Thursday, 25 April 2013

Caviar, Cartier, and KaDeWe.


Indisputably the top shopping haven in Berlin, and the second biggest department store in Europe (second to Harrods nonetheless) with a history the size of its giant iron gates guarding the front door; KaDeWe (Kaufhas des Westens) is an experience in itself. I spent an afternoon in the store, wandering from floor to floor, being glared at by the shop assistants on the Women's Designer Wear floor (due to my grubby denim jacket and ripped tote bag of course) and drooling over the Gourmet Floor. 

The store is located adjacent to the Wittenburgplatz U Bahn station making it highly accessible, and sits just a 5 minute walk from Kurfuerstendamm, the "Luxury Boulevard" of Berlin. The inner shopping goddess of mine is wimpering. Much like when I frequent Harrods, I am going as a tourist, an observer, not a shopper, as the brands housed under this gold-plated roof are not your everyday afforables (I love you H&M), but the 5th floor will have something for everyone. I promise.

The gourmet floor-me. The king of all food halls. This champagne laden, pearl encrusted, cavier serving supermarket of the elite is heaving at the best of times, but for all the right reasons. Berlin's best pastries can be found here, alongside any type of loaf, meat, cheese, you could want. This is every foodie's heaven.

I was treated to an 'Eis Macaron' a concept that even I, as an amateur baker and cake lover extraordinare, hadn't thought of. For just €1.50, you can have a mouthful of macaroon sandwiches with Mövenpick chocolate ice cream. Nab 3 of these beauties for €5 as they are just a mere mouthful of perfection - yes, I was left craving more. Take me back!

During my time in Berlin, I have had no shortage of Kaffee and Kuchen, which translates as the German equivalent to British Afternoon Tea, and is a hefty serving of hausgemacht German cake and/or pastries with a bucket of coffee. No, not literally. But I do believe that the Wintergarten Restuarant atop of KaDeWe in its glass conservatory, really is the winner for best so far. We went on a Monday afternoon which proved to be very quiet, and we were even able to steal a table at the window overlooking the city.

Much like the gourmet floor, every food imaginable was to be bought, but we drifted over to the cakes and dove in. Dad had an apricot meringue cake, whilst Mum and I shared strawberries with cream, and an apple and museli cake slice. Our tea was reasonable for the amount we ate, including three very scrummy coffees and smoothies on the side, and the service was perfect. The dinner looked yummy too but unfortunately we didn't stick around to try anymore as we waddled away, belts bulging, and I accompanied my parents to their U Bahn station from which they went to the airport.

All in all, listen to the guides on this one - KaDeWe is KaDeYAY in my books. (Oof, that was cheesy. I'm not even sorry.)

Inside the Wintergarten.

Pssssst, a totally well kept secret is that Moet and Chadon have a free photobooth on Floor 5 which, naturally, I hid in whilst my parents were looking at bathroom fittings.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Never Ein Schlechter Sonntag in Berlin Part II.

The main highlight of a Sunday in Berlin is, undeniably, undisputably, the fleamarkets (Flohmarkts) in both Mauerpark and the lesser known New Koln Flohmarkt in Kreuzberg - both of which I have now explored. Grab a cup of home-brewed Strawberry wine and battle through the crowds at both and be prepared to haggle for anything, be it doorknobs, plants, vintage blouses, records; the list is endless.

It's a beautiful way to get to know both the locals and a new area, and Mum and I wandered into the most colour corners of Kreuzberg before settling down for a cheesecake and coffee. And before you ask, yes, this day was mostly surrounded by eating. The fleamarkets are a brilliant way of seeing a new side of Berlin as this city never fails to surprise me! Just a few minute's walk from various U Bahn stations, they are normally packed, so be prepared to push.

And finally, if you're not too keen on perhaps crowds or the busier spots of the city, then head to Treptow Park where the Russian Memorial sits, perfectly undisturbed, in the leafy suburbs of east Berlin. Hop on the U Bahn and change, without ease, at Ost Kreuz and the journey will soon take off by itself.

In Treptow Park - hidden, but worth the hide-and-seek.
While the park is accessible only by the S41/42 S Bahns which, due to hefty line work currently, proved a bit of a pain, the sight of families, friends, and what felt like the entire population of Berlin, lounging in the park amongst ping-pong tables, boats, and the tiniest of ice cream stands, it was all well worth the trip. Bring your beer, bring your picnic blankets and bring your favourite book and veg out here for the evening.

With the nights growing longer, you won't be alone in staying here 'til the sun finally sets. Especially with the memorial, and the sight-seeing of east Berlin that the train there entails, this is one tourist trap that traps you not. Sundays may be sparse in shops and sights, perhaps, but there is so much to do. Don your walking shoes and head out, with or without a map; there's a whole city to be discovered.

Evening on the riverbank, perfect.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Never Ein Schlechter Sonntag in Berlin Part I.

On the Sunday I arrived, I learnt the hard way that Berlin shuts down on a Sunday. The shops and supermarkets are largely shut, and while public transport runs infinitely, it is more dispersed and a half hour wait may suffice between S Bahn trains. But, while on just a short weekend break, my parents still needed entertaining on a Sunday - you don't go on a weekend break expecting just one functioning day now, do you?

This Sunday saw two things: the unfaltering sunshine (horray for Springtime in all its late-arrival-glory!) and the Bahrain Grand Prix, and it's safe to say that both had us, as a family, preoccuppied. Using my Berlin expertise, as mentioned in my previous post(s), I crafted the Perfect Sunday for us to undertake and with my guide, you too can have a fabulous spring Sunday and on a minimal budget.

We began with breakfast in a well kept secret in Charlottenberg, in the south-west of the city, in the ‘Literaturehaus’. Settled nicely into the terraces of the town, this garden-come-restuarant provides the perfect brunch for a reasonable price.

Champagne, rye bread (flashbacks to Copenhagen), eggs scrambled/fried/poached, carrot juice, you name it you can order it. The staff were incredibly lovely and the clientele suitably sophisticated – though I’m under the impression that this may have been due to the Sunday Times recommendation...It was so, so yummy down to the locally sourced honey and jam. Mm, take me back.

Gals on tour.
Though the photo doesn't do it justice, the cafe also has a conservatory that seats up to 20 people on seperate tables, and a cafe indoors. While the interior is lacking, the food is exquisite, but be prepared to form an orderly British line at the door as it's a popular post-night-out hang out for the classier on the weekends.

With us wholly fed and watered, I suggested sneaking to the tourist spots as Sunday is ‘change over’ day in the city when the tourists are merely replaced with new ones, but this leaves the monuments more empty than on a weekday.

Correct me if I’m wrong, only both Brandenburg Tor and the Holocaust Memorial were without queue. After my parents graced the Holocaust museum, and I sought shelter with Charles Dickens in a nearby cafe, we had our token Happy Family On Holiday snap by the Tor and whisked Dad back to the hotel for the Grand Prix. (Spoilers, Vettel won!)

Family snap a la top tourist spot.

As I said - suitably deserted.

So that's your morning sorted...but what about lunch? Stay tuned for part II, coming swiftly!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Through The Keen Eyes of a Tourist.

Amongst the over-eating and German-improving, I have fallen in love with Berlin and am sad to be leaving it with a feeling that I haven't even scratched the surface of the history it has to offer. While I have been living here as a citizen I have been doing the mundane things of learning/U Bahn commuting/S Bahn commuting/food shopping/eating/shopping lots, but those things wouldn't make for an interesting post, so instead I thought I'd focus on a small Tourismu Guide for Berlin.

It's a city of the utmost culture and history, varying from record shops to fleamarkets to museums to churches to ruins to castles; you name it and Berlin will have it. As a tourist, it really is a haven. Here lies an abundance of not only cheap cafes, but cheap hostels, cheap bars, and cheap(ish) tourist attractions. With my Lonely Planet Pocket Guide in hand and citymaps2go app in the other, I have been trying to wade my way through the various museums of Museum Island and the lesser known art galleries.

My parents surprised me this weekend in Berlin as they moved in (not with me, in a gorgeous hotel in the KuDam area) for a few days, and I made the most of my expertise and showed them around the main tourist hotspots (some of which you can read about in my last post) including*:

*I have provided links to each of the websites for the museums so you can read a bit more about them as my information is bound to be a bit sparse.

Located next to the Berliner Dom, parallel to the Spree River, which costs a mere €6 entry fee. It's been heralded as the most interactive museum in Berlin, which makes it great for kids and school groups. This, unfortunately, means that peak times must be avoided as it's a small space with lots to do and learn about so make sure you go early in the day and preferably on a weekday!

 Here you can learn all about the DDR rule over Ost Berlin and I loved it, and not just because I could smell DDR vodka and hold DDR pears (see above).

This piece-of-history-turned-art-gallery is a must see in Berlin. Free of charge and completely outdoors, I can recommend combining this with a walking tour of Kreuzberg (the area of Berlin which sits opposite the gallery on the other side of the river) after lunch.

Kreuzberg has an abundance of cafes and if the sun is shining then the riverbanks are full of sunbathing Berliners. The gallery is really striking and is the largest remaining piece of the Wall left in the city - if you're cheeky then you can maybe etch your name into the wall like all the other tourists...I used the Kotti Tor U Bahn but there are closer stations too. See the link above for proper details! 

Dad and I. Happier post-strudel-and-beer.

Okay, you caught me, after 30 blog posts and several trips, I can now admit that I am a massive tourist. Camera in hand with a map and a coffee, I have taken the world by storm. One tourist trap at a time, and as a tourist, I am a sucker for a good boat trip.

At only €11 per person, and beer and pastries served on board, this boat tour along the Spree was a great way to spend the afternoon on Saturday. As a new tourist, this trip will help you get your bearings - boats depart every half hour from various platforms both outside the DDR Museum and Hauptbahnhof (which is accessible for wheelchairs).

Again, free of charge and perfect for a summer day - the Berlin Wall Memorial in the north of the city provides a great amount of history about the wall and is very educational. Frequented by fewer tourists, it begins at the Nordbahnhof station that played an important part in the wall's existence. Lacking in cafes but audio guides and features in abundance.

KW Institute for Contemporary Art
For €6, the art in this small gallery is unmissable. I had to give it a mention as not only is the gallery itself brilliant (I saw another Grayson Perry tapestry and swooned. Again.) it is located in a fantastic part of the city where every other 'shop' is a gallery in disguise, with all of them being free. Stop by the 'Milch Hutte' for cheesecake and chai lattes galore before heading off on your art afternoon - you shan't be disappointed.

And finally, if you're pushed for time but aching for some Real Culture, than the Perganom Museum is the only museum on Museum Island that I would visit. Admittedly I am not one for architecture or ancient history (gulp, I know how awful that sounds..) but this was well worth the trip. It sits at the northern tip of the island and is famous for the Perganom Altar which stands in the middle of the museum.

For us, there was renovation being undertaken, but the new exhibition is due to open in June. This may be more for the parents than for the kids, but I really enjoyed learning about just how this museum came to be, and the permanent Islamic art exhibition on the 3rd floor isn't to be missed.

And if, like me, your attention span is waning but you are still keen to attempt to learn, the audio guides (as in the other museums of Museum Island) are totally free. Ignore how ridiculous you may look and grab your headphones - you won't regret it.

Dive in, and, unlike London, have your wallet handy. The museums are wonderful but if you're a budding budgeter then pick wisely - museum 3 day passes start from €19 and cover most of the main museums on the Island. Enjoy!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Berlin, Wo Gehst Du Hin?

Hallo aus der Haupstadt von Deustchland! I have fallen in love with Berlin immediately, and I cannot put my finger on whether this is due to the circumstance (my last chance to start again and lose myself in a new city entirely, one with such an amazing history AND a language I can speak...) or the city itself. I arrived on a dank, grey Sunday afternoon after my 7 hour coach journey from Copenhagen which had involved a wonderful Australian and a ferry (nicht zusammen) and lots of sleeping, and found the flat in Charlottenberg where I am lodging. 

Berlin life so far.
I have been asked why I am undertaking a language course seeing as I can already speak German, and I have quickly come to the realisation that it's really a glorified reason to be living in Berlin for a while. I have always found the history of the city so interesting, and it really is up-and-coming more than ever, so I thought why not dust off my dictionary and go back to school, if only for three weeks. I am attending the GLS school in Prenzlauerberg, an area which I have fallen head over heels for.

It houses tiny streets jampacked with happy Germans sitting out drinking coffee at all hours, and is a really lovely campus (even if I'm not living on it) and with class only from 9 bis 12.30, I have the afternoons free to sight-see, wish I really am making the most of. It's a city of colour, age, and not too many tourists. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Even if the food shops aren't open on Sundays (I found that out the hard way), my German isn't up to scratch (I found this out the hard way too) and I have forgotten all about dative and accusative reflexive verbs (I found this out the hard way as well...).

I have just a small collection of photos as no one really wants to see photos of a classroom, so have a wee jumble of Things and anticipate a logical post in the next few days when I have done Real Things over the (hopefully sunny!!) weekend. Bis später!

Holocaust Memorial - the museum is free, but get there early or face a long queue as they only let 10 people in at a time due to the security checks. Leave your cameras in your bag, get an audio guide, and try to comprehend all the information and figures that you will learn. I am still trying to understand it all. Around the corner from the Museum is the Reichstag AND Brandenburg Gate (Tor) so you can knock all of those out in a few hours!

Checkpoint Charlie - free, and complete with overly friendly German guards.
'The smell of waffles binds more to life than all philosophical arguments' from my favourite coffee shop, Rosalyn, where Chai Lattes and Yoghurt may as well be served on tap; a lovely way to spend the morning break.
On a slight side note, I'd like to wish my Mum a very happy birthday! I am in Berlin (obviously) so made this teeny tribute at the Brandenburg gate and received some lovely looks from various tourists. Happy birthday Mum!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

More Than ABBA And Ikea.

In my last few days, as well have over-dosing on art and resisting the 'Post-Art-Coma' that I am prone too, I decided that I would go to Sweden. No, it's not quite the excursion you would expect as trains from Roskilde, non-direct, run almost twice at hour across the bridg to Malmö and many a Swedish-Kroner-and-Art-Themed adventure.

This would be an apt time to plug my instagram if you wanted to give photos of Sweden and my general trip a look. Malmö was very welcoming, with the language being even lovelier to listen to Danish. There is much art to see (Malmö Kunsthall, the Malmö Moderna Kunst Museum - both of which I recommend) and many coffee shops to sit in.

Okay. I was tired. Less than I had hoped to achieve today was actualised, but I can always go back. And Hej (not hey, because that's not Swedish) I accidentally stumbled upon the countdown clock for Eurovision - only 44 days if you're wondering - and have made plans to go back and explore Sweden properly because while the postcards say 'Sweden', Malmö says 'we used to be Danish and you can really still tell"...

Town hall (very Swedish..)
Jamie Oliver in Swedish!
Thoroughly enjoying the Eurovision countdown clock, as it's just a month away from being held in Malmo!!
Thank you Sweden, Malmö, and thank you Roskilde for having me. Tomorrow I set off on a 7 hour coach to Berlin for my last adventure - wish me luck.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Louisiana: Round Two. Not The State.

The Arken was brilliant, wasn't it? Well, just two days of post-art-recovery later, I headed to the Louisiana gallery which to Denmark what the Tate Modern is to Great Britain. While entry costs just a little bit more than the Arken Gallery, the collections are vast and transport to and from is very easy (it comes complete with its own train station and town) and sits on the coast of Zealand. I was taken there as a wee, uncultured 5 year old and could only briefly remember it, but oh my goodness did I appreciate it as a pseudo-art-fan at 18. The cafe is brilliant, but heaving, offering a traditional Danish buffet, and the shop is a must-see for Danish design fans.

The exhibition currently is 'Pop Art' which I really enjoyed, even though there is a distinct lack of Lichenstein due to his current retrospective at the Tate (which I was lucky enough to go to a few weeks ago) - it covered all bases including elements that I had never considered before i.e. the role of women in the pop art movement, has anyone else noticed that almost all the predominant pop art artists were men? Tara Donovan has also recently completed an exhibition for Louisiana and I really recommend her work; the installations are phenomonal.

Anyway, the highlights for me were the tiny pieces of Louise Bourgeios that featured and the permanent Kusama installation 'Gleaming Light of Souls' which is not too dissimilar from her 'Infinity Room' which featured in her exhibition in the Tate Modern last year too.

Made from pure buttons!

Louise Bourgeios *flails*
Kusama for the second time!
Who knew that Denmark was so into things other than design, herrings, and being wonderfully expensive? I'm totally kidding, but the Danes really have outdone themselves with their art. Really, really, really.