Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Field trip

Today we went on a field trip with our German class. We met at one o'clock and jumped on the M6 tram to Hohenschönhausen, the former secret Stasi prison and detention centre. Entry was €5 and it included a 1,5h guided tour, which we took in English. It felt frustrating that the whole purpose of this evil facility was to interrogate and scare people into confessing crimes against the GDR, many of which were made up. After a trial everyone still ended up in a normal prison or a work camp to serve their sentence. Having just been to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, this just felt so trivial. Plus, I've been to the tiny KGB museum in Vilnius, Lithuania, and it chocked me far more. None the less, it was interesting, our guide was good and I think it was totally worth five euro. It was fun to hang out with my course mates, too. Tomorrow the entire school is going for drinks, because all the four-week-courses are finishing up. On Saturday we are invited to a birthday party, with a new-in-Berlin-crowd, that should be fun!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Until next time

My best friend was visiting us for four days, she left this morning. Of course I got a cold at the same time, it always seems to be like that. We still had a fantabulous time, and did an amazing amount of Berlin-living; not to mention beer-drinking. I think the most memorable day was Saturday, when we went to Sachsenhousen concentration camp in the day, and then to see Inglorious Basterds in the Sony Centre in the evening. Great contrast, great film! Sunday was particularly nice too, because the weather was incredibly warm and sunny, and we got to enjoy Mauerpark the way it is meant to be enjoyed; curry wursts, krishna fast food, browsing and then sitting down in the grass, drinking beer and listening to music. We also met other friends there and I counted five languages being spoken in our little group; English, German, Finnish, Swedish and Portuguese!


After Mauerpark we went to Massai restaurant for African food, which was really interesting – and quite inexpensive. I had a South African cider with dinner, and it was the best cider I've had outside Ireland, I think. I think what impressed our visitors the most was the amount of super-cool bars, cafés and restaurants in Berlin. Friday night we spent in Zu mir oder zu dir, a funky, little bar with a cool dj and the most comfortable sofas ever. On Saturday we spent all night at Tacheles, hopping from bar to bar there – it is just the most unbelievable place in the world; we wondered in the art studios, the sculpture park in the yard, watched a flame-throwing act... On Sunday we went to the absinth bar on Schönhauser Allee after the cinema, and even if there were tourists there who found the bar in their Lonely Planet guides, it didn't make the atmosphere any less effortless and fun. The list of absinths is long, the prices are reasonable, even cheap if you go for one of the promotions. Still on Sunday we managed to go to both Wohnzimmer, that I had read about everywhere, and Soupanova, to meet our Irish friends.

Painting the wall in Mauerpark

Lucky it's cheap here, that sounds like an expensive weekend!!! :D

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Perfect autumn

This is the nicest autumn I have ever seen, I think. The temperature has been well over +20°C for the past days, and even if it's cooling a bit, it's still sunny and warm. On Sunday we spent a few hours in Mauerpark, and it was just as in summer; we saw four of five bands play, the Bearpit Karaoke was back... And we found new food; a Krishna food stall had appeared and we tried bread pakoras, samosas and a mango lassi. YUM. They seem to have a restaurant, or 'food club', on Invalidenstrasse 145. You pay a 6 euro membership and from then on you can have all-you-can-eat delicious veggie-food for 4,50. They are open Mon-Fri 17-20.

Tonight my best friend and her boyfriend are coming to visit, and I have a cold. I'm even staying home from German class. It's typical – I think the last three times I've met A, I have gotten a cold. I think it's just too exciting!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Is it the season to be merry?

I remember being shocked the first weeks of November, when Christmas decorations appear in the shops. Imagine the shock of finding Christmas chocolates and cakes paraded in the shops in September – while it's still +25 outside?! Lidl was even worse, but I didn't have my camera with me there.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

German online

I am really happy with my language class, and after today I am half way through the intensive course. I hope I can continue for another month, then maybe I'd be comfortable with all this German speaking television (Simpsons in German!) and could maybe enjoy reading a newspaper. I found great learning material online, too. My favourite is Lingorilla, a language learning portal that have short video-lessons in German, then exercises that go with the video. It's A1-level, so quite basic, but I still found it challenging and surprisingly fun. They do French and English too, but that doesn't really concern me now. It seems like a great idea for a website and I hope they will expand to more levels and more languages! My language school, Deutsche Akademie, have a free online grammar course, not so exciting, but useful. Viel Glück!

Monday, 14 September 2009

The best thing about Germany... that it's completely normal to go out for breakfast! Our friends H and C were over for a visit, and we ate breakfast in cafés on the two mornings that were sunny.

This breakfast cheese platter is at Godot on Kastanienallee, a place that had been recommended to me specifically for breakfast. It was plentiful and nice, for sure! We had a slightly posher, and slightly nicer version the next morning at Blumencafé on Schönhauser Allee – for a few more euros, of course. It's a genius place that combines a flower shop and a café. Inside the shop live two enormous parakeets that scare and fascinate me. Another breakfast favourite is the vegan/vegetarian buffet at Morgenrot, also on Kastanienallee. And maybe when our next guests come, we will get a chance to go try the Sunday buffet Rix in Neukölln, highly praised by a friend who used to live in that area.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Back to school

We have started our intensive German course this week. Clearly, we have gotten used to doing nothing, because now we have been absolutely exhausted every night! In fairness, we cycle about sixteen kilometres daily to get to and from class. But the lessons are a lot of fun and the others in my group are all really nice. Of eight people four are Nordics, which tell you a bit about the amount of us here. But the classes seem to work, I already feel like I understand and could speak better. Probably not :)

We have guests arriving tomorrow, all the way from London. Now we are cleaning and tidying up a bit, before we do our homework. I have a meeting tomorrow evening, a "let's meet and see if you would fit in here and what role you could have before we invite you to a job interview" meeting. Weird. Never had one of those before. I also sent two more job applications today, so maybe the leisurely life will soon be over. Sigh...

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Autumn in the air

Autumn is here, you can smell it. It was quite cool today, even if the sun came out and it was a nice day. I don't mind autumn, and after Ireland and its one, rainy season, all the four seasons seem very exciting. We went to Kollwitzplatz market in Prenzlauer Berg yesterday, and ohmygod, it was amazing! We have only been there on a Thursdays for the organic market, before, and that is a smaller event. Now there was so much yumminess all around us, that I think we could have spent the contents of our bank account in a flash. We were good though, and walked home with only what we came for: organic apples. It's totally the season for apples now, and we decided to preserve some goodness for later, too, by drying apple slices. They are as nice as candy and a really healthy snack – very cheap, too.

There are three different ways to dry the apples that I know of; hanging them to dry in room-temperature, using the oven or using a food dryer. The oven is the least ecological choice, but it was the easiest one for us who don't have much space in our apartment. For comparison we also left some to dry in room temperature.

Dried apple chips
5 big organic apples
organic lemon juice
(sugar and cinnamon)

Prepare a bowl of water and add lemon juice, one tablespoon per 100ml water. This will keep the apples from turning brown. I added a little bit of cinnamon and some sugar, because the apples were quite sour. Wash the apples and remove the cores with a core remover or a knife (be careful!). Slice the apples into thin rings, about 2-5 millimeter thick, if you can. Plop them in the water as you go.

If you hang your apples to dry using string, pat them dry first and then hang them slightly apart. Hang them on a clothesline or clothes rack, for example. This will take a few days. You can also leave apple slices to dry lying flat on baking paper, but I'm sure this is even slower. When using an oven, line up the apple slices in rows on multiple baking trays and fill the oven as much as you can. Heat the oven to 50°C, and if your oven isn't a convection oven (fan oven), you should keep the oven door open from time to time. Rotate the trays every few hours, the top one will dry quickest. This took about 6 hours in our oven, times may vary.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

So I have a sweet-tooth...

I was the happiest of girls when we moved to Berlin and realised we can get most things here that we missed in Ireland, like rhye bread and salty licorice – aka salmiakki. Different types of "Finnish Bröt" can be found in most shops; Netto, Lidl, Kaiser... And it tastes just like at home. Our most regular sweets-supplier is a shop called Bärenland on Schönhauser Allee. They sell Swedish, Finnish and Danish sweets, and recently started selling gelatin free fruit gums too!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Expanding our horizons

It still seems to be a slow process to find an apartment here in Berlin. Our friends stayed over for a few nights and had 5 viewings set up for three days, but none of the places were quite right. Yesterday we took a stroll around Pankow, and were quite pleasantly surprised. Specially the area around Florastrasse seemed quaint and had all the services you'd need. We found a really quirky café that we will definitively return to, called Café & Salon Eigenartich; a second hand and antiquities shop combined with a café. We felt like we were having tea in someone's private apartment! We might be visiting Pankow more often, because our friends were quite impressed.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Oranienburger Straße – Bonbonmacherei!

We had no plans yesterday, so we lazily browsed our Lonely Planet Berlin book. Around Oranienburger Straße interesting things seemed to pile up – many of them free, like the candy factory Bonbonmacherei and The Ramones museum. It turned out that the Ramones museum now charges 3,50€ entrance, so we didn't go in the end. But we had a fabulous day, spent almost four hours just walking that one stretch of street. We left our bicycles at the Hackescher Höfe, a collection of joined courtyards, had a walk around and found a really cute, old fashioned toy shop. We continued our walk and headed for what was my goal the whole time: the sweet shop! Bonbonmacherei is in Heckmann Höfe, a smaller cluster of courtyards, filled with art galleries. They sell an impressive selection of hand made sweets and if your timing is right, you get to watch the candy being made in front of you.

The other highlight of the excursion was Kunsthaus Tacheles, a cooperative art project with workspaces for artists. The whole building looks like it should be demolished, it smells a little of pee, but it's super cool with its many floors completely covered in graffiti, old posters and clearly, attitude. When you snoop around the building you find make-shift galleries, shops and art studios hidden around, and there's a beer-garden and a bar downstairs. Only in Berlin... The Museum für Naturkunde will have to wait 'til next time, even if I really wanted to go see the dinosaurs.

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