Friday, December 5, 2008

Berlin...Part II

Despite a forecast of wet and cold weather, Jefe decided to take his bike to Berlin. The transport system has good coverage and is efficient; one 2 € ticket gives you access to the S-Bahn (like the 'El' in Chicago), the U-Bahn (like the subway in London or New York), and the trams and buses for up to two hours. But taking the S-Bahn or U-Bahn only allows you to see things at one place or another, not in between. Since Berlin is spread out and relatively flat, a bike is the way to go, and Berliners seem to agree.

Even during our stay, with the lousy weather, the vast network of bike paths and bike lanes was consistently full of cyclists, who rode everything from older racing bikes to cargo bikes. Sometimes the bike paths are denoted only by differently colored bricks on the sidewalk, and so it quickly becomes second nature to look both ways before crossing a bike path.

On the bike, Jefe was able to explore places that were a little out-of-the-way, like the architectural neighborhood of Hansaviertel.
He also spent one afternoon checking into a few art galleries in the Mitte area of central Berlin. Most of these would be considered avant-garde, or just bizarre. The Zak Branicka gallery was showing a movie called A Summer's Tale, a fairy-tale by Katarzyna Kozyra about midget gardeners that begins idyllic and then turns ugly. The same building housed the Galerie Volker Diehl, showing work by Herbert Volkmann. The show was titled Die Morphinisten (The Morphine Addicts), and syringes featured heavily in most of the artwork.

For more entertaining entertainment, we went to see Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan (with opening band The Miserable Rich) at the Columbia Music Hall. They are from Glasgow and musically, they fall somewhere between Leonard Cohen and The Beauty Shop. They were very good, and we were surprised by the large Sunday night crowd. Maybe they have a cult following in Berlin. We were in a hurry to get home and didn't see any CD's for sale, but we will definitely look for something online.

Before the show, we stopped at Atame Tapas Bar for wine and finger food. One gem we found were these dates which were stuffed with almonds, wrapped in bacon, and then roasted. They were fantastic: salty, sweet, soft, and crunchy. The next night we returned to Nosh (where we ate twice while in Berlin in December 2007). The food is simple, but delicious, roast lamb shoulder with ratatouille and goose leg with mustard sauce and crispy potatoes. Also of note were the salmon brunch at Cream, the cold dahl salad and warm vegetarian paella at Saladette und Freunde, and the rum raisin Rittersport chocolate bars (not available in the US).

The Alexanderplatz was also buzzing with activity. The
Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) and carnival encompassed the area of three or four city blocks. For everyone, there were sausages, pretzels, crepes, candy and fries. For the kids, there were numerous rides: a ferris wheel, various carousels, and a rollercoaster. And for the adults there was Glühwein (mulled wine with rum and amaretto).

In Berlin, people drink on the street. They drink on the subway and on the metro. They drink on the bus and the tram. Bottle caps blanket the city, smashed empty bottles glint in the sun. And although Germans are most frequently associated with beer, glühwein is the beverage of choice from the beginning of November until the end of January. What? It's 4am, and you're out of
glühwein? Try the pizza place next door. Chances are, they've got some.

Poitiers has mulled wine too, but here there is an issue of decorum, one which seems to have been resolved in Germany back when it was still called Prussia. This year Poitiers has banned the sale of vin chaud at the Christmas Market. This is has caused a small furor, and our friend William, the local Caviste, has started an informal petition
(translation) to reverse this development. Du courage William!


Kristi said...

What did Rebecca do while Jeff was exploring on his bike?? I'm so impressed at how well you seem to research and know a city without living there. Now someone else can use your blog for ideas of what to do in Berlin. :)

Anonymous said...

Defense of "le vin chaud" during christmas market is a real good cause (sorry for my english). Don't forget that in 1789, French Revolution has been provocated by the lack of bread for people.
So, beware of the new french anger !!!! :)

Jérôme, local journalist.

rebecca said...

@Kristi: I was exploring the Mitte district on foot, checking clothing, shoe, book stores. Also looking at people's body language and reflecting upon the etymology of street signs, but I thought that was too nerdy to talk about.

@Jérôme: Je trouve cette nouvelle colère bien justifié et j'espére qu'elle entraînera un eclat de créativité, si non un vrai révolution. Malgré tout, nous serons là, et si vous saisissez nos images, c'est la vie. De temps en temps, la révolution doît être télévisé! ;)