On a Mission

(backdated to 19 January, 2013; written 25 January 2013)

As so often happens when we spend a short time in a new place, we run around with a mission in our heads.  We HAVE to do this and that and the other.  It’s easy to miss the most interesting things to see when you are on a mission.

Saturday in Berlin, we decided, would be shopping day.  We got up at a reasonable hour and went out for breakfast.  I was actually surprised at what we had for breakfast every day.  Here’s an average Berlin breakfast in a restaurant:

Look at all that fruit!  This was the healthiest breakfast I’ve had in years.  My stomach just didn’t know what to do with all those vitamins and minerals and became a bit upset.

First we went hunting for record stores.  DB was told by friends that we could find a lot of them around the East Train Station.  But first we walked along the river and a long piece of the Berlin Wall that has been turned into an outdoor art gallery.  Here are some photos of that area:

We walked around in the freezing cold, mostly completely alone on the streets, looking for record stores we never found in this neighborhood.  But I did see this crazy pink pipe everywhere.  Everywhere!  They raised it up so cars could drive past it.  They ran it over fences.  I just don’t get it.

Anyway, we finally decided to head to another neighborhood to find more interesting shopping.  Off we went on the U Bahn to Rosenthaler Platz, stepped out of the station and there was a record store.  Bingo!  But first we had to find a cafe to sit and eat/drink something because we were frozen.  We found the friendly and hip and fully wifi’d St. Oberholtz.

The food and coffee was great and honestly I’ve never seen so many laptops in a cafe before.  I don’t think people talked to each other, just sat next to each other sending messages.  DB went back to check out the record store and I stayed behind to stay warm and work on my sock.

He didn’t find what he was looking for but found out there were other record shops further up the street, so off we went, walking up Weinbergsweg.  We found a super cute shop that sold vinyl and clothes.  DB bought a record and I bought this t-shirt.  It’s hand printed with a knitted lace design.  How could I NOT buy this shirt?

The name of the shop is Rotation Boutique Berlin.  Well worth a visit. If I had a larger budget I would have bought more clothes there.

But we were still on a mission and finally found another record shop in the basement of this building.

I walked around taking photos and DB decided not to buy anything.  The woman working there sent us to another street to find another record store, and even though we tried, we couldn’t find it.

Finally it was time for my mission – a yarn shop.  Yesterday I asked Stephen West what shops he would recommend since I knew he had been here recently.  He said that he went to one shop (can’t remember the name now) but also heard that Hand Made Berlin was nice.  After checking both of their web shops I decided on Hand Made Berlin just because they seemed to have more unusual yarns.  I was right!

After wandering around far too long in the cold, being lost, we found it.

This is exactly the kind of shop I wish I owed.  Lots of yarn, the “normal” stuff you find in Europe, plus lots of interesting yarns from Japan and Scandinavia and Scotland and the U.S. AND there’s a coffee bar and tables and chairs to sit and drink coffee and knit!  What could be better?  I took a couple of photos of the back of the shop.  There’s a lot more besides this and I highly recommend the shop if you are in Berlin.  I bought 3 colors of Shetland 3ply yarn – but you’ll read more about that in a later post.

By this time we were very tired from all the walking and wandering around.  One last push, walking down another street looking for somewhere to eat, we walked past the New Berlin Synagogue.  What a beautiful building.  It’s amazing that it was not completely destroyed during WWII.

We found a cafe on a corner, got something to eat and headed back to the hotel to crash and burn.  Tomorrow another day and another agenda.

Easy Jetting to Berlin

(Backdated to 18 Jan 2013, written 24 Jan 2013)

Today we got up early and flew from Amsterdam to Berlin.  Why on earth would one fly from one cold place to an even colder place, just for fun?  It’s cheap this time of year, that’s why!  How can you beat 75 euros round trip for a flight?  We flew on EasyJet and I have to say it was one of the most painless flights I’ve ever been on, which is saying a lot for EasyJet.

We are staying in the NH Heinrich-Hein in the east side of Berlin.  The Wall used stand just a block away from our hotel.  Again, dead cheap this time of year.  We’re staying in a brand new super apartment with a kitchen and everything for 70 euros a night.  THIS is why we do city trips in the winter.  It remains to be seen how wise that is this time around.

Here’s a photo of a place a few blocks from the hotel.  The Wall used to run down this open area.  It now looks like a park.

We took public transport from the airport to the hotel, which takes time, but gives you more of a flavor of a place.  We took the S9 and then transferred to one of the U-bahn lines.  I thought it was so sweet how this S-bahn car was made to look cozy, like your grandma’s living room.  Fake wood paneling on the walls.  Fake upholstery on the seats.  Prints of the Brandenburg Gate on the windows that if you look quickly look like white lace curtains.  It’s not just this car – lots of trains look like this.

We haven’t done much on this first day in Berlin besides get to our hotel, have some lunch, get some Chinese take out down the street.  And SLEEP.  I think the past week of having our house torn up and full of paint smells really tired us out.  We hadn’t been sleeping well.  We’ll make up for it in this lovely hotel room.  ZZZzzzzzz and out to explore Berlin tomorrow……


Holiday Videos

I haven’t wished you a Happy New Year yet.  Happy New Year!  The days are already flying past.

I took a couple of little videos during the holidays.  One was taken at the Christmas market in Cologne.  It’s the Old Town market, which was the best in our opinion.  The second video is from New Year’s Eve in Haarlem.  We were at a friend’s house and the neighbors were busy lighting fireworks.  If you can imagine this kind of fireworks being set off at the same time, at about every 5th house on every street, you get the idea of what it’s like here at midnight on 31 December.  It’s goes on non-stop for an hour.  Really.

Finding Some Spirit

We finally felt like doing some Christmas decorating.  Above is our little tree.  I love this tree.  I love it because it has lived 3 years in that pot in the back yard and let’s us bring him in every year and hang stuff on his arms, and he happily keeps growing every year.  We don’t use him for our Christmas tree every year because we are cheap.  We use him because he’s a survivor and deserves the attention.

We also put out some candles.

And I set the holiday animals in the front window.  Here’s how they greet everyone:

So, along with the pro”beer”tje is a knitted Christmas ball that a colleague of DB’s made for me (how sweet is that?!).

That’s about all the cheer we can muster up at the moment.  It should be enough to see us through the holidays.  How’s your holiday cheer holding up?


Sometimes I just crack myself up.

Last Saturday afternoon DB and I went to Gamma to get some firewood.  Gamma is the Dutch version of Lowes, or any chain DIY warehouse store with building materials, bathroom suites, paint, power tools, etc.  It’s not the cheapest place to get firewood, but we were lazy and desperate.

At this time of year Gamma has a long isle of Christmas decorations, all the bright, loud, gaudy stuff you can think of, they have it.  I said “let’s go have a look”.  DB groaned.  Off we went.

They had singing puppets, fake European village scenes with music and lights, fake wreaths for your doors, and wire and plastic animal shaped things that light up 8 different ways.  And that’s what I wanted.

Me: Look! There’s a polar bear!  He’s nice.
DB:  Really? (Groan)
Me: Yeah, we need some light in the corner and he will be cheerful.
DB: He probably doesn’t work very well.
Me:  Well, we can give him a try.  He can be our probeertje.  *

Now, if you speak both Dutch and English you are at least smiling right now and hopefully LOL.  I LOL at my own word play joke.  DB chuckled.  But then he has repeated it several times since then so I know he thought it was clever.

The next LOL just goes to show how foggy I am in my head these days.  Yesterday I got myself ready to go out for a run.  I put on my running tights, socks, wind jacket, running watch, I had my phone with my podcast all ready to go.  I even remembered to take my glasses off, which is something I often forget.  I grabbed a house key and closed the front door behind me.  I reached down to turn on my running watch, took the next step and burst out laughing.  Why?  I had my house slippers on.  LOL.  What an airhead.

So, here’s a photo of our probeertje:

* The verb proberen means to try.  Probeertje means a little tryout.  Beer is Dutch for bear.