Month: March 2013

Kreuzberg roamin’

Spring has Sprung!

Alas, only in the confines of our centrally heated apartment.
I’ve been buying lots of flowers, not only to brighten up the place and because they’re so bloomin’ (why yes!) cheap here, but because I imagine that their timely death acts as a sacrifice, which pleases the weather spirits,  who will ultimately grant us The Warmth.

One of my favourite ‘floral bunches’ is the cherry blossoms, which you buy as a heap of boring-looking sticks with tiny buds, but which gradually bloom into very lovely delicate flowers.

Not merely pretty, but also makes me think of an episode of M*A*S*H in which the team are all huddled around outside, on a clearly freezing cold day, whilst Radar unveils a cherry blossom twig to ceremoniously mark the first of spring (which has been raised in a hot-house).

Much like Frühling in Deutschland.

We’ve seen the first of spring by the calender definition, and also by the more scientific ‘somewhere near the 20th of the month’ definition, and, I have to say, that at minus 6, it’s still not entirely Sprung-y.

So the flower shops and I are desperately trying to cultivate the feeling.

And now, the Easter brigade has joined in:

The hauptbahnhof is filled with oversized terrifying mechanical rabbits employed in menial tasks. Their brightly coloured floral sweat-shops are enough to make anyone want to go outside.

Because outside is away from the rabbits.

Of course, there are also rabbit-themed baked goods, but they were, as it so often turns out when you buy food based merely on it’s novelty value, somewhat disappointing. Anyone who has bought a dinosaur doughnut past the age of 6 will understand this tragedy.

But I digress.
Despite the cold (and the nasty biting wind, did I tell you yet about the wind?), last weekend die Sonne Scheint!
Or it did shine. Now is Monday. And night. But we haven’t got round to past tense in german lessons yet.

So to celebrate both this, and the slightly greater ease with which I can now breathe due to a belated triumph of my immune system, we went a-wandering

These are all from around Kreuzberg. We had a pretty nice-albeit-freezing walk around the river, along with the 3,000 other Kreuzbergians who had taken to the streets in the hope of getting enough Vitamin D in their system to last through the next patch of ‘weather’. We also managed to find this amazing store that was a combination art/material/sculpture/furniture/modern design/architectural/stationary store.

As a kid, my mother only bought me the 50 for 1 dollar types of pencils  (let’s be honest, I couldn’t be trusted not to lose or break them).. so now I have a unhealthy obsession with all types of stationary. I think it also helps that I’m a naturally chaotic person, and the beautiful folders and pencil trays and cardboard boxes feed into an unrealistic belief that if I had all the pretties, I would suddenly be capable of remembering where I put my passport, or which letter needs posting…

After a short period of wandering, gazing, and lusting, Andy re-discovered me in the ‘crafts’ section lovingly fondling some dried moss and dreaming of terrariums:

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4045/4265053032_c1e905c2b2.jpg

As he had only eaten a single egg and two pieces of bread for breakfast (having snootted his nose at my bunny cake), he was well into the ‘starving’ part of his day, so we hurried over to ‘Kreuzberg Proper’ (the place with the food) and scarffed massive amounts of food at Knoffi.

Sabine took me to Knoffi when I dropped by for the IMPRS interview last April, and I was pretty keen to go back and re-visit their ‘Knoffi teller’- a massive vegetarian tasting plate with Dolmadis, stuffed aubergines, sheeps cheese, various dips and turkishbread and salad and many other hidden delights.

I had tried to drag Andy in previously, but he found the environment a little heavy.

Personally, I’m a little in love with it! I like to imagine that this is how any of the members my extended (particularly Marriot) family would stock a shop if they ever took to the trade.

Luckily I was able to dull his senses by imposition of prolonged fasting and force spicy chicken on him in his moment of weakness!

By the time we had gorged, evening was well on its way, so after a bit more wandering and a look in a few shops, we headed back to the homestead.

Visitors I

I’ve been ‘visited’ by a nasty cold which has seen me miss the majority of work this week in favour of fevered fetal huddling. Luckily for you, this post does not revolve around disgustingness that has been fermenting in my poor  lung… instead: Physical human guests of an invited type.

James came to stay with us at the start of Feb., which was perfectly timed, as Andy was becoming increasingly bored of being a Hausmann. Possibly not as great for James, who’s kindness we abused by getting him to carry a washing machine from our friend’s cellar to the brand new apartment (to add insult to injury, we then couldn’t work out how to use the thing in time for him to do a wash before moving on). Similar enforced roles included hefting a footstool that we found on the side of the road all the way back home, cooking several Jamie Oliver style feasts, and even putting together the Ikea pots and pans needed to make the meals.

Yeah, we’re pretty much the worst hosts ever.

I had to work everyday, so James and Andy spent the week together going on exciting adventures, roaming through wildernesses, doing architectural tours of Berlin and the surroundings, and becoming BFFs.

So Andy will have to do a guest blog to fill you in on the meaty part of their adventures… meanwhile, here’s some stuff from the weekend, when they let me out of the lab.

On the Saturday, we went for a general wander, hoping to see some of the cultural and architectural wonders hidden throughout Berlin.

(Guests are also good for taking couple photos!)

I’m not so sure who this fellow is, but he seems to be in possession of a truly beautiful tree.

For the ‘slightly less cold, more indoorsy’ part of the wandering program, we headed into the Museum für  Naturkunde.

A representative from the museum had come to the Institute several weeks earlier to give us a spiel about the wonders contained within. Honestly, it was a little ‘pitchy’ to me, aimed at investors and not scientists-I felt like he was expecting me to be so overwhelmed by the marvels of which he spoke that I would pull out a novelty sized checkbook or start throwing money at him. He would reel off a whole lot of ‘key performance indicator’ numbers, for example how many children per month were involved in their fabulous interactive science experience workshops, without ever telling me what was so fabulous about these workshops, and how they were bringing the science.
So a little dull, but good enough that I, the choir to which he preached, thought ‘yes, I like science, I shall go see me some science’.

And I must say, there were some definite WOWs about it.
For example: Dinosaurs!

This is pretty much the entrance of the museum, and seriously, kudos to them- if you’ve got yourself some dinosaur skeletons, you want to show them off.
This exhibit was made even better by the fact that, from the side of the room, you could look through binoculars at the skeletons and ALL THE DINOSAURS WOULD COME TO (virtual) LIFE… and prance around the room. Magical! (Scientifical!)

Of course, the kids totally hogged the CGI coolness.

What I did realise is that, apart from learning about Filbert the Dinosaur’s runny nose, knowing that Dinosaurs Didn’t Wear Sandshoes (they couldn’t even if they tried), and wanting desperately to know where the Diprotodon got its pouch from (these are all Conway Brother songs- I have yet to find someone who has shared this childhood moment with my sister and I)… Ariel and I didn’t really go through a dinosaur stage.. and my knowlege is pretty limited.

For example, this is not a Stegasaurus.

  (It’s his cousin, a Kentrosaurus)

And real Pterodactyls (the Pterodactylus genus of Pterosaur) are ridiculously small:

(He also has various cousins, which ranged in size from ‘Tegan’s idea of what a Pterodactyl is’ to ‘actual Pterodactylus/large butterfly’)

As is Archeopteryx:

 I’ve left my reflection in so you can get an idea of the height.

 I have to admit that I did find the Archeopteryx pretty amazing. You know how sometimes you see famous art and you just feel ‘ok, I’ve seen that then.. next’, and other times you’re just blown away and really Get It (the Pieta is one example for me)? Well anyway, Archeopteryx is the star of the Natural History Museum and, I can see why- tiny but magnificent.

The rest of the museum was also pretty cool, although the volume of stuffed animals gave me a sense of exhaustion after a while. They even had an exhibit displaying the winners of a recent Taxonomy competition.

This one won some sort of ‘best in show’. He’s a Kea (*edited- not a Kakapo as previously written), and according to our resident Kiwi, Adam, they are mountain birds that form terrifying gangs, which trash the cars of skiing holidaymakers  (According to the Kiwi film we saw at the Berlinale, which featured a gang instead of small Kiwi children, car-trashing might actually be the national sport of New Zealand).

Of course they also had a Kangaroo:

Overall, the museum is super visual.

Although it’s possible that some of those ‘visuals’ are a little creepy:

Check out all the specimen jars!

It’s slightly hard to tell from the photos, but rather than being a single wall, this exhibit actually encloses a lab area, and the museum is particularly dedicated towards analyzing their billions of specimens,

Although sadly many of the specimens were originally fixed in a manner that does not preserve the actual integrity  of the DNA…

Nonetheless, very shiny.

I think it’s worth a visit just for the ‘art’ value of the place.

Anyway, after the glow of the museum, we headed back outside for some more hiking and climbing and frolicking.

Which also involved some posing near the Wall.

 And some more architecture. I thought this was called the Reunification of Unification Church, but I can’t seem to find it on Google. Alas, we weren’t able to go inside.. but it reminds me of somebody (possibly wise, but I think most likely Homer Simpson) talking about ‘building cages for God’.

The surrounding area contains statues and memorials and information of the happenings around that part of the wall.

 Nearby is a graveyard, a large part of which was removed during the divide to create a No Mans’ Land at the wall.

Quite a cool city to walk around!

House Warming!

On Saturday, after living in our new Wohnung for about 5 or 6 weeks, Andy and I finally got around to having a flat-warming party.

I may have ended the invitation with: Please respect our culture, and remember that the traditional housewarming gift of Australia is the presentation of small live kitten(s) to the Man of the House.

Which explains this:

and this…

 and even this:

 but does lead to some confusion when considering this:

 and also this:

EXCELLENT!…. It all gave me great amusement, especially the way everyone solemnly presented their cat related items to the HausMann! I should note that the mouse is actually a cat toy, which is filled with catnip, so presumably we can just put it outside for a few hours and the kittens will come to us?

In a similar vein, Marta, Magda and Kris also gave us some cat grass (photo now with bonus fingerpuppet!):

(Cat grass in a CAT POT!!, very good show!)

Here’s what was in the kitten bag- hopefully not at all related to cats (although there were questions of what we would do with all the acquired felines):

We also got given some seeds for a whole heap of different herbs (Thanks Sandra and Sabine!), which, when spring properly springs, I shall plant and try very hard not to kill.

All in all I was very very impressed by the commitment to the theme, and it was a generally lovely evening.

(We had a Macca! (+ TWO Sabines!))

Thanks to everyone for coming- and thank you for all the (generally hilarious) gifts… and for all the delicious food that was also brought along- cherry pie and pasta salad and orange and poppy seed muffins and…the much alcohol including Aussie wine and Polish mead!

Berlin Oddities

This post, powered by Ditsch. For all your recommended daily intake of saturated fats, and so much more:

And by delicious sugary buttery things with crumby shortbread stuff on the top!
But for the fear of litigation, I would suggest this is The Breakfast of Champions…
On with the story.

Last weekend we went to an art gallery, called the ‘me Collectors Room’ in Berlin. We actually planned to visit a couple of galleries- but the majority of places we saw in the area were more ‘private spaces for selling (overpriced?) art’ as opposed to perusal places. And the other legitimate location was in the process of moving premises. The Cheek!

But it was a sunny day, so the wandering around didn’t do us any harm

Some may even suggest that it was TOO sunny.

It’s Berlin- so there’s plenty of free art everywhere, but I’m still super glad we committed the 3 or 4 euros to get into the gallery.
It was… strange.
In an awesome way!

I think this guy, situated at the entrance, set the scene for the ‘things to come’ rather well.

Does it seem somewhat politically incorrect that he has part of one of his feathered friends stuffed in his hat?

Naturally, it is quite difficult for one to pull one’s gaze from a stuffed bird in a hat, but of course, the gallery owners had considered that….

Behold!

I guess someone else has the rest of the giraffe?

And what followed was much to the same theme: a presentation of oddities collected from around the world, with a particular focus on life, death, bones and religion:

Note the top of her stomach lying in the background.

This was quite beautiful. It is made of skulls. Hundreds of tiny little mouse skulls.

And for the Harry Potter generation:

A Bezoar!

This fellow, or dame- as she is a Japanese Siren, is made with real fish.. and also, for that added touch of credibility, real claws and teeth.

I feel like this is famous? Have I seen it before? Anyone?

Feathers curling back into a pit of quills.

This was absolutely amazing. He’s covered with millions of tiny seed beads. I wish I’d thought to get a photo from the back, because the red veins all shot out from his spinal cord in a very beautiful way.

Good vs. Evil chess set. Ghandi, Superman, a native american, a firefighter etc. vs Hitler, Stalin, Old father time, Cleopatra/Delilah and so on. Quite cool.

This was also amazing- A human figure in a glass cabinet lying on an old mirror. The figure is made from dust and hair. But of course!

This also feels somewhat familliar.. but maybe it just feels Chas Adams-y? I really like the overall effect.

And here’s us at The End.
There was some other super cool things, including a layered Monty Python-esque animation showing the seven vices. Here’s a still (or a picture- I think they may have been originally as shown below) I stole from the Interweb:

http://slowmuse.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/pieter_bruegel_the_elder-_the_seven_deadly_sins_or_the_seven_vices_-_avarice.jpg

I would really recommend it if you’re looking for less ‘classical’ and more ‘curio’. Quite the cool experience!

And some more art on the way home:

Complete with cockroach.

Shine!

(Next time, more exultation!, more head tilt, less clothes).

In what I can only assume is a snub at Certain People for trying to break my Spring is Coming Spirit (‘Spring doesn’t start until the 20th of the month ChickenCounter’), the 2nd and 3rd of March were, at least at intervals, gloriously sunny.

Because of this, and also because a certain someone had to digest his magnificently large weekend helpings of sausages and Ditsch, we went a-walkin’.

There’s a park that bounds the Havel river just near the Potsdam Hbf, and it’s filled with plants and and children and ducks and play equipment and sculptures…

Also hipsters:

… And tricksy trees that look suspiciously like wattle from a distance:

But are almost more Grevillia-y on close. The combination of the bright yellow and the blue sky is the most Aussie sight I’ve seen in months!

 Although the hat and scarf are a bit of a give away that we are not in the Sunny Southern Hemisphere.

… We saw people fishing:

 .. and a giant throne, clearly designed for posing:

… and did I mention the playgrounds?

 Successful Vitamin D conversion!

A little bit of culture..

Several weeks ago now, the lovely Mercedes took us to see Orpheus in der Unterwelt.

When we were growing up, my sister was obsessed with Greek mythology, so I felt pretty well acquainted with the concept of Orpheus: a man with a musical talent, who manages to woe the King and Queen of the underworld into giving him back his dead wife.

(Christian Gottlieb Kranzenstien Stub: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lxicmppBsj1qbhp9xo1_r1_500.jpg)

Of course he screws it up, and loses his wife forever.

Happy endings are for Disney.

In any case, this was.. not that Orpheus.

But it was absolutely fantastic. It’s technically an ‘opera bouffon’, and played out very much as the name suggests- with a mixture of the operatic and the slapstick/farce.

It began with a man (Orpheus) and woman (Eurydice) stuck in a loveless marriage.

(Note- I couldn’t take any photos, but all the ones below are taken with the same main cast, scenery and costumes)

http://www.operanews.com/uploadedImages/Opera_News_Magazine/2012/3/Reviews/InReviewBerlinOrpheehdl312.jpg

She’s busy having an affair with a Shepherd, who, naturally, is actually Pluto, the god of the underworld.

http://www.klassik-in-berlin.de/bilder/opern/sto-orpheus1658-600.jpg

Also naturally, he has a slightly unnerving cohort of flower girls, who enjoy bobbing their heads up and down like one of those puppy things you see in car windows.

Anyway,Pluto decides he wants to keep his girl with him, so must fake his own death, in the hope that she will then kill herself and they can be together forever in the underworld.

Of course being a God, said DeathFaking is massively overdramatic.

http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/image/view/2012/0/2/11379740,8758580,highRes,22-03%25252371-28810843.JPG.jpg

But seems to be successful. Eurycides heads into the underworld.

Orpheus is pretty pleased that his wife has gone, but ‘Public Opinion’ (appearing as a personification), tells him that it’s really quite improper to be so content, and that he should go to Jupiter and demand his wife back

Jupiter has just been partying with his own gaggle of awesomely dressed lasses, but after a brief interlude into his life: which included the delightful song Juno, you know I love you (Juno being pronounced more like Yuno in Deutsche).. he and his Possie hop on a plane (insert a reference to Berlin’s airport, which has been ‘in the process of being built’ for a very long time), and head to der Unterwelt.

 http://www.musical-co.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/1875.jpg

Which was one of our favourite parts: you had the plane flying around the stage, with a can-can/conga line of girls trailing around it singing ‘Fahren wir ins Unterwelt’ (I think)- all to the tune, as Mercedes pointed out, of ‘Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf’  (see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSDov-KlwTE).

 Meanwhile, Eurycides is frolicking around with this dude- I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure who he was:

http://www.tip-berlin.de/files/mediafiles/44/Orpheus.jpg

But he’s also in love with her.

And then Jupiter see’s here, and also decides he’d like to ‘get better acquainted’. Because of the awkward situation with Juno, he disguises himself as a fly, and zooms around the stage singing a love song consisting mostly of Buzzing.

http://www.bettina-straub.de/fotos/orpheus-1.jpg 

She’s pretty convinced, so she puts on her own fly costume.

http://www.gustavpeterwoehler.de/wp-content/uploads/2195.jpg

 Which, with a bit more dancing, basically brought us to the end of the tale.

One of my favourite parts was the ‘Galop Infernal’, which is consisted of all the girls Can-can-ing around the stage for 15 minutes- the score for Galop is what we traditionally know as can-can music. (I couldn’t find any photos of this scene from our performance online)

All in all, it was a really fabulous night! We have to go to many more of these things, especially as our German gradually improves and we can appreciate the wordplay on top of the physical humour and general spectacle of it all!