Mittwoch, 30. Januar 2013

Cafe Heider: Your Viennaise living room in Potsdam

Before stopping by for the first time yesterday, I saw several times Cafe Heider in Potsdam, but never entered it. It is situated in the area with shops and nice restaurants and other tourist attractions, and when the time is mild you can even stay outside to watch the people coming and going. 

It was founded at the end of the 19th century, in the classical style of Vienna, as a big open space where people are not only having their early or late breakfast, but where they also can know new people and find out what is going on around the world. This role was maintained till today, even though the entire location was refurbished at least once. 

I arrived there around 9 in the morning and when I left, two hours later, the waiters had a lot of work to do. For those interested in a nice business discussion, the upper floor is the perfect location of a private setting. If you plan a bigger networking event, it suits such an opportunity as well, because there will not be outside bothering and there it is enough place to host around 20 persons without problems.

The prices are above the average. If you want to have your breakfast there, be sure that you have in your pocket at least 7-8 Euro. You can have an 'apfelstrudel', or a fruit salad or if you are so hungry and no diet pressures, even a schnitzel. 

A visit at Axel Springer Printing House

When I was in the primary school, I often went in various class trips to factories and other 'industrial objectives', as part of the communist curricula aiming to make us brave citizens of the country X. Although the pictures of the dictators X and X were everywhere, I - and probably most of my school mates - were getting a lot of fun out of those trips, with many presents and free samples - the icecream factory was a nice memory at the time, especially for me not allowed to eat more than icecream the month. 

Due to my passion for writing and later on, for journalism, the visits at the printing houses were part of  my practical education, even though I was never too much familiar with the technicalities of printing a page of newspaper or of a book. I remember for sure the hard smell of the printing and the traces of black everywhere: from the pavement to the walls, the clothes of the workers and my own clothes. 

Later on, as a journalist myself and an editor, I often heard about the printing house and the care we need to treat the news we are writing, in order to avoid the waste of time and materials because some mistakes were made in previous editions needed to be corrected with the publication of new ones. But apparently this was a problem of country-in-never ending-process-of-development, as it was the case with the country X, as during my visit to Axel Springer Printing House, the German newspapers used to publish at least 5 editions.  

Ironically enough, this visit took place years after I decided to give up the regular journalism and to focus rather on online writing activities. The guided visit, that can be booked for groups a couple of weeks in advance, was very pleasant and interesting, despite my full schedule and the very cold evening. For approximately one hour and a half, I not only watched a movie and discussed about how the newspapers are made nowadays - and apparently they will continue to be done for many years from now, even though the 2.0 optimists are still sceptical about the reason to continue cutting trees when you have everything only one button away. Being honest, I rarely buy media myself, and this happens especially when I need some reviews to read when on the road. Otherwise, 98% of the information I consume hungrily today is published online. 

First level: clean and ready to start the new round of work.

Unmanned machines are doing most part of the work at this level.

Pieces of paper left during the first printing was done.

The huge rolling papers will be soon turned into fresh newspapers.

Not too many workers around. At this stage of the production, they only need to push the right button and wait.

Everything should be at its right place.

The unmanned machine is doing the transportation work meticulously.

The huge machine hall from the next level.

The center of command.

The newspapers are almost done.

But before packing, a last checking of the details is necessary.

Good work for the moment, the rest will continue a bit later.
This printing house is considered the second in Europe - the first one is located in the paradise of newspapers - not necessarily quality ones - which is the UK. A newspaper is printed every 31 seconds, with the help of 8 huge printing machines whose noise is so terrible that many of over 300 workers need to wear permanently ear plugs. Axel Springer, the famous anti-communist bastion - publish in this printing house 9 daily newspapers, 2 weeklies and 5 Sunday supplements and publications, as well as many of the advertising leaflets. Not all the publications belong to Axel Springer group. Other printing centres are situated in Essen and Hamburg. The printing activities started at the current location in 1993. The entire area smells ink but it is so clean that one can believe that accidentally arrived in a hospital. The details of the work protection are glued everywhere. A canteen, Paparazzi, looking similarly with the one from the other headquarters of Axel Springer - where the news are effectively made - offer to the workers a variety of good and affordable products. One needs to be well feed before preparing the daily cocktail of news, isn't it?

Dienstag, 15. Januar 2013

Wish to redecorate your house?

I always thought it is nothing worth to see here...
I very often go to art galleries, but have not been to a 5-store superstore hosting the most exquisite brands since years. The last time it was in Strasbourg, when I participated at a huge fair of design and furniture and spent almost 5-6 hours - due also to the discussions with the representatives of the companies exhibiting.

Such a colorful corner!
I went yesterday at Stilwerk to finish my documentation about kitchenware and kitchen furniture, but I spent most of the time wandering around and taking pictures - no one told me to stop, and with the exception of 2-3 shops with specific interdiction flagged at the door (ironically enough, there were my target shops), my camera was welcomed - of gorgeous living rooms and creative pieces of furniture. 
Some crazy corners by Isola Bella

Aerial view of a prospective bedroom
Even if I pass by the shop at least once the week in the last 3 years, I never considered that I can find there something interesting to see. Actually, for a long time I not even knew what this Stilwerk means, thinking that it may be an office building. There it is a lot to walk and if you are too tired you can stop at the nice coffee, with designer tables, situated at the ground level, or to use the elevator for the transportation between levels. The restroom is clean and stylish, and a wardrobe is also available, everything at the 5th floor. Stilwerk is a partner shop of Miles and More, an encouragement to travel more and shop even more. Conferences and concerts are organized there from time to time and tomorrow, I plan to return again, for a Dr. Hautschka beauty hour. 

I am still looking for a cool rugshop in Berlin
As everywhere else, those weeks are open for sales and you can find a lot of good deals for refurnishing your apartment. But before you start dreaming, think seriously about your budget. Most probably you need at least 1000 Euro for a serious facelift of your house. I enjoyed a lot the style - and the nice musical ambiance - from Lambert, which suits largely my design style, I loved the diversity of chairs displayed by Zeitlos and check the latest fine creations from Design Forum and Poggenpohl.

It was relatively busy for Monday afternoon, with a couple of curious Russian customers, frantically taking pictures of the most expensive items and trying to express their wishes for one or another pieces of furnitures in the most loud possible way. 

I ended up my tour with lots of new ideas about interior design, but also with some nice photos and ideas for articles. I was the winner this time. 

Montag, 14. Januar 2013

Jean et Lili

The creative corner
When I asked today if Jean et Lili is a new shop, I was told that maybe the location from Rosenthalerplatz, where I was, is 12-month old only, but the one from Kreuzberg is already seven-year old. Apparently, I have enourmous things to learn about Berlin, and this was one of my lessons for today.

Some colorful scarfs, nothing to die for, actually
I entered the shop completely by accident, as I was in the area and relatively early for a meeting and wanted to spend some couple of minutes without having a specific destination. Two seconds after I entered the shop -attracted by the sweet window - I was welcomed with a smile and asked if I am looking for something. It was nothing special I was looking for - from scarfs, some designer clothes - obviously not the strong point of the business - some handmade lamps and veilleuses, handmade postcards and travel diaries. Last but not least, I saw here the famous Aleppo soap, apparently 'Made in Syria'. 

I had a look at the nice colors and acquarelle-like products and loved the ambiance so much that I was about to be late to my meeting. Somehow, it is this combination of sweetness, still life and a bit of kitsch that makes East Berlin and Berlin in general so attractive. Live your life, be what you want to be, and do it with lazy passion. 

This is what I will need maybe, after my Moleskine reserves are finished

For a second, I tried to stop thinking about politics

Isn't it 'suess'?
The prices are acceptable and now is the open season for sales. On the website you can order from 20Euro on, with around 6 Euro shipping costs. The orders can be delivered only within Germany. 

A parfume only for Berlin

I wrote over one year ago about a company producing wellness products Made in Berlin, today I've found a perfume Made in Berlin - it is called Breath of Berlin. It has the shape of the TV Tower and has four fragrances: two for men and two for women. It is already for 8 years on the market - without my acknowledgement, of course. The fragrances, produced by the company Majahti, is distributed only in Berlin, and only in the high-end locations of KDW and Galeries Lafayette. 

Out of the four choices, I loved one of the two men choices: sour-fresh top notes (grapefruit, bergamot) and woody-aromatic change (sandelwood, lavender, thyme). Interesting combinations of fragrances can be found in all the four types. For instance, Women-gold contains: fresh-fruity top notes (mandarine, citrus), with elegant sweet-spicy change (vanilla, white musk, pimento). The silver option for women has: aromatic-fresh top notes (black currant, cardamon) and berry-floral change (blackberry, jasmin, lilly of the valley). I do not associate all those beautiful fragrances with Berlin, but maybe I should think more and more and more about it.

If you are not in Berlin any more and you want to keep your breath fresh, you can order online, via the website. 

Fashion week in Berlin

Fashion week at KDW
Berlin is celebrating this week a couple of fashion events, with the best designers in town expected to present their collections under the generous support of Mercedes Benz. I am not one of those editors invited to the outrageous party of fashion people and did not register either for any of the cocktails and presentations held under the closed doors. Instead, I prepare a couple of interesting features about Berlin designers and will also make my humble present felt where do you expect less. Stay around and get some nice fashion news from not such a fashionable person.

Research at KDW

It seems that at KDW, the unhappy East Germans took the power 
Let's say that you are at the famous KDW, trying to do some research about kitchen wares and porcelain. Honestly, you should be very very rich to enjoy not only the pleasure of writing about such a generous topic. The good news is that it is the open season for sales and you can find a temptations for less than 10 Euro - as, for instance, some Kenzo homewares.

A lovely corner 
Anyway, as was there on a kind of press trip and I do not have any budget this month for such eccentricities. Instead, I was there as a little spy with a big camera. And, again, I was welcomed with the usual greeting that I got more than one year ago, when I was gathering information for my guides: 'Sie duerfen nicht fotografieren!' But this was the only sentence uttered to me while wandering for almost one hour between the shelves with butterflies from Villeroy, the silverwares by Wilkers, the colourful counters from Wedgewood and my latest great discovery, Sieger by Diane Furstenberg. However, with the exception of the nice lady from Lalique - apparently, the rules 'the higher the price of the product, the higher the investment in training the customer relations representatives' is always working -, I did not see everyone smiling or careful to help the customers wandering around. Unless if they were not daring to take pictures and woke them up with the noise of the flash. 'Sie duerfen nich fotografieren'...

At least, the ladies selling beauty and make-up products were so welcoming and interested to present their products that I instantly booked some appointments for massage and body care in the next weeks.

The Russian storyboard

When I enter the small Russian shop at Fehrbellinerplatz I feel like Alice in the Soviet Wonderland. Time stopped decades ago, with the fresh products from the time of perestroika. Even the people visiting the shop and talking Russian look as characters from an old Mosfilm movie. 

The covers of the sweets are the most challenging test for the Western mind. Guess to what story these characters belong to? Red cap and the good bear? I should ask the lady in charge with the shop one of the next days...

A family hostel in Schoeneberg

Are you thinking about visiting Berlin but your budget is very limited? If you plan a group trip and if you are not one of those sophisticated tourists that even if they pay 20 Euro the night they still wait for the room service to answer at 2am, Sunshinehouse Berlin may be helpful. 

Right now, the winter price is applied which means less than 20 Euro. You need to book at least two nights, and the reservation can be done online or by phone. The rooms may vary, from those provided with a small kitchen and a restroom and shower cabin - the family choice - to the small ones with shared bathroom, the favorite choice of the independent travelers. 

The building is colorful, with nice reception people - at least they were so today, at 10.30 when I did a little journalistic checking of the location. You can order breakfast for an extra fee and the towels must be rented, if you do not bring yours with you. It is a non-smoking place and thus you should not hesitate to bring your children with you. They have a yard where you can barbecue and some games at the reception that can be used at the end of an exhausing day of travel in the city. 

It is situated close to the Innsbrucker Platz S and U-Bahn with good connections anywhere in Berlin. There are also bus lines available and you can arrive within one hour to any of the big attractions in town. If you are in the middle of planning your trip to Berlin, now you have another option that must be added to the list.

Sonntag, 13. Januar 2013

My lesson in German Art Nouveau

I cannot think twice when it comes to continuing my documentation about the cultural life of my city of Berlin. Sooner after I realized yesterday my ignorance when it comes to art deco in Berlin and in Germany in general, I decided that it is about time to visit Broehan Museum, situated relatively close to my place. 

Welcome to the world of German art nouveau
I expected to learn a lot about the topics I had on my list beforehand, but had no idea that so many people are visiting the museum at the same time with me, on such a cold Sunday afternoon. It was a kind of celebration organized at the last floor, with many elegant ladies and gentlemen, the type of Sunday fashion that I expect to meet on the streets of Wien, but still many of the visitors were on a pleasure trip with their spouses and families.

The museum is a relaxing option for anyone looking for a cultural discovery that does not require too many intellectual effort. You will find a lot of interesting interior design tips, with many pieces of furniture that were familiar to many of the visitors - 'my oma had this kind of...' were some of the most frequent observations I have heard there - and some good samples of the fine porcelain so common in many houses in Western Europe. 

For 6 Euro, I paid the entrance to a world that was about to forget. It reminded me a lot about my old cherry-wood big dinner tables and the creative tapestry of the chairs that we needed to left behind because the new doors and rooms of the new appartment were too small for allowing such a display of bourgeoisie. It also reminds me of the impressive collection of Gallés of one of my best friends from the old land, and the Limoges and Sevres and Bohemia porcelaine that we were using each week, even all we had at the time were some eggs and homemade cheese and tomatoes - hence my full sympathy for the absurd literature.  

The German art nouveau, it was mentioned, disappeared largely in the 30s and survived only in the US.  But you will not see the expansive Bohemian and Austro-Hungarian bold architecture, but the cute line of the coffee makers. Looks like a tank, isn't it?
Vive la bourgeoisie!
My favorite carner
Compared with the Bohemian and Austrian versions, the German art nouveau refugiated in the kitchen. At the beginning of the 20th century, under the influence of the French art nouveau, many German artists educated in France decided to add new lines to the food objects and pieces of furniture. The term art nouveau itself has some deep German roots, as it beared the name of an art gallery in Paris owned by Siegfried Bing, born in Hamburg. With the exception of two pieces of jewelry by Wilheml Lucas von Cranach, the majority of objects presented at the permanent exhibition has a direct functionality, that goes hand in hand with many interesting decorations, but also a couple of kitchesque appearances.

I was really impressed by the creative design of the lightning solutions. Not the usual crystal trees, but a lot of metal and glass artistry. This one is really gracious.
Nothing more, nothing less but a simple mirror, made of glass.
At the second floor of the museum there are exhibited some samples of paintings belonging to Berlin secessionism, none impressive enough to make me think too much. The worse in my opinion are Walter Leistikow's representations of Gruenewald. 

Till one of the boys doing the after-party cleaning warned me to do not take pictures - I suppose it was a joke, but was already tired and with my documentation lessons made - I collected a lot of nice images and colors, enough for warming my very cold afternoon in the city. 

A simple bed that reminded me of the Japanese simplicity. No wonder, as the art nouveau, at least during the decorative stage was strongly influenced by the Asian arts.

This creative plate is the work of creative minds that were living at the beginning of the 20th century. 

A plate from a big set aimed to be used for - what else - fish

The ridiculous trio for your bottle of whiskey or vodka: the nun, Napoleon and the Cossack

This is how I remember some of my old pieces of furniture

Especially those German artists influenced by the French art nouveau introduced a lot of natural , especially floral elements in their works. The size of this flower pot is similar to many Chinese type of pots.

Simplicity is the key to elegance

A counter with almost everything

Karl Hagemeister spent most part of his life in Werder and used as source of inspiration the luxurious landscape of Brandenburg.

Another member of Berlin Secession is Hans Baluschek, who portrayed the daily life of Berliner, with many paintings reminding of Doebler's Alexanderplatz

The teapot with chropoprase is the work of Wolfgang Tuempel,  an experienced gold and silversmith artist.

The Gruenewald paintings that I have not appreciate, signed by Walter  Leistikows

Bohemian influences, with the strong art-deco dimension

Wish I have my own Karl Hagenauer to build me such a personal mirror

Another welcoming corner

The Dutch Leerdam glass school

Swedish glass art

Me at the Chocolate Factory

The shop can be found easily
When it is rain or snow or simply cold or any other weather-related calamity, and you have some blogs to update and you love what you are writing, you should hunt the indoor activities and writing opportunities. I am not a chocolate fan and I remember how I visited the famous Chocolate Museum in Cologne simply as a journalist on duty, without any personal involvement in what I was doing, but the Beriln location of Ritter Sport was on my list for quite a long time. I think it is a great place for families with children and for passionate chocolate eaters of any age. 

Can you resist the temptation?
What you can find in the shop
It is located central, on Franzoezische Strasse and is open during the Sundays as well. I was there before 10am, and it was not lacking customers: either you have a look at the delicious cakes based on traditional Ritter chocolate recipes - you can have your special combination as well - at the cafeteria, or you visit the souvernir shops - where you can find the delicious treats with less than 1 Euro, but most probably you can easily invest at least 100 Euro without too many difficulties - this is not supposed to be a financial advice, if you did not know it already.

A little non-sweet gadget to remember Ritter
Everything is for sale
The shop, opened three years ago, is designed very colorful outside and inside. The entrance is free and you can also book a place for your and/or your children for the choco workshop where you can learn how to prepare delicious chocos. It lasts around 75 minutes and it costs around 6-9 Euro, depending on the size of the group. The reservations can be made here, both for Berlin or for Waldenbuch, where the headquarters of the company, plus an art museum, are located. If you do not have too much time for spending so much time here, but you are still interested in having an idea about what the chocolate factories are about, you can see the short exhibition explaining how the cocoa beans are turning into your addictive sweet, as well as a short presentation about Ritter.

A little exhibition about Ritter and the history of cocoa
In less than 15 minutes you will have your lesson in cocoa
As many other German businesses, it started around 100 years ago as a family project and it continues to be so. Created in 1912 and launching the famous chocolate in 1932, Ritter will be forced to suspend the production from 1940 till 1946. The business will be fully back on the market at the beginning of 1950s. In 1954, they will record an impressive achievement: 4 tons of chocolate produced in one day, thanks to the common efforts of the 100 employees they had at the time. The famous square many can't live without was introduced first in 1964 and since then it is the most recognizable image of the brand, similarly with the Toblerone bar. The business continues to grow and new sortiments are introduced on the catalogue of chocolates. The creation continues and you may find the most creative combinations, at the most incredible prices. You can afford once Ritter choco the day and you will not need anything else. Bio sortiments were introduced and the company is following the trends of the day and invests a lot in the environment and ecological causes. More than a local success, Ritter is also part of the German business and country brand, and you can purchase the products in other 90 other countries around the world.