the Schnitzelei. Dear Lord. We had what I would consider one of the best meals I've had. As you might guess from the name, it's a German/Austrian restaurant and it's ridiculously good. And I ate like a German and tried beef (a roulade stuff with pickles!!) for the first time in like 10 years. And I sampled the schnitzel which was bonkers good. Think warm potato salad, red cabbage with bacon, bacon-wrapped plums, sauerkraut, potato dumplings, trout mousse... dang. Amazing meal. And at Berlin prices!

We took in lots and lots of culture this week. We went to the Jewish Museum which was designed by Daniel Libeskind and is called 'Between the lines'... basically the building is made of two juxtaposing lines that intersect to create voids, which represent the voids in jewish history because so much of their culture was destroyed (there is a lot more to it than that, but that's a snapshot). A pretty amazing building and a bit of a heady experience... The building is designed with lots of angles -- angled walls, angled windows, angled glass displays and ceilings -- and the result is that you actually feel a bit physically disoriented. A pretty amazing building.

On Tuesday the boys went off to do some stuff we'd already done and Dave and I took this amazing bike path through new parts of the city... it was all new to us and it seemed like every corner we turned, there was something crazier than the last. Like, a lovely pond. Then a nude park. Then a picturesque little bridge and stream. Then a reserve for wild boars. Then a fairy tale-like little village of tiny little cottages in all colours, many of which had decorated their gardens with colourful easter eggs. Such a nice day!

And we had an Absinthe night. Absinthe is more common over here than at home, that's for sure. I don't know what the big deal is at home, it's like it's some illegal drug or something but truth be told, it's just a lovely drink that tastes like anise and is super fun to drink because you get to light an absinthe-soaked sugar cube on fire, and you get to dance with the green fairy. Absinthe aside, we had a suuuuper fun night.

A totally awesome week!!!

:::::::::::::: SEE MY BERLIN WEEK FIVE PICTURES HERE ::::::::::::::

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Berlin Week Four

A pretty chilled out week here in Berlin. Just sticking to our neighbourhood, going to the park, bike riding, reading, doodling and cooking. It's kind of unreal and I feel pretty spoiled. Been taking it easy in preparation for Michael and Patrick coming this weekend!!!! Will be really nice to see some more familiar faces that I love.

I went for a long walk to rediscover our neighbourhood -- because it's become such a part of our every day that I barely even see it anymore. So I went out walking, with an emphasis on keeping my eyes wide open and my mind alert so that I could see everything fully and was happy with what I saw. What a great neighbourhood.

So many architectural details that you could totally take for granted because they're just what surrounds you. One of the best things about Berlin are the alleys. Walking down the street, a door will be open, leading to a courtyard behind the street facades, and if you follow the passageway you can see some beautiful things. Also, totally love all the colourful schools... you just look at them and feel like they're encouraging kids to be creative inside. Such a nice thing.

There is also a ton of street art in Berlin... I love to see a city painted in colour so I think it's great.

Had a fun week of cooking. Man it's nice to not be working so much! I made homemade pierogies! And eggplant parmesan! And lemon cake with creamcheese frosting!

We got our bikes going this week and I love my bike more and more. Wish I could bring it home with me. Our friend Vanessa has been here visiting so we've been out a few times trying some news bars in new neighbourhoods like Trinkteufel (drink devil, kind of a cheesy punk bar with skulls everywhere) and Z bar, a bar that actually has a theatre in it that plays cult classics and is free, so you can grab a drink and watch a movie. Been partaking the delicious Pastis that is so much more common in europe than at home, and what a nice little ritual to get a glass with the anise-flavoured liquor, and a carafe to add as much water as you like. My new drink of choice.

Been working on more personal work and have been posting it so I can see the big picture of what I've been doing. It's here if anyone is interested!

We booked train tickets to go to Prague and Budapest which is SUPER exciting. My friend Amanda has graciously accepted to have us stay with her in Budapest which is awesome.

So yeah, a pretty chilled out week with not a ton to report, but all is well over here.

:::::::::::::: SEE MY BERLIN WEEK FOUR PICTURES HERE ::::::::::::::

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Berlin Week... three??

Man, time is unfortunately flying by over here. My friend Jenn has gone home to Canada and we did a ton of good stuff this week. The weather was so, so beautiful... big blue skies and fluffy clouds. It was 23 degrees and sunny all day on Sunday!!! I think I got a bit of sunstroke, strange but true that I was happy to have it.

Went to the Museum of Decorative Arts which was awesome. Stuff ranging from the 1400s to present, and they painted a realistic and kind of hilarious picture of the 80s. Truly a decade when you have to wonder what we were thinking...

But mostly it was just totally beautiful and amazing things. Crazy handmade compasses from the 1500s, furniture, glassware, vases, utensils, tea sets, shoes... the kinds of things that I love most in this world.

Also did my first adventures into Berlin shopping. Oops! But look at this vintage shop! How could I resist? And this was probably about a third of their selection of boots. Needless to say, I will be returning home a little richer in footwear.

Saw some pretty amazing things this week. There were the standards, like segway tours. Then there were these cheesy tours that you can do on bicycles built for 6 people; a big tacky spectacle, really. So imagine how I felt when I saw this cycling BAR -- built for 12 people who pedal while sitting at a bar and being served beer. Only in Germany.

While the food continues to be mediocre at most restaurants, there were some highlights. Lattes are really delicious and I don't even like lattes that much. Tried some good traditional german food, including bavarian meatloaf which kind of tasted like a premium hot dog loaf, but ten times more delicious. And we happened to be walking through an outdoor market the other day, in search of a snack and I came upon this and before my common sense kicked in, I had ordered what appeared to be a bread and cheese kebab which was then dipped in batter and deep-fried. It was delicious! But after I got home, I realized I had hit rock bottom, and so I went for a run. The Beat the Berlin Belly fitness routine has begun.

Needless to say, we've still been cooking for ourselves a lot. We also tried some Turkish food which was delicious -- there is a huge Turkish community in Berlin so it was nice to see some food with some real love (and real vegetables) put into it.

We went back to the jewish memorial at night to see what it would look like and let me tell you, it was about a million times more scary.

Berlin has started to seem smaller and more familiar as we start to get our bearings and put the puzzle pieces together. Going out on epic walks through the city and stumbling upon some really great things. Like neon-lit buildings, or monuments with bullet holes. So much history here. Like the other day when we happened to walk past this... a beautiful hotel had been bombed during the war and parts of it remained, so they put the inside outside in this display for all to see. There's all sorts of 'half bombed' things that have been preserved... it may only be a portion of what was once there but it's a reminder of what happened here and gives the city so much character.

And we now have bikes! I bought mine from some shady vendor at Mauer Park, that huge Sunday flea market. Yesterday we went to put air in our tires and it was like my tire started to grow a tumour in front of my eyes, this big bulging air pocket formed inside the tire and then it totally exploded! It sounded like a shotgun went off in the street. Resulting in the first investment in this temporary bike with the addition of a new tire, which Dave put on for me. What a man, what a man, what a man. What a mighty good man.

:::::::::::::: SEE MY BERLIN WEEK THREE PICTURES HERE ::::::::::::::

Monday, April 4, 2011

Berlin Week Two

A little behind in my blogs but... better late than never?

Another awesome week in Berlin, which included our first real experiences of Berlin night life. The bars can stay open 24 hours if they want to, we have taken them up on their offer a few times until about 4am but after that, the thirties in me kick in and it's time for bed. It definitely affects the vibe of the night though... when the night has no beginning or no end for everyone collectively as a group, it's hard to tell what time it is. We then naturally ended the night by indulging in Currywurst. If you've never had Currywurst, it's a Berlin food phenomenon -- sausage served with curried ketchup. Yes, I have tried it and yes, it's delicious. I've been taking a totally 'when in Rome' approach to eating meat and happy about my choice so far.

My friend Jen arrived this week and we've been having a super fun time. We went to the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe and it was soooo well done and so, so heavy. It's this crazy arrangement of 2711 dark columns rising up from the ground arranged in a grid... when you walk into the grid, the ground starts to get deeper and more hilly, and it's really like a massive maze that you feel you could get lost in. It's kind of suffocating and scary, and disorienting and makes you almost feel a bit panicked. There is also a museum that goes along with it that recounts all of the horrors of the Holocaust. Very emotional, heart-wrenching, mind-blowing. I learned some stuff I didn't know happened and it's so horrifying. Anyway, it's something that you kind of have to face when you come here... you can't ignore the intense and horrifying history of this city. So it was a heavy but necessary experience going to the memorial and museum that goes with it. It's really amazing.

We also did a walking tour, which was like 5 hours long and super interesting. Hitler's bunker, lots of crazy facts about the history in Germany, and lots of museums.

Other highlights of the week included our first german rock show, the amazing weather, and the little hot dog and fry men scattered around the city.

I nearly lost Dave this week to the human donation box but I convinced him to stay with us. Thank goodness. A bizarre concept to so blantantly ask for peoples souls, don't you think?

We are in a beautiful city with a dark past, but it's such a vibrant and beautiful place to be. The architecture is great -- a mix of really vibrant and colourful (sometimes garish) buildings contrasting against really beautiful classically European styles with muted stonework and lovely iron work. Loving it in Berlin!

:::::::::::::: SEE MY BERLIN WEEK TWO PICTURES HERE ::::::::::::::