Samstag, 31. Oktober 2015

Piet Mondrian exhibition at Martin Gropius Bau

At the beginning of September, I enjoyed a lot of free sunny weekends, a good opportunity to carefully check some art events and exhibitions in the city. As I regularly do twice the year, one of the stops was Martin Gropius Bau for the retrospective of Piet Mondrian works. It reunited works from Den Haag, the largest collection of Mondrian works. 
The exhibition, that can be seen till the beginning of December, offers an overview of the evolution of Mondrian's work conception. Although his abstract works are more known to the public, his beginnings - realistic, inspired by the 17th century tradition of Dutch landscape, or influenced by Cubism, De Stijl or impressionism - were often obstructed by his popular abstract works. The famous 'Line' is part of the current works exhibited, but discovering the previous styles was for me by far more challenging and interesting. The exhibition, separated into spaces that are dedicated to various stages in the artistic life of the painter, is revealing an artist that permanently reinvented himself.
The development of his work with lines went through different stages, and architecture, besdes  theosophy, played an important role in reshaping his identity. It worked together with the vision on the space and changing perception of it. Many were also his influences, gathered during the various inspirational places he visited. Between 1912 and 1917 he went through a Cubistic stage following his stay in Paris and the delapidated buildings, probably the consequence of the WWI damages, prompted his abstract beginnings.
At the end of the exhibition I felt the same way after reading a good book: the sadness that it finishes. Maybe till December I can give it one more try... 

Donnerstag, 29. Oktober 2015

Registering a new born baby in Berlin: the challenges

After the kid is born, the normal step is to go on and give him a bureaucratic identity, in other words, to register the little baby as a citizen in the making. As usual, the German bureaucracy did not disappoint me and everything went fast but this time, it involved some money spent...we do not know for sure on what. It starts with one of the parents going early in the morning at the city hall, in the front of the door of the special section in charge with birth certificates. You may write your name on a list, with the date of birth of the child and the hospital where the baby was born and wait till someone comes, looks at the list and calls your name. Be ready to have a copy of the passports or ID cards of the parents, and their birth certificates - international version. 

Easy peasy - the parents are married

Let's start with the beginning. If the parents are married, things are simple. The child is registered on the spot, with the name of the husband and the mother with full rights. The birth certificate is delivered either in the same day or 10 days after. You will be handled 1 copy - for 10 Euro - and another 3 free proofs that should be further sent to the insurance company and the authorities in charge to give financial support to the new born. There is also a declaration that should be signed by both parents where they agree about the name to be given to the baby.
This easy variant is also available for the registration of the child in the hospital where the mother gives birth.

Different challenges - the parents are not married

The things are a bit different when the parents are not married and also having different citizenships. There is a declaration of paternity - Vaterschafterkennung - the father should sign either during the mother's pregnancy or after the child is born - it costs 30 Euro. It is accompanied by a long legal explanation of the German right and other subtelties. Usually, you need an appointment for this declaration. 
When one of the parents does not speak German, a translator - not official, but not a relative of any of the two parents either - is requested. For the work of this special person - that may take around one hour - that accepts to do the translation, you pay 20 Euro that goes to the city hall but not to the translator. I found it a bit strange the procedure, to be honest. I would have prefer to give this money to the translator who waited a bit more than expected and did a great job than to waste it for some undisclosed purpose. 
There is also the possibility to do the paternity declaration in the front of the Jugendamt, also by appointment and with a translator, but for free. The disadvantage is that as for now, there is not easy to get a date with the authorities till the end of the year so you better pay and get what you want faster. Without the birth certificate, you cannot get the money from the insurance and the Kindergeld - a monthly amount the state gives you for the child - and the sooner you have it the better for the financial well-being of your small family. 
Another specificy of the German family right is that by birth the mother is automatically having full right over the child. If you want to share the right with the father - I will write another post soon about what I discover that it is the disrespect of the father as an active and responsible member of the family - you need another declaration and official appointment, this time in the front of the Jugendamt, the authority in charge with families and especially children. 

To be continued...

As for now, the happy owners of the birth certificate - international one is the best, written in English and French and German, as for a passport and citizenship some embassies will request the official translation and many of them the apostile for authentification (to be read more money to the bureaucracy) - are ready for new bureaucratic challenges. It seems that this story never ends, at least for now...

Montag, 26. Oktober 2015

Foodie Berlin: Koshary Lux, Oriental Street Food

There is rarely something that can surprise me in terms of food in the Western part of Berlin, but this summer offered me many reasons to think that there are so many things on the move here too. As one day in August I was slowly walking around Savigny Platz, a colourful place with spicy smells caught my eyes and called my foodie curiosity: Koshary Lux on Grolmanstrasse 27. 
In a friendly ambiance with an even friendlier service, here it is served 'Oriental Street Food', trying to mix the shuk - market traditions - from Marrakesh, Beiruth, Algier or Cairo. The menu has one of success dishes on Friday evening - the Moroccan carot salad (with chilli and cumin), dates salad with goat cheese and celery, walnuts and baby spinach, meaty sandwiches and tomato soup. Many choices for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. For the beginning, I ordered a fresh Egyptian lime lemonade with mint that was so fresh and delicious - moderately sugarly - that I wanted one more time and the recipe too. Do not expect shawarma or falafel or humus and it is good this way.
The portions are available in both small and big portions, offered at affordable prices. Although hungry, the Koshary mix fed me enough although if not that spicy - introduced to me as moderately - I would have been tempted for one more try. It has lentils, rice and maccaroni with tangy tomato sauce, topped with caramelized onions, chickpeas and a pistachio-spice blend. Brought in a very simple metal bowl it has an interesting mixture of tastes and aromas that makes you think to busy shuks and unknown worlds.
For the end of my short first stay, I took a dessert too: a muhallabiya - milk pudding with rose water sirup, almonds and pistachios. A natural sweetness of the pudding meeting successfully the springles pistachios and almonds which offer a good balance. 
This order was enough to open the appetite for more. Maby they introduced some more meals for the autumn season. If not, still there are some things on the menu that would love to test anyway. 

Freitag, 23. Oktober 2015

Schlosshotel Grunewald, the hidden luxury oasis of Berlin

When the summer is about to go in Berlin, I always check either a new travel destination in a warm country or new places in the city where I can go away of the winter. In the last case, the choice varies from museum to restaurants or architectural wonders that must keep me awake and with an alert mind during the boring cold. With a lot of time to spend in Berlin during this long hot summer, I finally decided to spend more time in the Grunewald area, a favourite place for walking, both for the natural wonders and the architectural works. On one lonely quiet street I discovered the well kept secret of the West Berlin: the design boutique hotel Schlosshotel Grunewald
It is around 11 o'clock and it seems that no one is around. I go through the stone gates and dare for more. Some fancy limousines are waiting at the entrance, ready to go. 
The rest is silence. The few personnel people I met are moving graciously, the few guests are discretely having their conversations in one of the corners.The massive furniture and the big windows seem to absorb all the undeserved noise. 
The same silence in the park garden, where comfortable white modern sofas are spread between classical fountains. A lady guest with an Afghan dog is taking her seat and orders something while checking the smart phone. The wi-fi in the garden goes pretty fast.  
lThe sunny weather is tempting but I am decided to explore more the stylish interior. Many details of the 1914-built villa, when the hotel was called Stadtpalais, were kept as such. 
The big space of the lobby with its huge chandelier and the claire obscure interior amplifies the mystery of the place. No wonder that this hotel is usually preferred by VIPs coming to Berlin for enjoying their privacy, as for instance the former US state secretary Henry Kissinger who was here again recently. 
The old wooden door were matched with modern designs, such as the golden leaves motifs on the white walls. 
The hotel has now 43 rooms and 10 suites. Most rooms have a view over the garden, but sharing the wooden stairs to the lobby. The stylish interior design bears the trademark of Karl Lagerfeld. 
 Oil paintings in the corners and in the room are adding a personal note to the hotel ambiance.
The small wooden doors are opening to glamorous worlds but as usual in Germany, abundance and luxury are private matters not shared with the rest of the world. 
Back in the lobby, back to the same unbroken majestic silence. Quiet enough to imagine how it was at the time when Josephine Baker was coming here regularly or how Romy Schneider celebrated her wedding.
The restaurant is ready to offer the gourmet meals, the cigar bar for some private conversations. In one neighbouring space someone is having a business presentation. 
 The mixture between modern lines and classical background is spotless.
 But also very inviting, to a glass of wine or some rest. I make a mental note to come back soon for a special gourmet tasting one of the next months. 
For now,  it is time to leave. I go out discretely as I entered. It is a bit more than a hotel and a bit more than a castle. Hope to find the right definition of this place during my next visit.

Sonntag, 18. Oktober 2015

Giving birth in Berlin: A Foreigner in Berlin experience

If any of my readers were maybe curious why so many silence gaps in my online presence, the right answer is that in the last months I was busy getting used with pregnancy challenges and particularly in the last weeks and days being ready to welcome the baby. Although summer travel went well, a couple of restrictions applied - such for instance the impossibility to go on an airplane in the last two months of pregnancy. Also, because of the unusual summer heat, I preferred to limit as much as possible my travels and to include as many stops as possible - preferrably for refreshments and various foodie tastings. 
And when the time has come, everything went well and everyone is healthy and happy - although considerably sleep deprived. Not necessarily on purpose, but the delivery was chosen at a medical center that I extensively covered a couple of posts ago: DRK Westend, a place I was recommended by many of my expat friends too and that I recommend it further on too. The overall services and medical support I benefited was high class, also thanks to the benefits of my insurance that covered extensively a lot of services, including some acupuncture session that was considered necessary by the medical staff. 

After the baby was born, I was hardly left alone for more than one hour: nurses come to check us periodically, with special advice about how to handle the baby, but also specific advice for me. For instance, the day after a therapist come to check my motric problems counseling me to take it easy and not get ready for a marathon in less than 2-3 months after delivery. This in addition to various vitamins and screenings and checkings done fast. I always complain about the slow motion and lack of responsiveness of the customer service in Germany but this time I was really impressed about everything: the way we were treated, the everyday help and kindness of the nurse that offered me a lot of coffee after confessing that did not have the chance in the last months of tasting the strong version of my favourite beverage. Last but not least, not forget about the kind doctor that come with a German English dictionary in his pocket after he heard out that we were not locals. 
As a general rule, future mothers in Germany need to do periodical checkings that are mentioned in the famous Mutterpass that should accompany you when going for delivery. This 'passport' is providing information about the medical history of the mother and has details about the various medical checkings done during the nine months.
The insurance company is covering the costs and after being many years on private insurance, I realized how lucky I was to be the customer of one of the big state companies. Every time I had to go to the doctor, I just had to show my insurance. 
Something that should be kept in mind before giving birth is to find a reliable midwife (Hebamme) that will help the mother at least in the first two weeks of life of the baby. The costs for the service offered are also covered by the insurance company. My mistake was to not make the choice and find out after around 100 phone calls that no midwife in my area was available, except one private one paid with 70 euro the hour. 
Another intersting thing in Germany is that after the birth, the mother has 2 full months - at least - of paid leave, the salary being partially covered by the insurance company. 
One month after, everything is going fine and trying to include my writing into my new very busy life. For more updates about my adventures with the pram across Berlin, check for now my Instagram account: ilanaontheroad.
See you soon!