Saturday, October 31, 2009


Last week I went to Potsdam, a town near Berlin simply full to bursting with royal palaces, and a tour guide friend showed me and another friend around.
One 10eur ticket gets you a Tageskarte, a day ticket with access to most of the buildings scattered around the area.
We started with the Neue Palast, an imposing edifice that looks like it is made of bricks but is actually just painted to look like them:

The servant's quarters across the way were almost more impressive architecturally, funnily enough. Inside, they make you wear big felt slippers to protect the floors from your shoes. These are very fun to glide around in, if a bit slippy. We had to wear them in all the palaces. The first big room we entered was a shell grotto (mom you would have loved it). All the walls had shells cascading down them, the corners had sea monsters made out of shells, the marble floor was inlaid in shell shapes, and precious stones were laid into the wall in thick layers. It was pretty incredible. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed inside. There was a room with a Titian and a van Dyck among others but it was so poorly lit I could barely see them. Upstairs, we saw a huge marble ballroom with an inlaid floor.
Behind the palace a little ways, in the park, there is a small pavilion:

One of the Fredericks (I easily lost track of which was which) built it as a tribute to the friendship between him and his sister when she married and left his household. Teddy, are you paying attention? Hahaha.
Next we went to a much smaller palace for one of the princes. It was done in Italian style and had a lovely grape arbor round back, plus a cool sitting area built in such a way as to project one's voice to the house's porch. It was pretty neat. Inside, it was much more liveable and cozy than the larger palace. One guest room was decorated to look like the interior of a tent, which was a really cool effect.
We wandered the grounds and found the "Chinese" tea house:

decorated with laughably inaccurate golden figures, from which tourists apparently like to steal various appendages:

Along the way we also stopped at a small Roman-inspired building, with this cool flounder fountain outside:

Apparently one of the Fredericks was a bit chubby, and was nicknamed flounder. Instead of being offended, he embraced it. In fact, there were china sets in the small Italian palace with golden flounders on them!
Eventually we came to the Orangerie:

where we climbed to the top of the tower despite my companions' mild fears of heights. The climb involved a narrow spiral staircase which could only admit traffic flow in one direction, so there was a stoplight to tell you when people were coming down:

The view of the neighboring park and countryside was really something:

We also toured the interior--more impossibly ostentatious rooms and furniture.
Eventually we came to Sanssouci, perhaps the most famous of the palaces, built by Frederick the Great. The name means "without worries" in French, the principal language of Frederick, who apparently never cared much for German. His architect suggested that when the palace was finished, he would be able to live "sans souci." Frederick replied that as emperor, he could never live such. Apparently the phrase intrigued him, however, as he had it inscribed on the palace front, but with a comma between the two words. The comma is the exact center of the palace. To its left, under the word 'sans', were his living quarters, music room, and other sources of pleasure and distraction. To its right, under 'souci', his office, state rooms, and other things related to the business of being a leader. He is buried outside the palace, alongside his hunting dogs.
The palace:

and seen from the landscaped gardens in the park below:

Next we perused the picture gallery, the first building expressly for the display of art ever built in Europe. Many Renaissance masters were present. My favorite paintings were a van Dyck of Mary Magdalene in repentance and a lovely big Caravaggio. I think my tour guide friend was a bit astonished at how long his friend and I dwelt on the paintings!
We took a little break in downtown Potsdam and had some pastries and coffee. The town is adorable! It was much better restored than Berlin after the war.
Next we found ourselves at another palace, deceptively small from the outside, but with 100+ rooms, in English Tudor style. This is where the Potsdam conference happened at the end of WWII, and the portions open to the public are mostly devoted to that history. It was originally built as a family residence, however, and was really a charming building, if a bit incongruous.
Finally, we scooted across the park and just made the last tour at the marble palace, a smaller palace intended for royal children and their families. The highlights here were several beautiful and intricate parquet floors and a large secretary made to look like a mini palace with lots of secret drawers and compartments, as well as lovely views of the lake.
When we finished, it was 6ish and getting dark, and we wearily boarded the regional train for the crowded half hour ride back to Berlin.
All in all I'm glad I took the day off work to see it before the smaller palaces close for the winter!

Bis bald,

Friday, October 30, 2009

Blauer Himmel

This morning I was shocked to see blue skies and fluffy white clouds through our bathroom skylight! The sky has been gray gray gray for ages now...and often sprinkling with rain. I took the opportunity to bike to work, and it was glorious. Now of course it's gray again, but I fancy I can see the sun just peeking through in the distance...fingers crossed for a pleasant bike home.
Sorry I haven't written in a while...things get busy! A post with some pictures from last week's Potsdam trip is forthcoming.
This week has been full of chill Berlin evenings...on Monday Eric and I strolled down the street to a nearby restaurant for a friend's performance piece. Our friend did the video projections, but the meat of the performance was his friend, a Latvian woman with a mop of curly red hair, clad in a black lace bodysock and little else, and singing Russian and Latvian folktunes. She was accompanied by an American cellist and Finnish pianist. Only in Berlin! She crawled on our tables and danced with strangers and was charming and funny and had a lovely voice. It was really something to behold. The afterparty, I hear, involved a hat fashion show, but I unfortunately did not attend.
Tuesday I went to my friend's apartment in Kreuzberg (Xberg) and found it to be quite awesome. He lives with 6 people in a co-op kinda situation and they have a lovely big kitchen/hangout area. he has painted a huge wall mural with a long quote from 'Ulysses.' I think maybe I want to paint a mural in my room now!
Speaking of interior decoration, Eric has festooned our hallway and it feels a lot less blank and cold now than it once did.
On Wednesday I went to a reading of a book about Berlin, written by a friend of a friend. It was funny and well-written and I am excited to get to the book (though currently I am deeply engrossed in my first reading of Pride and Prejudice). It was at a Russian-themed bar called Kaffee Bürger with great vintage signs and wallpaper. Liked the vibe there, and made a new friend. I struck up a conversation because she was carrying a Holga, yay lomo!
Saturday is Halloween...I am going to dress up, though the Germans supposedly do not celebrate much. I am sure we will find something crazy to do.
Bis bald,

Monday, October 26, 2009

CD Supper Club

1 cut thumb
1 burned finger
1 cracked glass
1 snapped knife
and 5 bottles of wine later, the inaugural meal of CD supper club has been brought off successfully!
CD is for Celia & Diana as well as Casual Dining and Crazy Delicious and any number of other things :)
Our menu was:
Smoked salmon pinwheels (thanks for the recipe mom!)
Chicken stuffed with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes (thanks for the recipe aunty amy!)
Fruited coucous pilaf
Cucumber salad
Roasted eggplants & zucchini
Grilled red & yellow peppers
& Lemon cheesecake for dessert (Celia's mother's recipe)
We had posted an ad on Berlin craigslist and on toytown, a popular English-language forum here, and received 4 responses. 2 couldnät make the date but wanted to get on the mailing list, and two were in! To fill the extra spots, we invited friends like mad, and eventually we had 11 attendees: me and Celia, my two roomies, the two strangers, and 5 friends from various places, known of whom knew each other. It was shaping up to be a good night.
We shopped at the Turkish Market on Friday and at Kaufland on Saturday. Saturday evening, we met to make the cheesecake and cucumber salad, which had to marinate overnight.
On Sunday, we went out to brunch at a popular vegan place near Celia's. Brunch here is a bit different than at home. Most places, 'brunch' consists of a buffet, mostly cold (meats, cheeses, breads, spreads) but sometimes with eggs, etc. for one (usually quite low) price. I was resistant at first (I want me some eggs benedict when I go for brunch) but after Saturday's feast I am a definite convert. Mmm...bread, cheese, and tomato. I could live on that. Plus yogurt, muesli (I am ADDICTED to the stuff now, much prefer it to sugary granola), bean salad, lentil spread and something called 'griespudding' which is like rice pudding but with something much smaller than rice (couscous perhaps?). Afterwards, we went to the HUGE flea market at the Mauerpark cause I'd been wanting to check it out. I have to wonder why anyone shops at real stores here--there are so many awesome markets scattered around the city.
And then it was time to head back to Neukölln and get cookin! We set up my room as the dining room (it really has a lot of space!) with some plates and cutlery borrowed from Celia:

We set out the wine (an essential component):

And the salmon pinwheels:

And then we made the rest of the food, and people started arriving, and it was wonderful!
The strangers turned out to be: Rene, a Danish pilot, and Kate, an economics officer at the US embassy from New Jersey. 3 of our 'friends' didn't show, but everyone ate heartily and we still almost finished the food, not to mention all five bottles of wine. There was lots of laughter, the food was delicious (if I do say so myself), and everyone seemed to have a good time. Afterwards we were happy to find that not only did we break even on costs (phew!) we even made a couple euros each! That means we were essentially paid to cook and eat.
Eric helped out and made a playlist:

Action shot of people beginning to eat:

And everyone posing nicely:

My delicious plate of food (nom nom nom):

The amazing cheesecake!:

And the aftermath. I think we used every dish, cooking pot, and utensil in the kitchen (including the cleaver, which we used to serve the cheesecake, haha):

We had a dishwashing party to some Belle & Sebastian tunes and most of it was done pretty quick.
The past few days, the leftovers have been great: I had couscous and some eggplant smeared with goat cheese filling for lunch yesterday and scrambled eggs with eggplant, green onion, parsley, and cilantro for both dinner last night and breakfast this morning. I'm thinking the leftover cinnamon-cookie crust has got to go to a pie sometime this week.
And that was it! The first supper club. I think we will definitely do it again in future.
Bis bald,

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Another fun and crazy Friday!
For lunch I finally resolved to try a place I had heard was the best burrito in Berlin (not saying much). It was actually decent! And there was spice! I reviewed it on Qype (see below), which is like the European Yelp. I'll definitely be going back there when I have burrito cravings.
After work I met Celia at the Turkish Market to buy ingredients for Sunday's supper club. I looove the Turkish Market. During my pricing trip on Tuesday, I picked up avocados and a big beautiful mango. Mmmm. Since we were there, we bought stuff to make dinner as well, deciding to finally sample the delicious-looking salmon at the fish stall. When we got home, we cooked a feast: salmon, mango salsa, guacamole, and a salad. yum yum.

I was feeling tired but Berlin never rests and there were things to do!!! First up was an art show at Stadtbad Wedding, a cool venue which used to be a Stadtbad, or public pool. We wandered around the changing rooms and showers upstairs, which had neat little installations in them, and checked out the pool, but we couldn't actually go in it :( Pictures to come. Next was a Simian Mobile Disco show that Eric was on the guest list for but we didn't have tickets to. We sidled up to the front of the line and said we were on the guest list, then they let us in to the counter where we paid as if we had waited on line. It was a good little trick and we got in just in time to see the main event. It was an AWESOME show. Finally, there was a WG party around the corner from our apartment which was way epic.
I'm excited for supper club tomorrow!
Bis bald,

Qype: Dolores Gourmet Burritos in Berlin

Berlin - Eating & Drinking - Restaurants - Mexican - Eating & Drinking - Restaurants - American - Eating & Drinking - Restaurants - Southwestern - Eating & Drinking - Fastfood & Takeaway

So I think I've figured out why so many people hate on Dolores, claiming that only Germans would think it is Mexican food: to a certain segment of the US population, Chipotle is considered somewhat blasphemous. Such people only consider real California taquerias as actual Mexican food. Well, I happen to like Chipotle, and Dolores is a lot like it. Don't get me wrong--it can't hold a candle to my beloved California staple, La Bamba, or even your garden variety El Grullense. But dear lord--their habanero sauce actually has spice to it!!! That alone is enough to make me go back. With the dearth of any Mexican in Berlin, much less good Mexican, I will happily accept Dolores as a source to stave off my Mexican hunger pains.
Next time, I'm getting the lime rice instead of the Spanish rice (tasted a bit strange) and maybe skipping the whole euro(!!!) they charge for guacamole.

Check out my review of Dolores Gourmet Burritos - I am insizlane - on Qype

Friday, October 23, 2009

Berlin Illuminiert

For the past 10 days or so has been the Festival of Lights in Berlin, and on Monday I went to check it out. Basically the idea is a bunch of Berlin landmarks are lit up with colorful lights, projections, or patterns. A friend lent me a lovely fancy Canon, a roll of film, and a tripod and we set out to see the sights. We started at Alex and the Fernsehturm, which was quite boring--just colored lights shining on it. Next we walked down towards the Berliner Dom. Along the way we wandered through the atrium at the Radisson which had some smaller light installations and light-based artworks for sale. They were unremarkable. Then we rounded the corner, and there was a lovely swirly color pattern on the back side of the Berliner Dom. With spotlights crisscrossing the sky, and all of it reflected in the Spree river below, it was a really beautiful sight.

Then we went around the front, and it was even better: a bright and colorful pattern all over the overwrought baroque surface of the building. We stood around there waiting for the different patterns and shooting pictures for a while, keeping warm with frequent pulls of brandy from our respective flasks. After shooting our fill of the Dom we continued down Unter den Linden and my favorite light effect: each individual tree was lit with a different color, creating a rainbow effect down the whole avenue. It was magical. And so simple! Just two bright lights at the base of each tree, pointed upwards, with different colored gels on them.

We continued to the Brandenberg Gate, which was kinda boring, just different colors changing, but we shot it anyway. The best view of it was from inside the park heading away towards the Reichstag--the illuminated columns were framed perfectly in between the black tree silhouettes. The Reichstag was, inexplicably, not lit up, and the lighting on the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) was pretty boring, so we called it a night. But it was fun! I hadn't shot manually in years. The film's not developed yet, but I'm excited to see how it turns out.
Bis bald,

PS. from saturday:

Monday, October 19, 2009

noch eine Wochenende

Another weekend come and gone. How the time does fly!
Exciting news: I finally joined a gym! I kinda hurt my ankle, and I haven't been able to run for a week or so. Plus it was so dern cold last week, and it's only going to get worse, and I didn't want the weather to be an excuse for not exercising! So I joined a gym that is literally a block from the apartment. It felt really good to get back to weightlifting on Thursday morning.
On Friday was something I had been looking forward to all week: dinner at a Thai place in our neighborhood that does a 3eur buffet once a week! Eric and I and Eric's friend Christian went over there and it was really good. There was a nice minced pork dish that I really liked, but both Eric and Christian thought it was uncomfortably spicy! It didn't taste the least bit spicy to me. Hahaha.
Then we went to a place near Postdamer Platz to see a music performance Eric had heard about: the male half of Swedish duo The Knife. I like them so I thought the solo show would be cool. The venue was a neat gallery with an installation in one room. The performance space was a tiny room lined with black garbage bags. Turns out the music was basically just an incredibly loud wall of noise punctuated by various grating noises. It hurt my ears, so I went into the other room, from which I could hear it just as well but without the discomfort. It was...interesting. Josh and I headed home afterwards without bothering to stay for the second musical act.
On Saturday I did a full-body weights circuit at the gym which was fun. In the afternoon, Josh's brother Joel was putting on a protest at the Schlossplatz to decry the building of a fake Prussian castle on what is now a lovely open lawn. The slogan was "Schloss mit Lustig" or "Cancel the Castle," and they had a bouncy castle inflated on the lawn and Burger King crowns with the Schloss mit Lustig logo on them. They partnered with a group that puts on parties whose schtick is that they hand out free thrift store jackets with their logo stamped on them at events. It was cold and rainy, so I took full advantage of this and donned both a neat black blazer (under my coat) and a rain jacket with a hood (over my coat). With those and my crown I was probably quite a sight bouncing on the castle. The sun soon came out and I biked home much happier and warmer.
Later that evening was the 'soli-party', the solidarity party for the protest. It was at Betahaus, a cafe where Josh and Joel work, and the castle was set up in the courtyard. I manned the door for a while, and we had a whole bag full of nifty letter and number stamps that a friend found in an abandoned building to stamp the hands of people who paid. Not many people actually showed up, so I ended up making all sorts of words and stamping them all over myself and everyone else.
Around 5:30am we finally gave up--there were only five of us left and the DJ had gone. At this point in the evening we bestowed stamps upon ourselves that read: WiNNerS YeS! Despite a shower, that is still very much visible on my arm. Eric, Francisco, and I, the survivors, promised Joel to be back at Betahaus at 2pm to clean up, and then headed to another party on Kottbusser Damm and danced our little feetsies off. When that shut down around 8 or 9, we went to a bar and had a round of beers. There was some sketchy clientele in that place. Finally, we went out for breakfast. All the families and old people at the breakfast place, not to mention the waitresses, were scandalized by our messy, stamped, crowned appearances. We were made to sit outside on rain-dampened patio furniture, but at least we got to eat. When we finally walked through the door at noon, Josh was just on his way out to go clean. We promised to be there at 2, sat down to listen to some comedy, and the next thing I knew I was waking up at 4. We were no longer needed for cleaning.
Eric wanted to go for a run (crazy man) so I biked along with him to check out the Soviet Memorial at Treptower Park. It was massive and impressive and beautiful in the golden almost-sunset light. Behind the memorial, there's a lovely lake. It was a really pleasant trip.
In the evening I had a friend to dinner and cooked pork chops with roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts. My roommates can't believe I told them I didn't think I was a good cook when I moved in, but the truth is that I just never really tried, or had much opportunity to try. All I do is follow recipes, I don't know if that makes me a good cook. But I am really getting to enjoy cooking, and so having recently read about the Sunday Night Dinners in Queens, I got to thinking that maybe I would want to try doing something like that. My friend Celia likes food and cooking as much as I do, so we are starting our own small supper club here in Berlin! The first dinner is this coming Sunday. I'll let you know how it goes :)
Bis bald,

Friday, October 16, 2009


Some headlines from the recent German news:
Berlin brothel offers green discounts to beat the crisis
Fascist Garden Gnomes Invade Bavarian Town
Naked Rock Musical Proves Too Big a Hit with Nudists
Bis bald,


lustig is a fun German word. It technically means funny or amusing, but can also mean something along the lines of joyous, cheerful, or my favorite, "frolicsome."
So: Gestern abend war sehr lustig! Last night was really frolicsome!
The Mountain Goats show was at Magnet Club, right down the street from my office. So instead of going home, I hung out at a friend's place in the neighborhood, Prenzlauer Berg. P-berg or Prenzelberg is known for being kind of yuppified--lots of middle class families and expats. It's a pretty nice area--lots of cute restaurants and shops--but kind of expensive. However the delicious Lebanese veggie wraps with mango sauce that we grabbed for dinner were, at 3eur, a total steal. yum!
I bought a teeny-tiny bottle of questionable whiskey and stashed it about my person and then we headed to the venue. It was small, and packed, and the opening act was on when we got there--a New Zealand guy with a guitar and a strangely whiny voice. We pushed to the front (I've noticed that if you act like you're going somewhere, people in concert crowds just let you do what you want) and had a great view for the main event.
John Darnielle is the core of Mountain Goats, and he didn't even bring his band on this tour. It was just him and a keyboard, then him and a guitar. And it was fan-bloody-tastic. My god. It was such a totally and completely epic show. I could not stop grinning. He claimed not to have played 'This Year', probably his most famous song, yet on this tour, so we lucked out getting to hear that (see video on last post for that song). When he asked for requests I, and several other people, was yelling for 'No Children' (see video below). Eventually he said, "No, I can't play that, I forgot the little machine, I haven't been able to play that all tour." Somehow someone knew that by 'little machine' he meant a capo, and handed him one from the audience. And then he played the song!!! And then he handed the capo back to the guy. It was marvelous.
Not only are his lyrics amazing, but the guy is charming as all hell. The things he says between songs, his little intros, they're all so darn cute! And then when he was taking requests, he would say things like, "No, I don't know that one, I haven't played it in a year" or "I know the HELL out of that one!!!" and then launch right into it.
So yeah it was an epic show.
Afterwards we went to an Erasmus party in Mitte. Erasmus is a student exchange program, and this was their "international semester kick-off party." When you go in, you're supposed to get a sticker of your country's flag so people know where you're from. We skipped that bit, though I still ended up with an American flag on my cheek by the time we left, haha. I believe it was bestowed upon me when I demonstrated my Brooklyn dancing skillz, hahaha. But it was fun to hear some hip-hop for once. And songs with more of a beat goin on then the typical Berlin house music, which is so monotonous it's hard to truly break it down. You just end up kinda swaying. Which is sometimes ok, but I was thrilled to have a chance to really let loose.
Aaaand then it took me two hours to get home. Know how I mentioned that Berlin is so cool cause there's a party every night of the week? Well there isn't a way to get home from said party every night of the week, as the U-Bahn is only 24hours on Fridays and Saturdays. And the night buses during the week run every half hour or so. So it kinda sucks.
Not to mention it was raining. Again. And my shoes got soaked. I can deal with cold, but this constant rain is not fun!
But with a belly full of whiskey and a heart full of Mountain Goats and dance music, I was still feelin fine ;)
Bis bald,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

noch mehr Fotos

Eric & Josh pre-race in front of Schloss Charlottenberg:

My bike (in the currently near-constant rain):

The new art we got for our hallway:

The photo was shot by a couple friends of Josh and Eric's on our roof this summer. It's a little blurry, but the idea is that the boyfriend is wearing a bikini and posing in a cute, coy way; his girlfriend sprawls with a surly look on her face, an open plaid shirt, and a beer in hand. It's pretty hilarious. Maybe when I get the copies of my photo shoot, we can add to our hallway gallery of "pictures taken at the apartment." Hahaha.
Seeing the Mountain Goats tonight! I've heard their live shows are epic.

Bis bald,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Die Wochenende

On Saturday evening, there was an event in our neighborhood where all the quirky little bars had live music and/or DJs, so we wandered around and checked them out. The first place we went to seemed normal enough. Then Eric led us to the back, and opened a nondescript door, and there was a tiny acoustic concert going on in a dimly lit room. Other places had similar quirks--one had the DJs suspended above the room on a kind of catwalk. Another had a maze of small, dark rooms with clusters of people smoking and murmuring conversations. The weirdest was one with a back room that had two mattresses on the floor, made up with blankets and pillows, a couch, and a projection of a live feed of the front room in nightvision. As we went in, a bunch of people standing at the door seemed to think it hilarious that we would want to. We were the only ones in there. One wall was covered in carpets and when we investigated we found that behind them was yet another small room. This one had three big couch cushions on the floor. And apparently, though I didn't notice it at the time, a big picture of a vagina on the wall. I do not even want to know what these weirdo rooms were for. But it had us giggling like schoolgirls. Anyway, there are some really great little places tucked around here. I like this neighborhood more every day :)
Then I headed to Mitte to catch a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. They had all the yelling and such in German, but the accompanying live cabaret show was in English, and I'd guess the audience was about half and half. Some of the German things to yell were different (long complicated sentences that no one in the audience seemed able to yell in the prescribed amount of time) and some were direct translations ("Schlampe! Arschloch!"). The guy who played Brad was American and made cheesy jokes the whole time. I got a real kick out of it. The next day I found playing cards and rice in my coat pockets. Hahaha.
On Sunday Eric and Josh were running a 10k race over in Charlottenburg (west Berlin) so I joined them on the half hour U-Bahn ride and cheered them on. Afterwards we took a look at the gardens behind Schloss Charlottenburg and they are really something. Like a mini combination of Stourhead and Versaille: part rigidly laid out formal gardens, part carefully landscaped "wilderness." I bet they're lovely in the summer.
When we got home we went out to a Turkish place for hummus. For 3eur, we each got a bowl of warm creamy delicious hummus with whole chickpeas and herbs in it, plus a big plate of veggies to share and three huge pieces of bread. It was a great lunch. Another good place to know in the neighborhood!
Soon thereafter I headed over to Potsdamer Platz (Berlin's Times Square, basically) and the Sony Center, where they show original language movies. This is where to go if you want to see an American movie in English, otherwise they are usually dubbed into German, which admittedly is probably pretty amusing as well. I met with a friend to see the Time Traveler's Wife (I know, cheesy, but I just read the book and wanted to check it out). It was SO SAD. I felt bad for dragging my friend to it.
Yesterday I baked zucchini bread with the leftover zucchini from Friday. Josh freaked out about how good it was :) I took half the loaf over to my friend's place and we watched another Bruce Campbell movie, Bubba Ho-tep. The basic premise of the movie is this (possible spoilers): Elvis is not actually dead. At the height of his career, he got tired of it all and decided to switch places with one of his impersonators. Unfortunately the contract that would have allowed him to switch back at any time was destroyed in a tragic trailer park barbeque accident, so now he's in a nursing home under someone else's name and no one cares about him except his friend in the nursing home, a black man who claims he is JFK but that the government dyed his skin and put a bag of sand in his head in place of a brain. When a reincarnated ancient Egyptian mummy starts terrorizing the nursing home, the two old crazies must team up to save the day. Sounds stimulating, does it not?
Busy week coming up!
Bis bald,

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Drei Tagen

Mittwoch, Donnerstag, Freitag.
Wednesday, I realized, was the one-month-iversary of my arrival in Berlin!
The day was uneventful, but I felt like the Tuesday night roast was a good celebration :) in the evening, I made a meal that Eric called "very North America": mashed potatoes, peas, and chicken. I had the chicken with Kaufland's version of barbeque sauce. It was...interesting. The sauces here are not up to snuff. And nothing has enough spice. There are tons of Asian restaurants, and even some Mexican ones, but they all tone down the spice for German taste. I haven't tried a Mexican place here yet. I'm kind of scared. But my burrito cravings are coming to the point where I must answer them...
Thursday was a great day. A friend of mine is a photographer and she has a show coming up in November. The show is about women who are outside the norm in terms of what it means to be beautiful. She wanted to photograph me for it, and Thursday morning was our shoot! It was really fun. I accepted copies of the photos in lieu of cash payment, so I'll post some here when I get them.
I was running late, so for lunch I just grabbed a couple quick brötchen at Alexanderplatz. Sandwich fan that I am, I love the little bread rolls stuffed with things that are sold at all the train stations. They often contain surprises; for instance I got what I thought was ham and lettuce and it also included some delightful sour cabbage. They also sell melt-in-your-mouth brie sandwiches...mmm.
That evening was the Camera Obscura concert! I biked over the Oberbaumbrücke to the venue, Postbahnhof am Ostbahnhof. Once there, I met with some friends and got a poster for only 3eur. Usually posters are 15-20USD at concerts in the States so I was very pleased with this:

The show was awesome. The band members are so cool. Two of my friends were freaking out and dancing like madmen, it was great. I managed to take a couple blurry photos:

The only thing is it was really short. They played maybe an hour set, then came back for a half hour-ish encore. This is a trend I have noticed at Berlin concerts. But I guess I don't end up with sore feet and checking my watch like I have at some American marathon-concerts, so it works out. Plus I then had time to go out after and meet a friend of a friend called Udo. We met up near Friedrichstraße and he happened to be hanging out with a bunch of Stanford kids from the Stanford-in-Berlin program this quarter. That made me feel old, old, old. But one of them was a rookie on the rugby team last year, so it was nice to see her again and catch up.
Udo and I were too old and tired to go with the kiddies to a club afterwards, so we headed home. I found a hubcap along the way! It's a pretty good one from Opel and looks good on my wall:

Speaking of my wall, my room is getting more and more my own...with the hubcap, Camera Obscura poster, Major Lazer poster I stole off the street, and my makeshift curtains it is starting to feel more homey.

Yesterday I biked over to the Turkish market, finally! It was great. Tons of fresh produce, all cheap. A stand or two with good cheeses (drool). One stand with delicious looking hummus! Fresh breads and sweets, and some stands with prepared foods. I only regret having eaten before I went, but on Tuesday I won't make the same mistake.
I picked up zucchini, carrots, dill, and green onions to make dinner. Our friend Galka was coming over and she's vegetarian, so I made a zucchini-kimchi quiche with a brown rice crust:

and roasted carrots with dill:

Eric made a salad and we had a great meal. Galka brought the scotch. Eric insisted on drinking rosé though:

And then I passed out at midnight. On a Friday. Haha I'm so cool. But really one of the great things about Berlin is there's a party somewhere every night. So there's no pressure to go out on Friday and Saturday just cause it's the weekend. I'm going out tomorrow though ;)
We got our internet hookup yesterday as well. Skype me, people!
Bis bald,


They also sell caviar in tubes. Apparently Germans put it on top of hard-boiled eggs. Eggs on eggs!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Some photos from the past week or so...
Fresh caprese to use up the last of my fresh basil:

Banana chocolate-chunk muffins:

Leningrad Cowboys!:

Viva Las Vegas:

Rock Lobster:

Leningrad Ladis in their skeleton costumes during the encore:

Last night we had a lovely roast dinner at our place. WG KMX descended on our kitchen with food from the Turkish market: three chickens, half a pumpkin, peppers and potatoes, plus some supermarket broccoli. We choppped the veggies (except for the broccoli, which we cooked separately with cheese sauce) and dumped them in a pan with the chickens and a bunch of oil and seasoning. Then we stuck it in the oven for a while. And it turned out delish.
Today it's really warm and sunny! Not many more days like this on the horizon...
Camera Obscura tomorrow :)
Bis bald,

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Die Meldebescheinigung

Ich bin angemeldet! I am registered!
Everyone in Germany has to register their residence with the police/government. You are supposed to do this within 5 business days of moving into a new place. Whoops. It's kinda been two weeks. I gather, though, that many foreigners don't even know about this, and don't do it for months or even years, if they do it at all. The woman I saw today didn't even mention that I was a week or so late.
I was absolutely terrified of German bureaucracy. Wouldn't you be? Luckily there is a smaller, less crowded Bürgeramt in my neighborhood. My flatmate Eric directed me to it, and I went with my other flatmate Josh, who still hasn't registered even though he's been in the apartment since April (see what I mean?). We asked at the desk, and they provided us with three long forms with lots of complicated German, then gave us a number and told us to go to the waiting room. The form was bewildering (if you hate legalese, imagine it in German, or any language that you are not fluent in) and I didn't want to fill it out wrong, so we took it back to get Eric's help, since he's fluent. Turns out you only have to actually fill out maybe 5-10 of the many, many little boxes on the form. Really all they ask for is your name, birthday, and new address. You also need a Mietvertrag (rental contract) or separate form for subletters (Untermietervertrag, that's what I had). Sorting all this out, what with one thing and another, took me about a week but today I finally went back to the office and it was pretty much a piece of cake to turn in the forms and get my stamped "you are registered" bit of paper.
So now I can open a bank account and get a library card. Huzzah! Take that bureaucracy. I totally figured you out.
Bis bald,

Leningrad Cowboys

The group I went to see last night:
"The Leningrad Cowboys is a Finnish rock and roll band famous for its humorous songs and concerts featuring the Soviet Red Army Choir.
Currently, the band has eleven Cowboys and two Leningrad Ladies. The songs, all somewhat influenced by polka and progressive rock, and performed in English, have themes such as 'vodka', 'tractors', 'rockets', and 'Genghis Khan', as well as folkloric Russian songs, rock and roll ballads and covers from bands as diverse as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, all with lots of humour."
They all wear huge pointy elf shoes and have their hair fashioned into long cones, like unicorn horns. They wear sunglasses and ridiculous coordinated outfits.
Below is a clip of them performing 'Sweet Home Alabama,' which was a crowd-pleaser last night. Except this clip features the Soviet Red Army Choir: "The Red Army Choir (Choir Aleksandrov) is a performing ensemble that served as the official army choir of the former Soviet Union's Red Army. The choir consists of a male choir, an orchestra, and a dance ensemble. The songs they perform range from Russian folk tunes to Church hymns, operatic arias and popular music. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Red Army Choir has continued performing, entertaining audiences both inside and outside Russia."

This one can't be embedded, but check it out for an even better example of the use of the choir.
Also this, as a good idea of their total and complete insanity (not to mention their ginormous fan base):

Last night, they were in fine form in vaguely Spanish costumes. Their two blond 'Leningrad Ladies' were hilarious and danced up a storm. They switched costumes several times: from tight-fitting traditional dresses to tight black leather corsets and skirts to sparkly bodysuits to skeleton bodysuits. They had their hair in smaller unicorn horns.
When they played 'Viva Las Vegas,' one band member came out in a white sparkly Elvis suit to perform the song. The same guy came out in swimtrunks, water wings and a snorkel mask, with a watergun he used on the audience, when they played a vaguely Dick Dale-ish surf song.
At one point, one of the band members came on in a huge, segmented velour lobster outfit complete with multiple dangling arms and claws sticking up behind him. They introduced him as the rock lobster. Curiously they did not then play 'Rock Lobster' but something else entirely.
The crowd was a mix of old and young, with some people having done their hair in the cowboy fashion, and many more wearing cowboy T-shirts. I might or might not have been the youngest person there. It was really good fun though. Utterly ridiculous! I wonder what it takes to become a Leningrad Lady. Possible future career?
Pictures to come.
Bis bald,

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ein Fahrrad und die Küche

Samstag war der Tag der deutschen Einheit: the day of German unity. This means everything was closed. It also means giant wooden puppets (die Riesen) made their way through the city and apparently all the Berliners get all wide-eyed and squeal like little girls but I didn't actually witness this with my own eyes, unfortunately.
Since it was raining and cold, what I did do was continue my 80s movie education with The Naked Gun and The Goonies (with teeny-tiny Sean Astin!) and eat German-style brunch (essentially cold cuts and bread).
More importantly, I got a bike!!! It's a burgundy kinda color. I'll take a picture and post it later. Even though it's starting to get cold, I think I'm going to bike a lot. It gives a much better idea of the city than taking the train everywhere. Now I'm a real Berliner :)
Yesterday I had more adventures at the grocery store. Usually they're closed on Sundays (annoying) but since Saturday was a holiday they were open...and everyone and their grandmother knew it. The place was a madhouse. It was like the apocalypse or something. Continuing my "weird grocery store discoveries" series, I found that they sell pre-packaged bagels (complete with spreads and toppings), hot dogs and hamburgers (complete with buns), and something called a "Mexican burger" (I don't even want to know) in their meat section. Also, they sell mustard in tubs so large they have handles. Mmmm...
I made it through the fray intact and spent most of the rest of the day in the kitchen. First I attempted hollandaise for the first time unsupervised. I didn't let it thicken quite enough, but it was still delicious on top of a couple toasted english muffins, some ham, and two fried eggs (poached was too much effort). Incidentally I recently found out that "english" muffins were invented in New York. As were, apparently, hot dogs and ice cream cones. These claims, however, are unsubstantiated.
Then I tried out a recipe for banana-chocolate chunk muffins with oats and walnuts and all kinds of goodness. I had heard that they don't sell baking soda here, and indeed they don't. All they have is "backpulver," which is baking powder, in tiny little packets, not boxes as in the states. Making a typical Diana move I decided that I would just add backpulver for both the baking powder and baking soda required by the recipe and see what happened. Miraculously this seems to have worked because the muffins turned out delicious! I'll post a picture later.
One song from the day's soundtrack:

Soon after the muffins were all done a friend came over for dinner and we made penne pasta with mushrooms, onions, peas and tomato sauce. And ate several muffins each. Hahaha.
When he went home I headed down the street to the apartment of my flatmate's brother. When several people share a flat here, it is called a WG (vay-gay). WG stands for Wohngemeinschaft, which means "living community." This particular apartment is on Karl Marx Straße and is known as WG KMX. There, in the big red living room, we drank tea while a couple members of the group played guitar. Occasionally we all added impromptu percussion/vocals. This was one of the songs we sang:

The band, Camera Obscura, is playing in Berlin this Thursday! If all goes well I'm getting tickets tomorrow.
Today I went for a run in the sunshine. Tonight I am seeing the Leningrad Cowboys...more on them tomorrow.
Bis bald,

Friday, October 2, 2009


der Krimskrams=odds n ends/bits n bobs
I found the jam. A delicious wildberry medley no less.
I also discovered that among the "things in tubes" variety of foodstuffs is tube-cheese. Being the cheese fanatic that I am I actually purchased a tube of garlic-flavored Käsecreme, much to my roommate's amusement. Verdict: tastes good in the same way that most processed cheeses do, at least to yours truly. I plan to continue to explore the vast selection of cheeses, spreadable and otherwise, available at Kaufland, including bleu cheese which comes in thin slices perfect for sandwiches.
Check out this article about Oktoberfest's Lost&Found (Fundbüro) for a funny perspective on the fest.
And head on over to antlervision for a post about a cool hotel in Berlin I just heard about.
Diese Wochenende kommen die Riesen...
This weekend, every day starting yesterday, giant puppets parade around Berlin acting out a story involving a small giantess reuniting with her rather larger giant uncle at Brandenburger Tor. I plan to check it out, so more on that soon.
Bis bald,