Saturday, April 6, 2013

berlin in march, 2013

We went to Berlin in March. It's a city full of history. The capital of Prussia, the Nazis, the Holocaust memorials, the Berlin Wall, the Stasi. Berlin is chockfull of tourist sights with signposts to lead the way.

R and I saw some sights, avoided others. We did not go to Checkpoint Charlie. We did walk along the Karl Marx Allee.

We headed through neighbourhoods and down the backstreets. There was grandiose modern architecture, blocky Communist buildings, sometimes jazzed up with paint, fairytale steeples, ruins left in place to remind you.

Did I mention how cold it was? Colder than in Montreal. We warmed up in the cafés which were charming and Old World, even with the clack of laptop keys and ambient techno music.

This café is empty because, believe it or not, people preferred to sit outside. Okay, the sun had come out, but it was only about 3C. We noticed that too in Berlin: the outdoor café tables always had what I first thought were tablecloths draped over the backs of the chairs. Well, sure, I thought. It's way too cold to sit outside. But they were blankets. People sat with them draped across their laps or around their shoulders, cocooned inside them.

And since I'm on the subject of cafés, let me mention the bathrooms. The decor was always interesting, sometimes featuring boudoir furniture, tables you could stand at (why?), marble floors, curious paper towel dispensers. I started taking my camera when I went to use the facilities.

Have you zoomed on that frame?

I asked R about the men's washrooms and he told me one featured a ten-foot porcelain trough with running water that washed away the urine. One bathroom had a soccer ball and goal contraption in the urinals so you could... try to make a goal with your stream?

Here we are in yet another café--my favourite travelling buddy.

The restaurants were cozy too. This one served German/Austrian cuisine—dumplings with schweinebraten, dumplings with venison, spätzle with cheese, red cabbage soup. Yes, that's snow in the square outside.

The quality of the food was very high. True, German cooking is heavy on starch and not every restaurant had a vegetarian option. But there were restaurants that were 100% organic. I was especially impressed by the variety and choice of organic fruit and veg in ordinary grocery stores. Sure, when I travel, I go to grocery stores. I like a fruit bowl in my hotel room. With real fruit, please.

Next post I'll write about kids being taught how to look at abstract art. And subways. I was fascinated by the subways in Berlin.


  1. What beautiful photos. Thanks for these vignettes. I love the photo of R, and the one of the empty cafe with the stripes of golden light.

  2. Oh this is so much fun. Thank you! I would definitely be out there with the Berliners on that patio, in a blanket. Even though "Ich bin nicht ein Berliner..."

    1. Okay, Carin, you know about JFK's gaffe, but I'm still puzzled. How do the residents of Berlin identify themselves, if not as Berliners (donuts)?