Monday, 30 November 2009

From A to Z


Tomorrow (2.12.) the elusive and funky Buchstabenmuseum has an open house, and I finally want to go look at the much talked about collection of arbitrary letters and typographical memorabilia. The showroom is usually open only monthly, but in December it seems to be open once a week – so better seize the opportunity to visit!

Photo from http://www.buchstabenmuseum.de/

Sunday, 29 November 2009

First Advent Sunday

We just came home from a lovely Sunday walk around Prenzlberg and a preview of all that December in Berlin has to offer. Mauerpark was buzzing with karaoke, shoppers, tourists and glühwein. The organic market on Kollwitzplatz is now also an advent market, and there we bought homemade mustard to bring home for Christmas. My brother loves his mustard strong, and we got him a beer mustard I'm sure he'll get excited over. The Kulturbrauerei complex has a "Lucia" Christmas market on every day until Christmas, between 15-22 o'clock. They have some Finnish stalls there too, that serve Finnish glühwein, glögi. (Which naturally is far better than the German glühwein ;) I'm really starting to feel christmassy and can't wait to open the first door of my advent calendar on Tuesday!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Fried sushi? Can it be done?



We have walked past this tiny little sushi place called Sumo Sushi on Kastanienallee several times, but it always seems empty and so we've had our doubts. Recently a friend moved in across the street from the restaurant and convinced me that Sumo Sushi does nice, fresh sushi. So we tried it. What we didn't expect was to become addicted. They serve a sushi roll called "panierte sushi", fried sushi. WTF? Is frying sushi even allowed? But we tried it – and loved it! Now we can't stop thinking about fried sushi, and we drag friends there and everyone agrees: it's CRAZY good.

P.S. Sumo Sushi on Kastanienallee has changed owners in February 2010, so I can't guarantee they do fried sushi anymore, or how well they do it.

Limbo

We seem to just be waiting now. Waiting for our colds to get better, waiting for my dad's visit next week, waiting for Christmas. It doesn't feel very likely to find a job before Christmas, and since we are going home for three weeks, it doesn't really seem fair either. We see our friends a lot, and we both have set up language tandems, but it just doesn't take up that much time... Truth be told, I'm a little intimidated by sending out my CV in German and pretending to be good enough to interview in German! So I spend my time planning for dad's visit, thinking about what to cook and bake, and figuring out Christmas presents. And that's not bad either.

Tonight we are having our Irish friends D&M over for glühwein and salmon pasta. I'm still deciding whether or not to do a dessert. Life is good.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Lomography



I have two plastic Lomography cameras that take the coolest photos in the world. One is a Fisheye, that takes round photos with an extreme fish eye effect. The other one is a Supersampler with four lenses, that takes four photos in one frame. It's a bit like cheating, but there are a few tricks to getting good shots. I will continue to learn, but here are some autumnal Supersampler Lomo's (from Berlin):

Sunday, 22 November 2009

It is the season to be jolly

Now Christmas time has officially begun for me. We fought our hangovers today (the result of a very successful sushi dinner party) and went to the Finnish Christmas market in Kreuzberg. It was small and sweet, but expensive. We loosened our belts enough to buy Karelian pies (five for four euro) and a bag of salmiakki candy (€1.50). And because of the state we were in, we could not resist sharing a freshly smoked salmon on rye, either, which set us back a whopping five euro. It was an expensive trip to Finland :)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Getting ready for winter


Even if the weather is freakishly warm for November (+10-15°C), one of my favourite cafés, Blumencafé, is getting ready for the cold in the most cosy way! I love their outdoor seating all year round; you sit surrounded by flowers and greenery from their flower shop. The wintry, cosy bales of hay are the icing on the cake.

On a bright, sunshiny day in Berlin


We are feeling a little flu-ish, but weren't going to let that keep us away from the sunlight today. It was +15 degrees, which might just be the warmest November day I have ever seen. We decided to finally go look at the East Side Gallery; the world's biggest out door art gallery, painted on to a remaining part of the Berlin wall. We were a bit disappointed, as all the paintings were new, and we couldn't feel any anarchism or passion in them. The ginormous and ugly O2 Arena also really ruins the vibe!


We decided to keep walking, all the way to Alexanderplatz. It was mostly a very unattractive walk with a view of huge Soviet-era and only glimpses of the river Spree. Just before reaching Alexanderplatz we stumbled upon the Nikolaivierteil. Just east of the big park at the bottom of Alexanderplatz is a tiny little part of Berlin, centred around the Nikolaikirche, that has survived all the bombs. It's full of tiny shops, museums and restaurants, aimed maybe mostly at tourists. Since Berlin is so cheap, the tourist prices aren't too bad either. My dad is coming for a visit next month, and we will definitively take him for a stroll here on the cobble stone lanes and go for a pint in one of the picturesque pubs.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Finnish Christmas Market



Here's something to do when the sun shines on Saturday: visit the Finnish Christmas market in Kreuzberg! I will definitively go there on Saturday or Sunday to see if I can find some Finnish chocolate, salmiakki and Christmas goodies. And maybe something with a Moomin troll on it :) Speaking of which, did anyone else know they are doing a Moomin film? A former colleague sent me this link today. The weather forecast is amazing for Friday and Saturday, like +14°C and sun, so let's make the most of it!

Picture from Moomins and Midsummer Madness

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Language tandem

I just came home from my first language tandem. It's absolutely genius: the idea is to exchange foreign languages with native speakers, for free. I met my language partner, Silvia, through a website; she wants to improve her Finnish, I want to improve my German. We got along really well and talked for almost three hours. We're the same age, we both are into food, and obviously learning languages. Her Finnish isn't so advanced, so I got the long end of the stick and we talked in German for most of the night. I'm on cloud nine now, because she told me my German was really good! Here's where you sign up for free to find a language partner.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Warsaw by train

Lounging at the Deutsche Bahn lounge

I just got back yesterday from a weekend in Warsaw, celebrating the housewarming of A&K, our Polish friends we met in Dublin. It was very exotic to travel abroad by train, not by frickin' Ryanair! The fastest connection between Berlin and Warsaw is just over 5,5 hours, but you also don't have to queue at the check in desk, the security control or the boarding gates. Train stations also tend to be in the city centres, so no need for extra transport! Two thumbs up! It did get a little boring to sit in the train for so long, but at least you can walk around and sleep easier than on a bus or an airplane. Our train tickets cost €196, and we availed of a special offer to travel first class. Second class was on special for €156. I think the difference between first and second class was that there was six seats in our cabin, eight in second class. Also a food cart kept patrolling the isles in first class. The most genuine first class experience was at Berlin Hauptbanhof before the train took off: we got to hang out in the Deutsche Bahn lounge, drink free beverages and take magazines with us for the train. Or maybe we weren't supposed to take them, but we did :P

Upon arrival in Warsaw it was a slight shock to be surrounded by a language that you have no chance of understanding. At the central train station there were no signs in English, not even for the exits! Luckily our friend K collected us and walked us out to the right tram.


Warsaw is not a very pretty city. Mostly it looks like the eastern suburbs of Berlin. It's not the fault of the Polish, it was the Soviets who re-built the city from the ruins of the second world war. And in fairness, most cities are ugly in November. As an exception the Old City of Warsaw was a surprise to us; it is pretty and full of atmosphere – definitively the "must-see" of Warsaw.

The goal of our trip was to catch up with our friends. On Friday we went to a few bars in the city centre and on Saturday was the big housewarming. Many people we know from our time in Dublin were there for the party, and it was a really good night. I had forgotten the Polish tradition of drinking vodka shots at every turn, and it turned very loud and rowdy. The Polish honey vodka is deceivingly delicious... I'm glad we didn't have to face the neighbours!

Poster at the new Warsaw Rising Museum

Pirogi – Polish dumplings stuffed with mushroom and cabbage

Thursday, 12 November 2009

A holiday away from the holiday

When you are unemployed, the weekend can start on Thursday. We are giving Deutsche Bahn a try while visiting our friends in Warsaw over the weekend. I think this is my first time in first class, too; DB had an offer and so first class tickets were the same price as second class tickets. I haven't travelled by train in years (not counting the S-bahn), so I am excited. What makes me even happier is avoiding Ryanair. We can carry as much luggage as we can, and as many liquids as we want = Freedom!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The fall of the wall

So, that was that then. The 20th anniversary of the wall falling. It was rainy and miserable out, no way was I going out anywhere to hold hands with strangers. I know, I'm no team player. Instead a bunch of us Finns sat in our apartment and watched it all happen on tv. Drinking sparkling wine and eating quiche. I have to say, it could not have been a nicer evening – and we had a great view of the Brandenburger Tor event on the small screen. I bet the only thing we would have seen there in person were the insides of hundreds of umbrellas.

Tomorrow I get my better half back from Dublin again, and after a few nights of rest, we will take the train to Warsaw. I am very excited about that, I have not been there before. I wonder if you get any veggie food there? :)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Free dinner

I don't know about free lunches, but in Berlin there IS such a thing as free dinners! Our friend, who lives in Neukölln, invited us to her local for free food yesterday. B-Lage serves one meal a week for a mere "spende", aka donation, to it's customers every Wednesday. We were a little suspicious, us being vegetarians and also not knowing many nice places in Neukölln. This bar certainly is as cosy and hip as any place in Prenzlauer Berg. DJ's play electronic music, the walls have cute spray-art and it has that cool run-down look. We arrived something to eight and after that the place started to slowly get crowded. Food was served around 8.30pm, and by then the bar was full and the queue for food circled room. The dish of the day was "curryous"; mash with a grain in it, maybe rice, accompanied by a delicious Indian-style spicy spinach sauce with pineapple. The food is always vegetarian, and this week vegan as well. Still, maybe the best part of the night was that all of us who gathered are learning German, and so we spoke German the whole night!




Wednesday, 4 November 2009

First snow

It's snowing in Berlin! It looks really strange and since it's too early and too warm for real snow, it is extremely wet outside. We came home from school looking like we had just taken a shower :) We still have to venture to the post office to send out our Father's Day cards, which we should have done yesterday...

View from our window today

Tonight we are invited to join a few class mates in a bar in Neukölln that serves free food. Very exciting to see what that's like! Our friends go every week, so it can't be too bad... I'll take notes and pass on the wisdom.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

When the wall came down

Everybody keeps talking about the 20th anniversary of the wall coming down – and I don't have any particular plans. What to do? I am invited to a birthday brunch on Saturday, and the hostess promised we could then also commemorate the wall falling :) I still do feel like I should be Participating more. I belong to a group on Facebook that aims to make a wall of people hand-in-hand, recreating the wall. Someone else will try to recreate the wall using Domino blocks. Apparently there will also be a gig with 200 guitar players at once at the East Side Gallery. I have been trying to research this, but am no more decided on what to do when I started... Here's some links, anyway:

Free stuff to do in Berlin next weekend
Official website of the Mauerfall
Semi official website
Concert at Brandenburger Tor

Halloween – all year round!

I think I have written about Zyankali before. It's a tiny little cellar bar in Kreuzberg and we got accidentally very, very drunk there once, forgetting that the tasty house brew, Zyankalibräu, is 8,5% strong... We were there on Halloween and had a great time – the owner even played us some Finnish music :D But the thing is, the bar looks the same all year long; like the set for a horror film. There are skeletons and skulls everywhere, it's dark and gloomy and even our table was a coffin with a glass lid, so we could see the "mummified body" in it – can you see it in the photo? Very cool. Not to every ones taste, I can imagine.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Last days of autumn


I can't stop looking at all the amazing colours that have been everywhere these past weeks! I have a special fascination with the vines, climbing on all all the buildings in pretty patterns an shades. It makes me sad that the weather is getting colder and all the colours will slowly float to the pavement. Maybe winter will be pretty, too?



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