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Bucket List #12: Go to Berlin

by on January 22, 2011
 

Vague.  Undefined. Free. At liberty to do anything on arrival.

All I wanted to do was go to Berlin and I did.

It was a last minute trip – new Nigerian legislation called for all citizens, home and abroad to have the new electronic passport. For me, this was critical with business trips planned which would require visas, I knew I had to act fast. The Nigerian embassy in the Netherlands couldn’t issue the passports, don’t ask why, please! The alternative – Paris or Berlin. One phone call later, Berlin was the only option, as there were issues in the Parisian office. So over the weekend, we filled in forms online and got an interview date for a short 7 days away.

IMG_0384Panic. Excitement. Confusion. Sorrow. Would we have all the required documents in time? Flights, Hotels? Notice to schools and offices of absence. Then prickly skin and itchy feet – we’d never been to Germany before as a family. Berlin was on my bucket list. Unsure of what to do, so many plans for the very weekend we had to travel. Birthday party of one daughter’s friend, she’d miss ice-skating. Lock-in with the Girl’s scouts. As a troop leader of 10 five-year old girls, I had to painfully hand over the reins to someone else to coordinate. Then I had a meet up planned with two food bloggers in The Hague to have coffee and share laughs. It’d all have to be re-organised. Canceled. Postponed. Missed.

IMG_0422No time to read the guide book which I borrowed 6 days before, till late Saturday night after we arrived and had dinner. Very unlike me, the planner. The best laid plans of mice and men……

The plans of men are no match for life’s calendar; Oz

The four days we spent were mostly great, with quite a few highlights.

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What I learnt about Berlin

I didn’t know I was headed to the currywurst capital…

….till we arrived and I ordered a plate. Not only is there a movie paying it tribute, there’s also a museum in its honour! I found it interesting but not overly so. But then again, I had it at our hotel and not one of the popular imbiss (snack bar) recommended by travel guides from Frommers to Fodors.

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The currywurst is a spicy sausage, served with tangy curried ketchup, dusted with curry powder and immortalised in the 2004 film  by Grace Lee, a Korean American woman in Best of the Wurst!

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And that’s Flat Stanley, the latest family member! He moved in last October.

There’s something about Rosemary.

I tasted rosemary ‘ the herb’  for the first time in many months. Funny enough, it isn’t one of the herbs that lines my fridge drawer week by week. What was exceptional was that it came as ‘rosemary fries’ – the best chips I’d had in ages. Golden and crisp on the outside, fragranced with the herby scents of rosemarijn and studs of finely chopped bits. The insides – with soft, melting and delicious!

We were to meet again, Rosemary and I, just outside Checkpoint Charlie.

Checkpoint Charlie

At a simple Italian restaurant on the corner, we ordered pizza and pasta. And tea, water and a cola beer.

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And when it was dessert time, daughter #1 had vanilla ice-cream with raspberry sauce, the husband and daughter #2 went out the door on a shopping spree for Matryoshka dolls. While I waited for my vanilla ice cream with olive oil,  rosemary and orange zest, I watched them speak to the Russian man with his table of wares on the other corner. Eventually, it came – crisp herby stalk, speared my ball of ice cream, garnished with crisp, fried orange strips, in a sea of green, fruity olive oil. I enjoyed it, despite some burnt bits.

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Berlin’s mobile foodsellers

All I could say when I saw the grill walker (and grill runner) wearing a cooking device and flipping food was ‘I’ve never seen this before’! This merry band of street food purveyors line the streets of Berlin, come rain and shine.

IMG_0603So who is a grillwalker (or runner)? A person who has on a portable grill mounted on a harness. On the back, a tank of propane gas with enough light to grill up to 500 sausages. In front, like a pregnant lady, a ridged tray full of sizzling sausages. Protection from all manners of atmospheric evil are shielded by the plexiglass guard, keeping bread and meat out of harm’s way.  And finally, the umbrella. Keeps off heaven’s waters and other things the skies may drop. Like bird … Fascinating.

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Alexa mall food hall & Butlers

The food hall was amazing with the sheer variety of cuisines represented – Asian, South American, Italian, German and the list goes on and on. Situated on the 2nd floor of the mall, it had something for everyone. For me, it was delicious Thai lemongrass chicken with rice, for my husband and daughter, it was fried rice and then gelato to end. I desperately wanted to sneak away with the box. Proptastic. The husband would have NONE of it. Sadly it ended up in the bin, what a waste me thinks and says and said.

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It was so much fun shopping at the Alexa mall, opposite the large Alexanderplatz square. At Butlers, I bought myself a nice egg sniper.

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Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam & Lime Cordial, I knew what they were!

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I tried them out ASA and it sliced the top off my boiled egg. I didn’t get a clean cut though but…

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… it  was nice to try it out and have an excuse to dip in some bread soldiers. I’ll do better next time!

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And then I got 2 German cookbooks. No, I don’t speak German…just yet.

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A few pieces of vintage cutlery, an egg separator – a two piece set complete with sieve to hold the yolk, and a cup for the white, I had suitable reminders of my time there!

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Bears of Berlin

The joys of new places. What fun to see bears round numerous street corners – lifesized, colourful hulks of animals. My daughter made sure her ‘Flat Stanley’ took photos with every single bear we met.

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In all the places I’ve been to, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mascot so celebrated. Some of the bears we met are part of the United Buddy Bear project, created by Eva and Klaus Herlitz.  The bears represent the countries of the United Nations from around the globe.

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Motto of Buddy Bear creators:

“We have to get to know each other better …
… it makes us understand one another better,
trust each other more, and live together more peacefully.”

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Unter den Linden

‘Under the Lime trees’, and we all know how I love lime. With this and this and though I didn’t walk down the boulevard, the tour bus brought us under the shade.

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Spandaustrabe

The street/place that inspired one of my favourite ever bands of the ’80s, Spandau Ballet.

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Remember them with this hot number, ‘Gold’? Everytime I listen to the lyrics, I get a such a buzz of energy and ‘can do it all’! Forget that the Lonely Planet guidebook to Berlin describes them as that mediocre ‘80’s band . Just a testament that just cause stuff’s in print doesn’t mean it has to be the law.

I leave you with ‘Gold’
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Next to tackle on my bucket list, #59: Learn to make real Chinese Fried Rice.  Watch this space.What’s on your list of things to do?