Sonntag, 17. Juli 2011

Restaurants to avoid in Potsdam: Sushi-Bar My Keng

This is another bad example of bad client service and, in general, an indifferent attitude towards the clients. Whatever they are and whatever language to they speak.
This is the story: Sushi-Bar My Keng it's a nice and small restaurant situated in the center of Potsdam, on Brandenburger Str., where you can find all the good shops and most part of the good food. The prices are normal for a touristic city. They serve sushi but also Vietnamese dishes and you have the possibility to stay outside enjoying the sun and the messy coming-and-going of tourists. 
But, the service, oh, the service: we called 2-3-4 times in a desperate German until they had the amiability to make us a visit to take in full our order. And we were not the only one. You needed to shout loud to attract the attention of the waiters. But this was not the one and only problem, unfortunately.
We finally found somebody to take our order and waited for the food. It was a long day and we needed a bit of refreshments. And it came: As we order also meal no. 66 - Bun' Cha' Nem Frühlingsrollen angebraten mit Reisnudeln, Salat, Erdnüssen und einer exotischen Sauce - we didn't know that this meal contains shrimps/Garnelen, in German. Ladies and gentlemen, we really have a problem: we don't eat shrimps. We were lucky enough to see this in time, and we politely told them that we don't want a food with shrimps and we order something with a contents they didn't mention on the menu. Told them once, and twice, in German and English. Not a single sign that they were understanding what I was talking. A the end, a man dressed in white arrived and took the food. As we wanted to order something else, he shouted: No food, kitchen closed! Wow, it was about 3pm...And asked for another waiter to make a new order, convinced that we were the only ones to have a problem there. While I was trying look for a new order, while explaining again it was their mistake and maybe there are people allergic to shrimps and they could face different problems the next time so it's better to indicate all the ingredients on the menu, the man passed by and repeated his "polite information" plus: "You ordered and didn't want to take the food, we don't serve you any additional meal!" Great people and a great business, isn't it? 
We run to finish what we had, paid the bill - it was a try to put as pay the damn "Garnelen", but at the end we didn't - and left running as far as possible.   
It's by far the worse human experience I ever had in Germany, driving me terribly nervous and angry.  I deeply hope it's the last encounter here with such a rude behavior. 
Otherwise, if you hear about Sushi-Bar My Keng Potsdam, think twice, maybe they need first to take some lessons in politeness and civilized behavior before starting to serve people. It's a well-known certified Asian brand, anyway.

Freitag, 15. Juli 2011

Adenauerplatz: Where to spend the bad weather days

I can dedicate lots of posts - maybe a book too - to the serious issue of the weather in Berlin. Mostly in the last 12 months. But, promise to be back soon with a complete weather report.

As the week-end is only a couple of hours away, I will strongly recommend a nice area where you can spend nice time resting, eating, drinking and drinking again: Adenauerplatz. Very close to the Ku'damm and Wilmersdorferstrasse - big hubs for shopping for all budgets and tastes, the square bearing the name of the famous German chancellor can be the beginning of a different kind of exploration of Berlin. Multicultural bars and restaurants - Vietnamese, Japanese, German to name only a few - and old-style elegant art-deco buildings, you can find many opportunities for enriching your tourist experience. Mostly when the weather is desperately destroying all your outdoor plans. 
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Donnerstag, 14. Juli 2011

One late Saturday night, in Prenzlauer Berg

A careful historical account

Fashion in Neukölln

The image was intentionally blurred...Privacy it's a problem for photographers in this area

Places to hide: Literaturhaus

Open the door and you'll open the wonder box of intellectual discussions in Berlin

If you are looking for a good wine before and after an interesting literary discussion, a visit at Literaturhaus from Fasanenstrasse should be part of your ritual. You can find here a sophisticated bookstore, conference rooms where many good writers are permanently invited, and a restaurant with a wonderful garden. The ambiance is very inspiring so you can bring your manuscript with you for a latest proof-review. If not a writer, maybe you are a passionate reader and you want to spend some wonderful hours in the company of your favorite books.
A wonderful garden during the summer

An elegant bookstore at the basement

Meeting with the Molecule Man

From the Oberbaum Bridge, Stralauer Allee or from the U-Bahn going to Warschauer Str. you can see the three 30-meter high figures graciously meeting in the middle of the river Spree. Former demarcation between the East and the West, Spree was reassigned for more than two decades the role of symbolically reuniting the two halves of the old city. 
The Molecule Man, work of the LA artist Jonathan Borofsky, is aimed to easen the dialogue between the East and the West. The first models were made in 1977 and 1978, but the Molecule Man entered the life of Berliners since 1999. Weighting 45-tones, it's balancing the air and the water, the stability and the fragility. In a way, a key to understand the symbolic life of the city. The location is considered the meeting point of the three boroughs Treptow, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, each symbolized by one of the "man".
In Borofsky's own words: "both man and molecules exist in a world of probability and that finding wholeness and unity within this world remains the aim of any creative and spiritual tradition".

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Movie Review: The black sheep

Lots of laughs and grins, but at the end I concluded that it's too real to be not untrue. Schwarze Schafe is a one hour and a half comedy filmed in Berlin, mostly black-and-white, where you will meet all of the daily stereotypes of the citizens of the Berlin Republik. 
What we can find in this box: alcohol, a lot of alcohol (actually, I must confess that I didn't have such a frequency of opportunities to drink since in the high-school; in comparison with other places I've been to, here poor or rich, educated or non-educated, all are desperately enjoying the pleasures of alcohol, whatever the content of the bottle and the hour of the day), the pleasure of being supported by the state, the coloruful wolrd of the U-Bahn, the psychedelic dreams, the Munchen vs. Berlin state-of-mind, the cheap geopolitical thoughts about the Middle East at a joint (the anti-American opinions included), river Spree, the parks, the double lives (modest at day, brave at night), the Satanist grotesque. 
There are many stories in stories, with people rarely crossing each other, but most likely to meet, with a lot of chilling out and working for nothing. 
This is Berlin.
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Mittwoch, 13. Juli 2011

14 Juillet à Berlin

France carcassonne embrasement 14 juilletImage via Wikipedia//Waiting for the fireworks
As for one of my favorites national holidays - July 4th - I was out of town, I didn't bother to check carefully the events organized in town on this occasion. But France, la France...After reading this article in Gazette de Berlin, I found out that there are some events scheduled for Berlin, in the French Village. The popular celebration started already today, with a Strassenfest on Pariser Platz. The French Embassy is providing some basic info about the groups.
For one month, between 17.06 and 17.07, the Berliner are invited to take part to the Franco-German festival, scheduling various common events.
French people are having a long tradition of living in Berlin, since the 17th century, when the Hughenots found refuge on the city on Spree. Berlin continues to be a French-friendly place, and as a lover of the French culture, you can find many French restaurants, and cultural opportunities
Shortly after WWII, despite being one of the Allied powers, the French were not to be granted an occupation zone due to concerns over the great historical animosity between France and Germany, as well as the relatively more minor role played by the French within the alliance. After, thanks to De Gaulle's influence, it upgraded its status at the same level with the US and UK, and set its headquarters at Baden-Baden. 
Currently, in Berlin are living today 13,262 French people. In Prenzlauer Berg or in Kreuzberg you can often hear French spoken on the street. However, the traditional French areas are Wedding or Reinickendorf, formerly part of the French sector.
Bon anniversaire, la France!
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This is Berlin

Levi's go forth, via Slow Travel Berlin.


As today I am in a very intellectual mood, I will send my dear readers back to school! More precisely, to the University building from Hegelplatz, on Dorotheenstrasse 24, where they can learn more about the student life in Berlin. The exhibition on display here is featuring the most important moment from the last 200 years of university life. 
In July, you can see too an exhibition about the long process of integration of women and Jewish intellectuals into the intellectual life. You will not find any equivalent of the Dreyfus affair, but interesting details and information about the recent intellectual history of Germany, most specifically Berlin's. 
The entrance for both exhibitions is free and free English guides could be provided. It could be a different way of discovering Berlin. The projects are part of a student initiative trying to improve and correct the official histories, outlining the various roles played through history by the students and their movements.
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Berlin Movies: Fremder Freund/Stranger Friend

This is not a movie about Berlin, but it's using the city as a pretext and framework. However, as a Berliner, I was able to identify many aspects and details that are specific to certain daily habits of the city.
Chris found Yunes, a student from Yemen (played by the Iranian-German actor Navid Akhavan) through an ad from a Turkish grocery shop. They move together - as many people do easily in Berlin, without knowing too much each other - share their lives and free time. Yunes is helped to get in touch with a girl he thought it's the woman of his life - but obviously she's belonging to a different cultural and social background, they party together and learn from each other's customs. 
At the beginning Yunes is a non-observant Muslim, shy and childish somehow in his enthusiasm about people and relationships. After the break-up with the girl friend, he's becoming more and more observant, is attending various discussion groups about Islam, it's growing a beard and start praying. 
Although from the point of view of the behavior, those changes were new, from the point of view of the discourse, we don't have too many reasons to be surprised. Once, during a going-out to the sea with Chris, its girlfriend and his girlfriend, Yunes's passionately involved in explaining the "situation in Gaza" through the anti-Semitic stereotypes. From this point on, later on, his various negative affirmations about non-Muslims could be a natural development of reasoning. 
The movie starts in March 2000 and end up shortly after September 11. More than one year of full time in the life of youngsters in Berlin. The movie is operating through various flash-backs and reinsertion of time sequences helping you to understand various events from Yunes's life. A couple of months before September 11 he disappear without any trace, the parents don't know, the former girlfriend doesn't. When Chris goes to search after his acquaintances - and you have also an image of the old mosque in Wilmersdorf, out of service for a long time - all the roads are leading to his death. Yunes, who loved to dance turned into a "fedayyin" for other people's causes.
If you ask me, I would suggest to discuss this movie to a discussion group about Islam, it would be a better subject touching upon integration and cultural tolerance, better than any other theoretical and theological approach. It's about life - and death - of the soul. 
I found the movie extremely relevant for the daily life in Berlin and for the challenges many youngsters of Muslim background are facing here, not always with a successful happy end.
PS. The music, by Matthias Beine is wonderful.

Dienstag, 12. Juli 2011

Bomb It

As France's national day is coming (14 July) I decided that I should visit Institut Francais to catch up some news. I've been here several times for movies, once had a temptation to make a monthly card - but gave up - and on another occasions I visited the exhibitions. For a francophone as I am it's a shameful record, but let's say that I keep my France always with me, although I cheat with English, German, Italian etc.
This time, I was charmed by the exhibition of Miss.Tic: urban street integrated into the mainstreet stereotypical frames, with inspired mottos and gracious stencils - combinations of black, white and lot of red. 
An invitation to discover a French artist, very close of the ways of expression of many German artists, but also the pleasure of the Institut Francais.

Be Ku'damm

Following the framework of the ongoing city branding campaign Be Berlin, a similar branding aiming to outline Ku'damm - Be Ku'damm - was developed, on the occasion of the 125-year anniversary of Germany's Champs Elysée. The leaflets and all the information are available from the kiosks opposite the KDW, another strong brand of West Berlin.
"Ich bin ein(e) Berliner(in)" at Central Station

Leaflets, souvenirs, information - nice memories of the big city

Berlin it's having its own cosmetics brand

Berlin is one of the best branded city in Europe, with various creative projects underway, outlining the diversity and complexity of the city. From the development of this process many individual brands developed, aimed to answer the needs and demands of the population of the city. As natural food and natural life is one of the main concerns of most part of the Berliner, a company created a vegan brand of cosmetics i+m Naturkosmetik
It's using 100% certified organic cosmetics, 100% vegan and 0% animal testing, preservatives and parabenes. It manufactures Berlin and Berlin is part of its identity. Berlin is a brand nurturing ideas for other brand using its prestige and values.
The soap smells as a green sweet

Shower gel with a menthol smell
I already tried some of the projects and found them refreshing and healthy.

Looking for a playground

If you are in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and you are looking for a very peaceful place to play with your children or to watch them playing, I recommend the small park from Mansfelder Strasse. It is very close to Fehrbellinerplatz U-Bahn, and opposite one of the buildings of Charlottenburg town hall. There are not always too many children, it's a lot of sand where they could play as at a real beach, plus a small ping-pong table and a basketball basket.

Montag, 11. Juli 2011

A little bit of Monday self-promo

Because till now - 9.48am - the bad weather - cold rain - reduced significanlty the chances for a good walks in the sunny woods, I had a bit of time to evaluate the activity of the ForeignerinBerlin: in the last 11 months, we had 204 posts and 1,006 readers, lots of pictures and daily news about the city, as well as very subjective reports about the daily reality - the weather included.
Thank you to all my readers for stopping by and promise to keep the stakes high!
Keep in touch!

Another kind of street art

Berlin is known for its spontaneous and creative street art, with lots of books dedicated to its special graffiti artists and their codes. However, in some parts of the city, it's another street art revealing, dealing with the architecture of the buildings, their decorations and statues. Those places I randomly discovered while walking around Adenauerplatz last night. 
More to come!

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Do you believe in magic?

If you ask me, not always, but at least kids love magic and wonderful surprises. It's what you can offer to your little ones while visiting Zaubertheater, a temptation located in Charlottenburg, very close to Adenauerplatz. The master of ceremonies is Igor Jedlin, from the Moscow Theater. For the moment, the theater is closed for holidays, but the next show is waiting for you on 11 August.

Maybe I will visit the show soon.
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Sonntag, 10. Juli 2011

The late evening Vietnamese adventure

For such a lovely lazy day, I needed a fresh ending, so I headed looking for some Asian/veggie restaurant. But I didn't wanted to go too far away as prefered a little evening walk, exactly what do you need to have a good sleep for gathering enough energy for the next five days. 
Among the Asian cuisine, the Vietnamese one is the less familiar to me and although I was pleasantly surprise to discover the delightful cold coffee - an extended post about this discovery very soon - I am still unused with the meals using a lot of fresh vegetables. 
But curious as I am, I wanted to repeat the experience and decided - after wandering around Adenauerplatz, that SaiGon Today should be the place we are looking for. I've been there during the week a couple of month ago and I liked the elegance of the place and the service, and also the affordable prices. But, excepting the prices and the elegance, things changed. The service was very hectic, with orders misunderstood and long waiting time (more than 30 minutes). Lucky customers that have the possibility to read some local reviews in-between. The waiters were so polite that at the end I forgot all the tensed seconds and enjoyed the food: vegetarian Vietnamese spring rolls, a vegetarian Wan-Tan soup, a green tea and a (very very) delicious Bananapudding. For the beer lovers, it's possible to order Saigon Beer. The price for all those excentricities was 16 Euro (including a very modest tip).
The restrooms are clean and fancy.
My green tea; other choices - Jasmin, for example - are available

Soup with cucumber and salad and broccoli - call it Wan Tan

The big spring rolls, with tofu and black sesame were delicious

Probably the recipe recommended to serve it a bit frozen, but this variant was good as well
I am not sure I will be back soon here - usually I prefer to try new places - and as I wasn't happy with the service, I would like to avoid unpleasant experiences, but definitely I would like more Vietnamese food. Maybe a trip to Vietnam as well...
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A reading recommendation for all those interested to keep in touch with the stormy life of Ku'damm. Information about the new and old bars and restaurants, parties, beaches, shops and other fantastic events.
Enjoy the ride!

Sunday in Berlin

After a very late morning, I decided that it's a shame and a pitty to continue procrastinating home - forget about the rhyme 'there are books waiting for me' - and headed to one of my favorite destinations in the West - Dahlem-Dorf, via U3, from the very classically designed U-Bahn Station Fehrbelliner Platz. 

A couple of seconds from the U-Bahn Dahlem-Dorf, we stopped for a vegetarian pizza (8.90 Euro) and a big bottle of water (5 Euro), at Ristorante Piaggio.
All you need is to cross the street from the U-Bahn  Dahlem-Dorf
A relaxed ambiance of a sunny Sunday
Aubergines, pepper, zucchini, some cheese and spinaccio
 For the dessert, we crossed the street for an icecream at Eiszeit. During the autumn, they serve here a very delicious pumpkin soup.
The beach feeling...

One coup, 0.49 Euro...a tempting price...

The next destination: Domaene Dahlem, one of the permanent destinations of my trips in the West Berlin.
An interesting museum to visit during the rainy days

Many options: a bio shop, farms, playgrounds, picnic area, animals, a mini-bar with many natural products

Old and new, technique and play

Sometimes, here are organized concerts and long beer-drinking nights

The colourful ways of nature

Who dares to open new ways?

A natural oasis and a little lake

The remnants of an old agricultural culture

Wild, wild horses

The kids can observe the animals in their natural environment

There are many opportunities for picnics and full laziness under the sun

A busy Sunday, with lots of visitors (the entrance to Domaene is FREE!)

Watching the visitors...
After three hours of wandering, we returned back home, for a little power-nap and plans for the evening adventure.
Berlin could be the loveliest place under the sun during the summer...

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