Berlin This Time

Berlin this time was just about food and family. Mum and Dad found themselves at Berlin airport at the end of a Johann Sebastian Bach tour (I know, I know, who does these tours? My parents.) and had a few days in Berlin before flying out to London. We took on the onerous task of driving across to the Hauptstadt and spending some quality time with them, eating and drinking and, when we thought all scientific evidence pointed to it being a physical impossibility, eating some more. We were so busy eating, I didn’t get any pictures of food, including the cheese plate at Galeries Lafayette, which was a thing of extraordinary beauty. Like Gendarmenmarkt.

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And florist shops that spill out onto the street.

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And balconies on old buildings.

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Berlin this time was sun and art markets by the Spree. It was shaggy-haired buskers in front of the Dom, pizza for lunch as the rain set in, and pistachio ice cream.

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A traditional Austrian dinner facing Gendarmenmarkt, complete with hot apple strudel. An hour in The English Book Shop, and a pile of new books, including classics for die Lüdde like Where the Wild Things Are and The Tale of Peter Rabbit. And seeing this book on the shelves.

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Emerging from a book fervour to find it pissing down. Buying little umbrellas in Rossman, and breaking one five minutes later. An Indian feast, die Lüdde learning how to use a straw just in time to finish a third of my mango lassi off. A wet walk past the Tor, through the oh so green Tiergarten, and finding Schloss Bellvue.

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An ‘I don’t really need dinner’ dinner at the Bavarian place under the hotel. Loads of Obazda cheese and thick farmer’s bread. A cheese – for a change – plate with a glass of white wine at Galerie Lafayette on Bastille Day. Take away Thai, Einstein Kaffee every morning because it’s Dad’s favourite, endless rain. A drive out of the tourist-infested Mitte into Charlottenburg, the rain drum-like, the sky leaden. Wondering if the rain is ever going to end. (It did.)

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Greek, with die Lüdde reconfirming her love of tzatziki, more rain. Coffee and a stroll through the Charlottenburg streets. A wander through the Schlossgarten. An excellent Thai curry for lunch – God bless the German Mittagstisch menu. Downtime with new books in the hotel room, the baby too. She may be The Gruffalo’s most fervant 11 month old fan.

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Vietnamese for dinner with friends and their beautiful baby. Their beautiful baby finding die Lüdde’s raspberry blowing completely sensational, and joining in with gusto. The diners next to us turning around with repulsion etched into their very faces.

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Milky coffee from the cutest little coffee shop for breakfast and a dirty, hot U and S-bahn ride into the Mitte. So much beauty in Berlin, so much of the opposite. From the sublime to the gore blimey, it’s all here. A wander around Oranienburgerstraße and the surrounding area. Coffee at ‘Berlin’s best’, The Barn, and a burger for SG at a super weird, kitsch 60’s American diner. The coffee was fine (superlative? I don’t think so.) and the American diner was super weird. Meeting lovely friends and their wonderful dog for another delicious Mittagstisch (so many deserved adjectives in one sentence. But really, so lovely, so wonderful, so delicious.). A baby that thinks napping in Berlin is a waste of time. Many would agree with her. Except her parents.

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Hitting the road early the next morning, car packed, coffees full, baby unable to fight the lull of the car seat. Arriving home to a flooded kitchen, and cupboards and drawers full of dreckig water. And the realisation that holidays stopped being holidays the moment we became parents.

But that’s fine, because what a wonderful week.

On Your TV

I popped across to Berlin a couple of weeks ago, to take Deutsche Welle up on their kind invitation to film an episode of Insight Germany. Insight Germany is a program from Deutsche Welle’s English speaking stable that ‘explores the unique perspectives of people who have come to Germany to live and work.’

My episode is airing tomorrow. It was huge fun to film and I realised just how much I use my hands when I speak, so I apologise in advance if them waving about during the interview is distracting. The host, Michaela, and I spoke at length about the book and the various impressions of Germany I have written about, including why I remain baffled over the popularity of Spargel.

So, where and how you can see it:

Global broadcasting times – for those with Deutsche Welle on their TV

Livestream online – for those who want to see it IMMEDIATELY. It will be broadcast on Wednesday, April 30th at 4:15 pm UTC, 18:15 German time.

Online link to the episode – for those who will watch online. This link goes directly to my episode.

The show’s website and episode list – in case you want to check out other episodes.

So, there you go. I hope you enjoy watching it and if you do (watch it, that is … actually, watch it and enjoy it) I’d love to hear from you. And I believe you can win a copy of the book, so that (alongside my hands) is an even further incentive to watch!

And, because the weekend was so gobsmackingly beautiful, a couple of photos:

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Mini Castles & Taking it Easy

I wasn’t going to write about Berlin because, it’s Berlin. And there are people far better equipped to write about a city that’s name and reputation precedes it so thoroughly it is nigh on impossible for a passer-through to do it justice. And Berlin, like Hamburg, is one German city that I’ve been fortunate enough to get to a few times. So I reconciled myself to two days of wandering around, a spot of light shopping, some good old fashioned eating and precious time spent with my intrepid Aunt and Uncle who are currently on a road trip around parts of Eastern Europe.

What I was going to do, was take a few photos and make this a quick, easily digested photo post. The camera came with us and we snapped here and there. But, really, as we swayed between book stores and crepe cafes and hand-warming cafe lattes, the camera stayed zipped in its bag. Berlin, for both of us, is a city we’ve seen a fair bit of and documentation of its grit and grandeur has happened on previous trips. So it seemed, with no details being scratched into a notebook and no one really manning the camera, the SG and I were subconsciously determined to just take it in and take it easy.

But then I went and Googled the area we were staying in, because I wanted to know about the big, beautiful houses that seemed architecturally unusual and sort of higgledy piggledy, as if someone with a lot of money had brought to life a series of their dream houses complete with spires and spikes and the overall feel of being something out of of a fairy tale. As it turns out, the neighbourhood we were in – Lichterfelde West – was developed throughout the late 1800s by a wealthy Hamburg business man, and is, according to Wikipedia ‘a remarkable example of 19th-century Villenkolonie, a German concept of settlements completely made up of mansion houses or villas.’ Those big, fairy-tale houses were indeed the product of someone with a lot of money and a penchant for spires and homes that look like mini castles. Furthermore, gas lamps are still found on street corners in Lichterfelde West, just to add to the sensation of suddenly existing in 1892.

So there you go. You learn something new everyday. And also … Villenkolonie … what a bizarre concept.

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For words on Berlin from the aforementioned people far better equipped than I:

Überlin, Explorer in Berlin, Nicole is the New Black, Irish Berliner, Ian and Ebe, andBerlin

 

The City that Never Stops

The first time you go to Berlin, a dedicated tour of the historical sites is imperative. It’s likely you will visit many of these sites when you return simply because the city’s sense of history and constant evolution is so extraordinary, it helps to be close to the sites that have come to define it.

It is one the subsequent visits to Berlin, that the rest of the city comes into sharp relief – the theatre, the food, the galleries, the shopping, The Spree. The history surrounds you, of course, still provides the backdrop. And it’s likely each time you return to the city there is a new excellent exhibition, or another signifiant site you overlooked last time. But once you have all the big things out of the way, it is time to poke around a bit, walk down the side streets, see it all from a different angle.  

So, a couple of weekends ago, I …

– Gorged myself at Vau

– Took a boat tour along The Spree

– Checked out the MoMA exhibition at the Martin Gropius Bau

– And the nod to history this time round was a visit to the excellent exhibition, The Topography of Terror