Thursday, February 11, 2016

Superb Weekend in Berlin!

Hi All!!  

I just returned from a bombastic weekend in Berlin!  Having only spent 24 hours in this city previously, it was terrific to have nearly three whole days this time around to explore in much further depth.  I really reveled in this.  Another reason the trip was so great: I met up with a friend of mine from Boston, George.

The first evening we met up in Berlin, George suggested we grab a drink so we ventured out into the chilly darkness.  We walked a few blocks through the brisk air until we stumbled upon a way cool bar.  The inside was almost entirely alight by candles.  Real candles.  There were a few dim, glowing scone type of lights mounted on the walls, but almost all of the lighting was via candlelight which flickered invitingly off the heavily wooded interior.  It was like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe scene or the setting in a Gothic novel.  We perched side by side on stools at the bar.  We agreed enthusiastically that the aura inside was unique and enchanting (ok, maybe enchanting is more my word choice ;-) but we certainly agreed it was a memorable/great place).

Conversation flowed with ease.  We laughed a lot.  We talked about all sorts of interesting things, our topics moving all over the map.  This was such fun :-D the time flew. 

I searched and searched online for photos & the name of this actual bar but my search was to no avail.  However, these photos most closely captured the mood, decor and atmosphere of it.

On our first full day in Berlin, we explored a gorgeous area of the city, old and eye-catching, called Nikolaivertel.  I would recommend googling this briefly, as I didn't include a lot of photos (just the two above).  

The colorful pastel building facades are standouts against the winding, narrow, gray cobbled streets.  The ornate awnings hanging from many of the storefronts merely adding an additional layer of frosting to the already super sweet charm of this district.  

We walked all around the city, just exploring, no plans or destination in mind.  Snapping photos, conversation filling the air between us, pointing out cool photo ops, etc. We stopped for tea and coffee in the early afternoon.  As we sat, George gave me a crash course on how to use my camera to a much fuller and thus, more exciting potential.  I learned about ISO, aperture and shutter speed.  The three biggies that go into taking significantly better photos once one has figured these out via lots of trial and error.  

One of the qualities I especially like in George is watching him light up and get very much into explaining something in depth when it interests him.  His passion and enthusiasm is quickly evident.  This is really neat and enjoyable to watch.  He has so much knowledge on such a diverse range of topics.  I have always found him to be an impressive and engaging person to talk with, as well as someone who sometimes challenges me or often expands my own knowledge on things.

Lunch time :-D YUM.

After coffee/tea and my camera crash course, we continued to traverse around the city, snapping lots of photos and just checking it all out.  We sat side by side for a front seat view of the sidewalk happenings as it all fluttered around us and enjoyed burgers for a late lunch (these were especially tasty by typical European burger quality, at least according to me).  We meandered down the street after our meal and stopped at a cafe which Judith and I had visited when she and I were in Berlin.  

The inside has a So-Co, warm, bright, laid back, slightly offbeat vibe to it.  The seats are essentially stacked above one another, almost like life-sized tetris blocks, so fun and eye-catching.  We grabbed a cozy seat high up and ordered two beers.  Mine was drizzled with raspberry sauce.  Oh my god, this was amazing.  Best beer I have ever had, which will be oh so easy to recreate on my own now.

Our conversational topics were varied, interesting and entertaining.  I loved this.  Hopping easily from subject to subject, but just as easily becoming immersed in one topic and discussing that for a while.  If there is one thing I greatly enjoy, its having really awesome, stimulating, thought-provoking conversations with my friends.

An einem Sonntag im August

I taught George how to play Mille Bornes, one of my favorite card games.  He got into this quickly.  After much shit-talking on my end, he went on to kick my ass five times.  
The shit-talking shifted sides pretty quickly.

For brunch one day, we ventured to a place called Roamers, which I had suggested we check out as a result of rave reviews online.  The food was to die for.  George ordered a cappuccino and the french toast.  I ordered a green tea, the french toast and a slice of chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.  

The french toast was presented on bare slabs of smooth, dark marbled wood, which looked straight forward and surprisingly beautiful.  The taste was heavenly.  An explosion of deliciousness in my mouth, just whoa.  Slightly nutty notes, and the texture as though it had a thin layer of caramelized sugar on the outside.  The inside was soft, light and sweet.  Tangy Greek yogurt was piled on the side, topped with lightly tart berries.  SO good when spread on the french toast.  The perfect complimenting of differing flavors.  The chocolate cake was ultra moist and light, the peanut butter frosting somehow rich but not even remotely overpowering or heavy.  It was melt-in-your-mouth amazingness.  

The meal was outstanding.  We both agreed, without question, it was the meal of the weekend.  We could not stop talking about it afterwards.  And the total cost was just 23 euro for everything!!!  It killed me a bit inside when we decided to go back the next day but then learned that it was closed.

I realize that for some, I went overboard on the brunch photos.  I would argue one can never go overboard on food photos, ever.  In fact, this was an act of restraint on my part.  Cutting off the photos at this number.  Isnt your mouth watering!?

After that life changing edible excursion, we made our way across town on foot to the East Side Gallery where we explored leisurely for around an hour.  We each moved off on our own a bit, snapping photos and experimenting with our cameras.  The day was gray, chilly, stark and void of color, making the wall stand out all the more so with its vivid explosion of varying shades, designs and artwork.  

After our exploration of the East Side Gallery, we decided to seek refuge in a cafe since it was freezing out.  To drink something warm and relax a bit.  We walked through some pretty awesome neighborhoods.  Gritty, grungy, eye catching surprises in the form of all variety of street art awaited us, tucked behind most every corner.  Cafes dotting the sidewalks emitted delicious smells.  Bad-ass graffiti marked the building sides.  Vines snaked up others.

We settled on a cafe called Bitter.  No nonsense, warm, cozy, wooded interior.  Our first choice had been Five Elephant (well, my first choice, as the supposed bakers of the best cheesecake in the city.  Be still my heart), but the place was packed.  So we hunkered down in Bitter for an hour, drank our hot beverages and played two hands of Mille Bornes.

After this, we headed toward the The Topography of Terror.  The sky slowly spread with pink and navy as we walked.  The air rapidly decreased in both temperature and light.  On our way there, we spotted a stunning building, just covered in eye-catching, stellar murals and motifs (see photo above).  We each snapped a number of photos, circling around the building to capture different angles.  

The Topography of Terror museum was chilling, fascinating and really informative.  A detailed historical layout of the horrific events that took place all through WW2, accompanied by tons of photos, filled the museum.  George and I sort of broke apart for this, each moving silently about the written and visual timeline at our own pace, gravitating towards what drew each of us the most.  We came back together a few times to quietly point something out to the other, but we mostly wandered separately.  After about 1.5 hour, we came back together and both abruptly agreed we were absolutely starving, each of us fading fast, so we left for food.

After dinner, we ventured out for a couple of drinks where we had more engaging and especially interesting conversation, as well as lots of laughter. 

The last morning in Berlin, George scoped out online what he assured me would be a good cafe.  They had coffee (so he would be happy) and cake (so I would be happy).  Sounded like a win-win to me.  We headed out into the drizzly morning air, our breaths visible in front of our noses.  The cafe was everything he had assured and more.  Loads of enticing looking sweet options with a close-quartered, no-frills, inviting decor to boot.  We hunkered down in a corner and sat for over an hour and a half.  The mood was relaxed and comfortable.  Before we knew it, we had to head out.

And then it was time for me to head off to the train station, to catch a train back to Frankfurt!!

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