Tuesday, 30 April 2013


A bright, sunny day in Berlin. My heart goes out to them as they seem to have really brutal winters, and it's much cooler and slower to welcome spring than northern France.

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The not-to distant past is always present here. The city was mostly destroyed in WWII, but memorials and reminders popped up everywhere. We walked over to the bombed ruins of the Kaiser William Church, and then on to the Berlin Zoo.

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Seeing the Elephants look bored and the apes with their looks of melancholy makes me feel guilty for staring.

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Afterwards, a walk in a couple parks. I loved how everyone was out, picnicking and drinking beer. Drinking in public still just feels weird to me. I still try to tuck the bottle out of sight behind my handbag or wrap my jacket around it. I feel like a closeted puritan.

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A friend was telling us about how the Journeyman carpenter guild has to wear a vest and tophat as they roam around the country for three years. You can approach one and ask for them to do work around your house and they can't refuse.


How weird, right? They take vows of poverty and depend on the charity of others to get fed and sheltered as they work their way around the country.

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We also checked out Treptower Park.


It's an enormous memorial and cemetery dedicated to the Soviets. It's...odd.

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All over the city, you can still find the guard towers that lined the border between East and West.

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I felt like 3 days here wasn't nearly enough. Its sprawling, and there's a lot to take in. Learning the metro system was kind of a challenge since the maps were devoid of any geographical details, but once we figured out the basics, it was easy to get around. It also would be an excellent place to rent bikes as it was very bike-friendly, with paths on almost every major road. Plus, the nightlife is really happening here and I didn't even dip my toe into that aspect.


Despite the Currywurst, I would plan on going back for some more wandering and museum-gawking.

Monday, 29 April 2013


Some more postcards from Berlin:


There were some great shops- clothes, antiques, handcrafts. I left a series of noseprints on the glass of the boutiques around Mitte.




There was also so much good food. I had a small freak-out about the "currywurst"- the local specialty streetfood. It was a sausage, cut up bite size, doused in ketchup with curry powder sprinkled on top. It was just....ew. While in France, ketchup is a specialty import item, but here I got my dose of ketchup-vegetable for life in one fateful afternoon. But aside from that, there was a huge amount of good food to be had. Turkish, Indian, Chinese, and even decent Mexican. Rumors of a park where Thai ladies make amazing food in a slightly illegal barbecue in a public park peaked our intrest, but we didn't make it out.




We spent a couple hours in the Bode museum. It wasn't what I expected: it ended up being a lot of Jesus art. I can only take so much of that, but they had some interesting sculptures.





In the end, the streets made for a great museum, with layers of posters and stickers and grafiti splashed on every surface possible.





Sad: all over the city, you would come across little plaques of the names of people who had been deported.



Along the Spree river, a tribute to the German love of being naked outside.



The Berlin Cathedral.


Friday, 26 April 2013


Can you believe I've been in Paris for a flippin' year? I can't. And maybe it's because spring was so late getting here, but suddenly it's almost May, which means it might as well be summer already. I was sure that I wouldn't have to put away my winter coat at all this year and just planned on hulking beneath it until November, when I would have to pull out my super warm sub-zero winter coat.

This past weekend, I spent a few days in Berlin. While they are even slower to embrace spring there (they get a much more Scandinavian climate in that part of Germany) we were lucky to have a few sunny and slightly warm days to stroll around.


It's an interesting city, and now that I've been I know I could have spent at least a week exploring. The past century has been a traumatic one for the city, and between WWII and the Stasi and the Berlin Wall, it hasn't been the easiest place to call home. Most of the city has been destroyed at some point, so it's now full of new construction. It's still fairly affordable to live there, so unlike Paris, there is a booming artist community right in the center of it all. It's a big, sprawling city, and where the Berlin wall once was is now a string of big, wild parklands.

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Pottsdamerplatz. 20 years ago, it was a wasteland between east and west.


The whole city was an interesting mix of new, with memorials and reminders of the past pretty much everywhere.

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The Brandenburg gate.


The plaza is now filled with tourist and dancers and musicians. Seeing pictures of what this area looked like in the Soviet era was truly disturbing, as it looked like the center of a war zone standoff.

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It was a bit chilly, but there were lots of places to sit out and people-watch. Public drinking is okay here, and there are lots of people out in the parks with a bottle of beer, enjoying a promise of warmth from the sun.

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I found a really cute yarn store, completely out of necessity. Thanks to the overzealous security at Orly, my knitting needles were compared to the pictures of "knives and scissors" and promptly removed from my possession. Thanks, EasyJet! My protests got me nowhere. I fly all the time, and it's never an issue. Sometimes, they will peek inside my bag after the x-ray, but for whatever reason this warranted a full on feel-up pat down as well. I was not amused.


A quick google search and I found Handmade Berlin. Not only did they have really awesome coffee, they sympathized with my experience with airport security and hooked me up with some bamboo needles quick like a bunny. Germany seems to be much more into pretty yarns and knitting than the ofttimes acrylic novelties that are ruling the French market right now.

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It was surprising at how much construction was going on all over the city. There was barely a picture I was trying to take that I had to move around to get cranes out of the way.

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I was overwhelmed by all the fabulous large-scale street art here. It really gave the city a creative vibe.