Thursday, October 9, 2014

ich bin ein berliner!

So, it's over a month since we went to Berlin and it seems like a dim and distant memory now, but a bloody brilliant memory too!  Oh, we had such a good time and seemed to pack loads into our three or four days there.  We saw most of the major sights...
...and plenty of minor sights too.  Everywhere you looked there was something of interest.
I didn't miss Dulcie nearly as much as I thought I would and was very quick to slip back into my pre-mum state.  We did so much that we wouldn't have been able to do had she been there and she had a great time staying with my mum and dad.  That said, her face when she picked us up at the airport was probably one of the highlights of my life and we thought/spoke about her pretty much constantly.  We even saw her face popping up in the strangest of places.  Is that a grotesque hat-wearing zombie I see lurking in the background of that random poster...or is it our beautiful daughter?!  Ha!  (If you know the unedited Dulcie, the resemblance is pretty uncanny...)

Here follows a random selection of photos of the things we did and saw, grouped roughly into themes as you will see.
This photo was taken at a street festival organised by locals in Prenzlauerberg.  We stumbled across it quite by accident.  Can you see what it says on the sign at the front of that large queue of children?  We discovered Berliners had a healthy appreciation of fruity language... evidenced by the photo of the Bum Bum ice lolly (really, how could I resist?) in front of an interestingly phrased cigarette advert.
Continuing the food and drink theme, we drank beer by the bucketload, never hanging around too long in the one place.  This was the Prater beer garden, where I had delicious corn on the cob and potato salad too.  Mmm!  I decided to go all foolhardy with my fluid restrictions and drank pretty much what I wanted.  It took a few days and a lot of water tablets to deflate my bloated legs and midriff afterwards, but I think it was worth it :)
Here's a beer to accompany a currywurst.  Well, we had to at least sample it.  We ate a fair amount of "traditional" German fare for a party that was 50% vegetarian.  This was a veggie wurst incidentally.  I liked it!  Pretty easy to recreate at home too - take a sausage, pour on some ketchup, sprinkle on some curry powder.  Is that really all there is to it?
This was the "vegetable and egg plate" I had (the only non-meat option) in the garden of Sophien 11, a pub/restaurant we stumbled across quite by accident on our first night.  I was scared by the place and the meaty menu at first, but it turned out to be a lovely evening and the food was wholesome and delicious.
We did eat non-traditional fare too.  How can a pizza bigger than your body fit in your body?  Yes, my friends, I scoffed the lot.
We did a lot of meandering and wandering and stumbled across lots of interesting shops, like this vintage shop in Prenzlauerberg (again!) with so many beautiful kitchen goods in the back room that they were able to arrange it by colour!
On our last day we went to the big flea market at Mauerpark.  It was huge!  We discovered Berlin is THE place to go if you're looking for vintage lamps/lampshades (which we were).  I loved this glass beauty but we couldn't fit it in our luggage.  We did buy a beautiful '70s plastic shade, but Easyjet made us put our hand luggage in the hold at the last minute and it came out cracked :(  We're hoping we might be able to repair it though.  I also bought a ceramic clock and a cute Christmassy plate from 1959.  I'll try to post photos soon.
The flea market was properly jam-packed with stuff, hundreds of stalls, with many of them going multiple layers deep.  We had a right good rummage and resisted this devilish item without too much effort...
We managed two cinema trips while we were there (parenthood has robbed us our ability to drink all night after drinking all day) including this outdoor screening, which was rather off the beaten track.  Hooray for me and my pre-trip semi-planning that everyone told me was unnecessary!
Wandering home from the outdoor cinema, we stumbled across the Ramones museum where it turned out an American all-girl punk ("punk") band were playing.  We were persuaded to stay for the show, which was as good a way as any to see the exhibition, which was really home-made, extensive and fun.  The band were, er, not our cup of tea, but I'm old and sad enough now to enjoy seeing young folks living their dream!

As well as the Ramones museum, we also visited a few more mainstream museums. The DDR museum was interesting (lots of items of design interest) but crazy busy.  The Jewish museum was amazing in parts and terrible in others, I thought.  The architecture alone was worth going for (I'm not sure a building has ever affected me so much/so physically before) and the downstairs exhibits about German Jews in wartime was really good.  My advice would be not to spend too long in the permanent exhibits upstairs, though.  Not that there wasn't anything of interest, but I heard them the first time they told me that Jews were accused of poisoning wells!  Very repetitive.
The best museum we went to was Graham's choice - the Museum for Film and Television.  The whole place used mirrors really effectively but this first room (pictured above) was such a surprising and great way to start the visit - completely other-worldly and disorientating.
There's loads of interesting stuff in the museum, as well as snazzy displays, and I was surprised how much I already knew about German film.  We both agreed we would have liked to see more emphasis on modern films (Marlene Dietrich had rooms and rooms devoted to her while all cinema from 1960ish onwards was squeezed into one tiny space really) but definitely worth visiting nonetheless.
If our sample of four is anything to go by, I would definitely say those Germans know how to design a museum space!

So, all in all, AWESOME!  I loved Berlin even more than I remembered, I really enjoyed hanging out with Graham, didn't miss Dulcie half as much as I'd feared, easily managed to get by on my non-existent German...  We've made a pact to do something similar again in the not too distant future, though Berlin will be a hard act to follow for any other city.  Mind you, there's plenty more in Berlin that we didn't manage to see this time around.  Perhaps it will become our new Scarborough!

I should add, in case this post has given anyone itchy feet, that the place we stayed (Singer 109) was fantastic too - basic rooms, but clean and comfortable and quiet, with a little bar for a bedtime tipple and AMAZING buffet breakfasts for next to no money.

Go to Berlin!  I'll meet you there :)

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