Donnerstag, 22. August 2013

Hummus nostalgy, at Nanoosh

At the beginning of last December, shortly after the official opening, I visited the German variant of Nanoosh on the occasion of a social event for expats and promised to be back very soon to have a proper tasting of their food. However, it took me more than half a year to return. Maybe my longing for the Middle East was not too strong till today. What I know for sure is that it did not took me too much time to order a simple humus and some eggplants with sesame seeds and a rich olive oil in the middle. With a lemonade and a pita. The menu is basically organic, with a Mediterranean flavour: falafel, labane, salads with raisins. I really loved my food, but to be honest, I rather recognized a good healthy Turkish Mediterranean style that made me miss the 'hard-core' Middle Eastern menus, and hummus, even more. It's all for the good.

The service was moderately fast, but it seemed that the preparation lasted longer for those ordering take-aways. Around 12, when I arrived, the restaurant was almost empty. In the next 30 minutes, most of the indoor and outdoor tables were taken. The design is simple, giving a touch of style to the place. It keeps being a fast food but one for people with healthy habits. The prices are low to moderate, with a menu designed with humour and good inspiration. 
Most probably, for my next encounter with Nanoosh it will not take me another 6 months. 

A Foreigner at the Barbie House

Even though I did not grow up as a kid with a Barbie doll, and I am not a big fan of the idea, I decided that I want to pay a visit to the Barbie house in Berlin acting under the impulse of curiosity. I've been to Disneyland and I've found interesting the constructions and design of a world of dreams so why not taking the advantage of going to see the pink show? As the house is still open till the 1st of September and I will be away the next week, I hurried up to. After around 40 minutes of trying to find the location - it always happens like this when I go East - I succeeded to find the location. Everything was built new a couple of months ago and from outside, it looks like a Hollywood setting diminished for the size of Berlin. A cafe with tables outside, serving icecream and doughnuts, and a huge pink shoe were the welcome card to the visitor. 
After buying my ticket, I was invited in a big pink elevator. The 'windows' played movies with Barbie speaking German about her wonderful life and adventures. One will visit all the stores of the house: bedroom, living room, closet - an impressive space that a Barbie girl or not, anyone of us dreamed about, at least for enjoying such a generous space. Not everything is pink, as you can see - especially in the wedding room area -, but true is that most part of the house is. 
With a bracelet received at the entrance, the children can access various electronic outlets that offer fragments of Barbie's life. The children also have sheets of paper for colouring. At the last stop, 'Barbie in Paris', a small neutral reconstruction of a corner of Paris, children are singing and dancing on a stage. There are also some beauty corners, with nail polishes and make-up available to try. 
It is interesting to observe the design of the furniture and of the rooms in general, likening the general style of some American houses. Berlin and Germany in general is more minimalist and less, much less glamorous, including when it comes to girls education. I can't imagine how a German variant of 'Sex in the City' can look like. However, I am sure that even for a couple of hours, children will enjoy an adventure in Barbie land. Everything is simple, colourful and entertaining. A true 'Barbie house experience'.

Mittwoch, 21. August 2013

Forgotten architects in Berlin - Harry Rosenthal

There is always something to discover in Berlin, and architecture is one of my favorite arts. The city has a lot of samples of good architecture, mostly from the inter-war period. This spectacular villa is situated on Konstanzerstrasse 26/27. It occupies a big part of the street and is the only one from this part of the long Konstanzerstrasse who has business spaces. When it was originally planned by Harry Rosenthal for the banker Eugen Bab, those spaces did not exist. 
The ground floor was spacious offering enough space to be used for various family needs. In between storeys, a portico was aimed to balance the relatively massive construction. As many other houses in the area, it has a big garden, with a little forest of trees. The original roof keeps only partially the original structure. At the beginning, it also has a private synagogue nowadays destroyed and a swimming pool.  
The Zarathustra freeze in the vestibule was maintained. Born in Posen, Harry Rosenthal studied architecture in Munich and Poland. In 1923, he started his career as independent architect and planned several private residences in Berlin, as well as in popular residences in Brandenburg, such as Bad Saarow. He was also expert in interior design, being able to add his personal touch to the entire ensemble of the buildings designed. In 1933, he fled to Palestine where he stayed for 5 years. Relocated to London he was not able to relaunch his career and besides some low profile jobs for the Sommerfeld architects, among others, he did not produce anything outstanding. 

Dienstag, 20. August 2013

The Congress, by Ari Folman, opens the Fantasy Film Festival

Ari Folman talking about the Congress, at the Apple Store
Berlin is stereotypically called as 'the place to be' but it can be as well be considered a fantasy place where one most likely will encounter a lot of outstanding unbelievable adventures. In other words, 'the place you did not know you can be'. Hosting here a Fantasy Film Festival sounds more than natural, even though the caravan of movies will move till the mid-September in 6 more German towns: Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Koeln and Nuerenberg.
Till the caravan is put into motion, the next eight days are a good opportunity to see how far the human creativity can get. Very often, you don't need to go too far to find the right inspiration. The film maker Ari Folman - Waltz with Bashir - decided to give a 21st century translation to Stanislaw Lem's novel The Futurological Congress. The movie was presented at Cannes in May and 10 days ago in Warsaw, to some members of Lem's family - the author died a couple of years ago. From 12 September, the Congress will be on the screens of German movie theatres. 
After carrying the burden of the international success of Waltz with Bashir, Folman said that wanted to get some distance from politics and wars. The Congress explores the limits of cinematographic imagination and out of time travel by mixing fragments of reality, real actors action and animation. Robin Wrights plays his own role, being an actress looking to keep herself young for ever. She will enter a Disneyland reality of the future, with a religious preacher emulating Steve Jobs, Michael Jackson, Frida Kahlo and Osama bin Laden, among others. (As for Folman, if he will once be a character in his own animated movie, he will rather prefer to take about the future of entertainment over a vegetarian meal with Frank Zappa). The movie combines around 40 minutes of 'real action' followed by a lot of animation activity. In order to create a good and credible inspiration to the team working the animation - based in Tel Aviv - the entire movie was filmed with real actors. 
The movie was made in 9 locations, among which Berlin, Northern Westphalia and California. Folman recognized that the technology challenged changed completely the way in which movies are made, but did not see a reason to worry about it. 'It's fine, it's life', he said giving the example of the young kids growing up with computer games and iPads who did not care if the characters from movies are 'real' or not.

Donnerstag, 15. August 2013

Travel. With or without apps

A couple of hours ago, I caught on social networks a discussion about the pros and cons of travel apps against the 'pure art and freedom'. Of course that such a discussion was referred to a place from Berlin, a cult destination for all the hippie alternative people, but also for some curious individuals keen to discover the history of the Cold War: Teufelsberg listening station. The app in discussion presents a combination of various texts and audio guidance aimed to explain the history of the building. The author was accused of aiming to turn this place of pure arts and spirits into a fancy hipster location, altering its 'Romanticism'.
During the Cold War, at Teufelsberg - a hill created from the debris of the bombed buildings - the US, with the approval of its Western Allies, created the biggest listening station in the free world. It was said that all the conversations held in the East  where only sounds away from the ears of the analysts from West Berlin, qualified to decrypt and interpret the exchange of messages in order to understand what was going on the other side of the Curtain. Apparently it seems that the decoding was not easy to be make as long as the Cold War lasted for so long. In 1992, the activity was resumed. In the good days, I am sure that the place was looking interesting and with the latest technology at the time plus a nice green view - it was hidden by the trees of the Grunewald forest. Nowadays, it is a cult place where even those without the single interest in the Cold War will visit it for the graffiti art and the journey through various dirts and rests of drinking and smoking sessions. You walk through rests of windows and cables laying on the floor like the Americans left only a couple of weeks ago. I recognize that I still don't understand why all those deserted former official buildings give this impression of being recently left, decades after they stop being used. I 'visited' the former embassy of Saddam's Irak where impressive amounts of propaganda files are flooding the entire place. It's like you expect a grinning Saddam to pat you on the back and send you to the prison for overpassing property.
At Teufelsberg, the deserted place is huge and not necessarily recommended to be visited during the night. There are people specialized in offering tours of the place - including a former American employee of the station, because without some guidance and explanation, anyone curious to learn something about the history of the building will never understand what was all about. Try to explain to someone in his or her 20s, for instance why were all those cables about? And what about the while big balloon on the top of the building? (Offering a proper phonic isolation, among others) Officially, it is illegal to visit the place, but unofficially, around 80 people are going there each week, especially during the week-end when it can be as crowded as a museum. 
Hence, I think that an app or written guide or any support to the traveller for the first or second time in Teufelsberg is useful. This place, as the Iraqi Embassy and other similar places - it is a deserted former Soviet base in Potsdam as well, with military uniforms left on chairs -, is already a kitsch. (Parties at the Iraqi embassy, anyone?)  Feel free to pick 10 beers and spend the entire vacation there, reading the not-always-so-inspired scribbling on the walls. Or start a graffiti work. But for the less talented and sophisticated ones, everything that can bring more light into the strange recent history of Europe is more than welcomed. For years, the area is already considered as a good real estate investment and I am not sure that the former listening station will resist as such in the next 5 years.  At the normal human scale, it takes an average of around 3 years to pass over a big distress. In historical terms, maybe it is about time to go beyond the cables left and try to look to something different. 
Apps will not destroy tourism, as the GPS did not eliminated from use the simple paper maps. I love my Kindle, but will buy physical books as well. Everything that can help someone be more than a visitor is openly welcomed into my world. Technique in itself is not prone to destroy anything. People without education and not understanding the past can destroy everything. 

This post was originally posted on my travel blog:

Dienstag, 13. August 2013

Enjoying the silence. At the Museum of Musical Instruments.

Only the sound of the photo cameras broke the overwhelming silence at the Museum of Musical Instruments. A Tuesday afternoon, on a very hot day, there were many people visiting the relatively small place gathering instruments from all over the ages and countries. But, somehow, even the little children wandering through the glass boxes were extremely silent. Many were enjoying the audio guided tours, but not few of them, including me, preferred to go from a place to another, have a look at the instruments and set up their own musical stories.
Situated a couple of minutes away from the Berliner Philharmoniker and the busy Potsdamer Platz, the Museum also hosts a research institute and a music library. Almost 4,000 instruments are hosted in the exhibition space. Every Saturday, there are tours and concerts taking place, for children and adults. After almost one hour of visit at the museum, I felt the need of a serious guidance, as the instruments presented - many of them former properties of famous historical personalities such as the flutes from the collection of Frederick the Great or Benjamin Franklin glass harmonica - also had a very important social and historical side that are largely unknown to the non-specialist. The children were enjoying the exhibition as any instrument was like a little world of surprises in itself. So bad that it was not anyone able to play something for them - like it happened at a similar, but smaller museum in Estoril, Portugal, when the guide put out of the glass boxes some of the instruments and showed us how does they work. 
At the first floor, more modern instruments are presented, as well as a very complicated article about models of music perception. I must recognized that I was already a bit tired after many other museums and cultural encounters and did not have the proper mental set-up for such a difficult exploration. At the same level, there are many guitars - the ground flour is apparently dedicated to pianos and organs, as well as flutes and harps - but also a simple explanation about how the instruments are made. 
The visit at the museum is a very relaxing experience. I only need to find a day when I can also be part of a full guided tour. 

Montag, 12. August 2013

A Foreigner at Berlinische Galerie

I still have a lot of things to learn both about Berlin and the history of visual arts in Germany so when I find an occasion to cover two topics at once, I can't say 'no'. I wanted for a long time to visit Berlinische Galerie but somehow for years I only went in the neighbourhood once or twice without being tempted to enter. Last week, I took one day off from my home office for discovering a couple of museums and galleries that were on my priority list but without a specific reason slipped on second or thirds places. Thus, watch this blog for more museum wanderings and wondering to come in the next days.

The entrance to the gallery is fully in accordance with the spontaneity of modern arts: a 'carpet of words' that introduces the visitor to the temporary and permanent exhibitions of art. The temporary exhibitions are situated on the ground floor. This time, the space was shared between: the winner of Vattenfall Contemporary prize Katja Strunz exploring the monumental architecture; the photographer Tobias Zielony introducing the Trona community from the Californian desert - described in a couple of words by a youngster living there as follows: 'When you have absolutely nothing to do you do bad things' - and a moving visual investigation into the world of sex slaves. A more optimistic and creative mood is brought by the collages of the German artist Henning Bohl. Another interesting exhibition is dedicated to the recent history of the new governmental district in Berlin, especially after the unification. As in the case of many other areas of the city, it is still work in process.
The architecture of the gallery in itself is very creative and set to offer a lot of space for exhibition while leaving enough privacy to the visitor to grasp alone the symbols of the visual challenges. The first floor is dedicated to the history of contemporary arts in Germany, with a specific focus on the work of those having Berlin as their creative headquarters. The space is getting smaller but big enough to offer a panorama of the state of the arts from the end of the 19th century till the post-war period.
Dadaist constructions
The history of German arts cannot easily be separated from the history of the country in itself. It sounds very natural for me, but I am sure many supporters of the pure arts-for-arts perspective will not agree with me. The historical illustration is mostly covered by the collection of photography exhibited, such as Erich Solomon's, Lotte Jacobi (author of one of famous Einstein's photos) and Rudolf Schlichter's presented various stages from the history of Berlin. Among the other works presented are those signed by George Grosz, Felix Nussbaum, Naum Gabo, El Lissitzky or Arthur Segal. So many things to see and understand that I would love to be back soon, eventually with someone able to tell me more art stories.  

Freitag, 9. August 2013

A little lesson about Berlin architecture

I wish I know much more about the history of architecture of Berlin. And more than that, about the history of the architects from Berlin. In the last years, I've seen a couple of information displayed in various points from the city that helps a lot of understand the city. What can be a city without the stories of its houses?
Wish I can find a complete catalogue with the more or less recent history of architecture in Berlin and I am sure that I should find it somewhere. While going to see the Berlinische Galerie - a post coming up soon - I passed by the spectacular building of IG Metall. First, my eyes were caught by the Jugendstil writing style, but when I looked up in the sky, I was even more impressed by the delicate balance of the volumes and the courageous sharp lines of the concave roof. 

A couple of information about the history of the building and the architect are provided on a The building was designed by Erich Mendelsohn, that together with Rudolf Reischel won the public competition launched in 1928 by the German Metal Workers Union.
The choice of Mendelsohn was based on his long experience and achievements in terms of designing industrial buildings. Trained in Berlin and Munich - where he went familiar also with the creative works of Blaue Reiter movement - he is the author of various architectural projects in Germany, many of them focused on trade and industrial buildings, such as the department stores in Stuttgart or Chemnitz, Columbus Haus in Potsdamer Platz, or Einstein Tower in Potsdam. Around 1933, there were around 500 Jewish architects in Germany, that from 1 November were banished from practice. Among them Mendelssohn that chose to move to London, where he met among other the next president of the state of Israel, Chaim Weizmann. Later on, he would design the buildings of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem or of the Chaim Weizmann Institute of Science from Rehovot. In 1944, he moved to the US where he spent the rest of his life.
The newly renovated building of IG Metall is hosting nowadays also the offices of the Chamber of Architects. 

Mittwoch, 7. August 2013

Researching Berlin fashion, at Savigny Platz

I am trying to get as much as possible information about the Berlin fashion those days, and where else can I do the best research but on the streets and in the boutiques? Of course I did read a lot of books about the history and the state-of-arts of the Berlin fashion and design industry. And I am also very careful to look as much as possible around trying to understand the latest trends (not easy, I must confess). However, I noticed lately that this year it seems that compared to previous seasons, more girls are trying to be more stylish and wear skirts and dresses and maybe a bit of nice make-up too. I feel a little less snobbish then. 
Nothing compares with the feeling of entering a shop and moving around, looking at the models and textures, eventually asking some details or even trying some of them. Of course I am not buying anything, unless for the sake of the documentation.
Yesterday, I did some basic research in the area around Savigny Platz, situated between Ku'damm and Wilmersdorferstrasse. On one end you have the top fashion industry and prices, on the other the cheap and common type of clothes. It is a great place not only for fashion, but also for bars and restaurants, some of them with live music late in the weekend nights. Who says we don't have entertainment in the West?

It looks colourful and small, and it is situated in an area under construction right now. When you see clothes hanging out in the front of the shop you can expect some cheap second-hand items, but in reality the prices are quite high, even during the sales, with an average of 40-50 Euro, or even more. The Indian/Oriental colours and texture are applied to X-XL shapes. It is recommended for 50+, but if you search a bit more and you like the extra-large hippie style, you can surely find something, including skirts and dresses. The space is small and the customer service is non-existent - meaning if you ask you will receive the answer, otherwise no one will bother you.
This is a shop presenting things more closer to my style. It is close to a hair saloon and the only annoyance may be the first time when you hear the subway over, as it is situated exactly under the railway area. It is cleanly designed, with a lot of space and a smiling customer service. There are mostly urban outfits, for simple hipster ladies, from 25 yo on. Expect products made in France, Italy or designed by Filippa K. Medium to high prices. The kind of shop where you go just in case that you will find something you don't need at all.
On the right side of the exit from the S-Bahn you will find my favourite fashion boutique in the area, presenting mostly creations by the Swiss fashion designer Esther Thomas. Lovely dresses and blouses, made from flowerly textures. A good branding for Switzerland are also the picturesque postcards aimed to present the prices (high for the Berlin standards, but who cares when you really love what you wear) and some details about the products. Fine cashmere addicts, get ready to find 1-2-3-4-5 items that you may want to take home. A couple of products are aimed for elegant and cute looking children. I loved the colours, size and designs too. 
The last stop of my mini-fashionista tour opened the door to a shop similar in style with the one I started with, except the interior design and the diversity of the products. You can find happy-hippie models, but also some evening options. I saw 2 interesting models of bags - imitating the size of a hat box - that I would love to wear one day. The interior design is funny (it looks better from outside), with some kitschy big lights and a huge flower at the entrance. 
Warning available for all shops I've visited: no proper air condition and if you go there when outside there are around 35 Celsius, expect to feel a higher heat wave. Surprisingly, none of those shops did to care too much about the way in which their shop look like. 
To be continued.

Camera Work and rocks

I may not like their music, but I surely loved their photography. Hidden in an elegant interior yard close to Savigny Platz S-Bahn station, Camera Work is inviting the passers by to an exhibition of photography of big show-biz music stars. It sounds light and entertaining, but the photography exposed is the result of hard creative work. I was impressed by the quality of the work as well as the general design of the exhibition hall. 
David Bowie and Madonna are the most represented, but you will also see Jim Morrison, Serge Gainsbourg (my favourite), Jimi Hendrix, Vanessa Paradis, Mick Jagger, Elvis Presley (during his service in Germany, in 1958), the Beatles (including a Yoko and John lascivious instant caught by Annie Leibowitz)  or Snoop Doggy Dog. Many of them are excellent because they caught up exactly that special look, eye movement or expression that usually makes a picture unique. In painting, it is not that difficult to create emotion, but in photography, especially portrait photography, it's a matter of being ready to push the button at the right moment. Such an intuition cannot be learned, but the result of a long exposure to images and human life in general. 
At the beginning of the 20th century, Camera Work was the name of a quarterly photographic journal, created by the American photographer Alfred Stieglitz, published for over a decade (1903-1917). The German art gallery was created in 1997. It regularly presents contemporary photography reunited under a specific topic, like movies, gender issues etc.. This exhibition can be seen till 17 August. Most of the painting presented can be bought, from prices between 2,000 and 37,500 Euro (for Madonna). The entrance is free. It has another location in Berlin opened the last year. 

Dienstag, 6. August 2013

Testing cakes at Nico's

Every time I go around Fasanenstrasse and Ku'damm on Saturdays without a notebook or a camera, I usually see a lot of new places that I am interested to test during the week. I should be careful to keep in mind the details of the location for going back as soon as I still have fresh memories about the address. This Saturday, for instance I saw Nico's and thought it is relatively easy to keep it in mind, but today, when tried to return for a sweet break after a couple of early work, I did not get it from the first try. It is situated at the end of Fasanenstrasse close to Hohenzollerndamm, on a very quiet part of this big street, isolated from the busy areas of Ku'damm, but hosting a lot of nice fashion outlet boutiques. I was wandering how many people may know about this place but as in the middle of the day all the 4 tables outside were busy, I realized that for people living in the immediate neighborhoud street, it is already a well known destination for the mornings. On Saturday, when I passed by it was also crowded. As in many other cases in Germany, companies do not invest too much in advertising but rely to the invisible network of personal recommendations.
The interior is elegantly and stylish decorated. Exactly of my choice: not too heavy, not too simple, just in the middle. The good ambiance to feel good, regardless of why you are there and of the moment of the day or of the year. It is perfect for a (first) date out or for a family discussion. It was very pleasant for me to stay outside, organize my notes with the latest schedule of blog posts while listening to the classical musical background. If you decide to go on your own, you will not get bored: besides watching people coming and going, you can also read some of the newspapers available inside.
But the reason I was there was not to get some tips about interior design, but to do some foodie tasting, isn't it? The pyramid on the left side is made of small tarts.
I am quite good to make observations about what I see, but it is always hard to decide what I want to eat. The options in the front of my eyes did not make my life easiear either. I eliminated the big slices and decided that the small tartellettes will be the choice for another occasion. I saw some cherry-chocolate cake but I am always careful with chocolate. The strawberries are not always my fruits of choice so, the blueberry tart on the left was the best option.
The prices are acceptable: a coffee and a cake around 6 Euro, the coffee being the cheapest. The cappuccino was not that great, the usual type that I usually can order to any simple bakery. The strongest point of the tart was the fruit selection: juicy, naturally sweet blueberries. The base was so and so, maybe too sweet for my taste, but fortunately, the richness and freshness of the fruits diminished the effect. Maybe I glass of water would have been a good option too. The menu includes also a lot of special types of teas so probably the next time I am in the mood to test something new and fast, I will improve my knowledge in this domain. 

Eating Tibetan

Where else can you make a tour of the cuisines of the world in only a couple of hours? In Berlin, where everything is new, diverse and cheap. One week ago, I was looking for a clean and creative place to eat after a couple of hours of walking. On Rykestrasse, there are so many options that at the end of the day, someone so hard to be convinced about the qualities of the food can easily give up and return home hungry. Very often, I stop at a restaurant, have a look at the menu, ponder the options and go forth. This happened this time too, when I first wanted to have some Japanese sushi, but unhappy with the menu, went on till I saw a cute Tibetan restaurant and decided to stay. 
My limited culinary imagination associated Tibetan cuisine with strict vegan/vegetarian meals, but in this case, the cuisine is mixed - Indian/Tibetan and some meat-based meals are also possible. The prices are acceptable, the service is very kind and fast, with a lot of good advices.
The restaurant was recently opened, by the lady who served us and gave us explanations about the specific cuisine offered and her husband, who is cooking. One may find a lot of Indian influences in the menu, especially the bread and the icecream. During the summer time, it is a pity to do not eat at a table outdoor, but for the winter, the interior decorated in traditional style can be a good choice. Before your meal arrives, you can read some of the guides and reviews displayed at the entrance.

The food was simple and delicious. Not too oily, with a lot of fresh vegetables, some of them to be found only in Asia (like some very tasty mushrooms). We also received a bowl of rice, that added even more taste to the whole combination. The vegetable balls had some sauce, a little bit too tasty but interesting. The mango lassies are recommended as well, but I rather wanted something fresh with an almost neutral taste, as the Schweppes - the only non-Tibetan drink I wanted to have. At the end of the 2-course meal, even if I was full - the veggies can give you too the feeling of satiety - I could not resist to have a saffron coconut Indian sorbet. I was a bit disappointed as it was too sweet for my taste - 'you can feel the sugar' said the other food tester at the table - and without any trace of the saffron that I know. But it was cold so I did not fully dislike it. 
Would I return here? Not sure as unless is close to the most wonderful eating place in the world or the easiest one to go when nothing to eat in the fridge. It is too far away and I would be curious to test many other new and interesting restaurants around. However, I fully recommend it to anyone looking for a good meal in the area. Maybe I will come back one day to find out more secrets of the Tibetan cuisine. 

Sonntag, 4. August 2013

At Zoo

The school vacations are over today - I am still not used with the idea of the kids going at school in August and how else one can celebrate the beginning of a new adventure than by going to visit the animals at the Zoo. To be honest, I prefer the other Zoo - Tierpark, from the former Eastern side of the city, as it is bigger and more spectacular, but for time reasons, the one who's closer from home was chosen. The Tierpark was built after the war as a way to counterbalance the loss of the Zoologische Garten, but after the reunification, the Cold War of the Zoos ended too.
At the entrance, long lines of people with or without children, but the lines are going fast and in less than 15 minutes we were on the other side of the Zoo Gate. During the week, including on holidays, it is less crowded. The last time I've been here was more than 4 years ago, but after I spent 5 hours without even noticing how fast the time flies away I took bake all my grumbling about this Zoo. It is interesting and I learned again some new things about animals and birds. 
For instance, I did not know that the Poitou donkey exist. Apparently, if I understood correctly the explanation - most of the stories are written in German - it is one of the oldest type of donkey in Europe being on the continent since the 10th century, and as a type is placed somewhere in between horse and donkey. It looks funny and made the transition to the little farm, one of the most dynamic I've seen by far in Europe.
The animals are quite bold and not only wait in the front of the food machines to be given their little tasty presents, but they run and walk in the middle of the children and are allowing to be touched. At the Zoo, there are many regional German goose and ducks, but also a funny Hottentottenente. Although the wild animals and wolves seem to be more challenging, I spent some time at the house of birds: organized by continents, all of them are so colourful and interesting. Especially those from Latin America made me consider seriously going there for some direct experiences. And I also want to see live the Sumatra orang-outangs. 
The disadvantage of visiting a Zoo on a hot day is that many of the animals, especially those from moderate/cold climates will rather prefer to hide. Most of the bears were like that and this funny one, was trying hardly to cope with the burning sun. The best for him was to swim, bear-style, the same choice for the hippos a couple of yards away. The icebear was not doing that great and was moving unhappy from a rock to another.
The best time to visit the Zoo with kids is around 11, when it starts usually the feeding time. The funniest part is at the monkeys' cages, but also the giraffes and elephants are interesting. Did not enjoy at all the bloody meals of lions and wolves though.

As flamingos are my no.1 birds, I was happy to see several members of the family, in cages or free. So much grace and elegance is hard to find anywhere else in the animal world. I wanted to stay more but of course, the monkeys are always the most-wanted characters so needed to leave. And somehow, the bonobos are always worth the interruption. 
The Zoo also has an Aquarium, but I prefer that this time will not go, especially after so frequent visits at the one in London. I've found interesting that many - if not most - of the cages mention that the animals also have their own sponsor/caretaker, a person or family that takes care of them on a regular basis. According to the information provided at the cages, in the last 2-3 years, many baby animals were born at the Berlin Zoo, including a cute baby elephant, now already 1 year old, that yesterday was hiding shy under the legs of the mother. 
A visit in the animal kingdom is refreshing and gives a lot of food for thought, but it is also relaxing, especially if you look and listen to the white cockatoos. I wish I had more time and more animals to see, but my plan is to go to the Leipzig Zoo and to Dresden, the oldest in Germany. 

Chez Grosz

I miss Paris and the fine French bakeries a lot and for diminishing my sadness I need to find more places that remind me of the good and sweet life on the other side of the border. Hence, my big rush to go to see Grosz, as soon as possible. During the week, in the afternoon, it was relatively empty, the only tables taken being in the interior court, on the other side of the restaurants. As it is situated in the tourist side of Ku'damm, many people were coming and going for taking pictures and have a look around. The waiters - fluently speaking a very good English - did not seem bothered and welcomed the visitors with a smile and eventually helped them to make a choice of menu if they were there to stay.
After we checked the colours of the Patisserie Oui, we took a table and started to read the menu with the notebook on the table. 
The interior design made me thing of the ways in which always one can imagine the Berlin in the 1920: old mirrors, wall decorations, wooden insertions and massive flower bowls. The building had different destinations: grand hotel, post office, regional financial department, Imperial Arms and Ammunition Procurement Office. The Grosz as I saw it opened at the end of 2012 so no reason to feel too guilty that it took me so long to discover it.
As we already had dinner before, did not want to take some big chunks of cake, but rather to feel the ambiance, read the menu and have a pleasant light snack for the afternoon. I spotted some interesting wines and champagne, for around 90 Euro or more, but also a salad I would love to try the next time: Erdbeeren Basilikum mit Pistazieneis. Good recommendations of fruits/vegetables smoothies too: pears, carrots, apple; beets, ginger, orange, carrots; limette, carrots, cucumber.
I ordered a cappuccino - excellent - and one sample of the macarons: pistachio - perfect; vanilla - seemed too old and in any case not that crunchy and fine as I was expecting; chocolate - nothing special to write about; raspberry - did not like it at all. 
For a more generous menu - we paid 10 Euro for this extravaganza which is almost nothing compared to the 108 Euro the price of a bottle of red 2009 Barolo DOCG - the plan can be of at least 50 Euro pro person. I spotted around nice ladies speaking about books and Antiquities and relaxed couples in their 50s tasting a nice meal. The usual people that I like to see sometimes at the Literaturhaus. I will be happy to return any time, especially with some of my girlfriends visiting the city for shopping this summer. 

Koko von Knebel: A fancy dog closet

I do not have a dog and never had one - please don't send me to the psychoanalyst for that - and don't plan to have one in the near future. But I love to see new and sometimes strange things in the shops and thus, I cannot resist the temptation to enter a very top-notch shop for special dogs. I am not the kind of person sending the advice: 'you better have your own child than a dog', I am not that stupid. Actually, after visiting this Koko von Knebel shop in Savignyplatz I envied a lot the fate of the small little dogs - most of the products are wisely designed for them - that can dress in such a fashionable fancy way. 
The most attractive section of the shop is represented by the clothing selection: different colours and designs and models of dog suits. Most probably you can hardly resist to buy at least once the week such an item. Thinking about dressing the dog daily reminded me of the dolls' playing as a kid. And I have no idea how hard it is to dress up a dog. At least, you don't need to make up him/her. 
For bigger dogs, or more casual ones, you can find various jewels and lashes and other accessories that I did not dare to ask the friendly lady at the counter why are we there for. I did not look as the typical shopper, I am convinced.
When it comes to furniture and plates, things are simpler but more expensive and was seriously thinking how much interior design work one may need to set up a human-looking room for the dog. Don't forget about the toys, sometimes more creative and good looking that the ones produced for children - most of the Made in China ones can easily qualify to such comparison.
The common sense told me that I better leave the shop before I am offered impressive collections that I will not be able to refuse from buying. And the only problem right now is that I do not know anyone with such a fancy dog and generous budget for such an investment.  

Donnerstag, 1. August 2013

A Foreigner at Mano Verde

I am by principle sceptical to places that are the main topic of conversation in town. Especially when it comes to a vegan restaurant, I know the usual snobbish reaction: rolling eyes, affected sigh and always good reviews. Of course, vegan is the real life, animal eating is bad and so on and so on.
Two days ago, when looking at a foodie review about Berlin, I saw once again a review of La Mano Verde and decided to try it. Especially after I found out is less than 30 minutes away from me.
It is modernly, pop-art designed, with comfy tables outside, the best choice when you want to eat in the summer. You can consult and chose the menu on an iPad and the service is relatively fast. If you want to know how your food is done, you can have a look at the open kitchen. The toilets are clean and ecological, in line with the philosophy of the restaurant.
The biggest - unpleasant - surprise was that even though we arrived at 14.40, there was not possible to get the standard menu. According to the website, the dinner menu is available till 15.30. I know I was late, blame the summer laziness, but still hoped that I am not that late to miss the menu. My disappointment grew when I was told that the Limetten-Almond Gazpacho was not available either. Even though I was explained that the limited number of portions and menus is due to the fact that they want to serve them as fresh as possible, and even I was offered a sorbet at the end of the meal, nothing cured the sadness of the spoiled kid who could not have what she wanted to. Anyway, if interested to go there, be sure that you plan your trip and make a reservation at least 10 hours before arrival. 
 I started my exploration with a jasmin tea. Simple, tasty, Kuzman. With an obvious calming effect.
The gazpacho I dreamed about was not available, and I was offered instead a soup with ginger and pumpkin. And saffron. As for the taste, there was too much lemon/orange and I would have want at least a little pinch of salt. The saffron did not add much to the mixture, except the (very) good look.
The next 'meal' was a green salad, with a lot of seeds and a very tasty sauce. The green combination as such did not impress me, but in combination with the seeds it turned to be a good choice for someone on a diet. Not me. As I saw that here are organised a lot of cooking classes - and some cooking books are exposed in the lobby - I may consider at a certain moment to enrol for some workshops. I am not a vegetarian/vegan person, even though must part of the time I don't eat meat, but I miss greatly the understanding of the right taste combination of meals without eggs or fish. Maybe if I would like to return to Mano Verde and the famous menu will be available I can change the perspective on the vegan life. 
The location is nice, the service is fast and the prices are medium to high. Maybe taste-wise disappointments are the result of my lack of gastronomic vegan experiences. Anyone looking for a clean, meat-free place should try it, but not without a reservation.