Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Happy at the office

"Ooooo, heeeeey, puppy-puppy-puppy! Oh, and good morning to the rest of you, too." Since last week, Luzie has been keeping us company – or we've been keeping her company – at the office and her little grunts and gruffs make my day so much better!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A new friend and a trip to Spreepark

Today was a really great Monday – not only because it was Pfingstmontag and we didn't have to go to work – but I did so many nice things that it felt like a day and a half.

First we had breakfast on the balcony, with some cherries as dessert. I rushed off to meet A, a friend of a friend from Dublin, who's moving to Berlin to do her PhD in autumn. She is very interesting and we had a lot of fun comparing notes on Ireland and the Irish while having coffees and Club Mates – first at Strudel Manufaktur, then Cassiopeia. A has studied architecture and so it was extra fun to walk her around Friedrichshain a little bit – she was very excited about Berlin.

In the afternoon we cycled to Plänterwald where the formerly abandoned amusement park had a "Pfingstfest". When we got there, our friends F and A had just joined the two-hour walking tour (€15, in German only, two tours daily: 1 and 4 pm), and the only other way for us to pass the time was to queue for the little train that takes you around the perimeters of the park in about 10 minutes (€2). A man in a yellow vest told us that the Spreepark will now be open every Saturday, Sunday and holiday, with tours twice a day, so it definitively isn't abandoned anymore. It also has lost it's magic: the area where you are allowed to walk around without paying is tiny, and it's taken over by a biergarten filled with plastic chairs, a children's hoppety-bouncy-gadget and a few amusement park toys dragged to the middle. The staff is bored and slightly annoyed by the guests. The two ways of exploring the grounds are to take the little train where you don't see much, or two pay €15 for a two hour guided walk with up to 50 other participants – nothing in between. Pay or go home.


We walked back to F'hain with F and A (who hadn't brought their bikes) and had a well deserved beer, dinner and an ice-cream. Now I go to bed, also well deserved. The next seven days will be really tough at work.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Trödeln und Strudel

After a lap around our favourite Berlin flea market, the RAW Flohmarkt in the yard of the former train repair yards along Revaler Strasse, and finding a set of five 70's tea cups, we sat down at Wiener Strudel Manufaktur. I noticed in May that a cosy looking terrace café had opened next to the flea market, and I recognized the logo from the Mauerpark market where my Austrian friend, S, always bought her strudels, explaining to me that these people sold the best strudels in Berlin.

The generous pieces of strudel come with a variety of sweet or savoury fillings, they are heated up and topped with vanilla sauce or Kräuterschmand, and cost €3.50. The drinks are pretty inexpensive at €2 for a cappuccino or €2.50 for a glass of Sekt on crushed ice – guess which one we chose?

It was a perfect Sunday afternoon, sitting in the shade with my feet hot in the sun, sipping on a glass of cold sparkling wine and watching people come and go from the market.

Friday, 10 June 2011


Even if this EHEC madness hasn't affected our eating habits – we've been eating at restaurants and making salads and everything – it's super exciting to eat something you've grown yourself. Two days ago we tasted our first balcony grown sweet peas and lettuce, and I suspect we'll be having new potatoes in a few weeks and courgettes (zucchinis) in maybe a month!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Second wind (more guests)

Just after my brother and his girlfriend left Berlin we got a second guest. K cycled all the way from Copenhagen to Berlin in an organised cycling event to support libraries. She used to live in Berlin, but now lives in Lapland, in the very north of Finland, so she was very excited to be back in a real city. Both nights she was here we accidentally ended up getting pretty drunk – A always left before us, since the poor thing had to go to work in the mornings.

Since it was K's last night yesterday, we wanted to go out for dinner. We circled around Ostkreuz in the area where our mutual friends will move next autumn, and decided to try the restaurant that's pretty literally behind their house, Transit. Our Berlin friends eat there often and are excited about it, so we decided it must be good. When we got there we couldn't decide where to sit, and after a minute, a grumpy German man said to us "Can you please not just sit down!" which made me hate him and ruined the first impression I got of the restaurant. After a while I managed to sneak the guy a "did you seriously tell US off" -look when his kid was misbehaving, and felt much better.

The idea in Transit is that you order Thai and Indonesian style dishes as little tapas plates at €3 each – a few bigger portions come at €7. Almost all the dishes can be ordered as with tofu instead of meat, but the downside is that you end up eating a lot of just tofu. We ordered three dishes each, but if you're on a budget you could order one of the heavy coconut milk curries with a side of noodles or rice (€1), and be pretty content. Everything we sampled was really good, even if my "Party Girl" papaya salad was almost too spicy to finish. The "Little Swimmer" fish soup was the best dish I tried and I'll go back just to get a bowl of it, and lick it clean. If you're hungry and want a lot of drinks, Transit will set you back more than your average Asian restaurant in Berlin, but the gimmick with tapas and writing down your own order doesn't feel too gimmicky when you realize how good the food is.

Jägerklause weekend

On Saturday we were all tired and hung over – A and M wanted to go play in the studio and make some recordings. K went back to TK Maxx for a second time and I stayed home, reading on the balcony, feeling slightly abandoned. We couldn't muster up much energy and when everyone got back, we just had a quick bite in our downstairs restaurant, an ice cream in our neighbouring ice cream shop and then settled in our favourite biergarten, Jägerklause, for the whole evening. It's a pretty good place to be stuck at, though!

On Sunday we had a full day planned: posh, Russian brunch at Datcha, then flee-marketing at RAW, Boxhagener Platz and Mauerpark. It was a really hot day, almost +30°C, and after stuffing ourselves at Datcha, we were weak. K came about some really good bargains at RAW, M bought a cool briefcase for his base pedal on Boxi... and then we were exhausted.

After a strengthening beer at Jägerklause we had Maultaschen at Hirsch – so good, so affordable – and headed to the Freiluftkino Insel in Cassiopeia. The King's Speech was the only English original version film playing on Sunday, so we got a chance to try a new Freiluftkino venue. It was pretty small and cosy, but almost all the chairs were plastic garden chairs, so I wouldn't go see a very long film there. The King's Speech, on the other hand, was really good and we left for bed with a smile on our faces. That was M's and K's last evening in Berlin.

HBC party for rich people

You're Only Massive

On Friday we were invited to see our friends from Berlin band You're Only Massive perform as a warm-up for, and later on with, Hanin Elias for her record release party at .HBC on Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse. To my great surprise my rock'n'roll/metal/hard core brother was really excited to see Hanin – I think he had a little mini-crush on her. She was insanely charismatic on stage, so no surprise. The gigs were good, but the room got insanely warm and everyone was sweating and smelly. There was not much comfort in drink, because a small Pilsner Urquell cost €3, and to a Friedrichshainer that is just unforgivable. A vodka mix drink cost €7. We won't be going there for a drink any time soon!

After the gig we hung out with our friends for a few hours, using up their drink tickets. My party-fit brother and I agreed that we still wanted to go somewhere else for drinks, and arranged to meet up with a few guys in Friedrichshain; they'd go by taxi, we'd come by bike. This was at maybe 5 am. On the way M and K got really tired and I could see that they just wanted to go to sleep – but on Frankfurter Tor the two guys were waiting. We ended up in Paule's Metal Eck on Simon-Dach-Strasse and as the sun was coming up we forced ourselves to drink one more beer... We were home at about 7am.

A day trip to Müggelsee

My brother left Berlin on Monday after almost a week's visit. His girlfriend, K, was new to Berlin, and sneakily A and I pretended to have to go to work and so we let them do the shopping and the sightseeing on their own. The weather was fantastic except for on one day out of six: it rained on Wednesday when M and K were emptying their wallets at TK Maxx Charlottenburg. We did get stuck in a thunderstorm in Treptower Park on Tuesday, too, but we had a great time sitting under the roof of at an outdoor café, drinking Krombacher and waiting it out.

Thursday was Christi Himmelfahrt and M&K's third day in Berlin. I had to do a work assignment that took us to the Müggelsee in Köpenick – a lake I've wanted to visit since last summer when I read about a floating wooden house in the middle of the water, the Spreearche restaurant. The four of us packed sun screen, bathing-suits and bicycles on board the S3 train (which involved a lot of carrying the bikes up and down the stairs) and rode for about 15 minutes until we got off in Friedrichshagen. After cycling south along Bölschestrasse for about 1,5 kilometres we reached the Müggelsee shore. It was crowded with middle-aged people spilling over from the loud biergartens and teenies carrying crates of beer and barbecue equipment around, trying to impress each-other with the loudest music or the biggest amount of drink.

We carried on and crossed the river through the Spreetunnel. The other side was less crowded and noisy. A little bit further from the tunnel (to the right) we found a grassy little plot that was the beach. We had no problem in finding space to sit down, and later we took over the jetty where no one else was sitting. The views toward Friedrichshagen and the old Berliner Bürger Bräu brewery were beautiful and the river was busy with rented motorboats and proud sailboats. The water was pretty cold, but seemed very clean. We all went for a little swim – except for M, who didn't bring a dry pair of shorts to change to.

When we finished our swim we found that the natives had joined us on the jetty: four tattooed 20-something guys. That would never happen at home in Finland – people just don't want to impose on strangers and would find it awkward to have to interact at all. These tattooed Köpenicker boys were there to drink and barbecue, and I have to admit that I was a little intimidated and thought that they might not take kindly to tourists and foreigners. Quatsch! They made friendly chitchat in their restricted English and said they were happy to see tourists visit Köpenick, because it's "the most beautiful part of Berlin".

After drying up a little we started to feel hungry and made our way even further on, towards a little jetty just after the beach. On the jetty we found a big sign saying "Bitte hier klingeln!" with an arrow pointing towards a doorbell. The doorbell sends an alert to the floating restaurant, and they send a wooden raft to collect their guests. Just a few minutes after ringing the doorbell we were on board the Spreearche. We boarded with a big group of twenty middle-aged Germans, but they were escorted upstairs to the roof terrace, and so it was pretty peaceful downstairs and we got one of the four bigger tables without a problem. We started to get really hungry and ran back and forth between our table and the menu written on a blackboard indoors, translating the different food options. The menu didn't have a single vegetarian dish and only two meat dishes, but us flexitarians were happy about the selection of fish: butterfish, plaice, scampi, shrimp, smoked salmon and Matjes herring, all fresh. The cuisine represented a typical German, straightforward style and most dishes came with potatoes in different forms. The plates weren't pretty, but the food was absolutely delicious, and I'd go back to Spreearche in a heartbeat just for those Schwenkkartoffeln and the Frühlingsquark my butterfish was served with. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

Müggelsee was a huge success and I can't wait to go back. Coming with our bikes was definitively an advantage, but there's a tram running between the S-Bahn and the shore, too, so you could do without. Maybe next time at Müggelsee we'll rent a boat and dock on to the Spreearche with our own little vessel!

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