Monday, August 15, 2011

Berlin by bike

So, we finally got our paper out last week, after a huge amount of discussion, confusion and a few months of calculations and so I treated myself to a long weekend...

I arrived back in Munich yesterday evening from a few days in Berlin seeing a couple of good friends from Santiago days (Konrad and Merlinda, with whom I traveled to South Africa and Mozambique as well as Beijing last year). I arrived home yesterday at about 6 in the evening and quickly cleaned up the remaining mess from Wednesday night's Korean dinner I'd cooked for 8 friends (from Korea, China, Taiwan, Bolivia and Germany). I'll add some details about the Korean meal soon I hope when I get a few photos through, but for now I'll just note that Maangchi saved the day with her amazing videos! Samgyetang was one of the new dishes I tried:

Having not had much more than a half hour's sleep in Berlin on Saturday night (details also to follow) I was in a pretty dazed state but had to pull myself together as I had five guests arriving last night - all couchsurfers. I restarted hosting in Munich a few weeks ago and things have been pretty hectic on that front. Last night the new arrivals were a Finnish woman and her son plus three Swedes who had been in Munich for the European Juggling Convention - something I would have loved to have joined had I been in the city. They were all pretty pooped having spent the last week in a tent, but gave me some good tips on five ball juggling which helped immediately - I've been struggling with five for the best part of ten years!

Anyway, I'll backtrack a bit now to the Berlin trip before these memories disappear in the current chaos (incidentally, today is a holiday here - helpfully translated by the waitress in the cafe as "Maria drives to heaven day").

Car sharing is big in Germany so I searched out a lift from Munich to Berlin on mitfahrgelegenheit and found myself heading North in a Mercedes van with six others. I was rather looking forward to the 600km trip, ready to meet some new people and possibly to practice some German, but when I tried making conversation with the woman I was sitting next to I was quickly cut-off as it was made clear that she'd rather we made the journey in silence (not with those words, but her tone was pretty clear). So we sat, three in the back of the van, in silence for the next 5 hours! Still, it was a nice chance to see some of the scenery through central Germany.

I arrived around lunchtime, was picked up by Merlinda and we headed to dump things back at the flat before heading on a walk around the city. I shan't go into the details of the gastonomic tour we went on over the next couple of days, but somehow we managed to fit in trips to eat Iranian, Ethiopean, Mexican, Turkish and Thai restaurants, throughout the city - all great and a few photos will follow.

After Konrad turned up the next morning from Sweden we scooted around the city on bikes, though there had been a little misunderstanding and I was on what felt like a child's bike so spent the whole time standing up on the pedals so as not to get cramps - anyway, away from the gym I was still able to get a decent workout.

We started the tour with a trip to the Martin Gropius-Bau museum to see the very extensive André Kertész exhibition, went via Alexanderplatz and the parliament building, check-point Charlie, the Holocaust memorial and a dozen other points in between, finally ending up in a cafe escaping from the deluge of rain which had rolled in quicky in the late afternoon. After the downpour had become a drizzle we got back on the bikes and headed to an Ethiopian restaurant where we guzzled exotic beers and munched away at a great meal of Injera and curries before heading back to the flat in the late evening, legs tired but having seen a good chunk of the city in a short time.

Here are some shots from the holocaust memorial, a very powerful piece indeed.

and a few from the rest of the day:

Woken at 6 the next day by the bright sunlight we had a hearty breakfast and headed out again into a much warmer, sunnier day than the previous had been. We made our way along the river for a while, stopping off at cafes and flea markets as thirst and interest deemed appropriate.

After a busy few hours cycling around, Konrad and I headed off to the Jewish museum while Merlinda went home to recover for a few hours.

I think that the Jewish museum deserves a post for itself, so I'll not write too much about it now, but at least I'll note that it's one of the most interesting, best designed museums I've ever visited.

After a good few hours in the museum we went for an excellent Turkish dinner before heading to a club for a night of Balkan beats. The likes of this:

The nightlife in Berlin feels completely different from that of Munich and it was great to have a good experience of the Berlin way of doing things before I headed back South. We had a good few hours of getting thoroughly exhausted, dancing into the early morning light, getting a sauna/aerobic workout combination in the process. Arriving back home at 5am via a currywurst we had about half an hour until being woken again by the sunlight.

The next/that day, exhausted and somewhat hungover I made my way back to Munich via another car-share - this time slightly more communicative than the previous, but still somewhat awkward. Arriving home, by 9 my flat was again full with two acrobats, a juggler, a Finnish speech therapist and a bioinformatics major.

This week I want to get a couple of projects well underway before heading off next week for a long summer break in the US. More updates to follow on the Jewish museum and the Korean meal when time allows...