Sunday, 24 November 2013

/47/ Potsdam

Let’s pay a visit to Potsdam. A testament to the wealth, majesty, and seriously ridiculous and extravagant spending habits of the once-great Prussian monarchy.

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Chicca and I travelled a short way out of Berlin to the satellite town of Potsdam. The streets are quiet and the houses grand, but that’s not why people come. The big draw is the incredible Sansoucci Park, a piece of land filled to the brim with baroque, German architecture, flower gardens and hordes of visitors every summer. But this wasn’t summer, this was November.


The elegant park was muddy and deserted, the trees were bare, and even the statues had been covered up to protect them from the elements. The two of us walked to Sansoucci Palace, a world-famous tourist attraction, and the former home of Frederick the Great, a giant in German History.


After a gander at his oddly slender palace, we headed to town. Potsdam is an odd town, pretty but somewhat reminiscent of a film set. Chicca and I settled down in a rustic restaurant where we were served seriously tasty German fare by a bearded, jolly innkeeper-type.

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Potsdam, it was good, and I’ll see you (and your odd little cherubs and goblins) in the Summer.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

/46/ Hanging out in Schöneberg

If my last post was about my not-so-local “local” in my favourite part of town, then this is going to be the complement to that. I’m going to talk about my actual neck of the woods. And it’s not half bad.

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Outside my flat in Summer and Winter

Schöneberg (literally “beautiful mountain”, which is baffling because Berlin is as flat as my butt), is where I live in a four-doored apartment with an ER doctor, looking out onto a courtyard. It’s not a tourist hot-spot by any means. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tourist here. The neighbourhood (or more accurately, Kiez, which is the Berlin word for a part of town) is a little further out than the more regularly frequented Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, Mitte and Friedrichshain, and frankly has far less to offer a tourist, with no museums and no real sights to see. But it has a lot to offer the people who live here.


I live right by Akazienstraße. It’s always bustling with life and forms the heart of the neighbourhood. The buildings are beautiful and ornate in the old Berlin style, and the shops are filled with typically middle-class businesses like a chocolaterie, an organic market, a cafe where the brunches are named after fairytales, or a knick-knack shop selling everything from side tables to fur coats. I really like this area. It feels like the centre of a small town (and considering that Berlin is better off being described as many villages squished into a small space than a city in its own right, that fits perfectly), with a primary school nearby, a supermarket just down the road, an impressive church around the corner and a landscaped park – a runner’s heaven – not fifteen minutes away.

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I always feel this guilt that I really don’t take advantage enough of all the cafes and shops here, though when I recently tried to write about the area for my internship I found myself running out of space quite quickly. And it’s happening again here – I somehow can’t seem to fit into words how this ostensibly unexciting part of town nevertheless feels so comfortable and easy that I’m relieved every evening to step out of the U-Bahn and be met by the redbrick Sankt Paulus Kirche.


I really recommend you see my blog post about the Akazienkiez over on Berlin&I. That might go some way to conveying my joy at living in this area of Berlin. For a small-town girl in a big city, this is the closest I can get to being part of a smaller, more contained community. If Schöneberg were surrounded by fields and lakes rather than train tracks and high-rise buildings, I might even consider staying.


Sunday, 10 November 2013

/45/ At home in Auguststraße

IMG_1138 In a city as big and scattered as Berlin, and which doesn’t readily offer itself up to feeling at home, it’s worth going out of your way to find your sweet spot, the automatic place where you head when you have a free hour, or no specific plans.


Mine is Auguststrasse. It’s a bit out of the way for me – about a half an hour from home if the S-Bahn is in a good mood – but it’s not too far from University, and located near most of my friends – Chicca and Charlie, Wouter, and Doug. If you’ve heard of Clärchens Ballhaus (an old and grand dancing hall), the Stolpersteine (literally “stumbling stones”, these are small, cobblestone-sized memorials to victims of the Holocaust, embedded in the pavement) or the beautiful New Synagogue then you’re in the right part of town here.


At my internship, we did a feature on Auguststrasse so I’ll try not to copy that too blatantly. For more detail on what you can actually find on the street (hint: it’s mainly galleries and cafes) head over there, because I’m just going to focus in on Factory Girl. This coffee shop is not only my favourite in Berlin, but also my happy place in the concrete jungle, and my “regular”, if not my “local”.


In the (carefully composed) grunge-chic interior, there are lots of plants, staples of 70s and 90s aesthetics and an enormous range of delicious cakes, as well as their own kind of yoghurt-crème dessert called Magnolia. I spend a lot of time sitting in a round table by the window, chatting with friends, having a language exchange with my Norwegian language buddy, reading a book, or just watching people walk by.


My friends often take the piss out of me for always being there, but I think it’s one of the things which keeps me happy and sane. Some of the staff there have begun to recognise me, say hi, and give me winks and discounts. That always makes me feel so welcome - no easy feat in a city like Berlin, at least not for me.



Saturday, 2 November 2013

/44/ Berlin is a building site

Photo by Ellie

Let’s not sugar-coat things: Berlin is not pretty. Or if it is, then it’s very much Kate Moss in the late 90s: it’s a partied-too-hard, ate-too-little, smell-a-bit-funky, smeared-kohl, puffy-lips-and-eyes, dress-in-tatters, where’s-my-damn-keys-by-the-way-where-am-i, kind of pretty. It’s one massive building site.

Lass uns Sachen nicht verleugnen: Berlin ist nicht schön. Oder, wenn schon, dann ähnelt die Stadt der Kate Moss in den späten 90er-Jahren: es ist eine zu-viel-gefeiert, zu-wenig-gegessen, riecht-etwas-übel, verschmiertes-Kajal, geschwollene-Lippen-und-Augen, zerfetzes-Kleid, wo-sind-meine-verdammten-Schlüssel-und-übrigens-wo-bin-ich-denn-eigentlich Art von Schön. Die Stadt ist eine Baustätte.


That’s not traditionally my taste: I like Oxford, Prague, Stockholm, Munich. I like it beautiful, grand and above all cohesive, I like medieval cobbles, a pastoral aesthetic, I am drawn to intentional pretty.

Das ist normalerweise nicht mein Geschmack: Ich mag Oxford, Prag, Stockholm, München. Ich mag es, wenn es zierlich oder grandiös ist – über allem zusammenhaltend. Ich mag mittelalterliches Kopfsteinpflaster, eine ländliche Ästhetik; absichtliche Schönheit zieht mich an.


But that’s not to say I don’t enjoy a grungy underdog of a city, and living in Berlin is really giving me the chance to open my eyes and find the less obvious beauty of an urban metropolis.

Das heißt aber nicht, dass ich keinen schäbigen Unterlegenen mögen kann, und die Tatsache, dass ich in Berlin wohne, hat mir wirklich die Möglichkeit gegeben, die Augen richtig auf zu machen, und die nicht so augenscheinliche Schönheit einer urbanen Metropole zu entdecken.


"Nobody is going to live your life for you" - well, ain't that the truth!

"Nobody is going to live your life for you" - na, was du nicht sagst!