Thursday, November 19, 2009

Urlaub

As I writing this I am sitting at home in Brooklyn, NY!
When I walked off the plane I was thirsty and was thrilled to turn a corner and discover...a water fountain!!!
Ah, to be back in the land of free water. Mmm refreshing.
It was pretty surreal driving home on a route I knew so well and walking into my family house.
As I left the flat in Berlin this morning, I felt very glad knowing I would be coming back in ten days. I guess for all my homesickness I'm getting comfy in Berlin :)
I think I'm going to catch myself saying "hallo" and "tschüssi" and "schuldigung" while I'm back! I'm in the habit now.
Anyhoo the blog will be on hiatus for a week or so while I go on vacation with the fam!
Bis bald,
D.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lohengrin

On Sunday I had the good luck to be taken to a production of Wagner's Lohengrin at the Staatsoper in Berlin. In a German literature class my freshman year, I studied this opera and found it very moving. One line in particular stuck with me. I guess it is different in different translations; I have it written down from the one we used in the class as "We can both escape the restless world,/and every thought that’s not of love forget," but a translation I recently found online says, "Now ev'ry pent-up thought our hearts may own/No rash intruder this sweet hour shall fret." The German original is, according to this online text, "Nun sollen wir der Welt entronnen sein,/Kein Laoscher darf des Herzens Griissen nah'n." I translate this roughly as "Now we should be escaped from the world/No eavesdropper may approach the heart's [? I can't find a translation for 'Griissen,' though das Grinsen is a grin or smirk]." At any rate, it reminded me immediately of a lyric from the song 'When the Angels Play Their Drum Machines' by Hefner: Please draw the curtains, unplug the phone/Let's mess the sheets, and give our hearts a home/We are both adults, our eyes are open wide/Let's push away, the world outside.
Nice, no? If there's one thing I learned in my three weeks of "Rock, Sex, and Rebellion" music class, it's that music is just as repetitive as art and literature.
All of this is totally unrelated to Sunday's experience, haha. It was a very interesting production. I was actually laughing a lot, which I wasn't really expecting to do during five hours of Wagner, especially an opera which is ultimately so sad. But the first few scenes were really quite hilarious. Everyone started in street clothes, carrying puppets in more elaborate and cliche costumes. When Lohengrin arrived, emerging from an interesting circular curtain thing that played a key part in many scenes, he was wearing a laughably elaborate silver costume with chainmail-esque shiny leggings and a helmet with swan feathers. In lieu of an actual giant swan (which he is supposed to arrive on) he carried a single large white feather.
As the opera progressed the characters slowly changed into streotypically elaborate and dated costumes until everyone looked like something out of a high school play. During the climactic bedroom scene, however, when Elsa asked the fatal question, she and Lohengrin were immediately physically separated, the stage split in two as they reached for each other, Elsa choking back sobs, and the chorus slowly appeared, back in their street clothes.
For the final scene everyone involved was once again dressed normally, except for Lohengrin and the insane Ortrud.
It was really very well done. I enjoyed it immensely, and plan to take advantage of the operas here in Berlin again in the future!
Bis bald,
D.

Mauerfall 2009

One week ago, on November 9th, 2009, was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall (Mauerfall; Mauer=wall). Obviously it is a date that means a great deal to the city of Berlin and to Germany in general, and there were huge celebrations last Monday night at Brandenburger Tor (the Brandenburg Gate).
It was freezing and raining, but since I missed die Riesen celebrating der Tag der Deutchen Einheit, I knew I would seriously regret not going to this.
I stationed myself right near the line of dominoes across from the Holocaust Memorial with a view of a large TV screen showing the various happenings, such as speeches from world leaders like Sarkozy and Hillary Clinton and of course Merkel (Angie, the locals around me called her, haha) and performances from the Berlin philharmonic, Placido Domingo, and Bon Jovi (wtf?). As I mentioned in a previous post, I had planned to participate in the Mauer Mob, but I had a good spot by the dominoes and I reeeally wanted to see them fall. I thought I would be able to do both, but the domino-knocking was so delayed that I ended up being there long after the Mauer Mob was over and done with.
I'd like to say it was worth it but honestly I think all the hoopla seriously distracted from the real meaning of the events it was supposed to be celebrating. I mean, Bon Jovi? Was that really necessary?
As I headed home, however, soaked and cold and somewhat grumpy, I saw the final section of dominoes being knocked over on a giant TV screen--and then the Brandenburg Gate exploded in fireworks. Suddenly, a huge fireworks show shot out of the Tiergarten right in front of me. It was all I could do to stop and stare in gleeful awe.
I described in a previous post the magic of falling snow--well to me a good fireworks display inspires the same reaction :)
After all was said and done, I'm glad I was there to celebrate.


video
Bis bald,
D.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ikono TV Blog

The blog for the company I work for is actually pretty tite. Check it out!

Qype: Restaurant 44 im Swissôtel in Berlin



Berlin - Eating & Drinking - Restaurants - Gourmet


This meal will go down as one of the absolute best I have ever had the good fortune to enjoy.
I made a reservation for me, my aunt and my uncle at 9:30pm on a Friday night, the latest they will seat. The staff was the epitome of courteous and welcoming, speaking perfect English for the benefit of my non-Deutsch-speaking relatives. We were seated at a corner table overlooking the Ku'Damm's night lights. The tables were very generously spaced and we felt very well looked after.
We decided on the four course menu. I had artichoke, tuna, lamb, and a selection of cheese. My aunt had artichoke, king prawn, venison, and valrhona chocolate cake, and my uncle had quail, king prawn, coalfish, and chocolate cake as well.
Everything was innovatively prepared with creative uses of ingredients and beautifully plated.
The artichoke was served with little bits of heavenly creamy smoked mozzarella, chunks of tomato and slices of dessicated tomato (surprisingly sweet and chewy), some greens and a scoop of olive oil sorbet.
The tuna came in little perfectly seared cubes, served with brussel sprouts, shallot cream and duck pastrami (see what I mean about creative combinations?)
The crusted lamb saddle was the most flavorful and tender lamb I have ever tasted. I almost orgasmed when I tasted it. It came with two beautiful pastry tubes filled with creamy goat cheese and some veggies.
If that description didn't make you drool, you must be crazy.
Yes this place is expensive, but it is worth every penny. I recommend it highly for your next special occasion meal.

Check out my review of Restaurant 44 im Swissôtel - I am insizlane - on Qype

Berlin Redux

Last weekend, a friend I made at Oktoberfest visited from Darmstadt, and showing him around gave me an excuse to wander around some of Berlin's more famous sites and take photos. It was a beautiful clear sunny day with blue skies (unbelievable!). We started at the East Side Gallery, the longest stretch of the Berlin wall still standing, on the banks of the Spree between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. It has been painted all along its length by various artists with a range of images, here's a sampling:
GET HUMAN

Kissy kissy

A different kissy kissy...one of the more famous images

Shadows in the night

At the end of the East Side Gallery is the Oberbaumbrücke, a beautiful brick bridge over the Spree, which the U1 train runs across, as did Lola in Lola Rennt:

And the view was wonderful with the unseasonable sunniness and blue skies:

We ate a delicious Indian lunch, with real spice in the lamb vindaloo (!), and then made our way to Mitte and the Brandenburg Gate. As we walked along Unter den Linden, it slowly dawned on me that Parisen Platz would be totally overrun because of the Mauerfall festivities, and indeed it was:

We shouldered through the crowds to the other side, en route to the Holocaust Memorial, and found the "dominoes" that had been set up between Potsdamer Platz and the Parliament Building along where the wall once stood:


They were each decorated by artists, schoolchildren, etc. and were going to be knocked down Monday night. It was really fun to see all the different designs, and to pause and think about the historical moments behind Monday's celebrations. After checking out the Holocaust Memorial (kind of ruined by the Mauerfall crowds running rampant), we headed over to the Reichstag, beautiful in the fading light:

then behind it to see the tail end of the domino line. The Parliament building looked beautiful by the water:

Afterwards, as it was getting dark, we made our way to Kunsthaus Tacheles. I couldn't believe I hadn't been yet! It's a big building in Mitte where a bunch of artists squat and have studios and put on exhibitions and sell work and such. We wandered the courtyard, where there were several small galleries, indoor and out, and which was littered with sculptures large and small. Round a corner at the back, in a quiet and empty area, I found a big iron sculpture lit from below:

and two mysterious mini-igloos glowing from within:

It was really neat. I will definitely go back, especially if I can figure out how to get inside the actual building!
A bit worn out, I finally headed home, where I rested up a bit before cooking dinner with Celia. It was a good Berlin day!
Bis bald,
D.

Konzerte

As I mentioned in my last post, I went last week to see Grizzly Bear at Postbahnhof. Head on over to antlervision to see a few posts with their songs.
Tonight, I am headed to Passion Pit! Since I've had 'Sleepyhead' (see below) stuck in my head for days, I am mega-excited.
Stay tuned for many more posts to come...I've been getting behind lately :)
Bis bald,
D.


(part of that video was filmed right near my neighborhood in Brooklyn! I also love the Hood Internet's mashup of that song with Chamillionaire)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Glühwein und mehr

We are well and truly entering into winter here in Berlin. Last Thursday it was raining when I left my apartment to get on the U-Bahn. When I arrived at Alexanderplatz, however, the rain had turned into snow! It was wondrous. As I stood in the tram shelter, staring in joy, a whole flock of little brown chickadees, also seeking shelter, crowded around my feet peeping urgently. I beamed down at them until my tram arrived. What a great way to start the day! The big fat flakes looked beautiful from the office window, which has a view of a courtyard with a red brick building across the way.
Anyway, since it is getting so cold now, glühwein is beginning to be served all over the place. It's spiced red wine, served hot. Mmmm--the perfect pick-me-up on a cold night. "Glüh" does not mean glue. "das Glühen" means glow, or roasting. Glow-wine :)
So last Tuesday Celia and I decided to make some glühwein at home, and by "make" I mean buy prepackaged glühwein and heat it up. At Kaufland, a box of Oma's (granny's) Glühwein costs 79 cents. 79 cents!!! A bottle of Wintertraum (winter dream) Glühwein costs 99 cents.
We tried both. And thus got tipsy for 1.78eur. Amazing!!!
I asked Celia what Glühwein looks like, and she said it's a bottle with pictures of Christmas. She was right:

I hope Alexanderplatz will look like this when the Christmas market is up:

And sometimes, glühwein comes in a box (apparently). An adorable, 79 cent box:

Celia liked it I think:

The cooking process was quite complicated as you can see:

mmmm warm and yummy in the tummy. Germany sure knows how to party.
Quick rundown on what I've been up to since then:
-Dienstag: My Holga-toting friend from the reading last week joined us for glühwein and a drink at a bar in my neighborhood, Ä bar.
-Donnerstag: They also serve food at the Weinerei, so I went and had a "pay what you feel like" dinner with my "pay what you feel like" crappy champagne. Good times. Then Celia and I watched a truly disturbing yet hilarious movie, Happiness, by the brilliantly dark Todd Solondz (of Welcome to the Dollhouse fame) before meeting her former roommate, who likes to be called Space Ribbon, for a night of drinking and dancing at Monarch in Xberg and Golden Gate near Jannowitzbrücke. At GG we ran into one of the DJs from betahaus a couple weeks ago, that was fun.
-Freitag: Another go at Maria Bonita Mexican (mmm mole enchiladas). Then it was the opening for my photographer friend's Ausstellung (exhibit) with 6 photos of me in it! The show looked great. Afterwards, we headed in a big merry group to a classy house party in Friedrichshain with delicious homemade food, punch, mojitos, and pureed raspberry shots. Girl knows how to throw a party.
-Samstag: Sightseeing with a friend from Oktoberfest who's visiting from Darmstadt. Cooked at home: ratatouille and rosemary-lemon chicken (should have taken pictures! It was delicious). Then out to a birthday party in the neighborhood where I danced with a woman in a skeleton cape and pinned dried rose petals to a dried rose to make her a birthday corsage.
Heute (today): OMG BRUNCH. At Boxhagenerplatz. Sooooo much wonderful cheese, scrambled eggs, BAKED BEANS (!!!!), delicious little würstchen (sausages), various cold salads, etc. Had a wander around the flea market and bought a Darth Vader tote bag I've had my eye on (might post a picture later; it's hilarious). Then Celia and I shared two huge delicious cupcakes and walked it off all the way back to Neukölln.
On the agenda this week:
-Montag: the 20th anniversary of the Mauerfall (Mauer=wall). It's a really big deal. I'm going to try and check out the festivities near Brandenburger Tor (a whole line of giant "dominoes" being knocked down; speeches from various VIPs including Hillary Clinton, etc.) and am also participating in Mauer Mob. It'll be crazy.
-Dienstag: our second supper club!
-Mittwoch: Grizzly Bear & St. Vincent concert!
Bis bald,
D.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In den Straßen

Cultural differences time!
Ok so it's really weird how Germans NEVER jaywalk. They take the crosswalk lights very seriously. There have honestly been times when it was the middle of the night, and there were no cars for MILES, and I came across someone patiently waiting for the light to change.
I, of course, barge right on through. Sometimes even when there is traffic. Because I'm that much of a New Yorker. This results in lots of stares, some disbelieving, some scornful.
The worst is the intersection right by my apartment. The U-Bahn exit is on a traffic island in between the two lanes of a large street. I have to cross one of these lanes to get to the U-Bahn, and both to get to the supermarket. Since the island is rather small, when a train lets out far more people than can comfortably fit are jammed onto it. Thus, I often find myself stuck behind a wall of patiently waiting locals, knowing that I could cross perfectly safely even though *gasp!* the light is red! My solution is usually just to push through and cross anyway, resulting in even more incredulous stares. Sometimes I fancy I even see a headshake and tut-tutting from the elderly. I just seem to offend the locals at every turn, hahaha.
Another street-related oddity: dog poo. Everywhere. I realized upon seeing so much of it here that you really don't see that much in New York anymore. It's been ages since stepping in dog poo seemed like a real concern, or happened to me for that matter. Yet here, the poo is all around, and I have indeed stepped in it once. There are, for one thing, far more dogs in this city than in NY. Eric also theorizes that since dog owners here pay taxes on their dogs, they feel like they don't need to clean up after them. But--I asked--what do the taxes go to? Well...cleaning up the streets. So it seems like it is a vicious circle. I immediately imagined Angela Merkel having a press conference. "Dog owners, if you can act like adults, and show us you can be responsible, and clean up after your dogs, than we will remove the dog tax. But if you take advantage of our trust, we'll have to bring it back." Hahaha. We are contemplating a guerilla art project where we stick little signs saying "return to sender" into the poos.
On another note, we have scheduled the next supper club! Head on over to the club blog to see the menu and details, as well as other food-and-eating-in-Berlin related posts.
Bis bald,
D.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween

Halloween is not much celebrated in Germany. Most Germans think it is a silly American custom. In recent years, however, more people, especially young people, have begun to embrace it, and I had high hopes of finding fun on Halloween night.
I had been told that German people think all Halloween costumes should be scary, but I figured there are enough expats in this town that I should be able to go as what I want. So I planned on being a zebra. I headed to Schöneberg and one of Berlin's only costume stores to find facepaint and false eyelashes. When I got there, there was a line out the door! The place was packed. It took me ages to get what I needed. I figured that was promising for the party potential that night.
Armed and ready, I dressed in my zebra PJs and applied stripy facepaint and black and silver false eyelashes. The effect was, I thought, quite fetching:

Celia came over, and was dressed as a HIPpopotamus:

We happily headed out to a bar called S.I.N. (stranded in neverland) not too far from my apartment that advertised free zombie punch, a costume contest, and a live band. The zombie punch was tasty and the band was wacky (one of their 'members' seemed emplyed solely for doing the robot on one side of the stage), but the costumes, when there were any, were indeed all scary. Most people seemed confused or scornful at my outfit. But whatever. I got up on stage and pranced around during the costume contest. I was booted out after the first round! Some chick holding a bloody cleaver and claiming not to remember what she was dressed as did better! It was rigged I tell you. Although I do not begrudge the girl dressed as Barbarella her spot at all. I have wanted to be Barbarella for a while now.
Anyhoo that got boring quick and we were planning to head to Watergate (a big cheesy club guaranteed to have dancing and expats) but in the U-Bahn station we met a group of Germans who exhorted us to join them instead at a German Halloween party in the middle of Volkspark Friedrichshain. They said it was the BEST party in Berlin that night. So we went. The cover was ridiculously expensive, and the cobweb decorations kept getting in my way while dancing (I found one tangled in my earring when I got home), and the party was pretty small. But the music was pretty bomb and it's always fun to DANCE! Once again, however, I felt my costume did not receive any props. Everyone was dressed scary! Just like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls! It kinda bummed me out. I wish we had found an expat party.
Having paid that cover I did not feel like paying another, especially since I was kinda grumpy, so we called it a night.
All in all a fun night but kinda disappointing. Sometimes I do miss America!
Bis bald,
D.