Saturday, 21 May 2011

Balcony battle

Today felt like a perfect summer day!

Without an alarm clock I got up at nine, which is a feat for me. The mission, after some shuffling around the apartment, amazed at how early it was, was to go shopping for plants. About a week ago I realized, that my dear forget-me-nots were infested with aphids. First I just thought it was disgusting. Then I realized they were harming the plant. Then I realized that they will probably spread to all of our balcony plants.

After trawling around the internet for advice, I decided on my first plan of aphid-attack: I combined 100ml vegetable oil and a teaspoon of dish washing liquid (organic) and added one teaspoon to every cup of water I filled my spray bottle with. When an aphid gets sprayed with this, he should be suffocated: the soap breaks up the oil, which then makes the water stick. This helped a little bit, when there were hoards of bugs and they were easy to see. Then I trimmed the forget-me-nots, in hopes of getting rid of the badly affected leaves. After a few days of hunting aphids with a spray bottle, I realized I was never going to get rid of them all like this. More googling suggested that there are herbs and flowers with scents that repel aphids: sage, spearmint, coriander, anise, chives, radishes, tagetes and petunias, for instance. I also found mentions of tomato plants repelling aphids, and then entries about aphid-infested tomatoes.

So today my mission was to go to the Boxhagener Platz farmer's market to shop for plants. I found mini-tomatoes for the balcony (€2 each) and I bought orange tagetes (€0,60/each) and something that looks like a nettle with white rimmed leaves, that the saleswoman said gets rid of aphids. After a gözleme at Boxi and a Milchkaffee at Intimes (Boxhagener Strasse 107) with A, I headed home to pot the plants and clean the balcony. I trimmed the forget-me-nots until they were practically bald. We also bought a bright yellow plastic cup at the Euro store, because aphids love yellow, and if I fill it with water there's apparently a chance they're stupid enough to just kill themselves.

I'm terribly excited to see if any of the tricks work. Finger's crossed the aphids don't eat all our sweet peas or kill our courgette plants by next week!

Monday, 9 May 2011

The Blossom Festival revisited

The Baumblütenfest in Werder, Brandenburg, is one of my favourite annual festivities around Berlin. Werder is a little town about 40 minutes south of Berlin, known for it's orchards and it's fruit wine. Last year our friend S, who's from close by, was our travel guide and made sure we got the optimal experience. I was so impressed and had such a good time that and told everyone that they HAVE to go there next year. As a result, this year friends, and friends of friends, wanted to come along and in the end a group of 15 boarded the train at Alexanderplatz.

The fruit wine from Werder is reputed to be particularly strong – and is probably the reason this Volksfest is so popular. Avoid the crowded main festival area and schlager fever on the island, and take the Panoramaweg to the top of the hill. Along a stretch of village road there are endless rows of food and home made fruit wine stalls. Private residents set up beer gardens in their yards and the atmosphere is great. To make the most of it you should buy a bottle of local rhubarb wine (about €6), get plastic cups, find a seat with a view over the river Havel and get tipsy!

Summer enough for Freiluftkino

Freiluftkino is one of my favourite things about Berlin summer, and now the season has kicked off!

A was sure it wouldn't be too cold to FINALLY see the 2010 Banksy film, Exit Through the Gift Shop as it was the opening film of the Freiluftkino Kreuzberg season last Friday. When we found our way in between the buildings on Mariannenplatz we were warm from cycling and it was still not completely dark. We could see rows of beach chairs parked in front of a hoard of green, plastic, garden chairs. The outdoor cinema in Kreuzberg is definitively smaller than Freiluftkino Friedrichshain! We grabbed fold-up beach chairs and found a nice spot in the centre. Typically for Berlin, people arrived late and when the announcer finally got to introduce the film it was already dark. Smartly we'd brought a blanket, but it didn't stop the cold air beneath the chair from soaking through the fabrics and onto my back. By the end of the film I was pretty cold, but hadn't even considered leaving: the film was funny and good, poignantly asking the question: "what is art?" – depth that I hadn't expected.

A chilly May first

I've suffered another spell of unwillingness to write. From the beginning I wanted to keep a blog about how we are settling in Berlin and what new, lovely things we discover about life here. When we moved to Ireland five years ago I never jotted down a single thought or epiphany I experienced in my new country. But lately it has felt like I'm not stumbling across new things in Berlin anymore, but rather like I'm happy with what I have already discovered. This is my life now.

Still, life has not stopped. Since Easter, when I last updated the blog, summer has arrived. At least for a Finn this is summer – it has been over +20°C most days and we haven't seen rain in weeks.

First of May was chilly and the riots were sparse. I guess all the commotion around closing down Liebig14 and Kunsthaus Tacheles has kept the activists busy and when May came around, they too wanted to take it easy. For the first time we dared venture to the annual MyFest in Kreuzberg, but the icy wind and the hoards of people put a damper on our spirits. We went home and waited for warmer weather!

Boxhagener Platz prepared for rioters on April 29th.
MyFest is not about rioting, it's about eating and drinking in the streets of Kreuzberg!
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