Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Begging for boxes

Today we decided to finish most of our packing, but didn't have enough boxes. Already yesterday we went to a few shops in the area to see if we could get empty cardboard boxes, without luck. Today it felt like we were asking people for money: we stood outside the shops and bickered about who will have to go in and ask. "No, sorry, we don't have any" or "We just recycled all of ours yesterday". It took us about an hour to come up with three empty boxes. Now we can finish packing most of the rest; tomorrow is cleaning day and on Thursday we move. And my mom comes.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Karma

We had a really nice bye-to-P'berg barbecue in Mauerpark last night. We were around 10 people, ate veggie-skewers, halloumi sandwiches, cakes and strawberries hand-picked by S.


After some left over Schrippen for lunch this afternoon, we headed to Mauerpark to find cutlery for our new home. We pretty much only own clothes, some books, our bikes and our laptops. We were in a hurry to see the Germany-England football game and by the time we had left the house, queued at the worlds slowest Berliner Bank cash machine, S and D were already at the kneipe fending for a table, so we skipped the Flohmarkt. After the game (Germany won 4-1) we picked up the broken, crazy-pink bike that our Spanish friend S is semi-permanently lending us. A promised to fix it so that my mom will have a bike to zoom around on when she's here. On the last stretch home, cycling with three bikes, we found a pile of "zum verschenken" (give-away) stuff, with basically everything we wanted to find in Mauerpark today! Cutlery, a mirror, a big floor-pillow and a coat hanger. Pretty good karma, huh?

(We immidiately paid back by helping a guy who lost his keys outside our door. There is a hole in our doorstep, covered with metal bars, that looks into the cellar of the building. I've lost my keys there once, and we figured out that our cellar key works to that cellar, too.)

Friday, 25 June 2010

Midsummer

Today is midsummer's eve. After work and dinner we went for to Caramello for organic ice creams and then to Kaiser's to prepare for tomorrow's barbecue. It wasn't meant to be a Midsummer BBQ, rather a goodbye-to-Prenzlauer Berg picnic... We invited pretty much every one we know in Berlin via Facebook – and about half of them can make it. It should be fun. We bought tree disposable grills (very un-ecological, I know...), halloumi, courgettes, bell peppers and corn on the cob, and I'll make chili-chocolate cupcakes tonight. The weather forecast could be better so we'd get a really warm night; right now it's predicting +23°C.

Fresh fish in Berlin

Fresh salad, generous slices of lemon and grilled, fresh Loop de meer (sea bass)

It's not the easiest thing to find fresh fish in Berlin, and if you do, it's going to cost you. We've lived on the coast our whole lives, and a few years in Ireland – literally on an island, so we feel very lost here at times.

Last weekend I received this hot tip: the fish in Turkish restaurant Balikci Ergün (Lüneburger Str. 383, in the middle of nowhere) is fresh and delicious. So, on Wednesday, with the excuse of belatedly celebrating A's and M's birthdays, we pointed our bikes towards Moabit.We found the restaurant easily: is in the foot of a railway bridge and the facade is bright blue and yellow – in every way un-charactaristic for Berlin. On the inside Balikci Ergün is small, cosy and covered from top to toe with hand written notes greeting the owner. We were seated on the small terrace fenced in by flowers and greenery, and could barely glimpse at the dull buildings that the area consists of.

Our Finnish/Swedish/German party-of-four agreed that the grilled fish was fresh, excellent, and satisfied our desire for grilled food: it tasted like summer. The fish is not so cheap (we had whole mackerel, €9; salmon, €10; sea bass, €13; shared salad; €20), but worth it! Next time I want to try the calamari...

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Eis eis baby

For this issue of the magazine we compiled a list of our favourite ice cream places in Berlin. I didn't have one, I just usually grab a spontaneous Eis from Eisbar on Kastanienallee 10, who serve a decent scoop for 80 cents.

Caramello

I happened to read about Caramello, an organic ice cream manufacturer in Prenzlauer Berg, and decided that I found my new favourites then and there. Caramello has a second location in Friedrichshain. Amid the frenzy of looking for apartments, we made a point of making a stop-over on Rykestraße 7. The Caramello café is cute, and they have a mind-boggling selection of flavours (at least six variations on chocolate alone). I went for a Yogi Indigo (blueberry yoghurt) and A had a Going Nuts (nuts and nougat). One scoop costs €1,20, but it's worth it when you can pretend it's healthy.

Eisfabrik

When we went to see an apartment on Frankfurter Allee in Friedrichshain, we turned the corner and found ourselves on Samariterstraße, where we had never been before. With ice cream on my mind, I straight away spotted the jungle-themed facade of Eisfabrik (Samariterstr. 34a). When we found ourselves on on the same street again the next week, it was a sign: eat more ice cream! It is now my absolute favourite ice cream in Berlin, maybe the world; it's home made, the texture is soft, the scoops are big (cost 80 cent) and the "Grün Apfel" was everything I hoped it would be (although not green in colour). I hope to try all the flavours before the end of summer :)

The weather forecast bodes well for an ice cream weekend!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A new home

We found an apartment!!! Actually, already last week: we were shortlisted for an interview with the owner (the cutest old granny), who then picked us out of the two applicants. (As usual, I felt really bad for the other girl applying. She was really sweet and nice, and had already viewed 28 apartments!) On Saturday we signed the lease, so it's official. I am super happy: it's the apartment that we most liked of the 19 places we saw, and it has a kitchen big enough for a table and big-ish balcony, too. On 1.7. we will be moving to Friedrichshain!

Today should be the last day of work stress, the magazine is being printed tomorrow morning. Then it's all about packing, re-registering our address, and preparing mentally for my mom to arrive to spend July in Berlin.

Also, we have no furniture, except for a fridge M&M are donating us and two guest mattresses...

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Football frenzy


It's weird to live in a country that's so good at sports, that every sports event is important. You can't turn a corner without being reminded of the World Cup. Every little café, restaurant and bar has at least one TV showing the daily matches. Every tenth car is draped in German flags to support the national team. Every fiftieth conversation I have somehow ends up involving football. The German Eurovision song has been turned in to a football song; Schland oh Schland. ('Schland being short for Deutschland) This is Berlin life until July 11th.

Unfortunately...

This is true again.


The sun has been present, from time to time but the temperatures have dropped to barely +20°C and the weather forecast bodes worse for the end of the week... I'll be stuck at work, so I don't mind :)

Monday, 14 June 2010

Talk about it

We got an apartment-interview for the really nice apartment we saw on Friday. An apartment-interview! Too funny! Only in Germany, I think?

Tomorrow I'm having lunch with my bosses and they want to talk to me about my future in the company. Yikes.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

A lovely lunch

We were working hard at viewing apartments last week, and to make matters even less fun, we have been trying to be very prudent and boring, too. On Tuesday, after viewing an apartment on Rheinsberger Straße, in Mitte, with 30 other people in +30°C, A hoped to cheer me up by suggesting we treat ourselves to lunch, al fresco. I jumped at the chance to finally try the much-talked-about Vietnamese restaurant Onkel Ho around the corner from our house.


I had a fresh, slightly spicy papaya salad with shrimp, A had noodles with spicy shrimp and fresh vegetables – the krupuk and the dessert were complimentary. Unfortunately we only found one actual vegetarian dish on the menu, so I don't know if we can become regulars here.

It was a lovely meal, on a lovely day, and only cost €16,50 (I love their style of pricing: small beer €2,20, big beer €3,30, salad €4,40, warm dish €6,60 and so on.) There's no separate lunch menu, so prices are especially affordable for dinner, and there's always a few daily specials on offer.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Possible new home

Today we viewed an apartment in Friedrichshain that I really, really liked. It wasn't flashy and white, but comfortable and homey with a big balcony. We have to wait until at least Monday to hear if we have been short-listed for an application interview with the owners.

We have seen 18 apartments and now have two and a half weeks to find somewhere to move. Panic.

The life of the neighbours

Would I want an "Erdgeschoss" apartment? To have your own garden but to be on display like this? We can hear all their conversations, too.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Artsy with a side of beer


I haven't been to very many art galleries in Berlin yet; I need to find someone to go with. A doesn't hate it, but exhibitions are also not his favourite. So far the best place I have found to enjoy art is MMX Open Art Venue, a gallery on Linienstraße in Mitte. We had a work related event there a few months back, and last Friday we met there for the opening of "Show IV" with S and a few interns from the office. I was most impressed by a video piece called Papillon d'Amour by Nicolas Provost and a really clever little installation with string in the backyard, called Stiller, by Michael Ebert. The trick is to know that the gallery has many more rooms than you think so you don't miss out. They also have a great garden and a bar, and so in true Berlin style you can enjoy the art while drinking your beer from a bottle. There's membership fee of one euro to get in, and the opening hours are a bit finicky, but I still like it.

...with a cherry on top


This is what I have been missing since last autumn... It's nature's candy, for sure. Lidl sells Turkish and Italian sweet cherries now for 6,60 or 7,60 per kilogram – I'm hoping the prices drop soon or I'll eat myself broke.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

O brother, the weather just got nice

Ironically, just after my brother's visit is over, when it was about +13 every day and rained most of the time, it seems like summer has arrived. We did have some fun without the sun and we got hold of a third bicycle, so we could zoom around the city together. I'd say we did about 25-30 kilometres in four days. We also ate a lot to make up for it :) We took M to our favourite pizza place, we had sushi twice and some middle-of-the-night-falafels (kebab for him) and of course, in proper Berlin-style, we ate breakfast out every morning. The most glamorous breakfast was the Sunday brunch at Pasternak on Knaackstraße, the most random one a traditional German flammkuchen in Café Sibylle on Karl-Marx-allee. I think his favourite things were chilling in Mauerpark, playing Kicker (foosball) in bars and seeing the prices of food and beer. It was sad to let my little brother travel on on Wednesday morning – now he's at Rock im Park in Nürnberg. We haven't heard from him since he left, and I'm a little worried that his "Mitfahrgelegenheit" car-share turned out to be with an axe-murderer... But then again, the men in my family suck at keeping in touch.

Other than that, we are looking for an apartment. I'm starting to panic a little. We just came home after seeing a cute 55 square metre apartment on Gubenerstraße in Friedrichshain, but there were about 30 other people there to see it too... Yesterday we sent an application for an almost perfect apartment on Weidenweg, also F'hain, only to hear back that the realtor isn't sure we make enough money between us, and asking us if we would consider getting a guarantor for our lease... And we're in our thirties, for god's sake! So we keep searching.

Apartment in a distant corner of Prenzlauer Berg, 74 m2, 600 euro: too child friendly, thus too far away from all other forms of life.
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