Golden Week

This is now my last weekend in Berlin before I finally head back to Shanghai. I’ve had an epic summer sojourn and have loved being outdoors for most of the summer and catching up with friends and family. Autumn has arrived, the winter jackets are now out and I am ready to get back to my regular China schedule :o)

Catching the last rays of the day during my walk.

Catching the last rays of the day during my walk.

Autumn offers such amazing colours. The above view stopped me in my tracks on my walk today and I could not help but stand and soak it all in. Enjoy the beauty of nature and the magic of the changing seasons.

Berlin Summer

Happy Swiss National Day everyone and greetings from Berlin! It’s great to be back in our neighbourhood, to catch up with our local friends as well as our visiting friends.

Top left and clockwise; Christoph and I joined the party on Christopher Street Day, I finally got to hoon around the city with friends in my little Hot Rod, sharing the fun of bouldering with little AG and Christoph giving AH a lift when she was visiting us with her dad, CH.

Top left and clockwise; Christoph and I joined the party on Christopher Street Day, I finally got to hoon around the city with friends in my little Hot Rod, sharing the fun of bouldering with little AG and Christoph giving AH a lift when she was visiting us with her dad, CH.

Despite the unpredictable weather, we’ve been thoroughly enjoying being outdoors, on our bikes and sharing our love of Berlin with our wonderful friends. We have another few days with our current visitor, BF, and then we’ll head north to visit Christoph’s mum.

A good friend told me a long time ago that the three keys to happiness is to have someone to love, something to do each day and something to look forward to. We try to keep that in mind whenever we make plans and I can tell you that so far, this summer has been a blast! Hope your summer (or winter, for those in the southern hemisphere) is too! Happy Days!

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2019! Oh my gosh! How 2018 flew by! We hope 2018 was an overall good year for everyone and that 2019 will be just that little bit better ;o)

Christoph and I have been laying low in Berlin over the past couple of weeks (translated: we were both exhausted and needed a couple of weeks of recuperation). I still feel slightly on the low energy side but I think it’s also due to having very short days in the winter. We were however, able to pull ourselves away from the sofa and get to London for a few days in December for our Christmas trip/treat. We went to see Hamilton which was brilliant! The show absolutely deserves every accolade it has won; a must-see if you get the chance.

Happy holiday-makers in London.

Happy holiday-makers in London.

I checked that my last post was in November and I have to say that ‘life’ got really busy in November hence the severe lack in posts. It was the usual Shanghai activities of volunteering and supporting Christoph plus apartment-hunting (we will move apartments in February) and a stint of hotel training. I was kaputt by the time we flew to Berlin and still feel like I need a bit more time. Lucky for me, I’ll be heading to Perth in a couple of weeks to visit my family. I’m hoping the extra sunshine and warm weather will be the kick-start I need to my new year. Sending big hugs to everyone and looking forward to seeing most of you this year!

The Travelling Sisters Are At It Again!

Linh joined me couple of weeks ago and we began our tour through the Baltic States. Christoph and I had been there before and I really wanted to share it with my sister. We had an added bonus that a Shanghai friend of mine, VB, also happened to be in Europe this summer and joined us for the second half of the trip.

Linh and I met in Berlin and made our way to Warsaw-Vilnius-Riga-Tallinn-Helsinki. VB joined us in Riga and once we three reached Helsinki, Linh went on to London while VB and I flew back to Berlin.

Top left and clockwise: Warsaw National Opera Theatre, University of Warsaw Library rooftop garden, open-air concert in Vilnius, re-enacting the start of the Baltic Way, Vilnius.

Top left and clockwise: Warsaw National Opera Theatre, University of Warsaw Library rooftop garden, open-air concert in Vilnius, re-enacting the start of the Baltic Way, Vilnius.

Linh and I had a very pleasant train ride from Berlin to Warsaw. That evening, we went to the National Opera Theatre, a fabulous building, and saw the European Union Youth Orchestra play. We then spent the following days exploring the Old Town, the gardens at the Warsaw University Library, the Riverside and a local neighbourhood with Vietnamese markets where we ate quite good Vietnamese food.

Warsaw was followed by Vilnius, a city I loved from my last visit. We were there during the Assumption and so we visited many of the churches while services were underway. We joined a walking tour and found out that Vilnius was in its hey-day considered ‘the Jeruselam of Europe.’ They once had a population comprising of roughly 58,000 Jews and by the end of WWII, only about 2,000 Jews were left. It’s such a violent and regrettable history.

Top left and clockwise: Art Nouveau District, Riga, the interiors of the beautiful buildings, Linh at the Tallinn Old Town, the end of the Baltic Way, Tallinn. 

Top left and clockwise: Art Nouveau District, Riga, the interiors of the beautiful buildings, Linh at the Tallinn Old Town, the end of the Baltic Way, Tallinn. 

We continued our trip with a luxurious bus ride to Riga where we met VB. If you have an interest in Art Nouveau, Riga would be the place for you. It has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe. Also, more and more buildings are gradually being restored each year and walking around the already beautiful district is just stunning. From Riga we again took a bus to Tallinn and soaked in the Old Town and its sights. Keep Tallinn in mind as I won’t be surprised when Tallinn, Estonia pops up to become a leading force in the culinary scene in 5 or so years. The food and beverage were sensational.

Top left and clockwise: at the Sibelius Monument, Helsinki, the amazing Temppeliaukio Church and finally back to Berlin’s East-Side Gallery.

Top left and clockwise: at the Sibelius Monument, Helsinki, the amazing Temppeliaukio Church and finally back to Berlin’s East-Side Gallery.

From Tallinn, a short ferry ride delivered us to Helsinki. The city unfortunately looks quite drab, which is most probably due to the long cold winters. But being faced with those long cold spells, the Fins became fantastic at creating cosy indoor environments. We explored the Design District, popped into many boutique stores, visited the Design Museum and Arabia Design Centre. The city blew me away with its love of all things aesthetically pleasing. An absolute highlight was the Temppeliaukio Church, or also known as the Rock Church. Designed in 1961 with construction completed in 1969, it is a church of which I have never before seen nor imagined. I am determined to re-visit Helsinki with Christoph in tow... along with an empty suitcase!

Heatwave Escape

What a summer hey? It feels almost like an Australian summer in Berlin with temperatures reaching 38 degrees celsius! No worries, we had a last minute change of plans with visitors and found that we suddenly had more time togther before Christoph’s summer vacation ended. So, with such high temperatures, we decided to rent a car and head north to the famed lake district of Mecklenbürgische Seenplatte.

Müritz Lake

Müritz Lake

We weren’t sure if we were going to drive the two hours there, spend the day and head back to Berlin in the evening or stay in the area for the night. In any case, we packed a bag just in case it was too pretty to leave.

Well, it was too pretty to leave and I was so glad we were prepared because the area was so beautiful and relaxing! The water was cooling, the gentle breeze was greatly welcomed and we found a lovely hotel to stay at that was once a military barracks. What a great building!

Top left and clockwise: the Gutshaus in Ludorf, reception area, the exhibition room and our room for the night which was originally the smoking room :o)

Top left and clockwise: the Gutshaus in Ludorf, reception area, the exhibition room and our room for the night which was originally the smoking room :o)

After a day of driving and swimming, the hotel was a perfect place to spend the night. The next morning, we enjoyed a luxurious breakfast and decided to explore a little further north to Uckermünde beach where Angela Merkel used to spend her summers.

Uckermünde Beach

Uckermünde Beach

We really enjoyed our little getaway and I love seeing and learning more about Germany each time I visit. And the bonus was that we came back to a Berlin that was cooling down; perfect!!

Summer Fun

Christoph and I have been thoroughly enjoying our time in Berlin; the slow mornings, long walks, various coffee houses and just being outdoors in the warmth and under clear blue skies makes us happy.

Last Tuesday, we took a train to Hamburg, stayed overnight and visited Christoph’s mum the next day. We had lunch at the Hotel Atlantic which, I didn’t know at the time, is an iconic landmark in Hamburg. It’s also iconic for being the home to Udo Lindenberg, an über famous German rocker, musician and composer who has lived in the hotel for 23 years! So cool!

After lunch we took a walk around the Alster and gawked at the many huge mansions on Schöne Aussicht (that’s the street name, ‘Beautiful View’) and Bellevue (another street meaning ‘Beautiful View’). We stopped frequently for drinks and to watch the people running, walking and paddling by. A great way to spend the day.

We then visited Christoph’s mum in Bordeshölm the next day and had another relaxed and easy time together. In the afternoon, we took the train from Bordeshölm to Hamburg with a connection to Berlin. We arrived with an hour to spare and decided to grab light dinner before taking our 20:34h train. We were back at the station at 20:30h to find out that our train had been delayed and due to depart at the new time of 21:50h. Ugh. There was a brief storm earlier in the day and the delay involved the fire department. Christoph had a sneaky suspicion that the delay will be longer so we went to see if we could rent a car. Two car rental places had run out of cars and we finally found one that technically didn’t have anything left but the nice man at the counter freed a car up for us. 21:00h we were in a car and on the way back to Berlin. While on the road, we kept an eye on the train schedule and saw that the train had indeed been delayed once again, due to depart at 23:15h to arrive in Berlin at 01:30h. You can just imagine how glad we were that we didn’t sit around and wait for the train.

Top and clockwise: Christoph learning about film sets, the garden from a TV story, a typical scene from the Middle Ages, the set for the Three Musketeers show.

Top and clockwise: Christoph learning about film sets, the garden from a TV story, a typical scene from the Middle Ages, the set for the Three Musketeers show.

We got back to Berlin very tired but happy that it worked out somehow. As we had the car for 24 hours, we thought to make the most of it. We ran errands in the morning and in the afternoon, drove out to the Babelsberg Filmpark which is attached to the famous Babelsberg Film Studios. The Babelsberg Film Studios are ‘the Hollywood studios’ of Germany and according to Wikipedia are ‘the oldest large-scale film studios in the world, producing films since 1912’. We always thought to take a look but one needs a car to get there or else it’s a very long bus ride. So off we went to the Filmpark. This is my description of it: You know those B-rated horror movies where a group of friends break into an abandoned theme park and find themselves getting murdered one after the other by a psychotic themepark caretaker? Well this would be the perfect setting. The Filmpark was built in 1991 but feels much older. It has various interactive shows; the stunt show at the volcano, the animal show, the three musketeers... all performed by the same people ;o) If you have a chance, there are many other things to see in Potsdam, you can skip this ‘highlight’.

Berlin’s Turkish Markets

I’m in Berlin for the summer and today went on a little outing with my friend ED after yoga class. She’s Australian of Turkish decent and has always bought her fresh produce from the various Turkish markets around town. I on the other hand, love that we have a farmer’s market around the corner from our apartment each Saturday. We both needed to pick up some groceries today and so out of curiosity, I went along with ED to the Turkish markets she frequents.

The loot. 

The loot. 

The market was jam-packed! I loved the diversity of the market-goers; Arabs, Turkish, Asians and a handful of caucasians thrown in the mix. Our farmer’s market is mainly visited by local Germans and tourists. Prices at the Turkish market were low and produce was aplenty and because we were there in the last hour of operations, vendors were very keen to sell off their wares. I picked up 10 avocados, 10 passion fruit, 4 punnets of blackberrries, 1kg of cherries, 2kg of plums, 1kg of grapes, 3 lemons, tomatoes and a bunch of parsley. Can you guess how much I paid in total? €11. Yes, eleven euros.

I of course, was not well-prepared and had to precariously lug everything back home on my bike. Until now, I’m still in two minds about the pros and cons of each market. I like that ours is in walking distance and I can just pop down and buy something easily. However, you can’t deny that the prices at the Turkish market are amazingly reasonable and I loved watching the mix of people. I’ll also have to taste test the produce and then can have a better opinion, but in the meantime, if the weather is good, then venturing a little further on my bike to the Turkish market is fun and makes a good outing. But when it’s cold and wet, then the higher prices at our local market will be just fine for me as well ;o)