October 13th, 2009 § 0

After a long day (or so) of travel this post finds us back at our crib. We flew to Frankfurt in the morning, and then had the whole day as layover until our flight to Vancouver that night. We took advantage of the incredible train system in F (11 minutes from downtown to the airport) to do a little exploring. We strolled around the medieval Old Town, and then spent a couple of hours at the Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK).

Then a 12 hour flight and home, in need of food and sleep. Thanks for reading, over and out.

Looking homeward

October 2nd, 2009 § 0

We turn our thoughts to the voyage home and saying goodbye to this awesome city.

IMG_8072Tuesday we caught the Thomas Demand show at the Neue Nationalgalerie, his first solo show in Berlin. Thomas Demand is a Berlin artist who creates incredibly detailed models from paper and then photographs them with realistic lighting. The theme of this show is Germany itself, on the 60th anniversary of the Federal Republic and the 20th year since reunification. His work does not feature people, and so the spaces become signifiers that are slightly harrowing in their emptiness.

IMG_2029Wednesday, on the recommendation of our friends from Vancouver, we checked out what is possibly the best falafel place in the world, Mo’s Imbiss in Kreuzberg. The fried Haloumi cheese and pomegranate-nut-sauce blew us away, and the old man and his wife that own the small stand were charming and gave us tea.

Thursday I took a trip over to the Gemaldegalerie (Picture Gallery) at the Kulturforum gallery complex. The G is home to one of the world’s best collections of European paintings from the 13th to 18th centuries. So many beautiful canvasses, overwhelming. I spent three hours there and still only covered two of the wings. Highlights were the numerous Rembrandts, the two Vermeer paintings, and a small Van Eyck painting.

Today finds us readying the bags and battening down the hatches for our return to the West Coast on Sunday.

POSTSCRIPT: Good video about the Thomas Demand show on Monocle.

Of Painting and Graffiti

September 26th, 2009 § 0

We have had a great week exploring new neighbourhoods and checking out art galleries.

Early in the week we explored parts of the Mitte and Prenzlauerberg neighbourhoods that we hadn’t seen before, checking out the small galleries, shops, and cafés that are so abundant in this city. A Vancouver expat showed me around the bars of Kreuzberg on Tuesday, specifically the very cool old Berlin bar the Bei Schlawinchen and the nautical-themed Ankerklause.

Harlequin Sitting on a Red Couch, Picasso 1905.

Thursday we made the U-Bahn trip to a pair of incredible art galleries near the Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Castle). The Museum Berggruen houses hundreds of Picasso canvases and sculpture covering every period of his work. The depth of the collection is remarkable; there are also works by Klee, Matisse, Braque and Giacometti.

We walked across Schloßstrasse to the old royal stable building, now housing a museum of Surrealist art, the Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg. The collection begins with a room of incredible prints by Piranesi and spans two hundred years of surrealist art, including works by Hans Bellmer, René Magritte, Max Ernst, Odilon Redon, and Goya.

IMG_7956After the museums, we strolled around the grounds of the Schloß Charlottenburg, a grand 17th-century castle influenced by the palace at Versailles. The sun was low in the sky and made for dramatic light.

Friday I went for a bike ride around the Friedrichshain neighbourhood and happened on an interesting old trainyard that has been converted into art studios, a skate-park, a climbing wall, cafés, etc., called Casseiopia. IMG_8023Everything is plastered in graffiti and the buildings are in various states of decay. A cool “recycling” of civic space that seems like it could only exist here.

One of Berlin’s largest art festivals is on this weekend, the Art Forum Berlin, and we hope to check out a bunch of galleries tomorrow after making our weekly exodus to the flea markets. Also, tomorrow is the German general election; Angela Merkel is a shoe-in for Chancellor, but it remains to be seen whether she will continue to be hampered by an uneasy alliance with the SPD party.
Over and out.

Babylon and on

September 21st, 2009 § 0

Roman ruins at the Pergamon Museum, y'all

Roman ruins at the Pergamon Museum, y'all

On Thursday we went to the impressive Pergamon Museum on Berlin’s Museum Island. The PM is the home of a vast collection of sculptures from antiquity, including several full size monumental reconstructions from Ancient Greece and Rome. The centerpiece of the collection is the full-sized installation of the Pergamon Altar from the 2nd century BC in the main foyer. There are a number of other impressive large scale monuments, including the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way from Babylon. We were both stunned by the scale of the collection in this museum and also a little taken aback by the fact that these treasures were moved to Berlin in the first place. One wonders how long it will take for the collection to be returned to its countries of origin; although the fact that this is the most visited museum in Germany and the centrepiece of the new construction on Museum Island suggests that it may be a long while before this happens.

panoramaFriday I took a bike ride over to the tourist-y part of Mitte, near the Brandenburg Gate. I checked out the Gate, the Reichstag and the House of World Culture before getting some felafel and heading back to Prenzlauer Berg for some ping pong and ice cream with Carolyn and Violet.

Sunday we met our friends A. and N. for brunch at a vegan restaurant near our place. We walked around one of the smaller flea markets and had a coffee at Bonanza Coffee Heroes on Oderberger Strasse (good but pricey). We found a great old wooden train set at the market for Violet, and took our time walking home through the interesting side streets of Prenzlauer Berg.

About to revisit The Lives of Others tonight. Full stop.

Of Ping Pong, Modern Art, and The Jesus Lizard

September 16th, 2009 § 0

Sorry for the long absence. Here are some highlights from the past week:

Pong in action

the pong song

Thursday we hit one of the local parks to break in our new ping pong rackets. Luckily we found a free table at the usually-busy courts and settled in for a hard fought reintroduction to the sport. Definitely a favourite; we are already trying to figure out where there are courts in Vancouver.

We took advantage of the free access to Berlin’s museums every Thursday afternoon and hit the (largest) contemporary art gallery, the Hamburger-Banhof Museum for Contemporary Arts (henceforth the H-B). The museum is housed in a former train station and has striking high ceilings with a domed glass roof. One of the wings has preserved the subway signs and tunnels too. The building was built in 1846, making it one of the oldest surviving station buildings in Germany.

Warhol Room at the H-BThe collection is broad and deep; we were only able to see about half of it. There is a room of very cool Robert Rauschenberg paintings and collages, including one of the “Black Paintings” which I liked a lot. There are also numerous Warhol silkscreens, including a very large Mao. Another highlight was an entire wing dedicated to Josephy Beuys. We had a coffee in the cafe adjoining the gallery and walked home along the Spree.

Friday we set off along the “Socialist boulevard” Karl-Marx-Allee. The wide avenue was largely destroyed in WW II and rebuilt in the Soviet classical style, with tiered buildings radiating away from the main road. The architecture is impressive and epic. We had milkshakes at an old cafe called Café Sybille and explored the area.

We went to one of the smaller flea markets on the weekend, ate lunch at a café-bar that also houses a theater space called the Prater, and avoided the rainshowers. Our apartment is very cozy and we are enjoying reading and hanging out there too. Violet especially is really into sitting up by herself and playing with the toys left by our apartment’s owner.

Microphone hidden in a tie

Microphone hidden in a tie

Monday I (Adam) went to the Stasi Museum, which is the former office of the Ministry of State Security of the GDR (East Berlin’s communist government). It is a creepy place—lots of old surveillance equipment that was used to keep the East Germans under the power of the communist government. See the Flickr pictures for some examples.

bw_jesus_lizardI also got to see one of my favourite bands from the 90’s on their reunion tour here in Berlin. The Jesus Lizard played at a smallish club in Kreuzberg on Tuesday night and put on an incredible show.


Digging deeper

September 9th, 2009 § 0

Hallo all. Doing well and still loving Berlin—in fact, we daydream about ways to get a place here. Here are some of the things that we have been up to:

In KaDeWe

Glass elevator in KaDeWe

Monday we made the trek on the U-Bahn out to Charlottenburg in West Berlin for a stroll down Kurfurstendamm, the so-called “Champs Elysee” of Berlin. We started out by checking out the upscale KaDeWe department store. The rooftop restaurant offered good views and the sheer opulence of the place was impressive, but we left there feeling glad that our digs are in East Berlin. Kurfurstendamm is a wide, tree-lined boulevard and is the commercial backbone of West Berlin. The bombed out Wilhelm churchLots of high end stores (Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, etc) and old movie theatres. A highlight is the Kaiser Wilhem church; built in the 1890’s, it was bombed heavily in WW II—today, only the west tower still stands, and in its bombed out state. Needing a shot of reality, we headed back to Hackescher Markt and explored some of the side streets around there. Lots of parks, cafés and boutiques. We had some ramen at Yam Yam to fuel us for the walk home through Mitte and P-Berg. Nice night.

Playtime near the GendarmarktTuesday we headed to the Gendarmarkt area to see the grand classical square. Two large churches and the concert hall abut the wide plaza. Wandered back over the Spree and through Hackescher Markt and took the tram home.

We had a mellow day today in Prenzlauerberg. After a great brunch at all-vegetarian Manna, we walked over through Köllwitzplatz to Kastanienallee, a cool strip of cafés, bars, Smiles on Kastanienalleerestaurants and record stores. Bought some ping pong rackets at Kwikshop (there are outdoor ping pong tables in nearly every park in Berlin) and continued on to an awesome lunch at W Imbiss. Wandered home through the beautiful side streets of P-Berg and had a coffee at a cool bar called Lass uns Freunde bleiben. Sunny and hot today, supposed to cool down for the rest of the week.

I’ve been posting regularly to flickr; check it out if you like.

Weekend Update

September 6th, 2009 § 0

On Saturday we took the U-Bahn to an independent magazine fair that our friend A. was taking part in at the very cool Motto bookstore in Kreuzberg.

Violet was game for a day on the town in the baby carrier so we hiked around Kreuzberg, taking the U-Bahn to the Bergmanstrasse area on A.’s recommendation. Lots of street life on Bergmanstrasse—definitely the heart of Kreuzberg.

The WallToday we hit the Sunday fleamarkets—the Mauerpark Flohmarkt and the nearby Arkonaplatz one. The Mauerpark market is massive and very busy, and a tad touristy. We had some good vegetarian noodles though in the makeshift “beach” and ate them near an open fire. Mauerpark translates to “Wall Park” and it is thus named because before reunification the wall cut straight through the park. A large section of the secondary wall still exists and is covered in graffiti, like mostly everything in Berlin. It is an amazing city for street art.

Cast iron typefaces

Cast iron typefaces

We walked the few blocks over to Arkonaplatz and the market there was much smaller, quieter, and had better offerings. We were tempted by the mounted small deer antlers and some of the cool old East German radios and furniture, but, alas, these things are not easy to fly with.

We grabbed a coffee and enjoyed the ambience at Weltempfaenger before walking leisurely back through Prenzlauerberg and home.

Brewskies and culture

September 4th, 2009 § 0

Yesterday was rainy so we stayed around the apartment mostly, though we did explore the neighbourhood a bit. At the Volkspark Friedrichschrain with two of my favourite thingsWe went for an evening walk to the Volkspark Friedrichschrain, our neighbourhood green space. Berlin has incredible forested parks—they cover a third of the area of the city. The V.F. is one of the largest, with amazing trails, a skate park, grass tennis courts, and a restaurant and biergarten right in the middle. The sun came out, Violet had a nap, and everything was right with the world.

Today was sunny and we walked to the Kollwitzplatz area. Checked out a cool old brewery that has been converted to a large arts space with a cinema and many other theatres there—the Kulturbraueri. Ate lunch on the seats outside a little cafe and returned home for some jet lag napping. Hoping that the rain in the forecast tomorrow holds off.


September 3rd, 2009 § 0

After a long day of travel and an afternoon of catchup sleep this morning finds us mostly refreshed and ready for adventure.

We took the new skytrain from downtown Van to the airport. It was quiet first thing in the morning, and we were at the airport in 25 minutes for ~ 8 bucks.

The ten hour flight from YVR to Frankfurt went mostly without mishap, save for the fact that our travel agent thought that my name was Young Adam and not Adam Young, so I had to get that switched quickly. A kind woman switched her seat so that we would have the extra one for Violet, and that made a huge difference in the success of the flight. Violet was an angel on the plane, mostly playing and sleeping in the seat between us. She had lots of room and we could change her etc. without much fuss.sleep We were pretty exhausted by the time we touched down in Frankfurt, and it is not a nice airport to have a 5 hour stopover. We survived it and the hour long flight to Berlin, though, and took a cab to the apartment. Our apartment is in Prenzlauerberg, on Huflanderstrasse. The neighbourhood is lovely—lots of trees, bars and cafes everywhere, only a block from the Volkspark Friedrichschrain, one of the largest forested parks in Berlin. The apartment is incredible – high ceilings, cool antique and modern furniture, and a patio on the quiet treed courtyard. Amazing. European apartments are so well appointed and designed for comfortable and elegant living.

We are taking our bearings today, relaxing and recovering from travel and hopefully doing a little exploring. Stay tuned.

Getting ready

August 6th, 2009 § 1

Violet helping us pack

Violet helping us pack

Stay tuned to this space for content coming soon. In the meantime, check out some information on Berlin and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall: