Photo Potpourri – Karneval der Kulturen

I think you have figured out by now that I love food.
My German teacher said that eating & drinking don’t count as hobbies in Germany – whatever.  Food is definitely my hobby – cooking, eating, admiring, reviewing…I love every thing about it!  So I was overjoyed when I learned that a cultural festival featuring food from around the world was happening in Berlin!  The Karneval der Kulturen (carnival of cultures) is a yearly street fair/giant party/parade that takes place in Kreuzberg over a long weekend.  The carnival highlights and celebrates the many different cultures present in Berlin.  At the parade, people put on traditional costumes from their home countries and put on a show for the crowd.  It is a hugely popular event – we read that the parade alone attracts around 1 million attendees!  Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the parade until it was over but we did hit up the street fair a few times!  The carnival was a great way to enjoy the beautiful weather, get excited for summer, and eat a lot.

P.S. Pictures of yummy food & fun times from our trip to Bulgaria will be coming soon!  We had an amazing time and took a lot of pictures, so editing them all may take a while. 🙂  I’m also hoping to have a new layout up soon that I coded and designed myself!

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1. Empenadas and arepas!  Good Latin American food is so hard to come by here so, naturally, we were thrilled to see booths ran by actual Latin American people.  These were delicious!  I don’t think the booth was ran by a specific restaurant so we probably won’t be able to have these again until next year.

2. This Vietnamese burger from District Mot was awesome!  Between the steamed rice bun, pickled veggies, the chip, cilantro, and good beef we couldn’t get enough.  Hopefully we will make it out to their restaurant sometime enjoy another one!

3. Berlin’s finest!

4. I think this dish was called ‘Funky Chicken’ and was served at a West African booth.  Anywho, it was a crunchy fried chicken kabob sprinkled with curry powder, served w/ salad and a dressing similar to Thousand Island.  It was very tasty and matched well with the passion fruit beer I had from the same stand.

5. This may have been my favorite dish we tried at the carnival because fish is not something we eat often here.  This delicious chunk of salty smoked salmon topped with a dill sauce came from a Finnish booth – it was to die for.  The outer edges of the fish were sooo salty and sooo crispy…it was amazing.

6. This is a very small fraction of the trash that was left behind after the parade.  We ventured out at night after the parade and it felt like walking into apocalyptic ground zero.  Thousands of beer bottles lined the streets, some nicely arranged into large piles for the bottle collectors who return them for money; broken glass everywhere; paper plates & napkins drifted eerily down the street, and still the Berliners partied on!  Every so often along the 6 km parade route we stumbled upon an impromptu dance party outside of some cafe whose owners were (brilliantly) selling beer on the street and blasting dance music.  It was a strange sight to see but made for a fun night!

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Photo Potpourri – Week 13

Thursday (6/6) was our 3 month Berliniversary!
It was also the day our traveler’s visas would have expired had we not secured our residence permits.  Due to a series of semi-unfortunate events, I had to wait until the last minute to make the dreaded trip to the Ausländerbehörde (the foreigner’s office) and apply for a long-term visa.  The stories on forums and blogs online about the Ausländerbehörde are terrifying; I read many tales of long wait times, confusing requirements, non-English speaking employees, general woe & despair, etc…  Last Sunday night I was so anxious about going the next morning that I barely slept.  I guess I got lucky because the whole experience didn’t end up being too awful.  I did have to make two attempts before securing my visa, but the wait time was relatively short and the employees were very nice.  Maybe now that I am completely legal (I think) in Germany I will try to sum up the whole process in a blog post in the future.
With that trial overcome I can now move onto today’s potpourri which, as usual, features parks, beer & food!

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1. The purple color in this ice cream is almost as awesome as the flavor that comes from the ube or purple yam.  Ube flavored desserts are hugely popular in Asia and Polynesia.  It has a deliciously smooth, buttery flavor that reminds me of taro.  This scoop came from an ice cream shop up the street from the Südstern U-bahn station.

2. We finally made it over to Görlitzer Park, one of the most popular parks in Berlin.  It was a fun spot to eat a picnic dinner and people watch.

3. Now onto another park – Mauerpark!  We met up with an expat meet-up group here for some BBQ’ing last weekend.  The weather was beautiful, the park was bustling, and the karaoke was rocking!  This is a picture of the crowd filling the “stands” watching brave karaoke singers belt out tunes for the entire park to hear.  Maybe someday Alex and I will have the courage (probably the liquid kind) to get up there!

4. The Berlin Craft Beer Festival was also last weekend in Friedrichshain!  It was small but there were some great breweries & brews we had never tasted before.  Naturally, there were tons of Americans there enjoying some non-pilsners while they could.

5. These meat pies from Hellogoodpie were awesome!  To be honest, I only tasted the filling (I’m not a big fan of pie crust) but Alex ate the whole thing and we both loved it.

6. More ice cream!  This time I tried a chocolate + pandan combo.  Pandan is another staple of Southeast Asian desserts and it has a great kind of nutty, fatty flavor.  I am really loving living so close to this awesome ice cream shop!  Now I just need to figure out the name of the store…

In other news: Next week we will be in Bulgaria!  I am very, very excited to get away for a bit and enjoy the beach.  Pictures & more will follow, of course!  See you soon. 🙂

Photo Potpourri – Week 10

We are busy here in Berlin.
In between starting German classes 5 days x week, learning basic programming, household chores/feeding the Big Hog, and trying to fit in some gym time, there’s not much space left in my day for bloggin’.  So I apologize if I go a little M.I.A. for the next few weeks!
However, we did take some time off from serious pursuits last weekend to hang with old & new friends.  There was a programming conference in town last week which gave Alex the perfect opportunity to meet new people and talk about his true love (coding) at the same time!  We met some really cool nerds, found some new hangouts spots, and – in true Berlin fashion – stayed out ’til the sun came up.
Another highlight of the weekend was our first American-style German football game!  It felt like a high school or middle school game, but it was still super fun.  Between the smaller-than-average field, pre-teen cheerleaders, streakers, and the World Cup-style announcing (“FUUUUMMMBBBBLLLEEEE!!!”), nothing was quite ‘American’ but it was definitely unique.  The most authentic thing about the game was the dismal weather – it was cold & rainy, just like any Monday Night Football game in November!
Here are some very misc. photos from the past few weeks, including a couple I rescued from Alex’s phone (aka where photos go to die).

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1. Throwback to May 1st (known as May Day) which is somewhat similar to Labor Day in the States but with more rioting and Molotov cocktails.  From our apartment we watched a few thousand riot cops and protestors parade down our street.  Apparently the May Day protests used to be much more raucous and violent but are now more of a party/rally about whatever people have beef with: anti-capitalism, pro-communism, immigration rights, peace in Korea, etc.

2. It’s rare that we shell out the cash for a nice cocktail so I made sure to soak up every Don Draper moment of this Old Fashioned from Würgeengel in Kreuzberg.  Würgeengel is a really cool spot – good mood lighting, red walls, intimate table settings.

3. American football!  We headed over to the stadium at Mauerpark to watch the Berlin Adler do their best at tossing the ol’ pig skin.  Even though the gameplay was a little lackluster, we had a blast eating hot dogs, drinking beer, and cheering for the home team (who obliterated the other team).

4. This is just a random picture of the sign in Alexanderplatz that, appropriately, was taken by Alex.  No story here, I just liked it. 🙂

5. Our awesome friend and former Maid of Honor mailed us a care package full of American goodies!  And a hilarious note explaining each pick.

6. Included in the care package was this super cool necklace featuring a map of the Washington DC area where we used to live!  I love it.

7. Another throwback from a few weeks ago when we were chillin’ at a Starbucks, searching Ebay for bikes*, and realized we were across from Checkpoint Charlie (white building on the right).  The surrounding area is always bustling with tourists visiting the museum and spending all of their Euros at the souvenir shops.

*Note: Yes, this means that we now own bikes.  Which also means that I now ride said bike almost every day.  Me.  I am still a little scared of bikes but the convenience is winning me over.

 

Photo Potpourri – Week 7

Spring has finally sprung!
The sun is shining, rain is pouring, flowers are blooming, and Germans are picknicking.  It took 1.5 months for Spring to catch on here in Germany but we are so very glad it did!  Unfortunately for me, with sunshine comes sunburn.  I’ve only been “lightly toasted” so far but I am very, very eagerly awaiting the arrival of our shipment from the USA which (if I remember correctly) includes some sunscreen.
Speaking of our shipment, we erroneously thought it was arriving last Friday.  We were sorely disappointed when we realized that we had misread an email from the shipping company.   I am desperate to have our stuff back, especially my clothes and our kitchen equipment.  I have been dreaming about our Wustof’s and mandolin as I struggle to slice, chop & mince with dull knives.  Oh, and I also miss our measuring spoons.  It appears as though Germans aren’t into measuring ingredients…?  Neither of the apartments we have lived in so far have had measuring spoons or cups.  What?!  I haven’t come across any in the grocery stores either, though I haven’t been to a real kitchen store yet.
Anywho, until our shipment arrives I will have to julienne by hand and do Gordon Ramsay-style measuring.  (If you don’t get that reference go check out Gordon’s videos on YouTube, his “small pat” of butter is half the stick.)
For your enjoyment, here are some photos from last week, along with a throwback I just found on my camera!

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1. I just found this picture of us on Christmas Day in Old Town Alexandria on my camera!  I will always miss that beautiful waterfront.

2. Since I don’t have a reason to get out of bed job right now I have turned my attentions to fitness & cooking (contradictory?).  In regards to cooking, I have been trying to tackle new ingredients, techniques, etc.  Last week I attempted to make this recipe for Mole Verde Zacatecano from my new best friend, Saveur.com.  I foolishly thought that German supermarkets would stock tomatillos because I had an idea in my head that they were also in Spanish cuisine…wrong on all accounts!  Consequently, I had to sub some green tomatoes from Spain (not an adequate substitute) and the mole didn’t quite work.  I also ran out of fresh jalapeños and had to use a habanero so it was hot, hot, hot.  Despite the missing ingredients, etc. it was very tasty! 5/5 would make again, with or without the correct produce. 🙂

3. Banh mi wieners!  I was inspired by Damn Delicious to make this spin on one of our favorite Vietnamese sandwiches.  It’s not sophisticated or difficult but it is damn delicious.  And it gave me motivation to pickle some carrots!

4. The humungous Berlin Hauptbahnhof (central train station).  We popped in here for a few minutes on our way to the main tourist area of the city just to see the spectacle!  It is the biggest train station I’ve ever been to – there are four floors with loads of restaurants, clothing stores, grocers, etc.  It’s pretty cool to visit just to see all of the hustle and bustle!

5. After seeing the Hauptbahnhof, we walked our way over to see some of the most popular attractions in the city.  The building in this picture is the Reichstag building where the German parliament meets.  It is possible to go up inside the glass dome and walk around the edge of the dome (example) but you have to register ahead of time.   Thus, the dome will have to wait for another day!

6. I think this picture pretty accurately sums up the feel of last weekend – sunny & colorful.  I love these new kicks I got from H&M for $10!

Photo Potpourri – Week 6

Happy [belated] Easter, everyone!
I hope you had a great holiday with lots of family, friends & candy.  Holidays away from home, whether in Germany or Virginia, are always a little bittersweet but we had a pretty awesome time last weekend.
One huge plus of living and working in Germany is the vacation time.  Legally, every person employed full-time gets a minimum of 24 vacation days.  For real.  Ready to start looking for work overseas now?
For our first vacay weekend we decided to head down South.  We spent 3 nights in the picturesque town of Bamberg before heading back north for a stop off in Leipzig, a small city near Berlin.  I have lots of photos to share with you all later but here are a few snapshots from our holiday weekend!

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1. Beautiful Bamberg!  We loved this little Bavarian town.  One really cool thing about Bamberg is that it wasn’t destroyed in any of the wars, which is kind of rare around here.  More on Bamberg will be coming soon!

2. German food is generally not my favorite.  However, when it’s done well it is soooooo good.  And giant slabs of meat smothered in gravy are what they do best!  This plate was from Gaststätte Kachelofen, a super cool restaurant in the old city.  Definitely eat there if you’re ever in Bamberg!

3. Bamberg is known for it’s many, many breweries.  We were told that there are nine breweries in the town and ninety in the surrounding area.  I think we managed to hit up 4-5 of them.  Our favorite was the Rauchbier (smoked beer) from Brauerei Schlenkerla [not pictured].

4. Happy Easter from the Freas’s!  Or Freas’?  Freases?  Who knows.  Anywho, we spent Easter Sunday in Leipzig.  We chilled in a park listening to a band play show tunes and pigged out on sausages and ice cream.

5. I got a kick out of this giant gold egg-shaped thing in Leipzig.  It seemed very appropriate for the holiday.

6. Leipzig had a really cool renaissance-type fair going on last weekend!  They had local beer and food specialties to enjoy outdoors, fun activities for kids, and costumed workers playing music.  I love stumbling across these little markets!

Alrighty, time to go edit a ton more photos! 🙂

Photo Potpourri – Week 4

We were pretty busy last week because we were moving out of our old short-term rental apartment into our new long-er term apartment!  Between cleaning the old apartment and repacking and preparing to move there wasn’t much time for fun but we made up for it on the weekend.  We are loving the location of our new apartment (where we’ll be until September).  It’s only 15 minutes from where we were before, but the neighborhood is much more lively and we are just down the street from a subway stop!  The apartment itself isn’t ideal; the furniture is all quite retro and crappy and it’s lacking any kind of decor.  To be fair, the family who we are subletting from only lived here for a few months before they went on assignment in China, and during that time they had a baby.  But the apartment is large and has some nice attributes like a “winter garden” porch and a lot of large windows.  There’s some work to be done to make it feel more homey but it’s good enough for now!
Here are some pictures from last week’s moving & weekend craziness!

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1. All of our worldly possession – at least for now.  Unfortunately, it will be another few weeks until our big shipment from the USA arrives, so for now we’re living out of our very large suitcases.  It did make moving easy, though!

2. Alex immediately got to work when we first moved into the new place.  This is a pic of his new habitat: the office.

3. One of the many beautiful buildings in our new ‘hood.  Our building is, sadly, not pretty like this one but we hope someday we can find a flat in a pretty place like this!

4. The Nowkoelln Flowmarkt (a play on words on the name of the neighborhood, Neukölln) is a popular market along the canal near our new apartment.  It’s fairly large with mostly flea-market stands selling used clothing, housewares, etc.  It was packed last weekend because of the nice weather.

5. Paella!  We got this plate of chicken & shrimp paella at the Flowmarkt and it was delicious.  Spanish food isn’t super common here so it was a treat to see it at the market!  Look carefully and you can see the shrimp’s head… 😉

6. Some loser I met by the canal at the Flowmarkt who stole all of the paella.

Photo Potpourri – Week 3

This week was pretty quiet – we didn’t do much other than look at more apartments and then crash on the couch afterwards.  But, the weekend brought more excitement, which was in part due to the fabulous weather!  We did a little sightseeing (I’ll post about that later), hung out with new friends, and finally saw one of our favorite bands live.  Here are some of the highlights!

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1. A line of brick marking where the original Berlin Wall once stood near Bernauer Strasse (where the GDR first began building).

2. Recognize this art??  The East Side Gallery is a long stretch of the wall that was left standing and is now a ‘gallery’ of street art and graffiti.  This section is painted to represent Pink Floyd’s The Wall album/film.  Last year we saw Roger Waters perform it live in DC as a sort of stage show/concert with crazy visual effects and it was incredible!

3. On the eastern side of the East Side Gallery there is a large memorial for peace in Korea.  Unfortunately the signs around the memorial were only in Korean & German so I’m not really sure why the memorial was constructed but I assume it has to do with anti-communist sentiments.  The main structures of the memorial are large vertical rectangles covered with silver stuff (thin wire?) with fluffy balls caught in the coils…I really don’t understand it but maybe if I could read the signs it would have made sense! 🙂

4. The abandoned Tempelhof Airport now functions as a gigantic park and is a favorite weekend spot for Berliners.  The entire airport has been left untouched, including the terminals which are open for tours.  The long runways serve as a playground for kids & adults who bike, skateboard, roller skate, and even windsurf!  Thousands of people gather on the grassy areas to BBQ with friends.  It’s a pretty amazing sight to see and experience.

5. The sunset over Tempelhof.  The airport is so large that it’s like being at the beach – all you can see is open space all the way to the horizon.

6. Our first concert in Berlin was one of our favorite bands, Broken Bells.  The two main guys behind the group are also in other popular bands so they don’t tour together very often, so we jumped on the chance to finally see them live!  It was a great show at a great venue that reminded us of our DC favorite, the 9:30 club.