Monday, 30 August 2010


Next Saturday there's a Soupport your Kiez (Kiez = hood) party in our neighbourhood and I'm quite excited to see a different side to our new neighbourhood and the people here. There will be music and soup, too, which sounds like an interesting idea.

Since we moved to Friedrichshain I have often been thinking to myself about the differences to Prenzlauer Berg.

For one thing, there's a LOT more dog crap on the street here than in our old neighbourhood – I wonder if there are more dogs here, or just untidier people? I have also noticed that there are a lot of Kitas, kids and children's clothes shops around, so it didn't surprise me to read that Friedrichshain has become the most child dense part of Berlin. In Friedrichshain we see more punks, in Prenzlauer Berg we noticed more hipsters. Friedrichshain has more clubs and loudness: the only club in Prenzlauer Berg, Icon, is now closing because the inhabitants of a new apartment building next to it don't like living next to a club (well why did you move there, then?!). Maybe the much feared gentrification is further along in P'berg. In Friedrichshain our neighbours, too, are noisier: they play dubious music and a lot of techno throughout the weekends, day and night – where as in P'berg we were mostly disturbed by garden parties and children singing badly and too early in the Innenhof. In our new Kiez we greet the staff at the downstairs restaurant, the seamstress, the artist who has a gallery in the courtyard and random neighbours of course – that didn't happen i P'Berg, although that could of course just have been our own fault. One big difference seems to be that there are clearly more German speakers in Friedrichshain – for better of for worse.

Maybe in another year we should move to Kreuzberg to know what it's like there?

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Austrian week

No Kangaroo, Austrian ski hut restaurant in Kreuzberg

By chance I have been into all things Austrian this week. On Wednesday I showed my (Austrian) tandem partner a very cute Austrian café, Marketta's Greisslerei, that has just opened up in Mitte, next to my work. And yesterday we finally got around to checking out the Austrian restaurant No Kangaroo in Kreuzberg.

Mohnweckerl with Bergkäse

S instantly fell in love with Marketta's Greisslerei. They have Holunderblütensaft (elder flower juice), Mohnweckerls (white braided bread with poppy seeds and salt on top), Liptauerkäse (paprika flavoured quark), Bergkäse (Austrian hard cheese) and Buchteln (a tray baked bun filled with plum jam) – all of which I tried and loved. All of which met S' high, Austrian standards. I'm now addicted to the Mohnweckerls with Bergkäse: they're so salty and so good! I had one of them, a Buchtel-bun and drank a latte-type coffee for €6,80. Not bad for Mitte. I'll be back (pun intended!)!

The Austrian ski hut that is No Kangaroo was a different story. I thought Austrians are quiet and cool types, who drink Almdudler and speak with a slightly funny accent. No. Apparently they are rowdy, loud and have questionable taste in music. As we waited outside the restaurant for S and D, the schlager music was turned louder and people started to yell along. We thought this was just a one-song-thing, but it went on for the whole night. S explained that it is typical after-ski behaviour. At least I think that's what she said: it was so loud that it was difficult to hear each other. I guess that's what you get for going to a themed restaurant: there's ski lift benches at the bar, skis nailed to the walls, the whole interior is built to look like an old, wooden ski hut and you go through a forest to get to the toilet. It's kind of fun, though, and if you're out to drink and be loud, No Kangaroo would certainly meet your needs. A and I drank beer and Almdudler and ordered knödel with fried egg and an aubergine schnitzel with potato salad for dinner. For dessert we drank strong fruit liquor and shared a Kaiserschmarrn. It all came to about €40 and S deemed it all very Austrian and good. We asked the waiter if it's always so loud and he said it only gets louder as the ski season gets closer. Maybe we'll go back next summer when it's quiet again...

P.S. S explained why the restaurant is called "No Kangaroo": apparently Austria gets mixed up with Australia a LOT :D

Aubergine schnitzel, €7,50

Kaiserschmarrn, €8,50 – it's HUGE

Friday, 27 August 2010

Watching the holiday makers

It's been a while, huh? I have two good excuses: we have had a ton of guests in August and we have a crappy Internet connection... Frustrated, we signed up with Kabel Deutschland, who after letting us wait for two weeks told us it might be another 6-8 weeks before a technician is available. What are we – in the 90s?! Alice told us it would take a maximum of 14 days before we're up and running. I'm counting the days! In the mean time, we've become the best customers at our local video rental shop.

A's parents and godparents were here for almost a week at the beginning of August – that was pretty hard core. Do you know who the worse visitors are? The ones who say "we don't have any plans, you decide what we do!" We went to the beer festival on Karl-Marx-Allee, we had a trip to the emergency room (I learned that the German word for tick is Zecke), showed them the wonder of Mauerpark on a Sunday, visited A's studio, Kunsthaus Tacheles, the Ritter Sport shop and ate and drank a lot. They were very impressed with the prices of EVERYTHING here in Berlin. They are already planning their next trip.

Five days later, our friends came passing through Berlin on their way to Portugal. They stayed with us for three nights: we did some shopping and ate and drank a lot. Four days after E&A continued their inter rail journey, the next friends arrived. Thank heavens, K and her husband stayed in a hotel: she had whisked him away on a surprise birthday trip to Berlin. Our first and best advice to them was to rent bikes. They happily pedalled around Berlin for two days while I was busy at work. We did get to indulge in eating and drinking this time, too. Mostly we ended up in my favourite cocktail bar, BR101 on Torstraße, where the prices and the quality always impress our guests.

After all this, A got a cold and I'm just comatosed at home. What a summer! Where did it go? Now it's raining every day and the temperatures seem to have dropped under +20°C permanently... I still had so many plans for this summer!

...At least we've seen our families and friends, we've moved house and we've eaten and drunk A LOT :)

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Fresh air at the cinema

We visited the Freiluftkino Friedrichshain for the first time last Sunday and saw Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator. It was fantastic. So was the cinema! Bring a picnic, buy a beer: there's benches, chairs and also a few tables at the front. The cinema apparently seats 1500 people and there was plenty of room for everyone on Sunday. The only BIG problem I had was that they only sold sweet popcorn: yuk! Next time we will bring our own.

We are experiencing another tourist invasion early tomorrow morning, by A's parents and godparents, and I'm a little annoyed that we will not be able to see Inglorious Basterds there on Saturday. Go on our behalf – it's so good!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

A flea market find

On Sunday we tested a new flea market (new to us, at least) and it became an instant favourite. The RAW area with it's empty warehouses and lively club scene along Revaler Straße in Friedrichshain hosts a small "Flohmarkt" every Sunday. To me it felt like a more real flea market than the Sunday markets in Mauerpark or Boxhagener Platz. I didn't spot many professional sellers and the prices were very reasonable. A found a circular saw for €10 and I got a new pair of sun glasses for €8 (from one of the professional sellers, unfortunately).

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Mexican favourites

Yesterday we enjoyed our first day of no-guests and did a little tour-de-Kreuzberg. Our goal was actually to go rescue the plants at R's apartment: it's empty while she's still in Finland and her subtenants left behind tomato and paprika plants that might not survive with the limited care we can supply...

We started off on the Saturday market on Boxhagener Platz, where M and little J were playing in the sandbox. We bought tomatoes and Brandenburg-grown cherries and decided to make it a habit to go to Boxi more often on Saturdays – specially near closing time, when you clearly get the best deals!

After the plant rescue mission we cycled back towards Friedrichshain along Oranienstraße, where we quite randomly chose to sit down and eat at Mexican restaurant Santa Maria. I later realised it's owned by the same people who own the successful Maria Bonita and Maria Peligro restaurants. We ordered a portion of the guacamole with chips, vegetarian tacos and a three cheese "torta", that basically is a Mexican style sandwich. The guacamole was good, the soft tacos a bit plain and my torta was so ugly I didn't even want to eat it – but I'm glad I did, because it was the best part of the meal, hands down! I'd go back for another torta, for sure. The tacos and the chips I might not go all the way to Santa Maria for, but stay closer to home and get them at the superb Ta’Cabrón Taqueria (Skalitzer Strasse 60), where the food is also nicer to look at.

Vegetable taco, €4, Santa Maria.

Torta with three cheeses, €6, Santa Maria.

Seafood taco, €5, Ta’Cabrón Taqueria.

We finished our little outing by hanging out in Görlitzer Park for a bit. What a nice day!

Watermelon leaving drinks

So, mom left. We had a small leaving party for her, and she was very happy to meet our friends and felt good about her month in Berlin. I made watermelon cocktails to serve before we all move downstairs for dinner, but they were not as good as they sound. I don't know why, but after pureeing and sieving four kilos of watermelon, the result was only decent. I added some lemon juice, but there was still a vague, bitter aftertaste to the juice. We have now started our weekend with a big glass of watermelon juice every morning, and I'm warming up to it.
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