Freitag, 26. Juni 2015

After-work fish&chips at Arminius Markthalle

The best thing about starting to work in a place completely different than your own is that there are a lot of new places you add on your to do and to taste list. Alt Moabit is a place I visited the last summer intensively too, but this time, I can observe it early in the morning when the streets are waking up - my favourite moment of the day to check places - and late in the afternoon when everyone is coming back home. The foodie offer around seems to be richer than expected to stay tunned for a lot of tasty reviews in the next days and weeks. As for the beginning, I decided to start with Arminius Markthalle, situated very close to the Tiergarten City Hall. An old red bricked construction opened officially in 1891, it was destroyed during the WWII bombings and completely reintroduced in the local circuit only after 2010. It was named after a Germanic hero from old tales.
What I see first here is not an exposure of German traditional food, but a mix of various styles and influences. As a way to celebrate the Royal visit of Queen Elisabeth in Berlin, I order a small portion of fish&chips. The best is to come on the plate with coffee mugs filled with various sauces. The Chinese sour sweet is the best for me, but cooking-wise the ketchup and mayo are also well done and suit better the content of my plate. Did not try the season's malt vinegar as I did not feel it is really what my digestive system needs to. Talking about the food as such, the French fries were good, well done, fresh and not very oily. The fish, although much better than anything I tried in Germany till now, were a bit too crumby and too hot, maybe the result of being too frozen before preparation. The menu  includes various fish-based sandwiches and burgers, at moderate prices - but high for a market - so maybe will be back to try something else one of the next days.
Moving on the next counter, I find myself in the middle of various Italian wines, with colourful etiquettes.
If you buy a comics book from the rich second hand counter, you can finish quietly a good bottle of wine for the day. The doctors say themselves that drunk in moderation, wine is good for your health.
From a British-looking - and talking - counter, last autumn pickles are starring from the jar.
The place is not that busy, almost empty in some areas, but blame it the cold weather and the cheap competition of the many cheap Turkish shops nearby. Every weekend there are many events organised here, many on foodie-related topics. 
Besides the impressive wine choices that are calling my expert name from the four corners of the hall, there are also a couple of beer options, just in the middle of the hall. 
Many are brought from all over the world, inviting the expert Berliner tasters to experience the multi-kulti in their glasses. 
Unexpecteldy for a food hall, there is a fancy designed corner where you can rest in a vintage glamour ambiance. There is also a theatre inside the hall, and a couple of stands away, a local politician is waiting for its supporters to ask him questions. As long as I was around, there were not too many offers. 
This big table, with a candelabra is the best way to get people together. If you are now in the area, you can easily make new friends.
Besides these fancy options, one can find at the market some usual offers too, especially for Berlin: fruits and vegetables, some fresh smoothies and various Turkish delights, various sorts of cheeses - did not see any difference compared to the usual offer in a Kaiser's shop - many meat and a supermarket-like offer of fish. There are also nice flowers and some fast food - imbiss - with take away Asian foods. The restaurants are usually open only after 12 o'clock during the week. 
The markets in Berlin, and the one in Arminius Markthalle is no different, are very quiet, lacking the human touch and sound of the similar places in France or Italy. Don't expect to see fish alive in the plastic pond or vendors that will call your name to buy their products. Visiting a market in Berlin is a different experience and as for now, I take it as such. 

Dienstag, 23. Juni 2015

Hard core experiences at the Berlin Dungeon

The last Sunday was finally a very sunny one, with a lot of outdoor opportunities, plus the yearly open air free concert by Barenboim, but trying to be original, and curious to try something new, I decided to go to the Berlin Dungeon. Blame maybe the recent interest for documenting some historical posts about Berlin - coming up soon on this blog around you - or just the need to do something completely different...Anyway, maybe I should not excuse myself at all...
Conceived as a live show, with real actors and a lot of happenings, the journey is aimed to introduce the visitor to various scary moments in the history of the city - small kids, pregnant women and weak heart visitors better stay at home. The hosts are mean or better said very rude by purpose, like the jolly joker from the entrance that kept insisting to separate men and women on the way to the first adventure of the journey. At the first stop, you get to know Pater Roderich and his scary tales that are later continued by some in depth inside bloody stories from the time of the pest. Expect to feel worms moving on the benches where you rest listening to the story...
At the Torturer episode, you learn about tricks about using various torture instruments, and I had my modest moment of glory as I refused to enter a cage - at every stop, the guests are invited to be part of the happening, either as indicted victims of trials or like experimental patient in the time of the pest. My refusal to take a place in the cage adorned with a skeleton was reprimanded as an example of boredom, but better boring than ridiculous...
In a small hall, the secret court is judging various indictement, in the Inquisition style with some hysterical noes. The ambiance is more relaxed and everyone is laughing a lot. A blonde lady is accused of being a witch and a Mister originally from Bayern - the tours are available both in English and German, but for linguistic improvement reasons I preferred to go with the German speaking group - is accused of being a fashion killer.
The most interesting experience for me is going through the labyrinth of mirrors, trying to find the way through the catacombes. More blinded by the darkness - the entire experience takes place in the dark- we follow each other or we spend some seconds trying to recognize ourselves in the mirror. We end up in the catacombes of Hohenzollern where we meet a white ghost appearing and disappearing out of the darkness. It is the local famous white lady whose presence is told to bring a lot of bad luck.
My favourite scenery is also the newest introduced to the show, from March this year, presenting the 1848 Revolution, with sounds of canons and the cracking of the falling barricades. 
One more scenery and we are done. We are descending the wooden stairs in the front of an improvised shop.
Inside, it is supposed to have a variety of sausages and meat-based products, but there is a pint of scarry story here too. It has to do with the famous criminal Carl Grossmann who turned his victims into the products sold in the shop. As I said before, weak hearts are not welcomed to this show anyway. 
The show is over now, and I am just fine with it. Although not exactly my kind of historical setting, I must recognize that it is well made and the actors are playing good. Anyone looking to fill out a relatively uneventful Sunday can chose some entertainment at the Dungeon. And I did it too!

Montag, 22. Juni 2015

Checkpoint California: American Art in the heart of Berlin

Till the 28th of June, the visitors of Unter den Linden can stop and visit - for free - an interesting exhibition of modern art inspired by California hosted at Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle. California is not only about the sun, that we need it dearly these days, but also about the inspiration brought about by the blue sky and outdoor long walks around the beach.
The exhibition presents works of six modern artists that benefited from stays at the famous Villa Aurora in Los Angels, that during and after WWII was a center of supporting creative artists, especially from Germany. Managed for a long time by Lion Feuchtwanger and his wife, Marta, it hosted at various times personalities like Charlie Chaplin, Thomas Mann and Bertold Brecht. The works presented for the next days are created by artists in residence and covers various personal lectures in the modern register of California, seen not only through the eyes of the show biz and glamour of Hollywood.  
The works and installations - some of them extensively presented through various other events organised on the sides of the exhibition - are investigations and personal insights of familiar landscapes, exploring the limits of reflection and the power of image. Albrecht Schäfer, for instance, creates hanging sculptures out of small pieces of wood with letters and colours marking the space like aponderal columns. You leave the space with the confirmation of the power of arts to change: perspectives, places and, especially people. 

Sonntag, 14. Juni 2015

Tina Heuter exhibition on Knesebeckstrasse

 The surprising part of walking the streets of the Western part of Berlin is that you never know when you will discover something completely new. From interesting shops to newly opened restaurants, I can hardly have enough of this part of the city. When it comes to art galleries, the pleasure is even greater, as it often gives me inspiration and creative strength after a full day spent at work. This was the effect that Tina Heuter exhibition had on my afternoon, after entering the space on Knesebeckstrasse 20/21. 
Delicate bronze, concrete and paper silhouettes are balancing their delicate weights against the silent whitness of the walls.
Unexpected combinations of materials, like colourful thread on white silk paper, or the pop-art light installation attached to a bronze heads are pushing the limits of creativity farther. 
Most works - all on sale - requested an impressive amount of time and painful unsuccessful attempts to perfection. 
 The strength of the perfect attempts to beauty invites to silence.
Irony is present, in the red lips of the concrete statues or the Chanel bag hanging on the hands of the elongated bronze women profiles. 
This exhibition is open till the end of August, but Heuter is often presenting her works all over Germany. 

Sonntag, 7. Juni 2015

Afternoon in Britz

Once upon a time, I feel I have to go out of my comfort zone and explore carefully those corners of the city with unfamiliar names and maps. As a visit to the Britz Castle was in the cards for a long time - for reasons I will disclose later in my travel story - yesterday I decided to take a 45-minute ride bus and cross the geographical and mental border to a completely new place. I did stop at Parchimer Allee, a street I never been before and start the walking under the very hot sun. 
The first invitation to learn to manage the unknown landscape come from Kunst im Taut Haus, a gallery hosted in one of the 3 floors of a small house whose current Adolf Strübe exhibition was advertised quietly at the entrance of a small alley. The paintings were influenced by impressionists like Pissaro and Degas, and can be bought on the place too. The wall paintings and the sweet lines of the work of art create a mesmerizing symbiosis that keeps you on the spot for longer. 
When I am finally able to get out of the empire of colours, I am captivated by the colours of the famous Hufeisensiedlung, a quarter of building part of the UNESCO heritage for their special colourful facades and the old cherry trees. I take a mental note to be back soon only for a full time architectural exploration of this area.
After another minutes of walking on the very quiet Parchimer Allee - after all, it is Sunday afternoon and everyone looks to stay mostly at home with the family I suppose - I reach the area of Britz Castle, my foremost and final destination. The yard is hosting various institutions, from a music school to a museum and small coffees. An exhibition of agricultural tools and of historical carriages, plus a 1927 Ford A limousine, reminds the countryside past of this area.
For children, a Bauerhof was created, presenting various animals that can be touched and especially photographed. 
As for the rest of my trip, the ambiance is relatively quiet, without too many groups of people around. Maybe this will change the next week, when a Middle Age Festival, Cocomedievale, is expected to take place between 12 and 14 of June. 
The half-timbered Gutshof Britz is open serving various interesting high-end dishes, out of which the passion fruit based sweets seem to be the most tempting calls. 
For now, I prefer to have a look at the exhibition hosted at the Neukölln Museum, presenting through 7 exhibitional spaces the table culture of this very multicultural area of Berlin. Through videos and table objects displayed, it gives insights about changing habits, new mentalities and sometimes even new recipes. 
On the other side of the yard, the white silhouette of the castle is inviting to a different discovery. The current structure dates from the end of the 19th century, following the creation of Germany as a unitary states and testimony of the new mentalities and habits. The bright white facade with stylish intarsia is testimony of the historical and mentalities changes taking place in the industrial area. 
The rooms are big enough to give place to the massive pieces of furniture, on special colourful carpets. Everything seems to be set up to last longer and to create enjoyable spaces for the wealthy third class members. 
But if I wanted for so long to visit Britz Castle, it was for the special exhibition of Biedermeier dolls. It is fascinated how the adults can start molding the children's world from a very early age through games and toys that prepare them for the adult life. The dolls, many created in German factories, are also testimonies of the fashion trends of the time. Overall, all my reasons to visit this exhibition were justified and felt like the entire trip was a good reward after a full day of crazy work. 
My relaxation session continued while walking the wild alleys of the park, in the middle of the green leaves and yellow roses. Although going in and out of Britz took me around 2 hours, the entire excursion was a good choice and with or without a serious reason, I plan to be back at least once again this summer.