Dienstag, 30. April 2013

Dali's world, in Mitte

Welcome in the world of Dali
As a teenager, I was passionate about Dali and did not miss any opportunity to visit any temporary or permanent exhibition set up in the towns I was visiting or living. I went to one in Vienna and even went to Figueras and took a look at the spectacular castle dedicated to Gala.

Unaware about the dispute with Gala Foundation, I avoided to see the permanent exhibition in Berlin, because I felt that I grew up and I needed somehow a big break from Dali and from surrealism in general. But today was the big day when I decided that for 1 hour and 30 minutes I should feel like any tourist visiting Berlin and stopping by to see the exhibition. Not surprisingly, I was familiar with some of the works - the illustrations of Carmen, Alice in Wonderland and Don Quijote - but most of the works I've seen were completely new for my eye.

A white piano with a tree in the middle of the water
Some of the works are really special and reminded me that he is a real genius, able to completely change the style from a work to another, while keeping its themes and interpretations, but also to address easily from ads - wonderful 6 lithographies of French regions for the Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer - to medals for the Los Angeles Olympic Games or grotesque illustrations of Gargantua and Pantagruel (if you want to bring your children with you for the exhibition it is not exactly a good idea) to various religious drawings (don't expect piety). 

Pictures and movies are adding more insights into the works and glamorous life of Dali. When I visited the museum, a Tuesday afternoon before the May 1st, it was full of visitors and the giggling girls at the reception had a lot of work to do. Taking pictures it is not allowed, but there are no restrictions apparently against using the phone and giving loudly details about the schedule for the rest of the day. In the exit area, there is a small corner where one can buy the classical Dali books and postcards, and some tables where to sip a coffee before going to the next museum or any of the attractions that abound around Potsdamer Platz. 

Mittwoch, 24. April 2013

Currywurst Museum, the class about the cult and fast food in Germany

One of the five-star curry place in Berlin
Wherever you go, at least in Berlin, one may see more fastfoods than in Texas. No wonder, as one of the creators of the concepts in Europe were the German brothers August and Carl Aschinger that moved from Swabia to Berlin in 1892 and by 1900 they already had a network of 30 fastfood points in Berlin. 
You are about to leave the Checkpoint Curry
There is more than hotdog and hamburgers to buy, but nothing has less success than the currywurst. I do not have any curiosity to taste it, but as a historian I am interested in the human and social side of this food cult. 
And where else can you learn more about a food that you don't know how it tastes but in a Museum. Yes, there is a Currywurst Museum, and even a German one, (where else) but in Berlin. According to the official data, out of the 800 million currywurst portion sold in Germany every year, 70 million are eaten in Berlin alone. 

Why to go to a Museum to learn about curried sausage?

Teenagers from all over Germany
Counting the curry

I wonder if it is any pizza museum? Or a French fries museum (I vaguely heard about one in Belgium) ? After one hour spent in the Currywurst archives, I left behind all the snobbery and decided that it is an interesting place where I've learned a lot about the history of Berlin, of its food and the fast food life in general.

Welcome in the world of curry
With guided tours available in German and English, the museum is an interactive journey not only in the history of the currywurst, but focus on the architecture of fast food counters, the recycling process of the paper plates used for the regular eating of such a meal, and the spices that may be combined for the preparation of the sauce. 
The main attraction of the museum

The corners of spices
Both children and adults will have a lot of fun playing 'CurryUp', when a virtual Currywurst must be prepared, or when one can go on the other side of the counter of a fast food box and play the vendor. The attraction point is the red ceiling with huge drops of ketchup pouring down. The tired visitors can relax on a yellow-brown sausage sofa. The design is very modern yet simple and relaxing, exactly what you need before a spicy meal - the famous food can be tasted on the spot, it is said, but I skipped this experience. 
Recycling the paper plate

Splashes of curry and cartoons messages
A secret recipe

The patent certificate
The currycouch
In case that you want to look for the recipe of the original curry sauce, you will not find it in any cookbook. Herta Henwer who invented it - by accident, as any invention, on 4th September 1949, when she combined some spices obtained from the British soldiers stationed in Berlin after the war - brought the secret with her on the other side of the world. When her husband died in 1987, all the docs where the recipe was mentioned in a way or another were destroyed. The respectable German lady was trained in dressmaking, domestic science and cooking and in 1946 was cleaning the rubble in the city. In her TV appearances aired in the Museum, she looks 'normal', like any grandma ready to share some recipes and home tips. The type of post-war star, without a daily exposure of her romantic adventures or shopping extravaganza. 

Awake the fast food lover in you!
A study quoted in Spices section says that curry have not only healing effects, but also can make you happy. For many, happiness can be found in a small slice of currywurst. 

The long road to Russia, and back home

Some love to travel to Toscana and Asia and bring back colourful pictures full of exotic lights and never ending parties. Volker Kreidler goes to the East of Europe, on the traces of old battles in the search of places where history has many stories and many discontents. The fragments of life presented at Automobile Forum Unter den Linden, that can be seen for free till 20th of May, are not the usual photographies that one may love to look at when trying to find a destination for the next summer vacation. 

Travelling intensively for years in the former Soviet space - he had another exhibition at Neuses Museum, 'Russians and Germans' -, carrying always the useful weapons of 'maps, cash, vodka and humour', Kreidler reveals the world beyond the glossy magazines and the party beats of the expensive Moscow clubs. Some landscapes look like slices of an empty and fallen world, when only the traces of garbage remind that once humans lived there. Some are keeping the colours of unique corners of natural beauty, forests where decades ago Germans and Russians were fighting for power. An interesting section of the exhibition presents various buildings in Moscow, built in the constructivist style, whose pattern can be recognized in many former communist countries. 

Those interested to listen to the author's presentation of his work, they have the occasion to meet him on May 12, at 2pm. 

A visit at Frau Tonis Perfume Manufaktur

Another Berlin brand

I carry in my agenda the presentation leaflet of Frau Tonis Perfume Manufaktur for almost 6 months. As I usually don't travel too much in Berlin during the winter, I needed more sun and a lighter schedule for a busy in an area that local people don't like it too much because always crowded and too touristic. The factory where original perfumes are made is situated in Stadmitte, minutes away from Checkpoint Charlie. The shop was opened three years ago, but the recipes are carefully cultivated in the family of Frau Tonis since 1926. 

I was the only customer of the coquette white-walled shop. Dozen of old-fashioned pharmacy bottles are arranged on the table, with etiquettes mentioning their content. In the middle of the table, a box with coffee beans, that I was explained by the nice lady in charge with the customers, is supposed to be smelled in order to neutralize the previous smell and make possible the recognition of the new smell even after trying all the bottles from the shop. For minutes, I surprised myself opening bottle after bottle and trying to decide which perfume suits me. By far, the jasmin combination are addictive, plus the linen - one of the traditional scents of Berlin. In the laboratories - situated behind the counter,  also Marlene Dietrich's favourite scent -'Reines Veilchen' - is prepared. 

The perfumes are unisex and in case that you are not happy with the variety ready made, you can prepare your own. If you use the scents available in the shop, your unique perfume may be ready in 5 minutes. If you have some extravagant idea, you might be disappointed as the olfactive creativity has some limits. A unique bottle of 50 ml. may cost 75 Euro, and 125 Euro for the 100 ml. A Berlin set of 3 bottles x 15 ml. is 44 Euro.  

Besides the perfumes, home perfumes and soaps are available. The prices are acceptable, the ambiance is inviting and if you really love the idea and the prices, workshops for small groups or companies. The big fashion companies are producing at least one new scent each season. Why to use a traditional perfume then? Because it is unique and send a special message of style. You may be not another girl wearing Chanel - that I equally love - , but the sophisticated lady in love with jasmin and peppermint. 

Mittwoch, 17. April 2013

Colourful shopping @Pylones

Right in the middle of the fancy heart of the high-class shopping district in Berlin, on Ku'damm 225, a oasis of colours and gift ideas, at affordable prices compared to the average of prices displayed by other shops around. It is called Pylones and it comes from Paris.

An invitation to more colours
At the first sight, the collection of colours - from toasters to hair brushes and animal head - shaped plates - does look aggressive and a little bit kitsch. However, if you have the time and look at each object you may find the idea of buying a present from here from someone sweet back home more than lovely. In spring and summer and not only, we need life and positive energy and a bit of eccentricity and at Pylones you can encourage the kid in you. 

Idea for the garden or for the children's room

The personnel is welcoming, English speaking and ready to help. The music can be loud sometimes, but it is a reminder that you can also rock the world in your own colours.

Overwhelmed by the colours, isn't it?

Your kids will love eating in such plates

Something I consider buying for my kitchen soon

Dienstag, 16. April 2013

4 years in Berlin

I did not know too much about the place I was landing
Four years ago, I was landing in a city I hardly knew, excited to start a new chapter in my life. Beyond the stereotype of 'starting a new chapter...' it was how things went on in the past 208 weeks. Except the time when I was a kid, it is the first time in my adult life when I continuously live for so much time in the same place, without changing the address and the town and the country.

Maybe the key of my latest success is that I did not arrive here with any expectations, but to have a nice and real life. With enough work for having free time for me and my family, and enjoying a certain financial stability, but without having the feeling that I do not have any pleasure to spend them, because sick of too much work.

Overall, it was an amazing time of my life. Building up the future I always wanted to have, enjoying the freedom of being so anonymous that no one will care too much what I am doing, discovering each day a new dimension of my spirituality. Living the simple life that I always tried to run away of because considered it is too simple to be authentic. 

I am convinced that sooner or later another city will call me for longer, for ever or for a short time. I do have some thoughts about it, but contrary to the big hurry that I had to move in Berlin, this time I will graciously move with patience and calculating the necessity of every step I take. It is spring again in the city and I couldn't care less about philosophical questions and abstract answers. I enjoy the life and try to put my excitement into simple words.

What Berlin helped me to do

The last four years I've done an amazing amount of things that I did not expect to do, even though I always wanted to. It was always my career and academic life that were put on the first place, with nothing left for a real life experience. This time, I decided to change the spin and to get more in touch with my real self, not the one that the others expected to show off.

I fully enjoyed getting to know more about:

Something that I discovered days ago in an area where I go weekly
- Cooking! I took a couple of classes - in African and Persian cuisine - plus the daily discoveries of foods and recipes. I am sorry I could not record my first encounter with an avocado and the desperate moment when I was not able to understand exactly the YouTube video about how to cut a pineapple. I started as the nightmare of any chef and ended up not only trying the most sophisticated recipes and baking bread every 2-3 days, but also trying to help other people find their cooking self. 

- Photography! With the help of my late Nikon, I took over 10,000 pictures, some of them published, some of them kept for later. I carried it with me everywhere and I tried to learn each and every day, despite the fact that my entire life all I knew was to play with words. The images opened new perceptions and perspectives on life, travel and journeys. I did buy another camera till the health of the master will be recovered with a proper financial investment, and I will continue to learn how to use my eyes. More to come in the next days, weeks and months.

- Chinese painting! Even though I did not practice too much in the last year and a half, the time spent for developing my painting skills was extremely valuable for someone that always dreamed to spend time in China, and even write a book about it. This childhood dream is still on hold, but the painting classes brought me closer to a different way to communicate images and my own feelings.

- Networking! I came here without knowing more than 5 people and I end up with a lot of new acquaintances and friends, and with an extremely lively social life. As my interests changed, many of those friendships went through different stages, but at least I know that when I really want to go out and to do certain activities, I have a broader choice of company.

- Life! I used to have a corporate, exhausting and bureaucratic life! I used to wait for hours doing nothing till I was receiving an answer for a project from a boss or another. I used to travel each day in a different town, without realizing clearly which country I am, as all I was able to do was to answer phone calls and prepare presentations. I used to work non-stop and do things I did not believe in it and socialize because it was a professional duty to do so. Those times are happily gone for ever. I am able to organize my time in the most efficient way, with time for family, writing for pleasure and reading for satisfying my curiosity. My main duty is to be sure that at the end of the day I gain a new sparkle of knowledge and I did good deeds. I don't fight with and against people for pitches and I don't really care how important they are, even they are evil. 

What I still need to do:

- I intensively went out around the city, but there are still a couple of areas that I don't know. I will try to explore them in the next weeks, but I still cannot believe how it is possible to not cover 100% of the city despite such an intensive social life and professional curiosity to write and photograph the city?

- My trips outside Berlin were limited and I have an approximate knowledge of the rest of the country. I have a long list of priorities, but I prefer to use the time and financial resources for trips abroad, a strategy that is not extremely smart, after all.

Life can be exhausting sometimes...
- Learning German was the biggest unexpected challenge. I arrived here with a good knowledge that I lost while trying to improve my English and other non-German languages. The result is that I speak quite slowly and I write as someone with a problematic IQ. The good news is that I love to read in German and I have more books that I am interested to read in the next weeks. Probably, it will help me to upgrade my status. This will help me automatically to have more authentic dialogue with the local people, as most of the time I socialize and interact with other fellow expats. 

There are also some negative parts about the city:

- Drinking and smoking are so widespread! As someone who decided to give up smoking after 20 times of really enjoying this bad habit, I feel annoyed by the lack of control of people, especially women, keen to spend every time outdoor by smoking. As for the drinking, allowing people to wave their bottles in public spaces has as direct consequence, the violent and aggressive behaviours encountered in certain areas of the city, during the week-end or after 3-4 o'clock. 

- A vague rejection of unsuccessful foreigners, especially expressed by people from the 'countryside'. The good point is that if you are really good and outperforming, you are appreciated, especially if you try to speak German.

- Laziness, aka reliance on social services. I know people that did not work for years and are happy with that. They complain about burnout and hard life, and the pressures of the economic crisis and lack of jobs - the latter is quite true - but when it comes to giving them the opportunity to work, nothing is good enough for their standards, except the pleasure of receiving the Hartz IV welcomed support. I still did not solve the riddle of the miraculous economic stability of a country where working is not on the daily menu of many brave citizens. 

Love the city, not the weather!
- Proletarian way of dressing. I live in an area where I can see elegant people wearing nice bags matching stylish shoes and a good looking make-up. But in most cases, the lack of fine style is disturbing for the eyes and each time I try to explain how I used to spend at least one hour the week at the hairdresser I am faced with an outrageous look. 

- Last but not least, the champion of all evils is the horrible, horrible, horrible weather. 

What's next? More nice posts and inspiration, maybe some serious travel booklet that waits to be written for at least one year and a half, more photography and a lot of happiness, wherever I am!

Montag, 15. April 2013


I wanted to let the whole world know that finally the most amazing time of the year is here: (finally) spring in Berlin. When I was walking today for a couple of hours under the hot sun, I could not believe that almost two weeks ago it was so rainy and snowy that I nearly missed the celebration of my 4 years since the relocation in Berlin. 

The sunny weather entered our grey lives on Sunday, but was not sure that it will be for good, so as a cautious journalist that I am, I wanted to wait another 24 minutes and a picture with flowers for giving such an impressive statement: Spring is here! 

It is all I can say right now, but soon I will be back with more posts and some 'anniversary' writing after four years of easy and sweet but not extremely sunny life in Berlin!

See you soon!