The past few days have been a bit of a mixture really. My 120th day, May 9th, involved me returning to a bike shop I had visited the day before. There had been a bike there that I had liked the look of, but it wasn’t ready to be ridden, so I returned on this day to give it a spin. Needless to say it seemed like a good ride. I gave it a going over and then left the shop, still strongly considering it. Trying to figure out what I would need as well as the bike and trying to see if I could get a deal. The way back I decided to pay another visit to the Melaten graveyard. I hadn’t given it SO much attention the day before. There had been a funeral going on, and even though the place is absolutely huge and they probably weren’t aware of my presence, I still felt a little weird about being tourist in such a situation. This time I stumbled upon some interesting graves, including one of a really well detailed and ‘life-size’ (?) grim-reaper. There are some other really amazingly crafted gravestones and sculptural pieces here, so if you are interested in these things I would say it is well worth the visit. There are so many trees that it would probably be ok in any weather except maybe the heaviest rainfall.
Day 121, I decided to head back to the Dom (cathedral) today, this time with my camera’s memory card safely installed! I went via the city centre where I was researching tents and compasses for consideration in my potential bike adventure. The day started out a little cloudy with the odd bit of rain, but it brightened up later in the day. I took Regina’s bike with me too, to try and figure out whether my yearning for bike travel was founded in anything. It seems it is…
The Dom looked quite good against the grey sky, it’s moody blackened facade contrasting quite nicely with the pale grey. I wonder if they will ever try to clean it? I hope not.
After that I took the bike down to the river bank and followed the Rhein for a little while. There I discovered a chocolate museum. Despite the temptation to pay the entrance, I decided to just visit the shop instead. The museum looks like it’s basically run by Lindt, so I’m pretty sure they couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know… The shop was pretty good though, and I might pay it another visit before I leave Cologne. For some weird reason, opposite the museum, on the river, is a huge representation of Noah’s Ark! Proclaiming to be Europe’s first Bible story theme park, the place looks mental, a huge Orangutan hangs out of the front, whilst Noah and his son are carved out of wood at the entrance. An impressively bizarre thing.
A little further along the river I tried to use my gallery map to find a photography museum, but failed, so I headed back towards home, I stopped off at a little bakery and bought a ‘Musli‘. Basically a bit like granola, a huge circle of oats, seeds and dried fruits dipped in dark chocolate. It was great! I munched it down pretty eagerly and headed back to the flat.
That evening I at long last tried the 12 year old mystery Pu Erh that I had been given such a long time ago in Tallinn, Estonia. The taste was really great, smooth, almost sweet and, for a Pu Erh, surprisingly delicate. From my experience of these teas so far I think they older they get the smoother and more refreshing they become.
The 11th, and I have to say one thing only, after all the umming and ahhing, the procrastination and trepidation, I finally made the decision to buy the bike…!!!
The 12th. Tomorrow will be Regina’s birthday. So today was spent preparing stuff for the next days barbeque and park party. We did some shopping, some cooking, Regina went and met a close friend in the evening and to see a gig and I did some work at the apartment and then met another of her friends, Boris, who had come from Berlin to see Regina for her birthday. When he arrived that evening we both went into town and met up with Regina after the gig. We planned to go into a bar called KGB bar, though this is a new name, it was formerly HoteLux. The place was completely full of people though, we could barely put a foot through the door. So we went for another place, the first choice was one that appears to have shut down inbetween Regina being away and coming back, so we ended up in a bar opposite. This was totally busy too, but a good atmosphere. I was wondering where all these people had come from, the city seems much busier and fuller at night time! After a drink there we headed to another place, a quieter one, where we could get a seat and have some good chat. On the way home we stopped at a place for Falafel, and I must say that this one totally beats any of the Falafel I had in Berlin!
The 13th arrived and Regina’s birthday! We woke up fairly early and prepared some more food for the barbeque. I was on vegetable parcels. Courgette, tomato, peppers and mushroom in little foil packages with oil, cumin, and some mixed herbs, salt and pepper. Regina made some really amazing looking, smelling and tasting pizzas. We then headed to a nearby park at around 2:30 and set up the stuff and people started to arrive from around 3. The weather was really really amazing, the perfect day for the barbeque, as well as for a birthday. We sat and chatted, cooked and drank until around 10pm. The sky was clear the whole time and it stayed warm pretty late, though eventually the last few of us that remained got a bit chilly.
Day 125, Monday. Regina had to wake up early again! She normally has mondays off from work, but today was a leaving do for a colleague, so she had woken up early to cook yet more food (Coconut pancakes) and headed out. She got back around 12:30 and we all (Regina, Boris and I) all headed out for a little jaunt into the countryside. We went to a place called Laacher See, a large lake near to the city of Koblenz. The weather was still perfect. When we arrived we walked a little way to a restaurant called Bockhaus and had a little lunch. I had a ‘German speciality’ called Toast Hawaii. Basically ham and pineapple on toast and totally coated in cheese. It was actually quite tasty and reminds me of when my mum puts a slice of pineapple on top of Gammon steaks (but with added cheese). After that we walked for a while trying to find the edge of the lake, which we did when we eventually found the end of the huge caravan park that seems to have a bit of a monopoly over this part of the lake’s shoreline. After that we headed back to Cologne, the sat-nav tooks us on a good route, that involved taking a ferry across the Rhein! As well as some lovely views of the hills, which are covered in vineyards, some of which seem so steep I don’t think harvesting can be the easiest job in the world, you’d probably need to pay me danger money! In Cologne we dropped Boris off at the train station, me off by Regina’s bike (which she had left in the city centre on saturday night), she drove home and I cycled her bike back. That evening she did yet MORE baking, raspberry tray bake cake thing. It looked and smelt amazing! But this was for her workmates to celebrate her birthday once again!
Tea 118, Apple Ginger, Cologne
Tea 119, Lavender & Camomile, Cologne
Day 117, Sunday. Actually managed a trip to The Netherlands! The day was spent with lazing about and walking the dog. We cooked a very good coconut curry, with courgette and peppers and black Soya Bean noodles. Sehr Gut! Then in the late afternoon we headed to a town in The Netherlands (which isn’t actually so far from Cologne) called Nijmegen. The purpose of our trip? To go and see a band that Regina really enjoys and had bought tickets for, called Dry The River. The gig was good, the town very very small, but there was a good atmosphere and we got some good fries with satay sauce for our pre-gig snack. Then at the gig I went for an extremely hardcore drink choice of an Ice-Tea with a nice slice of lemon and a stirring stick! The gig was good fun. The band played well. Then we headed back to Cologne.
Day 118, Monday. A bit of a disastrous day in terms of photos. I walked all the way to the Dom, Cologne’s Cathedral, took my camera out of my bag, switched it on to find the lovely message of ‘No Card’…. BRILLIANT! So absolutely no photos were taken on this day, including on the Agfa because I’d chosen to leave that at the flat instead of carrying it about. Anyway, I obviously walked to the Dom, enjoying the sunshine, then around and to the Rhein. I sat there for a while, mostly to eat a packet of onion rings (mmm a nice nutritious lunch!), and just to sit and contemplate stuff, as you do.
Dinner was mashed potato (white and Sweet varieties), onion gravy and these crazy ‘lupin fillets’. They are made from the seeds/peas of the Lupin plant. They tasted kind of cakey, but worked well with our home made onion gravy.
That evening me and Regina met up with a couple of her friends and we wandered around the town in the evening as the sun was going down, with a bottle of beer in hand and some chat. It was a fun evening.
Day 119, Tuesday, also the official end of WW2, or VE day. A bit more success in terms of carrying my camera with me at least! I visited Melaten, a large, neat and well kept cemetery. I wandered around it for a while, there was a funeral happening in one part. So this made me decide not to be around snapping photos for too long so I left and went back to the area we walked around the night before. We had seen a bike shop there that sells second hand bikes too. I checked a couple out and will head back tomorrow for a test ride of one they were in the middle of fixing up… we’ll see…
I came home for some lunch then headed back into town, though avoiding the demonstration that was meant to be happening at a nearby mosque… (I had been told that there might be some violence, especially from the right wingers) I just explored the quieter areas a little bit using Regina’s bike. It was good to use one again (though the seat is too low for me and so it wasn’t the most comfortable experience!)
The evening has seen me sit on the sofa and drink tea whilst Regina carries on unpacking boxes and sorting out her bookshelves! I also sneakily fed the dog (Lumpi) some peanut butter…
Thursday promised to rain in the afternoon, and so the morning I went for a short wander up the high street, mostly to see if the photos from my new old camera had been processed yet, they hadn’t so the delights of the Agfa are still a mystery to me. Then whilst it was still sunny I decided to help by starting some gardening, mostly ‘harvesting’ dandelions to try and prevent them from dropping too many seeds onto the ground. The person who had stayed in Regina’s flat whilst she was away was supposed to keep the garden clean and tidy, but it has turned into something of a jungle. So I spent a while doing that before the promised rain did indeed arrive.
That evening a few of Regina’s friends came for dinner, which lasted a good few hours, well past 1a.m. There had been a slight disaster with a savoury pancake mix that resulted in a last minute change of plan and therefore a bit of a delay in the food. But we did eat – Avocado with a raspberry sauce, then sweet potato with a coconut sauce and sesame coated asparagus, then a great ginger carrot cake with more coconut and fresh fruits. Tasty!
Saturday. Today we had a slow morning then headed into town to buy some tickets for a gig that Regina found online that she wanted to go and see. A band called Cursive, I’d never heard of them before, so thought I’d give them a go. We went and bought the tickets, then looked in vain for a particular bicycle shop. Then we stopped for a cup of coffee (sorry, tea sacrilege I know!). We left for the gig later in the evening, around 9 and watched the band play. The gig was kind of short, but the band seemed to be enjoying themselves. The bassist and lead guitar are pretty old and tubby, so I think these guys have been doing the rounds for a few years now. I can’t help imagining they probably work in Estate Agents or as salesmen during normal life!
After the gig we went back to the flat for a little while, I had a ‘power nap‘, then we headed to a club for a bit of a dance. The club was good, though the predominant DJ, (the one we had not gone to listen to) was playing pretty crap stuff. Someone informed us that he had been drinking solid for the past few days. I think he might of noticed my looks of disgust at some of his choices though as I caught him staring at my undoubtedly blank face a couple of times. The guy we had gone to hear ‘DJ Action Mike’ (ironic naming here) played some better stuff and we got some dancing in, though I didn’t manage to break into a sweat…
Tea 114: Sweet Chai, Hallmackenreuther, Brüsseler Platz, Cologne.
Day 113. My first day in Cologne, and quite a easy going one. Usually my first day in a place is spent having a short explore around the local area to get my bearings. I had a wander to the park just around the corner, the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park. There were people jogging and walking dogs as well as a few rabbits hopping around munching on the damp grass. The air was heavy with misty rain filled clouds, but luckily it didn’t rain. I wandered part way towards the city centre and then back again, to the park first, where I decided to feed the ducks in the strange big square pond, with water that is a strange shade of turquoise (I later found out that I’m apparently not supposed to feed that ducks here, but luckily no one stopped me), there are carp in the water too, so despite it’s colour it must be capable of sustaining some life, although apparently a few years ago they had to totally refill the thing because the water had gone toxic and was killing the ducks.
Walking past the flat and along the little high-street. Then back to the flat I met with Regina as she had finished her first day back at work. We went and did some food shopping at the asian supermarket. We had thought about cooking this prawn, fennel, pasta dish (with fake prawns as Regina is a vegan), but we couldn’t find the fake prawns anywhere so that recipe quickly changed into a Pak Choi, Green Tea Noodles, lemongrass and tofu invented dish, which turned out to be very very good, if I do say so myself.
After eating we spent some time unpacking boxes from Regina’s basement, most of her stuff is still down there as she has only just got back from traveling around for the past year.
Day 114. Today I wandered further into the city centre. I found a few galleries, most rather commercial, but one quite nice space called Galerie Karsten Greve. This is a big space with about 4 levels, and very, very clean and tidy. The work on show at the minute is by Jean-Michel Othoniel. Glass sculptural hanging pieces. They are clean and sleek, but I’m not sure of the artists intent with them, I got the impression they are simply meant to be pretty objects.
After that I wandered back towards the flat, via a bicycle / sports shop. Then Regina arrived home from work again and we decided to head out to buy a few things and then went for ice cream at this good italian ice cream parlour near the city centre. I had a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of Pistachio, delicious!
Then we wandered to the ‘Belgian Quarter’. To a little square with a church called Brüsseler Platz, and we stopped at a cafe called Hallmackenreuther, and I had the above tea, a Sweet Chai, with fennel and liquorice and cardamom. It was good, though not amazing, possibly because I had wanted a different one, that they didn’t have, oh well.
We went home after that and cooked a traditionally German Asparagus dish. The asparagus is the same plant as I am used to, but they dont allow it to grow out of the ground and turn green, so it is yellowy-white in colour. We made a vegan bechamel sauce and potatoes to go with it, and it was very tasty.
After dinner we met up with Regina’s work mate in town and went to a gallery called ‘Museum Ludwig‘. This houses a large collection of modern art work, some huge names, and therefore a very expensive collection. Currently there is a sort of retrospective of the work of Yvonne Rainer. There is so much there that it’s impossible to do it all in a day, let alone two hours. This day was a special day where people who live in Cologne can get into the galleries for free, and due to the time we arrived I managed to get in for half price too! There is also Cosima Von Bonin’s CUT! CUT! CUT!, a show that has toured around and grown, and is now in its ‘final resting place’, at Museum Ludwig. I’m not too sure what I really think about this show though. I’m going to reserve opinion on that one for the minute.
There is also Henrik Olesen on show. Who’s work ‘Mr Knife and Mrs Fork’ has won the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2012. I actually saw this work for the first time a few years ago, when it was installed in a much rougher space in London. It was good to see it again, and quite strange to see it in a much cleaner and ‘official’ situation, with clean floors, and weirdly carpeted walls. The whole piece was set up exactly the same, except for the space and the way you enter the space. It was a kind of surreal experience to see it again!
After the museum we headed to a bar, a traditional Cologne pub where we drank Kolsh, the Cologne beer that comes in short 200ml glasses and is refilled until you signal by putting a beer mat on top of your glass. It is light and smooth, and pretty good.
After a couple of those we headed for a snack and then home!
Tea 104, the ‘free sample’ tea from the department store mentioned in last post, ‘Silvery Pearl Mountain’.
23rd and 24th were spent working on a few projects and things like that, not even a photo to show from these two days I’m afraid
25th, and just some more walking around, back to Gorlitzer park and around that area. Still relaxed and nothing new to report.
26th, Today I decided to head to Treptower park. I had read at the Russian monument a week or so before about the graves and memorial that had been built there in memory of the lost Russian soldiers, as well as housing mass graves of over 7000 soldiers. The walk there was along the canal and was very pretty and sunny. The park is huge, a big open space of grass then you wander around or through this and ‘come across’ the memorial. I say ‘come across’, you do sort of find it, as it is surrounded by tall trees and in some ways hidden. But the place is absolutely huge. A massive area of almost perfect symmetry. At one end is a statue of ‘Mother Russia’, where you enter the memorial from. Then you come across two pylons designed to look like lowered flags, with two kneeling soldiers, one on each flag. Then you enter the burial area properly, with 5 areas of grass, beneath which lie the graves. On either side are 8 white plinths with varying images of war carved into them and quotes of Stalin written on them, Russian versions on one side, German translations on the other. Then at the far end is the main piece. A huge structure of a man holding a child and a huge sword, standing over a destroyed swastika. The sculpture is amazing, it is so huge, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a tall modern statue! You can walk up the staircase to the feet of the sculpture and, although there is a locked gate, inside there is a small circular room with a mosaic mural to the soldiers.
27th, A day before the deadline to the residency program so I just worked and a little walking around. Not much to talk about, just food shopping etc etc.
28th, The sunshine was so hot and wonderful today. I decided to walk back to Karl Marx Allee and to the fountain, which is basically a roundabout. I sat on the edge of the fountain for a while soaking up some sunshine and dipping my feet in the water, which was surprisingly cold! But very refreshing on my well walked and tired feet! That evening I went out for a walk in the hot night air. It was so warm even in the dark and there were people out and about everywhere! I took some photos, one of which made a petrol station look like something from the film TRON (one of my favourites), complete accident but I like it!
29th, Today, my penultimate day in Berlin, I decided I wanted to go and find the graveyard that contains the lying places of the Grimm brothers. This is called the St. Matthäus Kirchhof Cemetery, in Schoneberg. It is quite an impressive place, with some old, and some very rich people buried there. The graves of the Grimm brothers (there are four there altogether, though the ones of the fairy tales are Jacob and Wilhelm) are actually very subtle and not as in your face and imposing as you might imagine they could be. I was pleasantly surprised by this. I wandered around and sat in the peace and quite there for a while, it was a Sunday and there were quite a few people there tending to the graves and making them neat and tidy, it seems to be something that is taken quite seriously, after visiting a couple of other cemetery’s in Berlin, which all seem to be very well looked after.
After that I walked back to the flat and had a late lunch before heading back out to Hasenheide Volkspark. I’d been here before and decided to pop back in order to take pictures of the animals they have in this petting / rescued animal area. There are camels, llamas, emus, storks, deer. All sorts. Many of them look a bit shabby and there’s a pair of Australian Black Swans that look terribly sad, but I think, I hope, they are rescued and basically have to be there. One of the camels looks like it has a bad case of mange!
30th, The day arrived to move out of the apartment I had rented for the last two weeks. So I spent the day making sure it was all clean and tidy, taking the rubbish out etc etc. Then I just went and sat by the river, to write and wait for the guy to arrive back so we could swap keys and deposits. That all went off without a hitch, the guy even gave me some Bulgarian tea to add to my collection! Excellent! Shame to leave such a great little flat, but it is definitely time to move on.
1st and a delightful 5:30am wake up followed by a trip across town to get to the bus station, to get my 7:30am bus to Cologne! The bus trip itself was totally fine, and actually arrived a bit early which was great. And by the time we had made all the stops there were only two of us left on the entire coach! Like a huge limousine! I met Regina at the bus station and we headed to her apartment, had a drink then went for a walk in the evening sunshine with the dog! The sun was warm and the city feels peaceful and calm, a stark contrast to Berlin, and a welcome one! We went for some Thai food that evening and had a cocktail then headed home and baked scones at midnight, as Regina returns to work after her sabbatical tomorrow, so needs to take exciting cakes! They are vegan orange scones and they taste great! Scones are amazing!!!
That’s it, I am finally, and at long last up to date!! I do apologise again for the huge break in posting, but the distinct lack of internet in Berlin, as well as trying to work towards the summer project has been a big issue in terms of updating.
OH MY GOODNESS!!! I must really apologise to all the people who have been waiting and hoping for my update!! But at long, long, long, long, LONG last here it is!
This first post takes us from the 12th of April until the 21st, days 94 – 103! Some days are a little sporadic in note form, I hope this is ok with you guys!
12th A long and slow wander around the Tiergarten, I got approached by two people wielding a video camera, who then asked me to eat a chocolate quark cake thing and talk about what I thought, so, basically anyone could get me to eat chocolate if they just asked, so I went for it. A rather funny situation, I was expecting to be asked questions but I just had to say stuff, as it came to me, so it was all a little awkward. But I think I got away with it!! After that I wandered the length of the Tiergarten and then back towards the city centre, and this time on the way back I visited the Russian memorial, a large imposing structure right near the Reichstag, I wandered around the rear of the monument where there is a short, but interesting history of. Then I wandered to the Reichstag and took the usual touristy photo, then to the main train station to check out times and prices of trains to various onward options, then I headed home, though moved out to stay with another pair of friends for the night. We went to the opening night of a show, which had some work by an artist that my friend is assistant to
13th The next day I actually moved into a place to myself, just for the next two weeks, it’s nice, a good size for one and has a balcony and lots of lovely sunshine pours in through the large windows. No photos of this day I’m afraid.
14th A nice walk to Friedrichshain area of Eastern Berlin and around shops and markets. Then I wandered down Karl Marx Allee, a long, long, beautiful street, the sun was shining brightly, I made it to the fountain and sat next to the statue of Karl Marx for a while, enjoying the sunshine and the passers by taking photos. More shops and wandering after that, found a Club Mate ‘Ice Tea’ version (image on previous post). Not much different, maybe a little stronger in taste. That evening I met up with Annett, a good old friend of mine, who, it turned out I’ve not seen in 3 years!, and her new boyfriend for a drink. We had some good chat, they seem very besotted with one another, which is sweet.
15th, My friend Marta arrived in Berlin for a few days. I spent the wandering around some more before I went to meet her at the bus station, and show her where she was! Whilst I waited I had a tasty Green-Oolong Milky Bubble tea with popping lychee balls! Bubble teas seem to be all the rage in Berlin at the minute, they are quite expensive, but this one was quite tasty and the popping lychee ‘QQ’ were novelty enough!
16th, Today I took Marta to Friedrichshain to try to find film for her Holga camera, which failed because it was all far too expensive. But it was a lovely wander around. We wandered along the East Side Gallery, the largest stretch of the Berlin Wall which has been recently repainted, but with the same images as the original murals created, so it is looking really great. We stopped of and had cake in a Turkish bakery near to Schlesisches Tor.
17th, A quick visit to the market that stretches along the canal around the corner from where I am staying, it sells mostly food stuff, veg, cake, cheese, bread. Followed by a long walk to Victoria Park and the Kreuzberg monument, after which the area is named; Kreuzberg translating literally into ‘Cross Mountain’ basically a big green pointing thing with a cross on the top at the top of a tall hill, with a fake waterfall built onto it. Then walked further West into the Shoneberg district, had a hot chocolate in a little old ice cream parlour that looks like it has existed forever, really old school decoration and wooden walls. Then walked to Kliest park, and then found an old war time bunker as well as the area where the sports hall once existed that Hitler used to give his big speeches, including the one where he asked the crowd whether they want total war and the crowd cheered in agreement. It is now a housing development.
18th, A walk to the city centre. To the TV tower and Neptune fountain, then down towards the Brandenburg gate meandering about and finding old churches and other old buildings, the old Aeroflot office, that Marta told me used to still have the Hammer and Sickle on the sign, but not anymore it would seem, the Russian embassy, just a little way down the road though, still does have the hammer and sickle on its façade! Then to the Holocaust memorial and found the area that once had a lot more of Hitlers bunkers, as well as the one in which he, and Eva Braun committed suicide, before their bodies were removed and burned. Then also found the North Korean consulate / living quarters. Strange place, seemed to be just normal flats and apartments, but totally caged in and then people came outside whilst we were taking photos of the place… Coffee and cake at Checkpoint Charlie in Einstein’s. A little expensive but the cake was very good, and huge slices too! Walked home via international supermarket and through a really nice area of Kreuzberg, near a synagogue, that has a 24 hour guard and gates and fences up everywhere, seems mad that such a place still needs protection! But the general area is beautiful, with some great apartments looking out onto the canal.
19th, A day trip to Charlottenburg, the old palace and gardens, there was really beautiful, properly warm sunshine, wonderful flowers and atmosphere everywhere. Walked around gardens then went for pizza in this little place next to the Rathaus, made totally from fresh in front of us. Service was a little shakey but otherwise the food was very very good, Gorgonzola and Spinach pizza was great, Marta had one with anchovies, capers and fresh parma ham. Then we walked in the sun to zoologisher garden underground, found a place for more Bubble tea! Green tea with Passionfruit and tapioca balls, and Green Tea with mango and coconut cubes. Then we went into a big shopping place with lots of tea, very expensive; basically the same as somewhere like Harvey Nichols. They had a huge space with tea in big urns, and lots of the dry tea out in cups to smell, and also to potentially slip a few of the pearl style ones into your pocket for sampling later…
20th Walk along the landwehrkanal, a beautiful day and a lovely walk, reasonably easy going after all the crazy amounts of walking done so far! Lots of people out, jogging, dog walking, drinking by the river. Lovely jubbly.
21st, Walked to a market near Boddinstrasse, in Neukolln, and I bought a new old camera! An Agfa Agnar, for a hopefully bargain price of 4 euros! It even has a little shutter release lead with it for photos of yourself! With a shiny reflective viewfinder too! A little walk through Gorlitzer park, slow easy paced day, not to over do it before Marta headed back home on the bus that night.
IMAGE TIME!!! (they are smaller than usual because there are so many, but they are clickable for the larger versions!)