All posts tagged: Berlin

Berlin: Shopping, Zoo, and Live shows

For the shoppers out there, Berlin offers a plethora of retail therapy ranging from rustic indie shops to international brands like Zara and H&M.  One of the more glamorous shopping districts is französische strasse which translates into “French street.”  As the name suggests, you can find high end boutiques and the giant Galeries Lafayette French department store.  To boast it’s “Frenchness” there is a very prominent Eiffel Tower erected right in the middle of the multi-leveled store.  Another cool shopping district is Kurfürstendamm.  An extremely length strip lined with both high end and lower end stores and everything in between.  You’d probably need a full day to cover all the grounds.  Even if you aren’t a keen shopper, there are things like gourmet food stores, cafes, and architecture to check out in the area. The shot taken below with the two pyramid structures are actually bird cages.  If you look closely, you can see the little canaries sitting inside.  While in Berlin someone recommended checking out the ‘oldest zoo in the city.’  Well… it is …

Berlin: East Side Gallery – the Iconic Wall of Graffiti

One of the coolest attractions in Berlin is definitely the East Side Gallery.  It’s not your typical posh display of art from distinguished artists behind glass frames.  This one is expressionist art in its rawest form.  The best part?  It’s free. The coolest part?  It fuses history with modernity in the most organic way possible.  A 1.3km stretch of the original Berlin wall located on Mühlenstraße along the river spree. The Gallery consists of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world, painted in 1990 on the east side of the Berlin Wall.  The paintings at the East Side Gallery document a time of change and express the euphoria and great hopes for a better, more free future for all people of the world Due to the open nature of the gallery, vandalism and erosion is visible on every piece of artwork on the concrete slabs.  People freely scribble on the walls like it was the side of some high school desktop.   Not gonna lie, my friends and I made a small mark …

Berlin: Popular Tourist Spots

One of my favorite things to do in Berlin was just wandering around aimlessly.  Some of the coolest hidden gems are not plastered all over tourist pamplets, and you have to find them yourself or get locals to show you around.  Here are some random tidbits that I captured around the city.    boxoffBerlin is chock full of cool little gadgets and souvenirs.  Instead of your usual tacky magnet or postcard, their stock has a very distinct Berlin feel which is grundgey, rebellious, and artistic.  If you are looking for Berlin gifts or things to put around your house as decor, this is the place to shop.  Just a few steps away from boxoffBerlin is Checkpoint Charlie, the crossing point between East and West Berlin.  It’s a pretty well-known tourist spot and the guards are really there just for show. You can take a picture with them (for a fee).  Nothing too special.  The monument I pass by all the time near Friedrichstrasse on my way to the library where I study.  As recommended by a …

Berlin: Where to live and breathe the city’s rich history

One of the most anticipated scheduled trips of the program was attending a German Cabaret.  Berlin was hailed as one of the major ‘Sin cities’ of the 1920’s.  Sexuality, experimentation and artistic expression were at their peak right after World War I.  Cabarets are similar to musicals/broadway shows and are often associated with sex in Berlin.  The venue, despite it being a tent, was very glamorous and posh.  The show we watched was an adaption of the actual film called “Cabaret” based off Christopher Isherwood’s novel.  The story depicts the intertwined lives of an American performer, Sally Bowles, and reserved academic writer, Brian Roberts.  Good thing we had watched the film in English prior because the entire show was in German and it was already difficult enough following along.  As you can see, the costumes are very risqué, baring tons of flesh and the dancing is rather erotic.   Not really understanding the dialogue, my focus was purely on the performance and theatrics which were very playful and comedic.  There was a live band and …

Berlin: Jewish Museum & Charluttenburg Castle,

Our second excursion was to the Jewish Museum in Berlin.  Most people would instantly think this is a museum dedicated to the tragedy of the Holocaust, but actually it goes beyond the piece of history that we are all familiar with and goes deeper by taking visitors through a chronological journey of Jewish history before and after the Third Reich. The museum aims to broaden our perception of Jews in Germany by educating visitors on their culture, lifestyles, and important historical figures.  The building itself is designed by the same architecture behind the Royal Ontario Museum – David Libeskind.  People who are familiar with the ROM should be able to see some similar styles between the two buildings.  One of my favorite rooms is this gigantic sun room near the entrance.  I remember it being a very hot day and the heat from the rays made this glass covered room feel like an oven.  Did I mention most buildings in Berlin do not have air conditioning?  One of my favorite quotes.  One simple sentence can …

Berlin: Mosque, Shopping & Outdoor Market

Our first excursion was to a Mosque.  This was my second time visiting a Mosque, the first time being a field trip for my religion course in high school!  We learned some very interesting things about the architecture and the religion itself throughout the discourse of its history in Berlin. Outside is a graveyard displayed very openly and unapologetically.  The interior is very colorful, adorned with different shapes and patterns all with its own symbolic meaning   There is a lot of symbolism around Earthly elements.  But the thing I found the most fascinating is this huge chandelier hanging in the center of the Mosque.  The opaque orbs are actually ostrich eggs. They have a very practical use; to repel spiders and prevent the accumulation of webs near the top of the dome where it would be hard to clean.   Observing prayers After that we took off on a nice little walk towards our lunch destination at a traditional Turkish restaurant.  Our professor took us on a little detour into a (restricted) neighborhood backyard. …

Berlin: Activities & Sightseeing – Flea Markets, TV Tower and mobs

One of the first places I visited in Berlin was a popular flea market in Mauerpark on Eberwalder str. (get off U-bahn Bernauer Str.).  It’s a great place to check out on Sundays when most shops are closed in Berlin.  The flea market is HUGE and complete with a large array of food trucks and every possible object you can imagine.  Everything from clothes to tribal jewelry to lamps and typewriters. Here’s a snack cart that was churning out freshly sliced and deep fried potato chips on skewers Rows and rows of STUFFFF I thought these old school cameras were kind of cool. While most stalls were nicely set up and attempted to be visually attractive, this corner just was the junk pile where one man’s trash becomes another man’s treasure.  I only really glanced at most of the stuff as I always had to keep in mind my limited luggage space but if I had spent more time diligently sorted through the boxes, I think I’d find some real gems. This is the view …

Germany: Good Eats Pt 2 (Restaurants)

Although Berlin has an abundance of street food, one cannot ignore the many restaurants the city has to offer for some quality dishes and tasty German beer. When I think German food, I instantly think sausages and pork knuckle.  One of the first proper places I ate at was a traditional restaurant recommended by a friend called Mutter Hoppe.  It was a beautiful day and we sat outside in the comfort of the lazy afternoon sunlight.  I tried a wheat beer which was pretty much overflowing with foam and it had a very interesting aftertaste.  It’s very difficult to describe the taste of beer using words but it’s very different your typical mainstream brews. Of course we had to sample their pork knuckle which came in a huge slab of meaty goodness served with traditional sauerkraut, potatoes and peas.  The meat was literally falling apart and it tasted heavenly with the caramelized saurerkraut. Their sausages were alright.  I’m not usually a fan of sauerkraut but I found myself reaching for forkful after forkful of the …

Germany: Good Eats Pt 1 (Street Food & Cafes)

The first part of the Germany Series is, of course, food!  I think there’s no better way to experience a new culture than to delve right into their gastronomy. The majority of food spots I post will be from Berlin since I stayed there the longest. Berlin is a fast moving city, and you especially notice it in high traffic metro stations such as Alexander Platz or Friedrichstraße. As such, they are densely lined with on-the-go cafes and food stops for customers to grab a quick bite. Berlin’s plethora and variety of street food was one of my favorite aspects about the city.   German sausages, called wurst (pronounced vurst), are one of the most popular street menu items and are usually served on a bun.  The most noticeable difference, as you can see, are that the sausages are massively disproportionate to the bun.  But it doesn’t matter because the wurst is the best part.  My first wurst was at a the Mauerpark Flea Market on Eberwalder str.  (get off U-bahn Bernauer Str.) The other …

The Germany Series

I studied in Berlin, Germany for about 6 weeks and within that short period of time, I fell in love with the city.  I learned a lot about Berlin’s history and culture as I experienced it day by day, exploring different landmarks, sampling food, and interacting with the locals.  The history that is intertwined with the rejuvination of modern Berlin is something that I found so fascinating and I want to share all my experiences here for my readers.   I thought carefully about how I should go about blogging my adventures in Germany.  In the end, I decided the best way to do this was to break it down into categories.  Over the next while, I’ll be publishing posts on Germany’s gastronomy, places of interest, sightseeing, and other noteworthy experiences I had during my stay 🙂 Stay tuned!