I love that you can live in a city for a long time and still be pleasantly surprised walking around the corner of a regularly walked street from one day to the next. Berlin is the perfect place for continual discovery. I think I will always be in awe of the diversity of this city.
During one of my lunch breaks this week I optimistically wandered over to the Köllnischen Park to the Bärenzwinger. I had visited on a few occasions only to see an empty yard, I was always too late to see the bears. On this particular day I waited a little bit longer and it paid off. One of the bears lazily wandered out to sniff around the grounds I wasn't sure if it was Schnute or Maxi. He looked a little sad and the enclosure isn’t particularly spacious or exciting but apparently the two bears have been there respectively since 1981 and 1986. If you want to see the bears take the U2 to Märkisches Museum at about 1pm.
I love grocery shopping in another country and buying odd and unfamiliar products. But I also love discovering the European equivalent of a favourite from home, especially when it’s something like Flaked rice which suddenly disappeared from NZ supermarket shelves a few years ago.
Reis Flocken is like creamed rice but much nicer. It’s soft and subtly sweet. We added chopped apple and strawberries to ours for dessert.
Since arriving in Berlin I had heard very mixed reviews about a burger joint called “The Bird”. This New York style burger joint had proven difficult to land a seat in. I had already tried and failed on numerous occasions to make a reservation. So two weeks in advance I booked a table and invited a few folks from work. The Bird is notorious for its 'the customer isn't right' attitude towards its patrons, many a reviewer ranting about the less than courteous response they received when they sent their burger back for being too under-cooked. In fact the Bird menu blatantly states “For God’s sake don’t order your meat well done”. I was not looking forward to the inevitable question “How would you like your meat cooked?” But I bravely stepped up and told our waiter who seemed friendly enough that I wanted it well done. He paused briefly before asking me if I had read the menu. I told him yes I had read the menu and I didn’t want anything less than well done. He rolled his eyes but proceeded to take the order of the rest of the table and I waited to see what would turn up on my plate. To my surprise the meat was well cooked and very tasty. But I wasn’t overly thrilled with the whole meal. It was good but I wouldn’t be in a hurry to return. I suppose I was a little put out when after arriving just 5 minutes late the waitress showed us to a table right at the back of the restaurant next to the busy kitchen door where a bell was loudly rung every few minutes and we were told that they gave away our table because we were late, but on a positive note we could stay at our table all night. An hour and a half or so later we were persuaded to leave by that same waitress because they wanted to give our table to someone else.
A very common offense among expats and locals is living in a city and not exploring the most iconic landmarks and tourist sites, ruling them out as something that only tourists do. I’ve lived in Berlin for over 17 months now and decided to put an end to this laziness. Where is the sense in complaining about cabinfever from a long cold winter when there are over 120 museums in the city that I could spend a few hours wandering around? So, I took a visit to the Pergamon museum on Berlin’s famous Museum island this weekend.
It was well set out with the option of audio guides and written texts accompanying displays. The first section was classical art including the famous Gigantomachy frieze which I actually studied during my degree. It was a thrill to see the sculptures up close. The other wings housed full sized reconstructed sculptures from Babylon, Uruk, Assur, Miletus, Priene and Egypt.
On leaving the museum the sun was shining in the blue sky, an extraordinary sight on a wintry day. It was a little preview for the approaching spring days. I walked around Berlin that afternoon in wonder of how beautiful the city looked in the setting sun. I stumbled upon a temporary exhibition made up of large pillars showcasing portraits with accompanying biographies of prominent Jewish artists, writers, composers, theatrical performers and producers who fled Germany during the war. Many of these people were able to begin new lives in the USA and continue their successful careers but sadly some of the other people were too scarred from their experiences that they chose not to continue their work. The exhibition titled: Diversity destroyed was lined up along the footpath outside of the Berliner Dom.
That night I wanted to see Django unchained and decided to check out the Hackesche Höfe cinema that shows movies in English with German subtitles, a rare find for Germany where most of the films are dubbed over in German. The cinema is in a heritage site of restored courtyards in Berlin Mitte. It was really nice to see a movie somewhere other than the Sony centre at Potsdamer platz with their bombardment of previews and ads that add an extra forty minutes to the viewing time. The movie was awesome! I went home and watched a bunch of interviews with Quentin and the cast on youtube.
On Friday a protest took place at Berlins most well preserved strip of the Wall known as East side gallery. This large strip of the wall spans 1.3 kilometers between Ostbahnhof and Warschauer strasse and features paintings by world renowned painters and graffiti artists. A complex of luxury apartments is planned to be built on the land, another example of the threatening gentrification of Berlin. A small section of the wall was removed on Friday before the crowd of over 100 protesters managed to hinder the progress of the construction company. The small gap was quickly filled by the protesters who promptly filled the space with a makeshift piece of wall with the appeal: "Mr Wowereit, don't tear down this wall" a reference to the speech by Ronald Reagan in 1987 when he appealed: "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
I took a walk along the East side gallery this morning and saw a unit of police vehicles full of officers parked along the strip where another protest would be taking place in the afternoon. It was sad to think that a large section of this prominent memorial might soon be replaced with apartments.