Thursday, 23 December 2010

Wrapping it up

So off to Finland we go! There's no "Schneekaos" – it's raining and it's +2°C – so we should have no problems with our flight.

I bought the last Christmas present yesterday, got a haircut, stopped by the office for a few hours and started to wrap presents. There are still a few to be wrapped, and I need to go buy a few bottles of organic red wine to bring home for the Christmas table. And then: Christmas peace!

Bis zum nächsten Jahr und guten Rutsch!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

"Happy Christmas, see you next year!"

The spirit of Christmas is stress, yes? To get evereything done at work, to find presents, over how much money it all costs – and for us expats; stress over managing to see everyone one more time before we all fly off to our respective home countrys.

I can tick all those boxes: I finished work yesterday, but had been working pretty much 24/7 before then. I still have to buy a present for my best friend, we just emptied our bank accounts at TK Maxx and we've been meeting up with friends for "happy christmas, see you next year"-dinners every few days. At least we have gotten some excellent meals out of it :)

On Wednesday last week we met M and N at Spaghetti Western on Torstraße (it's a lot nicer than the website looks!). Just a few weeks ago they revealed that they are having a baby, so this was also kind of an celebratory meal. I must confess that all I could think was: "it was nice knowing you, see you again in three years". But the restaurant was excellent! Everything cost about an euro or two more than I thought it should, but: when in Mitte... I ordered spaghetti with tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil (€5,50) – a simple dish it was everything you could hope for. I'm already craving another visit! For dessert (all €3,90) we wanted panna cotta, but it was out, so we chose cremè brulées instead. They were tiny and the sugar crust was really thick and tasted burned, so the meal didn't have the great ending it deserved.

On Saturday we had a Prenzlauer Berg breakfast in German with S, D and S. Schwarze Pumpe is an old favourite, but we have only tried their Sunday brunch before. On a Sunday you need a reservation, but this Saturday at 11 o'clock the place was empty. We enjoyed our veggie plates, several milchcafés and some Heiße Zitrone. Afterwards we visited the Trendmafia Christmas market on Brunnenstraße. Before I had to run off to work we managed to pick out a cool t-shirt for my brother. This market is definitively worth a visit, it's on every first weekend of the month outside of the holiday season, too.

Today we emptied our wallets at TK Maxx Neukölln, found pressies for my dad (he wished for a plain black t-shirt), for A's dad and loads of other tricky people. And I got winter shoes, finally (two pairs, I don't know if I will have to be reasonable and return one pair...). Then we met M, M and little J for gift exchanges and Thai food in Mitte. Thai Inside seems like a place that I'd be suspicious of: too chic, too polished, too close to Alexanderplatz and higher-than-average prices. It turns out it's quite the popular spot; I think we were the only English speakers in the room! Our dishes were all good and beautifully plated and the service was terribly friendly – so 27 euro for a starter, a soup, a main dish and two drinks isn't that terrible, is it?

Now I only need to buy two more presents, wrap them all, buy wine to bring home, get a hair-cut and then it's Christmas bliss!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

No shopping, just brunching

Brunch buffet at Morgenrot, Prenzlauer Berg
On Thursday A's friends from Finland were going to fly to Berlin to see Suicide Commando at K-17. Their flight was cancelled, because the Berlin airports ran out of de-icing fluid – unbelievable! It's winter every year, you wouldn't think it would cause such chaos. The boys flew in on Friday instead, and got tickets for Monster Magnet at Postbahnhof. I had a "girls night in German" with S and S, and at 2am we decided to meet up with the guys for a beer at legendary Paules Metal Eck on Simon-Dach-Strasse. I was home at 5am, and needed to be at a photo shoot on Saturday at 11.30.

After the very successful photo shoot some colleagues and I decided to go to Morgenrot on Kastanienallee for breakfast – I still hadn't eaten anything and was feeling pretty weak. Plus I haven't been there in ages and I looooove their vegan/vegetarian brunch! A and I still made a half-assed attempt at Christmas shopping, but were too tired and too uninterested for it to go well. At least I got to visit the new English books store at Kulturkaufhaus Dussmann – thank god I was too tired to shop, even for myself :)

Today we talked the Finnish boys into trying our favourite brunch at Datcha with us. We all agreed, once again, that it really is worth to pay €9.80 per person for. I don't think I'll have to eat all day now! The guys wanted to still make an effort as tourists, so instead of coming to our flat for a nap, they went to the Erotikmuseum in Charlottenburg. I opted to go visit our Kiezweihnacht Christmas market at the Samariterstrasse church. It wasn't very big or special, but I did manage to buy a great Christmas present there... But it's for the secret santa present at next weeks Christmas get-together, so I won't reveal it, at least yet!

Kiezweihnachtmarkt, Friedrichshain

The office Christmas party

This week I have mostly been eating out and curing hangovers. I have not done any significant Christmas shopping and have not been resting for the long work week ahead... Sigh.

Our company Christmas party was on Tuesday. We ate a three course meal at Gugelhof, a pretty fancy restaurant on Kollwitzplatz, and then we took the party to White Trash, and when they closed, to Kaffee Burger. I was home at 8 o'clock in the morning – and it wasn't even an extraordinary fun night... There was some drama though: unrequited love, juicy gossip, over-sharing and some boy-on-boy / girl-on-girl kissing. None by me, thank god! Still I was too hung over to go to work the next day :P

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Christmas, shopping, Berlin

My mother is in Berlin again for the weekend, and I've kept her busy. We have ignored the snowy sidewalks and been shopping and eating well, mostly.

We started off on Friday by designing my mom a custom made perfume at Frau Tonis Parfum in Mitte, a scent of roses and lily of the valley (€65 for 50ml, €22 for 15ml). Then we dropped in to my fave clothing shop, Cyroline, on Alte Schönhauser Straße (they also have shops in Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain). I always find cool and comfy clothes there and this time both mom and I bought tops. This all accidentally happened on our way to check out a friends' exhibition at the very interesting Haus Schwartzenberg on Hackescher Markt.

On Saturday we had a date with S to go check out TK Maxx in Charlottenburg together – I had heard that the shop there was a lot bigger and a lot better then the one in Neukölln. Other people had clearly heard that too: it was super crowded! We did manage to find some Christmas presents and I bought a hoodie. S had a very successful shopping day and declared that she'd found "her shopping paradise" :) Everyone loves TK Maxx <3

Since we were in Charlottenburg – possibly for the first time – we decided to go see Schloss Charlottenburg and the Christmas market there. Sure, it was big, pretty and had free entrance, but it was also a bit kitchy and crowded for our liking.

When we found ourselves in Neukölln today, we decided to take advantage of the shopping Sunday (the shops in Berlin are closed on most Sundays of the year), and check out the TK Maxx there, too. It was a lot less crowded, so we could really engage in rummaging around and two hours later we walked out with more Christmas presents and two sweaters for A. Dangerous place, that is!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Frosted city

Yesterday we had no snow in Berlin – even if even Ireland had had its fair share by then. After nine in the evening it started and so it snowed all night. When I woke up today, it was bright and utterly white outside my window. It snowed all day long, until the late afternoon, and now we have an impressive layer of frosting over the whole city. Berlin is pretty again! Let's just wait and see how long the enthusiasm lasts :P

I had to abandon my bike for now and buy a monthly train ticket this morning. I invested in the 10am montly ticket and thanks to the S-bahn chaos apology from BVG, the €15 discount on it meant that it only cost €36! Now that's a bargain!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Last day of cycling

Happy December 1st! Voilá: instant winter! It has been -10°C and a cold wind made it a nasty day – specially to cycle. I think I will have to take the train tomorrow, and in the worst case scenario, until the end of February :(

I met S for a language tandem tonight at the Kulturbrauerei Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt. All we could bear was one cup of glögi before running to a café for a hot chocolate with rum. I was joking that my tactics to keep warm in the winter will be to always carry a flask of vodka with me to keep warm. It would make the blood flow and the cold seem less annoying, for sure! It's not even entirely a joke, if this weather keeps...
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