Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Music Man and the Friendly Dog

Ok. So it's been a long time since my last post. We've been busy with our new apartment, settling in and putting together furniture and all that stuff. It's been fun, but we still have lots to do.

So, here are some things I'd like to share:

The Music Man
On my walk to the train to go to work, I've seen the Music Man twice. The first time I saw him I was heart-warmed. He is this older, jolly looking man playing a music box on the corner of the street. I don't think he was even playing for money. He was just playing. So he's turning this handle and musical notes are floating through the air, you could practically see them! He was so cute. The second time I saw him, I was ready and snapped a picture =)

The Friendly Dog
I got to work early one day and decided to sit at a cafe and have a coffee outside. So I go in and order my stuff - ein latte macchiato bitte. I go out and sit at the table and a golden retriever is tied to the chair of that table, waiting for his owner, who is nowhere to be seen. So I sit. He looks at me. I look at him. He stands up and takes a couple of steps toward me and sniffs about. He drooled a bit on my jacket, but he was nice. Then he sat beside me and just kept me company you know. People walking by smiled at me and some even voiced greetings - "Guten tag" or "Hallo" ... I realized that these people would have paid no attention to me otherwise. It was all because of this dog! Eventually his owner came out of a nearby store. They did some tricks for me and then were on their way.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Our New Apartment!

In just over a week from now, Pauli and I will be moving into our new apartment. It's in Belin Mitte on Kleine Alexanderstrasse. It's on the first floor (one above the ground) of a relatively new building. The building is ten years old, well fabricated and well taken care of. There is a 24 hour doorman service and the courtyard is very sweet. Although the street itself is not very exciting and lacks some of that European charm, as the building is directly across from the Belin Newspaper, the street is very clean, quiet and safe, plus we have a really great view of the TV tower if you poke your head out of the bedroom window. But the very exciting and beautiful Hackescher Markt is just around the corner. Tons of cafes, restaurants, boutiques and nightlife spots awaiting our discovery! Yay! Relative to the city, we are in a great spot, close to everything exciting.

The apartment itself is great. The layout is perfect. It's a two bedroom place, with a semi open kitchen, two full bathrooms and a little balcony overlooking the courtyard. The finish-ings of the apartment are more than acceptable. A tiled entrance and kitchen, newly carpeted bedrooms and hardwood floors in the living area. We have storage space in the basement and a bike room for our bikes in the garage.

Pauli and I have just ordered a bunch of furniture, appliances and accessories for this place, since we came here with nothing. We have spent a lot of money and more expenses are to come, but the excitement of it all makes it worthwhile. Everything we've chosen is because we liked it and we want it. I can't wait to see this all come together. It's definitely a really fun project.

Oh yes! And pets are allowed! I think Jack will love his new home. I also can't wait for his arrival because I miss him so much, everyday =)

So here are some pictures of the place. Of course it's empty and the lighting in this place sucks, so we still have to think about planning the lighting scheme. And the carpets are being pulled out and will be a light gray color as opposed to this blue.

I can't wait to post pictures of it all furnished =)

The floor plan

The building from the courtyard

From the bedroom looking into the apartment


Guest bedroom with an exit to the balcony

Living room with exit to balcony


From living room looking into the apartment

My eyes enjoy...

This week, I took pictures of two sights I'd like to share.

This first picture is of an almost daily market that gets set up on the street near Handjerystrasse. I walk by it on my way to work and I always like it. I'm actually disappointed on the days its not there. I like it because it represents original trade. Merchants set up their tents in the morning displaying all their produce - foods, clothing, jewlery, crafts, trinkets ... And people are gathered all around examining these products and making deals, trading money for a product. The vendors yell out their daily specials as you walk by and the place is bustling and it always smells good. On this day the smell of marinated olives was very present. My favourite are the fresh fruit and vegetable stands.

This second picture is of this evenings' really great sunset. The picture is taken from Pauli's mom's roof top terrace. What a view!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Germany celebrates the fall of the Berlin Wall

"More than 100,000 people celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Monday evening, as world leaders gathered in the German capital for emotional commemorations marking the spread of freedom across Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel joined luminaries past and present to remember when communist East German finally opened the despised concrete barrier on November 9, 1989."

After I finished work on Monday night, I came home to eat and change. The tv was on and we could see live reports of the events at the Brandenburg Gate. There were speeches being given by politicians, concerts by various artists and even local people recounting their stories about their memories of that day. 1000 giant hand painted dominoes had been arranged along a 1.5km stretch of where the wall used to be. They were going to be toppled over during this ceremony and were meant to symbolize the fall of the wall and how Europe's communist regimes toppled one after another. Pauli and I made our way over there shortly after the first domino was pushed over.

The atmoshere when we got to Potsdamer Platz and walked over to the Brandenburg Gate was very festive and happy. People everywhere celebrating freedom. It was great. We drank Gluewine and enjoyed the scenery and celebrations. I ran into my friend Kristin (in the same surprising fashion that we met in Munich!!) and went out for some drinks with her and her friends at the Hackescher Markt.

It was a great night to be in Berlin. I'm so happy I got to experience it!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Some observations...

Since I've been in Berlin, I've noticed a few things I'd like to share. Things that are different from what I know and that surprised me.

1. EBK: stands for einbaukueche which means "installed kitchen". On our apartment search we've realized that we must look for apartments that have EBKs (about 50% have them) otherwise you gotta buy your own kitchen and install it. WTF!? I don't get it. This means that the person living there before took their kitchen with them when they left. Or it means that there are people out there looking for apartments to live in but they have their own kitchen packed up in their boxes. How weird is that?
2. unleashed dogs: Almost everyone in Berlin seems to have a dog. And they all walk obediently beside their owners or just up ahead - unleashed! The dogs wait to cross the street and they seem very aware of the fact that they are walking with their owner. Sometimes I try to get between them to see if I can confuse the dog so that it'll follow me instead. But it never works. The dogs here seem so smart =)
3. credit? : Seems like I live in a cash society now. Plastic is not the most convenient way to pay for things. And credit cards are very different from what I'm used to. A credit card here means that you get to buy things you can't afford but only for 30 days. What ever you put on your credit card during the month you must pay your balance in full when you get your statement! People don't know what a minimum payment is here! I guess it's good ... but it's still weird.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

New Hobby

Beginning a new chapter of your life in another country, I think, is a good opportunity to reflect on the things you like, the things you want and how those affect the person you are. So, I decided I wanted a hobby. I've never really had a hobby that I completely committed to. I think hobbies are important. It's something you do for fun, for yourself. I wanted a challenging and useful hobby, one that would encourage creativity and discipline. I picked sewing. My mother can sew and used to make her own clothes when she was a young lady. My grandmother was also an excellent seamstress and I often think about how she sat at her machine and worked. She made us little dresses, hats and house slippers. I recently found out that she also used to crochet bikinis and sold them to a store down the street from her home. Too cute. So because of some sentimentality and the fact that sewing is useful, creative and requires discipline, I decided to learn how to sew. Pauli's mom had an old portable sewing machine she was willing to lend me. I Googled "learn to sew", bought some fabric and materials and there you go. I've started sewing and finished my first project today - a pillow case! I think it's pretty good and I've discovered that I like to sew and envision this as my future hobby. Cool.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cafe Sundays

Pauli and I have decided to designate Sundays to sitting around cafes. So far we've been to two around the neighbourhood and would definitely go back to both. Last Sunday we went biking around and found a cute one called Cafe Vienna. They serve coffee and tea and other warm drinks and ice cream! Only ice cream. All kinds of combinations, sizes and types. You can be reserved and get one scoop topped with chocolate or strawberry sauce or you could go all out and get one of their very intricate looking sundaes. We passed on the ice cream that day but we will be going back.

Today we went to Cafe LuLu. We each had a latte machiatto and a cinnamon roll and walnut chocolate brownie to share. Excellent and delicious! They also have a full menu offering soups, sandwiches, salads, Asian tapas and wine and beer.

I love sitting in cafes =)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Oktoberfest '09

We arrived in Munich on Monday, checked into the little hotel and hopped into our Dirndls. We took the U-bahn to the Oktoberfest. The locals call it "Wiesn" - which translates to mean the field. I guess that makes sense since back in the day this fest was held in a field. As we approached the sound of the crowd became more apparent, we could hear the bass of loud music and we could see the glittering lights of the carnival rides. Once we entered, it was like a circus. People everywhere, many dressed in their Dirndls and Lederhosen, sausage stands, candy stands, caipirinha stands, pretzel stands, memorabilia stands, rides and games, and of course the beer tents. The beer tents are all pretty big, they are more like large buildings with tent roofs. We had a table reserved at the Augustina tent. We sat at our table and joined some people there, ordered big beers and had a lot of fun. We ate Schweinebraten mit karttofelkloesse. The atmoshere there was pleasantly rowdy and very alive. Later, Pauli and I walked around outside, surprised by the effect of the beer, exploring the grounds and we did the Free Fall ride. Super intense!! We went back to the hotel soon after to rest our woozy heads.

The next day we walked around Munich's city center - Marienplatz. Pauli bought a new, more traditional outfit he could wear that night (not Lederhosen though!). We sat at the Augustiner am Dom Restaurant and had a little sausage platter, when suddenly, who do I see out of the corner of my eye?! My friend Kristin, from the Concordia lab I worked at, is strolling down the street, followed by a group of tourists, giving a tour of Munich!! I knew she was in Munich but I didn't really expect to find her. I ran up to her, interrupted her tour, hugged a bunch of times in disbelief and made plans to meet at the Oktoberfest that night. Later, we went back to the hotel, hopped back into our Dirndls and out we went, back to the fest, this time to sit in the Kaefer tent. This was my favourite tent although Kristin claims it's a lame one =) The crowd here was a little more reserved but everyone is still partying and the atmoshere was very festive. Yeah, you had the promis (word for celebs) and the in-crowd people. Overall it had a more fancy-shmancy feel than the other tents but I think it was the coolest. Maybe I am getting old ... As usual we ate a lot and drank a lot. One of Pauli's relatives/cousin(?), Andrej - who's our age, came to meet us. Afterwards, we all met up with Kristin at the tent she was in. I don't even remember what the name of it was but INSANE is all I have to say. It was crowded, it was sweaty, it was loud and it was above all FUN! This is what I imagined Oktoberfest to be like - debauchery =) Everyone was standing on the tables singing and dancing and having conversations that make no sense. As fun as it was I only lasted one big beer (see, I am getting old!) and out we went for some air and more rides.

We drove home the next day, 600km, and slept like babies that night. I would for sure go back next year!

In the Augustiner tent.

Schweinebraten mit karttofelkloesse.

Walking around outside.

Mucke and I in our Dirndls.

In the Kaefer tent.

The INSANE tent =) This pic was of course taken from a tabletop.

Kristin and I.

Andrej and Pauli.

View from the Ferris Wheel.

Around Marienplatz.

Around Marienplatz.

Well ... 'till next time,

xoxo Holly

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The new 'hood

I live on the top floor of an apartment building on Handjerystrasse. We now belong to the little area of Friedenau. It's very close to the city but it is surprisingly quiet and green and really cute. The sound of church bells are consistent throughout the day and night but at random intervals it seems. I've tried to time them but I can't find a pattern. Out of my bedroom window I can see the little Austrian wine and specialty food shop across the street where one can also sit at long tables covered by white and red checkered table cloths outside and enjoy its Austrian delicacies. Ludwig, the owner, is a very interesting character but he is very charming. Below you will see pictures of the local supermarkets (all closed because it's Sunday), nearby restaurants we've tried and some scenery from my walk around the neighbourhood. My favorite restaurant so far is Dos. It is a very chill Spanish tapas place and there is always people there. The ambiance is fun as the ground is totally covered in sand in and out and slow R&B tunes float through the air. The food is also excellent and the mojitos are even better! You'll also see I passed by the closest U-bahn and S-bahn stations. I stopped for ice cream, chocolate of course, and continued walking around very cautiously trying to avoid all the chestnuts that fall from the trees. It's crazy! There are tons all over the place. There are also so many cyclists around and you have to be careful of them more than you do of cars. I'm excited to take out my 90's Peugeot soon and bike around town. I will check out the route to my German lessons by bike and see if it will be feasible once I start. So that was my lazy Sunday afternoon. Tomorrow we are going to Munich for the Oktoberfest, so late next week I'll post something about that.

Miss you all xoxoxoxo