Recent doings #17

At the beginning of April I said that it looked like it was going to be the fastest month so far this year, and I was not wrong! How on Earth is it May already?! I suppose all the busyness at work has not helped! Last week I ended up doing overtime because it was the only way to get a job finished that had been re-planned to me because my colleague had too much to do, and tomorrow is my first time to go into the office this month (I now have to go twice a month), which means I’ll be out of the house from 6:30 a.m. until just after 8 p.m. Since I am only actually in the office for 6 hours on those days, in those weeks I have to make up the remaining 2 hours on other days. In other words, every two weeks I work an extra half an hour on four days of the week… and that’s before any additional overtime that crops up just because nobody can ever predict when things will get busy. So, that’s one reason my blogging has been rather sporadic lately. Others included going away for Easter, another friend coming to stay for a weekend, and cross stitching lots of cards. But anyway, it’s time to link up with Kristen and Gretch again, so let me tell you about April’s doings…

whats-new

Reading. I started the month reading a lot and then didn’t finish a single book in the final week and a bit of April! I had read a total of ten books by the 20th of the month though (but still haven’t finished the one I started after that). I will tell you about them soon, so I won’t list them all here. My favourite was a German crime thriller called MĂ€rchenwald.

Watching. I bought season 1 of The League of Gentlemen on DVD so Jan and I have been watching that. It doesn’t take up much brain power so I can stitch while I watch. Ah, the video cassettes and landlines. So 90s!

Eating. I had big plans to up my veg intake in April, but then I went to Berlin for Easter and ate all the bad (but tasty!) foods – and yes I’m aware I haven’t written about that yet. Then towards the end of the month Jan was out nearly every evening for choir stuff, so I consumed a lot of toast. May will be better (I hope)!

Visiting. My friend K in Berlin. Also…

Travelling. To Berlin to see K 😉 And to Chur at the beginning of April where Jan had a choir performance (which I didn’t see because I had already watched it in Basel – it was the concert I was at in March, but the people he was staying with invited me to come down for a night).

Berlin
Berlin being all atmospheric with clouds

Hosting. A friend from Karlsruhe who we had invited to come down and see an art exhibition as his birthday present from us.

Looking at. Art in said exhibition. Specifically, it was an exhibition of works by Monet.

Going to. Bern and Fribourg with the aforementioned friend on the same weekend that we looked at the art.

Seeing/hearing. Jan performing with another choir last weekend. Also some choirs/a capella groups in Fribourg. See my April photo an hour post.

Cross stitching. Lots of cards for charity. I promise to explain more sooooon (hopefully I will be better at blogging this month…).

Growing. (Well, hopefully). Lavender, Forget-Me-Nots and some herbs. I could have said planting, but Jan did the actual planting. I just give them water and beg them to grow.

plants
Something is happening!

Buying. Uh, what haven’t I been buying more like! Books, craft stuff, an awesome hat in Berlin (technically Jan bought it for me, but with his German card and the only money going into that account right now is from me… so in a round about way I bought it for myself. Weird!). I also ordered a dress but it hasn’t arrived yet.

Planning. Our summer holiday! We are definitely going to be in Britain and we even know where the first stop will be. Holidays from work are approved so the next step is to book a flight…

Okay, I think that’s all. What have you been doing recently?

My top 5 destinations to return to

After leaving a comment on a similar post at On The Luce, I was asked to take part in the Booked.netTop Destinations to Go There promotion. The idea is to write a post about my top 5 destinations that I would return to, complete with pictures and then nominate five bloggers to do the same. Once 100 entries have been written, all the posts will be entered in a competition to win an iPhone 6.

I have a huge list of places I want to visit, and it’s growing all the time! But who doesn’t dream of going back to a place they’ve been before? Whether it’s an old, familiar place that you visit often and where returning is almost like coming home, or somewhere you’ve only been to once but that left such an impression that you long to return and do more exploring? Here are my top 5, not really in chronological order because that would be too difficult!

Edinburgh, Scotland

As a child, I used to go to Edinburgh specifically to visit the zoo (Newcastle doesn’t have one). As an adult, I’ve been three times, and still there is more to explore. I haven’t even climbed Arthur’s Seat yet! The beautiful architecture, the pubs, the friendliness of Scots, its proximity to the sea (which I miss so much in landlocked Karlsruhe!) all combine to make Edinburgh one of my favourite places on Earth! And the castle is pretty impressive too 😉

Edinburgh castle
Edinburgh castle

Austria

It’s probably cheating to choose an entire country rather than a city, but Austria is only a small country after all 😉 I lived in Vorarlberg for almost a year, so obviously that area has a special place in my heart, but I will always get excited about a trip to Austria, no matter what the specific destination. Innsbruck is gorgeous, Vienna has so much to offer and I adore Salzburg with its narrow, winding streets and views of mountains!

How could I not want to see this view again?
How could I not want to see this view again?

Stockholm, Sweden

I went to Stockholm in the summer of 2012 and instantly fell in love with the place! Despite having a population of 905,184, it felt so open and spacious… probably because of all the water. Admittedly some areas were crowded, but finding a quite place to sit down or have a nice walk was simply a matter of switching islands. With so many museums, palaces, parks and other attractions, I imagine it would take me a very long time to get bored! And the temperature in summer is perfect for me, with my pale skin and tendency to wilt like a flower as soon as it gets above 28 °C!

So beautiful and peaceful
So beautiful and peaceful

Berlin, Germany

Despite living in Germany since 2006, it was 2013 before I finally made my to the capital! I had been once before with my grandparents, but it was just one brief stop on a tour of Europe and all I remembered seeing was Checkpoint Charlie. This time was different! We walked a lot, visited hundreds of historical sites, including the Stasi prison at Hohenschönhausen, admired the East Side Gallery, ate delicious food (including the obvious Currywurst) and left with the feeling that we hadn’t experienced even a small fraction of what Germany’s capital has to offer. I mean, they have an entire island just for museums… of which we visited precisely one! I definitely need to go back some time and remedy this situation!

Museum island
Museum island

Ireland

Again nominating an entire country rather than a specific place, but with so much on offer how could I possibly narrow it down? I’ve been to Dublin a few times, and while it’s always good I’ve seen most of what I wanted to see there, but there are plenty of places I do want to see again. The time we spent in Galway wasn’t nearly enough and I would love to go back there, but I also want to explore more of the area around Killarney and the Dingle Peninsular, actually make it to the North-East of the country and take a trip or two to the various islands.

How could anyone resist something this green?
How could anyone resist something this green?

And that would be five. What do you think of my choices?
Now I’m supposed to nominate five fellow bloggers to take up the challenge. I pick Charlotte Steggz, Amanda from Rhyme and Ribbons, Alex at Speaking Denglisch, Simone aka Lady of the Cakes and Elaine from I Used to Be Indecisive.

Travel Theme: Yellow

It’s been a while since I took part in one of Ailsa’s travel themes, so I thought it was about time I did another one. This time, the theme is yellow, so I thought I would start with some cheerful daffodils – one of my favourite flowers (along with poppies, but they’re not yellow).

daffodils

ObviouslyI had to get a lantern picture in somehow. 😉 This one was taken in Berlin.

Berlin lantern

I spotted this hot air balloon hovering over Karlsruhe a few years ago, and I just had to take a photo. Smile, everyone! (Coincidentally, the building it’s next to looks pretty yellow as well!)

balloon

Finally, a photo I’m particularly proud of… a night shot of Salzburg. I love the yellow (and red and blue and green) reflections of the lights in the water!

Salzburg by night

You only have today to get your entries in for the yellow theme – a new travel theme will be up tomorrow (Friday). But you should check out Ailsa’s yellow post anyway, if only for her seriously amazing photo of a goldfinch. And, of course, stop by her blog tomorrow to find out what the next travel theme is.

Travel theme: Multi-coloured

Another fun travel theme from Ailsa this week… multi-coloured. There are so many photos I could have used for this that I didn’t know where to start, but eventually I managed to narrow it down to the following few. A very Germany-centred travel theme this one, with only two shots taken elsewhere…

My first photo is from Dublin. We spotted this pre-school down by the river and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of it. It looks so cheerful!

Dublin preschool

This colourful bear is just one of many you can find dotted around Berlin:

Berlin bear

I love rows of buildings painted in different colours and almost always take photos of them when we visit somewhere. These ones are in WĂŒrzburg.

WĂŒrzburg

Staying in Germany, but switching towns… I’ve posted this colourful lantern on the blog before but it fits so well with the theme that I wanted to include it here. I spotted it in Heidelberg when my sister came to visit.

My next photo was taken in Sweden – this colourful Dala horse stands outside the City Hall in Stockholm.

Dala horse

And finally, I would like to end my post the same way Ailsa started hers… with a rainbow. I didn’t have to travel very for for this photo… it was taken right here in Karlsruhe, next to the train station.

rainbow

To see how other people have interpreted the theme (including some much more impressive photos of rainbows!) and to join in yourself, check out Ailsa’s blog post.

East Side Gallery, Berlin

I promise this will be my last post on the Berlin trip! I took so many photos of the East Side Gallery that I wanted to give it a post of its own, rather than just including it in the main Berlin post.

The East Side Gallery is a 1.3 km section of the Berlin Wall located near the centre of Berlin. It consists of various paintings by artists from around the world, painted in 1990 and is an international monument to freedom. Unfortunately, a lot of the paintings have been ruined by graffiti – I really do not care if “Becky woz ere” in 2010! Go away and stop damaging symbols of peace!

Anyway, here are some of the photos I took of the East Side Gallery.

East Side Gallery sign

Some of the artwork had deeper messages:

"There are many walls to tear down"
“There are many walls to tear down”

Viele kleine Leute

Wall of shame Eastside gallery

Have you ever visited the East Side Gallery? Which painting did you like best?

Get over it…

I spotted this stuck to a wall in Berlin and couldn’t resist taking a photo of it to post here.

Just a blogger

Yep, that’s right, I’m just another blogger! But then again, I’m not forcing anybody to read my blog. Don’t worry anonymous note writer… you’re perfectly safe from Confuzzledom!
Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if we all had the same opinion?

Berlin part 2: The sights

So, time to get back to Berlin. WARNING – long post ahead!

Thursday

We arrived fairly late in the afternoon on Thursday (4 April), so we couldn’t really do much then. Our apartment was about 15 minutes walk from the train station and turned out to be literally opposite the Naturkundemuseum (Natural History Museum):

Naturkundemuseum Berlin

That’s the view from our window. As you can see, there was also a construction site right outside, which we thought might be a bit annoying, but it turned out we couldn’t hear a thing – the windows were obviously excellent!

Our first act after dropping off our stuff was to go in search of a supermarket. There turned out to be a REWE just around the corner – perfect! After taking the shopping home, it was time to head out for a look at Berlin before it got dark. Here are some photos:

As you can see, the weather wasn’t brilliant (although it wasn’t raining or snowing), and after all that walking around we were freezing, so we headed to Hopfinger BrĂ€u for some food. The one we went to was Am Palais and it was quite expensive (although the beer was good). There’s another one in the train station that I think might be a little better.
By the time we had eaten, it was dark, so Jan suggested heading back to the Brandenburg Gate to get some night shots.

Brandenburger Tor 2

And that was the end of Thursday. It had been a long journey up to Berlin and we were tired, so after taking the above photo I suggested we head back to the apartment and get some sleep.

Friday

On Friday, we woke up bright and early to eat a breakfast consisting of things we had bought from the supermarket the day before. Then we went in search of a tram that would take us to Hohenschönhausen.

Hohenschönhausen is a former Stasi prison in East Berlin that has now been opened up to the public after some extensive work to make it comply with health and safety (as the website points out, there tended not to be too many fire escapes in prisons!).

Hohenschönhausen sign

On the sign above you can see how the street looked back in the days when the prison was in use. The area that the prison is situated was claimed to be a military exclusion zone. Some people suspected that there might be a prison there but nobody knew for sure.

Hohenschönhausen prison

Most of the people who were held in the prison were people who had tried to leave East Berlin after the building of the wall, although there were political prisoners as well. Many of the prison were placed in there merely because of a suspicion that they might be against the regime, not necessarily because there was any evidence that they had done anything. As well as prison cells, the prison had interrogation rooms where prisoners could be taken for the purpose of forcing a confession out of them.

The hospital wing
The hospital wing

Up until Stalin died, prisoners could be tortured. After that, they started to use more subtle methods.
Hohenschönhausen Prison is not the most cheerful place to visit, but it is most definitely worth it.  Members of the public are only allowed in as part of a tour, and most of the guides are people who were actually imprisoned there. We took a tour in German, but on the way round I heard one of the other guides speaking English so tours in other languages are available. The times of tours are listed on their website, and if you are at all interested in history I would certainly recommend a visit.

After Hohenschönhausen, it was time to go back in to town and get something to find something to eat. On the way to the tram stop, I took some photos of blocks of flats that Jan told me were typical for East Germany.

If the buildings look like this you're probably in the former GDR
If the buildings look like this you’re probably in the former GDR

After we’d eaten it was still fairly early so we decided to go to the Naturkunde Museum since it was close to the apartment (where we still needed to go back to pick up our tickets for that night).. It mostly contains a lot of dinosaur bones and some stuffed animals. There was also an exhibition on how the dead animals are prepared and stuffed, ready to go on display. A little gory but strangely fascinating. Unfortunately, they closed before we had a chance to head to the second floor, so I’ve no idea what would have been up there. But I didn’t mind because by it was time for us to go and see Eddie Izzard! I’ve already talked about how amazing he was, so I won’t go into detail here. Those who missed that post can go back and read it now.

Saturday

For Saturday morning, we had an appointment to go inside the dome of the Reichstag building. It’s free to go up there, but you have to prebook so not too many people go up at once. Once up in the dome, you get great views of Berlin and the free audio guide does an excellent job of telling you exactly what you’re looking at, as well as giving some information about the Reichstag building itself. Here are a few photos of Berlin from above:

We had actually got out of the apartment earlier than we needed to, so before the Reichstag we went to look at the holocaust memorial (officially named the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe):

Holocaust memorial

The concrete blocks gradually get bigger and bigger, with the highest being 15 feet 9 inches tall.

Holocaust Memorial Berlin

Holocaust Memorial Berlin 2

The grey sky and traces of snow on the ground gave the whole thing a bleak and gloomy atmosphere perfectly matched the seriousness of the topic it represents.
Underneath the memorial, there is an information centre/museum, which contains the names of all know Jewish Holocaust victims. Entrance to the information centre is free and it is well worth taking a look at.

Between the Reichstag building and the Brandenburg Gate is a memorial to the Roma Sinti who lost their lives during the Holocaust. We had passed it on the way to the Reichstag, so after our visit to the dome, we went back to look at the memorial. It consists of a pool in a small garden with the poem Auschwitz by Italian poet Santino Spinelli engraved around the rim of the pool, in German and in English.

Roma memorial 1

Some of the writing round the dge of the pool
Some of the writing round the edge of the pool

Our next stop was the Currywurst Museum – I needed a bit of light relief after all the politics and memorials!

Currywurst Museum

I discovered where hotdogs got their name, so it was educational as well as fun 😉

Hot dog

The Currywurst Museum is just around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie, so after the silliness of sausages, it was back to the serious stuff. A quick photo of the checkpoint then in to the associated museum.

Checkpoint Charlie

The museum gives some information about the division of Germany and the building of the wall then goes on to tell the stories of all the people who attempted to escape from East Berlin while it was part of the GDR. There is some excellent content and fascinating stories, but soooo much to read. They do have a few cool exhibits, including cars that were converted to allow people to hide in them and is is definitely worth a visit – especially if you’re interested in Cold War history – but be warned that the organisation is not the greatest and the museum can be a bit confusing. It was also incredibly full when we were there, which didn’t help, but there is certainly enough information to make it worth the visit (although at €12 per person it’s not the cheapest!).

By this time, I was all museumed out, so we set off for a walk, following the course of where the Berlin Wall used to be. In some places, there is a line of bricks set in to the pavement to show where the wall once stood.

The wall used to run right across this road
The wall used to run right across this road

Our walk took us to Potsdamer Platz. Not all that long ago, this square was basically a big empty space. The Berlin Wall went right through the middle of it so for many years it was pretty much desolate. Once construction started, Potsdamer Platz became the biggest building site in Europe! Now, it looks like this:.

Potsdamer Platz

And that was basically the end of Saturday. We had decided to eat in on Sunday night, so as we were passing the train station we stopped at the supermarket there and bought the required ingredients. Then, after dropping the groceries off at home, we headed to Kreuzberg to attempt to play minigolf – we had tried to book early in the day but only got an answering machine. On arrival (after initially walking down Görlitzer Straße in the wrong direction then ending up wandering around the creepy park for a while!) we discovered that they had no room for us, so we made a reservation for Monday instead. Heading towards the Görlitzer Bahnhof, we walked past a restaurant with a man playing guitar inside so we decide to check it out. The restaurant, called Camba La Che, turned out to be Argentinian while the musician was Brazilian. One table was filled with a large group of what seemed to be the owner’s family, and the owner himself (at least I guess that’s who he was) looked old enough to already be retired! The service was a little slow, but the food was ridiculously cheap AND turned out to be delicious so we didn’t mind. It’s not like we had anywhere to be.

Sunday

Sunday lived up to its name and presented us with beautiful blue skies. We had queue jumper tickets for the Neues Museum (New Museum) because I wanted to see the Egyptian exhibition, so the Museumsinsel (Museum Island) is where we headed first.

One of the museums on the island... and blue sky!
One of the museums on the island… and blue sky!

It was interesting, but I was pleased the third floor was closed for renovation. There’s only so much museum I can take!
The next place we wanted to go was near HĂ€ckescher Markt, so we decided to eat in that area too. From the book my dad had given Jan, we chose Lemke’s, where I finally had Currywurst. But you can read all about our food and drink experiences here.

Lemke

The Brauhaus Lemke on HĂ€ckescher Markt (there’s another one somewhere as well) is located under some old railway arches, as you can just about tell from the above picture.

We ended up having to finish our beers in a bit of a rush because the public tour at the place we wanted to go next was starting soon. Next stop was the Otto Weidt Blindenwerkstatt (Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind), now a museum. In the 1930s and 40s Otto Weidt’s workshop for blind people produced brushes and brooms. He employed mostly Jewish people (many were sent there to do forced work) and when they started being rounded up and sent to concentration camps, he did his best to help them, even hiding one family in a room at the back of the workshop. The museum is in the original premises of the factory and you can actually go into the room that served as a hiding place. Entry is free of charge and the stories the museum tells are incredibly moving.

Leaving the workshop, we bumped into a guy from Chile who asked us what was in there then proceeded to strike up a conversation with us about whether or not Germans talk about politics. He was chatting to us for so long that Jan eventually suggest he walk with us to our next destination, which he duly did. The conversation ended up ranging from what we think should be done if it was discovered that the Holocaust 100% did not happen (reveal the truth or let people carry on believing in it) to why communism is a nice idea in theory but could never work in practice and even whether or not the upper classes believe they are superior to everyone else. Interesting but exhausting!

We finally made it to where we wanted to go… Bernauer Straße.

Berlin Wall

When Berlin was a divided city, the Wall ran right down this street. Many people fled to the West be jumping out of the windows of their apartments, until the authorities had them sealed up. Part of the wall here has been left as it was, and from a viewing platform you can see what it looked like.

Bernauer Straße wall

As you can see on the photo, the Berlin Wall was actually two walls, divided by a strip of dirt. Inside that strip, dogs and armed guards patrolled the path, and in the areas surrounding the path there were mines. Anyone trying to cross to the West had to scale one wall, avoid guards, mines and dogs then somehow get over the second wall. It’s amazing that anybody ever managed it!

We finally managed to get rid of the Chilean when we headed back to our apartment for food (as interesting as the conversation was, 3 hours of it was enough!). After dinner, I decided to take advantage of the fact that the apartment had a bath tub. I’m not usually the type to soak in the bath for ages, but this time I did… and even took my glass of wine in with me. Bliss!

Monday

On Monday, we went to look at the East Side Gallery, a 1.3 km long section of the Berlin Wall covered with works by artists from all over the world, painted in 1990 on the East side of the wall following the opening of the border.  I’m going to put the photos from that in a separate post, I think. We then headed to KurfĂŒrstendamm, known locally as the Kudamm, which is one of Germany’s most famous avenues. It’s basically a huge shopping street in West Berlin, and we only went there so we could say we’d been properly into the West. Ku’damm is the epitome of everything I hate about big cities – large, ugly buildings, crowds and lots of cars. Brrr.

Ku'damm

That evening, we finally managed to play blacklight minigolf, which you can read about here.

Tuesday

We had to be out of our apartment by 10 am on Tuesday so, as the train home wasn’t until around 1, we went to the Museum of Communication. No photos unfortunately because you weren’t allowed to take any, but there were some interactive things and LOADS of old communication equipment and information about different means of communication, such as Morse code. There was far too much for us to look at everything before we had to leave!

And that concludes our trip to Berlin. To end this post, here’s a photo of a Buddy Bear. There are lots of them standing all around Berlin, but unfortunately I barely managed to get any photos because almost every time I saw one either it was already dark or we were rushing to get somewhere. Boooo!

Buddy Bear