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).

week10

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.

 

Getting Touristy in Western Mitte

At some point, every new resident needs to bite the bullet and become a tourist in their city.
For us, this meant venturing out to the western edge of Mitte to see some of Berlin’s most iconic landmarks.  After nearly two months of living in Berlin we were becoming a little embarrassed by our lack of sightseeing within the city.  I am guilty of always thinking that we should save some of the sights to see when we have friends in town, but it probably makes more sense to see them first ourselves and decide which ones are really worth sharing.
Another reason why we haven’t done much sightseeing is due to Berlin’s size and lack of a real ‘tourist center’.  Most of the famous sights are scattered throughout the city, making sightseeing in Berlin quite the excursion.  However, the area in the west of Mitte between Potsdamer Platz  and Moabit has quite a few attractions in close quarters, which makes it a good jumping off point for tourists, tour buses, tour boats, tour bikes…you get the idea.

We started our tour at the Hauptbahnhof to gawk at the immense building and crowds before walking south toward the Tiergarten area.  Berlin continues to amaze me with its neighborhood diversity.  Western Mitte is very city-like – it has large modern buildings and government offices but also has many historical monuments and parks scattered throughout.  It really makes the more Eastern/Southern neighborhoods that I usually explore feel like the ‘burbs.

blog_050114_1

A short walk away from the train station you can find the impressive Reichstag building (where the German parliament meets) which presents a really cool blend of old & new architecture.  The original structure opened in 1894 but underwent significant reconstruction after a fire in 1933, and the large glass dome finished construction in 1999.  You can actually walk in a spiral around the dome but it requires prior registration, so we’ll have to save that for another trip.
The Brandenburg Gate is also nearby, just outside the entrance to the immense Tiergarten park.  The gate is one of the most recognizable sights in Berlin.  It is featured prominently on most tourism ads/guides and the outline is emblazoned on every U-Bahn train window.  It stands in a big plaza flanked by foreign embassies and fancy-shmancy hotels, and even on a cold and windy day there were hundreds of tourists snapping pictures.

blog_050114_2

After taking obligatory tourist pictures at the gate, and getting a pressed penny for our collection, we strolled through the wooded grounds of the Tiergarten.  The park is the second largest in Germany (520 acres) and is home to monuments, statues, a rose garden, an English garden, and the palace that houses the German president.  As the name suggests (literal translation = animal + garden) there are also lots of squirrels, birds, and fish to see!  I think Berlin’s parks are one of my favorite features of the city.  It it nice to be able to get lost in the woods and escape the concrete jungle for a while.

Big city life has been pretty interesting thus far – I’ve never lived somewhere that was so new to me.  To be fair, I have only lived in 3 cities and two of them were quite small, but still, the amount of stuff in Berlin is incredible.  Living outside of Washington DC was occasionally cool but it didn’t offer me the same opportunity for discovery because I had already been there so many times growing up.  I had already exhausted the Smithsonian and the other aspects of the city I pretty much despised (how many bland government buildings and $8 beers can a person tolerate?).
Needless to say, I am very happy that Berlin has so much character and even lifelong residents say they discover something new in the city every day.  I’m sure that if we live here long enough the newness will wear away and Berlin will lose some of its lustre, but a city of 3.5 million people will never be boring.
So, even though it takes a little effort to haul ourselves across the city looking for tourist attractions, it is always worth our while.

Click the link below to see more photos!

Continue reading

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!

week_7

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!