Berlin Trip Report 11/07

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Dec 2nd, 2007, 09:43 PM
  #21
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Surie: Kaminer is a russian jewish immigrant who seems to have become the most popular young german author (37 year old). He writes with such a witty sense of humor, however his books have not yet been translated into English yet. Here's a website about all his books:

www.russentext.de/kaminer/
In an imperfect English translation: http://tinyurl.com/34xexw

marginal:
Here's one aquarelle of the Brandenburg gate in a gallery: www.uschilange/de/galerie/Berlin.html
I personally haven't seen that many original aquarelle of the gate.
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Dec 3rd, 2007, 01:13 PM
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Surie, I'm enjoying your report! Berlin is one of our favorite cities - I visited twice in 2007 and may return in March 2008. (I've still got a trip report of my own to post from our September trip.)

Is your daughter teaching English in Berlin? We have a few similarities - my youngest daughter is a German major and hopes to spend a semester abroad in Vienna next year (she's visited there twice). My daughter also wants to live in Berlin at some point when she graduates.

I'm looking forward to reading more of your report - how long was your visit?
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Dec 3rd, 2007, 05:40 PM
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noe-- I read your report and wondered if your daughter wanted to go back-- I remembered that she spoke German!

My daughter spent her spring semester of jr. year in Vienna and loved it. Her program was through Central College in Iowa, and it was excellent. They offered a 1 or 2 month language immersion option before the Vienna semester started in March, so she lived at a Goethe Institute in Prien, Germany for 2 months, met a lot of people from all over the world that she is still friends with-- in addition to improving her German a lot. It was a really good experience.
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Dec 3rd, 2007, 05:52 PM
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noe-- I hope you'll post your latest report soon!!

My daughter got a teaching assistantship in Austria last year, teaching high school students. She plans to teach some "business English" to make money since she has an unpaid internship right now. She's also babysitting and has gotten a couple of fun freelance writing jobs about shopping (!) through a very nice alum of her school. The great thing about living there is that she can support herself in a meager way! It seems a lot easier to live simply there.
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Dec 3rd, 2007, 05:56 PM
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Sandy-- Denton sounds great!

DAX-- Kaminer's books look like fun; too bad they haven't been translated into English. Do you live in Germany?
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Dec 3rd, 2007, 10:41 PM
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Surie: Thanks for your tip on Theodor Tucher, I'm going to try the food there the next time I get to Berlin. It must be good because the previous foodie german chancellor Schroeder took GW Bush to that restaurant. If you like Tucher then you should someday try Gugelhof in Kollwitzplatz where Schroeder took Clinton. The food is very good and reasonably priced.

To answer your question, I've never lived in Germany but I do go there often.

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Dec 4th, 2007, 04:50 PM
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DAX-- it's funny you should suggest Gugelhof, because we did have dinner there the third night, and it's this part of the report that I lost. I can see it on the left when I'm writing this but I don't know how to move it over.

I don't want to write the whole thing again since I may be able to get it back, but I didn't love Gugelhof as much as I thought I would. The food was great, our waiter was cute, and we had fun but the whole place was really smoky. Also we had been tearing around before we got there, so I'm sure that didn't help. I would definitely go back-- actually I think restaurants are supposed to be smoke-free after Jan. 1, aren't they? I hope so!
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Dec 4th, 2007, 09:41 PM
  #28
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Surie, just copy & paste it from the left into the reply box. The same thing has happened to my posting in the past as well. Now, I'm looking forward to the last part of your report.
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Dec 7th, 2007, 02:17 PM
  #29
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DAX-- thanks, but I can't seem to do it. I'm driving myself crazy!

Back to Berlin...

I will re-cap the third day by saying we enjoyed our tour of the palace, returned to the bus and continued that tour, hopped off at Gendarmenmarkt and met my daughter for lunch at Lutter und Wegner which we liked a lot. Great atmosphere and food, fun people-watching too.

We had 3 courses for 15E, all delicious. We were amazed at how reasonable that was!

We walked around the area, went to Galeries Lafayette, and a couple of stores my daughter suggested-- Strange Fruit and wunderkind-- that were interesting to see. Then we took a taxi to IKEA and got stuff for my daughter's apartment-- that was a blast.

We rushed back to meet a couple of her friends at Gugelhof, which as I said was fun but so smoky that it detracted from my experience.
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Dec 7th, 2007, 03:59 PM
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Surie, you went to the best Lutter & Wegner branch in Berlin (IMHO) and 15 EUR for a 3 course lunch is a nice bargain. We've only been there for afternoon wine breaks or dinner. It's too bad that Gugelhof was smoky when you were there, I suppose that's just a matter of luck. Thanks for finishing your report.
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Dec 8th, 2007, 07:41 AM
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I know it was bad luck with the smokiness that evening, and I'll definitely try it again.

I was in Berlin for a week so I'll try to get through it more quickly now!

We had a leisurely breakfast which was encouraged by the cold, foggy, rainy weather we could see above the trees from the dining room.

This day is a blur in my memory, because we mostly walked around looking in little stores. If you don't like to shop, you would hate this trip! I love finding neat little stores that are unusual, and Berlin has lots of them. Designers are able to band together in small groups or on their own and have a small place with an office/workspace in the back. It's fun to find something that is different and unique to a certain city.

The shops are all pretty much white painted rooms with racks of clothes and maybe a table or two. It seems refreshingly low-key and cool. If the designer is there, it's fun to be able to talk to them and interesting to hear about their work, life there, etc.

We changed at the hotel and my friend wanted to have a drink at the Bebel Bar in the Hotel de Rome, which is a glamorous hotel in the old Dresdner Bank building. It was fun to see it although I like staying at smaller, more homey places-- not just because of the price differences! This hotel I later found out actually has some history. The original was bombed out in the war but they recently returned to Berlin and re-opened. The bar is cool and it was fun to people-watch.

Then we went on to dinner to my favorite restaurant in Berlin, e.t.a. hoffmann, in Kreuzberg. The other 2 times I've been to Berlin, we had stayed at the Riehmers Hofgarten which is a wonderful hotel backing onto a beautiful, quiet old courtyard. The hotel's breakfast was served in the restaurant's dining room which during the day looked very plain and simple. At night, the yellow walls glow and it has a warm and welcoming feeling.

The food is excellent and they have 3 course specials for about 30E. They have a good wine list too. We met up with friends from home who have been so kind to my daughter and I wanted to thank them. We had a fun dinner, and for my daughter and me being there has happy associations.
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Dec 8th, 2007, 08:03 AM
  #32
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We had a drink at the bar at Cafe Centrale, a little Italian place with good food, next to the hotel and then headed back to Prenzlauerberg.

The next day we trudged to my daughter's apartment and had a whirlwind makeover! It was really fun and totally transformed what had been a rather bleak room.

We did more poking around and ended up at a great little cafe for lunch-- the Kost Bar, just down the street from Pasternak. We had delicious pumpkin soup which was a staple in early November and I love it. As we were thinking about moving on, we saw that it was no longer just raining, it was sleeting and as we sat there, hail was bouncing off the ground and then it started snowing! It was so cozy inside that we settled in and forced ourselves to have wine and cake. The weather was amazing and everyone was laughing, all very unexpectedly festive.

We walked some more and ended up at the tail end of the farmers' market held every Thursday and Saturday in Kollwitzplatz. It closes at 4 on Saturdays and it was already dark by then. We stopped at wonderful cheese stalls, sausage stalls, etc. My friend is an incredible cook and loves to entertain, and she gave my daughter great tips on things to pick up for a party. We loved looking in little flower shops too; there would be a tiny space full of charm and great style.

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Dec 8th, 2007, 11:42 AM
  #33
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Two different stores we liked were Claudia Skoda for beautiful and unusual knitted clothing, and Andreas Murkudis who carries his brother's line and a few others. His space is at the back of a courtyard and is very cool. Both stores have things for men and women.

We were meeting relatives of my husband for dinner and we were looking forward to seeing them. They are younger than I and the wife had been travelling a lot during the previous week for business and was in Berlin for a week-long seminar. Her husband picked her up at the airport and they wanted to meet us at 8:30 for dinner. My daughter thought they might enjoy the "weinerei", a restaurant that sounded so cool and very Berlinish to me. The concept is that when you arrive you pay one euro for a wineglass and can fill your glass at the counter from a choice of several reds or whites, have dinner, etc and then pay what you think you owe at the end-- there is a suggested amount understood-- and obviously it wouldn't be cool to skimp.

My daughter started worrying the day before if it was the best place for the dinner but I thought it sounded great. She hadn't been to this one before, so it was new to all of us. She had made a reservation and because it has no sign out front, told our relatives where to look for it and that we would be watching for them. We arrived at about 8:25 and found that it was not the chill place I had been expecting-- it was a Saturday night and the little room was jam-packed. The staff seemed harried, people were waiting for tables and after our relatives arrived, the wife looking jet-lagged but trying to be chipper, we quickly decided to try something else. The minute we got up a group grabbed our table so we rushed out.

There was a perfectly nice Indian restaurant right nearby so we went there in desperation. It was a good choice; it was calm, we had a good dinner and although it wasn't fabulous, we had a great time. Our relatives were sweet to want to get together and it was great to see them.

In the week we were there, that dinner was the only close call to a misstep that we had. We were so glad we had left the weinerei; it is probably fun on a weeknight, but avoid a busy Saturday. Every other meal we had was so good and had a pleasant atmosphere.
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Dec 9th, 2007, 08:18 AM
  #34
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Sunday morning and another great breakfast at the hotel! My daughter was babysitting and my friend and I had planned to see the 2 museums across from the Schloss.

We went to the Brohan first because it was smaller; it has collections of art deco and art nouveau as well as a nice Lalique exhibit that happened to be there then. I was more interested in the Berggruen Museum which is next to the Brohan. It has a lot of Picasso and Klee, as well as a little bit of Matisse and Giacometti. It's a nice collection although I had hoped for more Matisses.

We headed to Kreuzberg to meet up with my daughter. When she had lived there the summer before last, she had an apartment on Fidicinstrasse, a nice street a few blocks from Bergmanstrasse. We had found Cafe Primel, owned by a lovely older man who made delicious cakes and also spoke good English. It was a tiny place that typified what I love about the lifestyle in Europe-- he is able to do what he loves, does it well and can support himself in a comfortable way. I am probably romanticizing it but it is very appealing. The owner was always so nice to me and my daughter, and she had seen him when she moved back since she babysits for a family in the neighborhood.

We met at Cafe Primel for lunch, and then the woman she babysits for came to have coffee and cake with us. It was fun to meet her and her little boy; my daughter has loved knowing their family, and they have been great to her.

It was a dreary gray day (again!) and raining and snowing, so it wasn't so pleasant to walk around Bergmanstrasse. The area between it and Fidicinstrasse has lovely old buildings that escaped the bombing and in good weather is really nice. It's mostly residential with little restaurants and bars occasionally interspersed. Bergmanstrasse is a busy street with a nice feeling-- lots of restaurants and stores, and a lot of life on the sidewalk. There is a big Turkish population here and it gives the neighborhood some diversity. The vibe is hip but not as young as in Prenzlauerberg, and it seems more low-key. I love it and I missed spending more time there on this trip.
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Dec 9th, 2007, 08:43 AM
  #35
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Super report! Glad you wrote about Bergmanstr. We wandered through there last April but found nothing interesting from the Suedstern church walking west all the way to the Markthalle where we gave up and walked back to the Suedstern U bahn. It was so boring that my kids considered walking through the graveyard to make it interesting. Now that I am looking at the map, I bet you're going to tell me that the better part is between the 3 blocks between Markthalle and Mehringdamm. LOL!
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Dec 9th, 2007, 08:49 AM
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Thanks, Surie, for posting this.

I'm enjoying reading about all of the local cafes and shops in Prenzlauer Berg, since we're headed there this January.
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Dec 9th, 2007, 02:01 PM
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Ask your daughter if she knows anything about the bar called White Trash in PB.

Thingorjus
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Dec 9th, 2007, 06:25 PM
  #38
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Yes, DAX, the first 3 blocks are great! -- although I haven't been as far as the suedstern stop. There is a fun little restaurant, Austria, that is on Bergmanstr. in that direction. Also there is a covered market I've been to-- is that the Markthalle you mention? I don't remember it being so far though. Next time you are there, spend some time at the Mehringdamm end. I have to say though that I don't know eastern Kreuzberg at all.

Nan-- have fun and please write about it!

Thin-- I've read about WTFF but I'll ask my daughter what she knows.
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Dec 10th, 2007, 07:30 AM
  #39
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For dinner we wanted to go to Storch at Wartburgstrasse 54 in Schoneberg. We took a taxi and my daughter remembered the street but not the number, and it turned out to be a long street. We were embarrassed as we kept driving along and not finding it, and the driver was so nice and I guess also embarrassed that he didn't know exactly where it was that he turned off the meter! It looked like a lovely residential street and it would have been great just to walk it, looking at the lighted windows, which I love to do.

We finally found it and walking in, something seemed different. It looked brighter somehow although the layout was the same: bar on the left, big tables in the room, etc. We finally realized that it is under new ownership and has a new name too! It is now a double name of a photographer/artist who was related to the new owner and I can't remember that name. I think anyone would still know it as Storch.

The room has been whitewashed and has the photographer's pictures on the walls-- they are lovely black and whites. The lighting seems brighter too, but once we got used to it, we liked it. Otherwise the menu seems the same and I think the chef is the same. It was quiet on that Sunday evening and very pleasant. The food is great, Alsatian. I'm no foodie but it was wonderful. We started with a flammekuchen (sp?) which we shared. It's sort of like a pizza and is delicious.

We had been once before with a big family group and it had a convivial atmosphere and more of a crowded jolly feeling. It definitely seemed artier now, but the food was just as good. There was a group of friends who may have been from the neightborhood with a toddler who was ready for bed so it still has a casual feeling. We loved it.

Monday we did our usual thing of walking around. We had lunch at Monsieur Vuong which is fun, very popular and crowded. The decor is striking and surprising in Berlin-- very colorful in reds and oranges. I had the glass noodle salad which was great and I read somewhere later that it's the thing most people order. It's perfect for a quick and inexpensive meal.

We ended up in a really pretty part of Mitte and found a great clothing store. The name is GB which are the owner/designer's initials, and he was adorable. My friend said she was so happy to see colors, something that wasn't gray or black! The clothes aren't hip/minimal but interesting and well made. We enjoyed talking to Guido the designer, who was from east Berlin.

My daughter had wanted to take us to Friedrichshain but we ran out of time unfortunately. We wanted to go back to Bergmanstrasse in Kreuzberg to get some stuff for her apartment. There are some cool stores, one in particular in a courtyard, with nice textiles to mix with the IKEA stuff. The Turkish influence is fun and made her apartment more interesting. If we had the time to roam further, I know there are a lot of bargains to be found, but I wanted to just get it done. I felt so much better leaving her with a cheerful, warm environment!

For dinner our last night, we decided on Zoe which is a neat restaurant we'd never been to or even heard of before. Everything is white and cool, but friendly service, great food and reasonable prices. A friend of my daughter came to meet us near the end, but my friend and I were finally fading and had to leave them with a bottle of wine and head back to the hotel to pack. They weren't too sad.

Of course, as we were leaving for the airport the next morning, the sun was shining brightly! Everything looked so much nicer!! We had a fabulous time and I am looking forward to my next visit. There is always something new happening as well as a lot of things still to see. It was fun going with a friend who likes to eat and shop as much as I do-- my husband prefers more of a schedule (with little/no shopping) and this was very relaxing!
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Dec 10th, 2007, 09:47 AM
  #40
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Thin-- about White Trash Fast Food-- my daughter hasn't been yet. She's heard the burgers are great and it's not as cool as it was since it moved.
But it's still too cool for me!
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