Sonntag, 22. Januar 2012

Healthy eating from the recycle bin

I had recently a very serious discussion with a German acquaintance regarding an article featured at length in the media the last week: A very happy family enjoying life without money, credit cards, shopping lists and, probably, Facebook as well. One of the main source of food is the garbage, generously feed by the rich people's disgusting habits. I was told by more than one person that I am an ignorant and that I can't understand the value of an experiment aimed to spare valuable resources. And, I must confess that I am as I do not agree to behave as a four-leg creature. And I do not think that my credit card is such a huge danger for the humanity, unless I use the best of my intelligence to enjoy the advantages of living in the 21st century.

Anyway, whatever the wise arguments, nobody and nothing will push me to offer a delicious dinner to my modest family with leftovers from the garbage. Call me the enemy of nature and the stumbling block against progress. 

Who's interested in a destroyed TV set? Electronics leftovers in Pankow.

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4. Berliner Tourismusmesse 2012

As I am ready for new adventures, I felt the need to finish with the updates from previous weeks. One of my big debts was the tour I made two weeks ago at the 4. Berliner Tourismusmesse, organized by Woerlitz, who reminded me when I used their services and sent me a kind invitation for two persons. The invitation included the entrance and a free tour of Berlin, outlining the "criminal history" of the city. The topic was revealed later, when I was already in the cozy Mercedes Benz bus. As I never went on a tour of Berlin I was curious to try it once, and most probably I would not have been interested in such a niche topic. But, after one hour and maybe 20 minutes, I may confess that I enjoyed the idea - with the exception of some ridiculous remarks of the guide about why there are so many English works in the German advertising and on the German streets in general. The tour was in German, for an audience of over 60 yo, but still this is not an excuse for ridiculous remarks. People enjoyed so most probably I was the only one out of common.

The venue was very busy with visitors, most part of them arrived in big groups of over 60. This is one of the reasons why the fair was focused primarily on health tourism, featuring many spa resorts from Germany, Austria or Poland. Among the exhibitors there were hotels, resorts and touristic regions.
The ambiance was friendly, with welcoming guides ready to introduce to your services. Those booking on place were the happy beneficient of substantial fees. The focus was Germany and the German-speaking countries, but there were also displayed interesting offers from Croatia, Turkey, Italy or some Middle Eastern countries. 

For the entertainment, there were lots of drink tasking moments. Wines, local drinks - Becherovka is a German-Czech drink based on herbs - and other Polish spirits. As I didn't try I cannot give any special insights about this activity. But people were smiling and this was important, after all.
Another tasty corner of wine, featuring German wines. As a wine drinker, I prefer the sweet red wines from the Middle East, but the weather conditions decided a different fate for the German wines, that despite my exotic choices are highly appreciated abroad.
If the holiday hopping was too much, some massage was available for curious customers. As usual in public events in Germany, people are not very happy to see an innocent girl with a camera wandering around. 
A honest TV crew was registering the opinions of the participants about the fair and the tourism in Germany and Berlin. In a city without significant industry, tourism represents one of the main assets and one of the most important source of revenue. 
At the end of the fair, the happy winners of a tombola were announced at open stage. Again, relaxed people, looking happy at their colourful leaflets and thinking about their next holiday abroad from home. From many points of view, I fully envy the quiet life of many retired Germans. 
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Mittwoch, 18. Januar 2012

The shadow of Saddam in Berlin

Berlin is has many abandoned places, mostly institutions dealing with the legacy of the Cold War. The Embassy of Iraq in the former GDR was for me the second ruin I visited in Berlin, after the CIA listening station from Teufelsberg. Entering the place is not easy. Located in Pankow - the former headquarters of the communist nomenklatura - the building is situated on a street with a high traffic of humans and cars during the week. On week-ends it is almost empty and nobody will stop you jumping the yard and entering inside. Before me, a group of funny girls visited the place, defying the warning "Private Property". The building is not guarded but I understood that careful neighbors could call the police at any time. I was not so unlucky and thus I was able to see one of the places I wanted to see while in Berlin. Mission accomplished.
The building was left in a big hurry in 1991. Since then, its status is unclear. Older and more serious blogs of expats in Berlin mention that in the building were left many files, books, leaflets and an impressive number of portraits of Saddam. During my 45 minutes spent in the former Saddam's house, I did not find any portrait of the dictator. The place is dirty - the girls before me warned me that I should take care when walking around- lots of broken glass and human garbage. The place was used for some techno parties and probably there are permanent visitors attracted by the quiet ambiance returning here periodically. I will not be one of them.
Most part of the rooms are destroyed, the furniture - from the 70s, when the building was erected, in the classical boring communist institutional style - almost disappeared.
The interior setting of the building is a mystery for me, as it looks as a place where from time to time people went and studied and used somehow the space. I am sure that there are not sensitive documents left.
Files, papers, propaganda newlsetters from the 70s, papers and papers are lying in disorder on the floor.
 The bureaucracy is always producing an impressive number of unuseful papers.
 Some of them where burned, but the fire was not strong enough to destroy them all.
 It looks like somebody did some homeworks and left in a big hurry.
 A sunny Sunday afternoon is the best time to do some research about Saddam Hussein, isn't it?
 Studying indoors may be a good option as well.
 I would be curious what all those papers were about. Just in case.
 Sic transit gloria mundi...
 This was probably the consular office. No more visas for today.
The building is situated in a green area, with a dense forest and something that probably used to be a garden for cocktail parties between comrades. Now, the place is not in a good shape and rests of various alternative parties are visible.
 No skeleton in this closet.
Yasser Arafat was one of the main beneficiary of the Iraqi financial support, generously offered to support a terror network.
 Anti-Iranian propaganda leaflets. Those were the times.
The former logo. Saddam is gone, the Iraq as we all knew it is gone too. Sooner or later the building will re-enter the public use. Still, 20 years after the changes, I found it very strange to find such a live archive of lost propaganda papers. I should thank Berlin for this unique experience.
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This is not a spring song

But it looks like.
Today, it is another sunny day in the grey Berlin.

Mittwoch, 11. Januar 2012

Iceskating at Alexanderplatz

I hate iceskating. I tried only once and I was terrified promising myself that I will never do it again. Aparently, it is among the few promises to myself which I'm keeping religiously. For those in a better mood, Alexanderplatz is offering the occasion of some funny moments.

We visited the place the last Sunday. It was not crowded at all. Shoes were available for rent and many tourists were trying their luck chilling and killing some time.

If I am trying to be as ironic as possible, I would say that iceskating was the missing element at Alexanderplatz.

Wish I had this help when I was their age and curious to iceskate for a little bit (and nothing more).

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Evening at Kopps

Late evening at Kopps, in Mitte. I visited the place for the second time but the ambiance didn't change: quiet, few tables taken, English speaking customers, hectic but funny waiters. 

The menu is different from a moment of the day to another. Last time I tried some vegan pancakes I wished to taste again. No way, as it was the breakfast offer.

From the very beginning I loved the design of the place. The mirrors are conferring a specific depth to the rooms. The visit at Kopps wasn't planned but I was lucky enough to have the camera with me. Photo mission of the day accomplished.

The lights of an unusual mild winter. 

I don't like the chairs too much, but the tables and the colors of the furniture are creating a pleasant cozyness.

Nobody on the street around 10pm.

When I left, around 23.00, there were no other customers. Some of the waiters were smoking outside and the tables were cleaned and ready for the next working day.

The monthly bag of empty plastic bottles

This is a post I planned to write for over a year. But as my daily activities are very diverse and the opportunities to write something new are challenging in big number my writing talents, I didn't.
A couple of minutes ago I found the picture and taking into account the previous eco-post it seemed I am in the right mood to continue with the nature-friendly Berlin stories.
The following very little explanation may be useful for someone very new in Berlin. If you would see ladies and gentlemen, of various levels of education, income and age, carrying with them big - unesthetic - bags with empty bottles, don't stop in the middle of the road starring at them. Sooner or later you would be like them - unless you agree with the idea of losing some money for ever by each purchase of a bottle of fresh drinks. 
Your price added to the value of the bottle is working as an insurance aiming to determine you bringing it back for the further re-se and recycling. The average for each bottle is around 0.20 Eurocents. Theoretically, after bringing back 10 bottles, you may get enough funds for buying new drinks. A kind of investment, just in the case that one day you will run out of money, isn't it?
The problem is always of finding enough place to deposit them and enough energy to facilitate their transportation to the first food or drinks' shop. You may recover your money directly at the counter, or by using big automatic machines that are X-raying each bottle and evaluate the price. In the case your bottle is not sell in that supermarket, the bottle is rejected. As simple as that: be so kind and find the correct distributor of your beverage.
Overall, the mechanisms are very simple, don't you think?
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Cutting the poor trees

I am not an ecologist, even though I love nature and green parks and flowers and grass. And fresh air too. 

I am not a militant against nuclear energy either and I politely declined any insistent invitation to go out in the street and held yellow balloons. As this is a travel and leisures blog, I prefer not to write about politics and geopolitics and other not-so-cool topics.

But, when I see the wonderful trees laying in the streets all over the city, I feel sad. I've been told that this is a special breed growing up in reservations prepared to answer the demand for the holidays season. It may be true, although I didn't dare to do an investigation about this sensitive topic.

However, when I walk on the street and see those trees laying, I can't stop thinking about how nice it would be to admire them in a forest and, eventually, make pictures with the green forest under the moderately hot sun of the week-end. Dreams of a non-eco person.
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Mittwoch, 4. Januar 2012

Fast food at LPG Biomarkt

Two little beasts were very hungry yesterday, after hours of touristic running for catching the best sun spots. After one hour the sun's hidded power vanished and I was back under the grey sky. So, wanted to try something new and, as in my poor Western area is only one LPG Biomarkt and not very close to my place, I spent some time admiring the merchandise. I visited the vegan/vegetarian/bio canteen, with many children enjoying their quiet games in their special corner but wasn't tempted to try something. At the end, the cafeteria at the entrance corrupted me and convinced me to stay for a little bit more, for tasting a pumpkin quiche - delicious, but I don't remember exactly the taste - and a cinnamon bread. All bio, natural, healthy. Not extremely cheap, but, I repeat for the last time: there were bio, natural healthy. And tasty as well.

 The nice autumn colours convinced me to stay, buy and taste on the site.
This was the delicious threat of the day. Fresh pastry, good concentration of cinnamon and a very attractive smell. I should try it at home too...

Visiting Spandau Citadel

Spandau Citadel, one of the most famous touristic attractions of the far Western Berlin, is considered one of the most preserved Renaissance military structure. It was built at the end of the 16th century, as a medieval fort aimed to preserve the town of Spandau, now part of the capital city of Germany. 
You can easily reach Spandau by S-Bahn or UBahn - U7 line. It is a quiet area, with lots of small shops and restaurants.
The citadel was built on an island created by the meeting of the rivers Havel and Spree. It was conquered by Napoleon in 1806 and played an important part during WWII, being used as an element of the strategy of the city defence. It surrended in May 1945 and the area went into the control of the British, after being for a short time occupied by the Red Soviet Army.
The citadel is very well preserved and hosts periodically various cultural events and creative classes - music, handwerk, painting - for children. The fans of Gothic Baroc style from Germany and abroad are reuniting here for various celebrations and concerts. During the Festival of Lights, the citadel is benefiting of special lightening. 
For nature lovers, this is a good spot to visit in any season. The ducks are silently swimming the day and the dogs can enjoy the pleasant walks alongside the rivers. Inside the Citadel, a funny reservation of bats can be visited during the summer.
During the summer, or sunny days, nice natural reflections are projected against the old walls of the Citadel. Given its abundant nature and old walls, the place represent a  nice and interesting spot for photographers. 
The draw bridge used now for tourists to enter the Citadel, used to be the main defence against unwanted attackers. Now, on the other side of the walls you can buy your ticket, visit some touristic attractions, but also eat something at some traditional restaurants offering mostly German food.

 Inside the cital, you can visit a historical museum. Guided audio tours, also in English, are available.
 The nature wasn't harmed by the construction.
A number of 70 medieval Jewish gravestones were discovered in Citadel. The explanation given was that they were hosted and protected against persecution. The graves can be seen by appointment only by calling: 030/354944-212 (gatekeeper) or 030/354944 -297 (administration). Meanwhile, at Weisensee Jewish cemetery, it is said that the citadel was built also by using the stones of a former Jewish cemetery. Still in Spandau, it exists also a Judengasse, sign of a perment Jewish presence in the area. Currently, there are no traces of the Jewish life in Spandau.
 The bridge was reconstructed and redecorated.
 A proof of the New Year Eve's party.
 A quiet walk on the way back from Citadel is a pleasant experience.
Where Havel meets Spree. Or Spree meets Havel.