Again – in Berlin, my mother town – welcome and Prenzlauerberg

It is mid November 2016.  Again I am in Berlin, my mother town, just for a few days. I  say hello to some of my favorite places, want to discover some new places and meet friends.

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Berlin is welcoming me

As always I am welcomed by Berlin in the modern Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche called “powder box”. I love the solemn atmosphere produced by the blue stain windows. The floating Christ figure looks to me as if he would bless the church and its visitors.

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Next stop is in the traditional shop Kadewe, where I have my Büsümer Krabbensüppchen (shrimps soup from Büsüm on Sylt) – as always delicious.

I move on to Dussmann in Friedrichstrasse and find the book: “Weinland Brandenburg” by Tom Wolf, 2016. “Wine in Brandenburg? Is this not the land where there is nothing but sand?” Tom Wolf asks and then describes 31 wine growers. Perhaps I should plan to go for a bike tour around Berlin? Who would like to join me? This is the map taken from the book.

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Prenzlauerberg – charming mix of small shops, restaurants, markets and culture

I have a dinner appointment in Prenzlauerberg. Metro number 2 takes me there and I dive into the charming mix of small shops, restaurants, markets and culture. The “Kleine Eiszeit” sells ice cream, but is closed during winter. They are looking forward to March 2017, when the “small Ice Age” will start again.

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This shop is open – and he announces it in Berlinese – “is uff” or “ist offen” (meaning “is open”).

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The shop’s layout shows a good taste for colors.

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The shop next door seems to have a more international clientèle.

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This restaurant recommends to have a chat with one another.

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And not far from here I am tempted to buy loads of children’s books in the small bookshop that attracts clients with this fairy tale quote.

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“Who drinks from me, will be a deer. Who drinks from me, will be a deer.” Do you know the fairy tale? – It is “Brüderchen und Schwesterchen” or “Little Brother and Little Sister” by the Brothers Grimm.

The Old Brewery (which is now a cultural center with restaurants) is busy setting up its Christmas market.

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At Kollwitz square I find a busy market. First I try Kwas over a chat with Russians. And then I exchange memories with a Mongolian lady and try her milk drink and some Mongolian ravioli – delicious – bairlla or thank you.

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With a Vietnamese meal in noisy Umami at Knackstrasse and a quiet apero in the friendly restaurant Breslau at Sredzkistrasse I finish off my day, with a friend of mine from Poland.

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My second day: Pouring rain

In the pouring rain I walk from Potsdamer Platz to the Hacke’scher Markt. The sky IS grey and so is the TV tower on Alexander Platz, seen from the small promenade along the Spree.

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The pouring rain makes me buy a warm rain coat lined with fleece. I get it at Freitag’s in the Hacke’sche Höfe – the shopkeeper is exactly my age and we have a long chat, also about a duchess that bought some 25 coats and jackets here, not for herself, but for the model dolls in her villa. She walks around them to enjoy the beauty of what she has acquired. Berlin can be a crazy town.

I close off the day with one of my best friends… in the restaurant Pastis at Rüdesheimerplatz, where the owner and her staff speak French. Our meals are delicious.

 

 

On the road – three new cultural adventures in Berlin

Always new things to discover – Berlin is large and it is evolving quickly

Whenever I come back to Berlin, I keep on finding that I still do not know everything. This time I had three new cultural experiences:

  • the Berlin Philharmonie
  • the inauguration of the society of friends of the Museum of Music Instruments,
  • the Martin Gropius building with an exhibition about the Vikings.

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The Berlin Philharmonie: The concert with the promising and young conductor Andris Nelsons

Of course I had often looked at the Berlin Philharmonie, the concert hall with the courageous tent like roof that caused it to be called “Circus Karajan” (according to the famous conductor of the time). The concert hall has been built in the sixties of the last century. Now I entered the Berlin Philharmonie for the first time.

Sabine noticed that there are still tickets available for the concert of the promising young conductor Andris Nelson. He conducts a piano concert by Mozart, “Burleske” (also with piano) by Richard Wagner and “Also sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Wagner. Emanual Ax will play the piano. We order tickets for Friday, October 17th.

Entering the Berlin Philharmonie, I indeed feel like in a circus. The roof is hanging high above us and we reach our seats using a maze of staircases. On the way to my seat, I notice the Sony Center just in front of the window. The Sony Center? So close? Hence they have built the concert hall in close vicinity of the Berlin wall! 50 years ago they built it at the periphery of West Berlin, overlooking the muddy grass pit that then was the Potsdamer Platz. And now, the Berlin Philharmonic is rounding off the burstling Potsdamerplatz that has emerged simce the wall has disappeared.

I take my seat. Below me there are the fortepiano and the empty places for the musicians. Almost every seat in the audience is taken.

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I enjoy the concert. The young conductor is full of energy. I notice myself copy his movements (more in mind) – for me they “reflect” the music. Mozart’s harmonies always calm me down. The Burleske of Strauss I find more difficult to listen to. In the lucent wood above the piano keys I sometimes watch the agile hands of Emanuel Ax. After the break, “Also sprach Zarathstra” starts very loudly. Nelsons conducts a much larger orchestra now. The banging start is too loud for me – like a shock. But the critique seems to like this start. As the flow continues more quietly, I try to understand, what Zarathustra is saying. While I liked to watch this conductor that shows emotion, the critique concludes that Nelsons has not yet reached the maturity to take over the Berlin Philharmonics from Simon Rattle. Well, I am not an expert at all. Can it be that the high average age of conductors determines, how much body movement ia allowed to young conductors?

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Museum of Musical Instruments (Musikinstrumentenmuseum)

Just next door to the Berlin Philharmonie, there is the Museum of Musical Instruments. Wikipedia says “The Museum holds over 3,500 musical instruments from the 16th century onward and is one of the largest and most representative musical instrument collections in Germany.” Here is a selection of three instruments.

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The museum is also proud of its mighty Wurlitzer.

On Sunday October 19th, the museum invites for the “Fest der Freunde” (party of the friends) to celebrate the foundation of the society that will support the Museum of Musical Instruments. Antoinette, my friend from school times, told me about the event. Conny guides through the museum, explains the background of the key instruments and has samples played (sometimes she plays herself). Andreas presents his evaluation of one clavichorde from around 1800. It has very unusual design, as it has a second sound board and the sound board is not well strutted. The builder wanted to make the clavichorde louder, but this design made the instrument less loud. “I think this is not a good development”, Andreas says politely. Now he considers to renovate the clavichorde as is – and then it cannot be played well – or to document the status and reonovate it such that it can be played properly. Very interesting.

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Wikingerausstellung in Martin Gropius House

Also not far from the Potsdamerplatz there is the Martin Gropius House. Gropius? I expect a modern building in the Bauhaus style. And then – I find this classical late 18th century building. The explanation: Martin Gropius is not Walter Gropius, but his great uncle. Walter Gropius was a member of the Bauhaus, not Martin. And this is why, it is not a Bauhaus building, but has a more classical appearance.

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The Martin Gropius House hosts excellent temporary exhibitions. Currently there is an exhibition about the Vikings. In the central court yard there are the remains of a boat – a viking longship. It was 37m long. Just the wooden bottom of the ship has been preserved. Metallic sticks have been added to give the idea of the longship. A lady teacher explains the boat to her boys and girls. Her presentation is lively and highly interactive. To round it off, she asks the children to draw a boat. One boy draws a wonderful sailing boat with a huge veil that inflates in the wind. He shows it proudly to Sabine.

Detailed topics are elaborated in the rooms around the central court yard. We have received audio guides with one track for children and one track for grown-ups. We both prefer the track for chlidren. In a dramatic tone, the voice says that Harald Blauzahn had a challenging life. In the tenth century he ruled over Denmark and Norway. He was invading the Normandie – successfully -, but Otto I (the strong ruler of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation) withstood his attacks. Harald Blauzahn adopted the Christian religion. On display is his rune stone that says: “King Harald ordered that this monument was made for his father Gorm and his mother Tyra, by Harald who subdued Denmark and Norway and converted the Danes to Christianity.” After the visit I google a bit, and I discover that I have met Harald Blauzahn before… under the name of “Bluetooth” which is a communication protocolle named after “Harald Blauzahn” – or “Harald Bluetooth”: The logo shows his initials in rune script (source: Wikipedia on Harald Blauzahn; see also the report of Stern: “Ein Wikinger namens Blauzahn“).

The Vikings were feared for their attacks, especially along the Atlantic and the Mediterranian coast line as well as along the rivers that they could reach from the Baltic Sea. They also traded. Some of their trading ports were Novgorod and Kiev. They founded the Kievian  Rus – the Ruriks were the first Russian emperor  dynasty (until 1610). The vikings also settled in Greenland and found North America. The rooms around the central yard illustrate their achievements. In the 11th century one of the Viking trading business models was no longer applicable: Christianity did not accept slavery between fellow Christians. The northern Christian kingdoms started to emerge (see Wikipedia about the vikings).

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Well, Berlin always has some new insights ready for me.

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Zum Schwiizer in Zeesen, south of Berlin

Jo dö könned mir jo gly Schwyzerdüütsch rede “Ahm, then we can speak Swiss German right away,” the charming young lady says, as she hears our first words. Antoinette and her husband had taken me into the restaurant “zum Schwiizer” in Zeesen, some 40km south of Berlin. We sit in a nice garden in the warm sun, and obviously Antoinette and I could not hide where we are from. The owner welcomed us in Swiss German. We order Läberli (liver) and Zürigschnätzlets (meat cut into strips in cream sauce) with Röschti (similar to hash browns) and e Gmüeswäie (vegetable pie). We also take Valser Wasser (mineral water from Vals in the Swiss mountains) and Rivella (is made from milk serum and is a drink invented in Switzerland in 1952).

The Swiss quiz

While we wait for our dishes, we smile about this quiz which we found on our table… it contains questions such as

  •  which of these dishes do not contain potatoes: Hääperebrägu, Rüeblitorte, Gschwellti, Härdöpfustock (it is “Rüeblitorte” that contains Rüebli or carrots, but not potatoes).
  • or translate please: Jetzt faart dä Löli uf em Troittoir, derbii schtoot e Tschugger hinterem Egge. (Now this idiot runs his bike on the pedestrians’ walk, but there is a policeman behind the corner).
  • or which of these products have not been invented in Switzerland or by a Swiss? The two stroke engine, democracy, the zip fastener, Chevrolet cars, the bicycle chain, the PC mouse, LSD, aluminium foil, the velcro fastener, the turbo charger, the spam and the LCD display? Answer: The spam – and I somehow think this is not a product, but a nuisance… or did they mean Spiced Pork And Meat – canned precooked meat?

Antoinette’s husband rolls his eyes, as also Germans have a hard time to understand the Swiss dialects. We enjoy our very Swiss experience here close to Berlin. We can recommend this restaurant & pension which is just near the regional railway station of Zeesen with a direct connection to the city center of Berlin (website http://www.zum-schwiizer.com). The young couple running it met in Switzerland, he being from Berlin and she from the Swiss canton of Thurgau, and they decided to start their own business here.