Stasi Museum via WEBMU 2012 in Berlin

WEBMU 2012 in Berlin was last weekend (I’m still recovering from it). Given that most or all of the attendees have visited the usual tourist spots in Berlin — Brandenburger Tor, Reichstag, East Side Gallery, etc. — our WEBMU hosts put together a program off the beaten path, concentrating our activities around neighborhoods in East Berlin. My favorite agenda item of the weekend was our visit to the Stasi Museum in Lichtenberg. Continue reading Stasi Museum via WEBMU 2012 in Berlin

WEBMU 2012 in Berlin — Schedule of Events

Under a month to go — time to firm up your plans for WEBMU 2012 in Berlin! Snooker in Berlin has posted the agenda for our annual expatriate blogger meetup weekend in our discussion forum. We converge on Germany’s capital (for the first time in the history of this tradition) officially on Friday night, September 7th. There’s a pre-event during the day on the Friday, and this year, there’s even a pre-pre-event for those making an extra-long weekend of it (like we are).

Snooker and Mandi of No Apathy Allowed have wonderful things planned for us. Besides the exact agenda, there’s also a guide to local transit and a hotel/hostel/apartment recommendation list. There’s even a handy map of all the points of interest for the weekend.

It’s not too late to sign up, or swing by and take a look if you’re still on the fence. Visit http://forums.expatbloggersingermany.com and click on one of the buttons under “Howdy, Stranger!” to get started. You qualify for membership if you

  • live in Germany,
  • are from somewhere else, and
  • blog in English

So tell us all those things about yourself when you apply, please. But hurry — WEBMU’s almost here!

I love it when a WEBMU comes together…

Are you interested in attending the expat blogger meetup that’s sweeping the BRD? Then it’s time to check in on the Whiny Expat Blogger MeetUp forums, where the planners are looking for input. If you’re an English language blogger living in Germany and you don’t have an account yet, go sign up already! We need a little input from you and have some more details on what’s in store, so check out the Friday side trip, who’s coming and Hotels threads.

If you’re on the fence about coming, a word of warning: there is a consumer electronics trade show taking place that same weekend in Berlin. As a result, accommodations are becoming scarce. So you might need to decide soon whether you’re going to attend in order to get a room or apartment. That’s addressed in more detail in the Hotels thread.

Any questions? Feel free to ask here or, better yet, in the forums. And I hope to see you all in Berlin!

WEBMU 2012: Berlin or Münster?

Well, we sort checked out of the blogging game, didn’t we? Sorry about that.

We have a good excuse, though. All blogging energy has gone toward getting the WEBMU city selection up and running. This year’s candidates are Berlin and Münster, so two very different flavors of meetup are on the table. Do you live in Germany and blog in English? Come on over to the discussion board and sign up. If you already have a login (even from the old board), make your voice heard! There’s room for questions or discussion if you’re on the fence. Be sure to sign in to see the planning and voting topics. Voting will run until Sunday, April 1 (not even kidding), so get your vote in soon. And please, spread the word!

Five Places for Lunch in Two Capitals

London

A couple weekends ago, we did a B&B stay in London at a perfectly lovely flat in Balham — more on that later. One of the joys of a trip to the United Kingdom for us is a visit — or many — to Marks & Spencer for a fast, simple, comparatively cheap, and possibly even healthy (or at least not obviously BAD for us) lunch on the go. They’re located all over the United Kingdom. It seems like about the time we’re getting hungry, but are on our way to some other exhibit, show, or shopping area with not a lot time to eat, an M&S comes into view just at the end of the block. Big thanks to our pal and travel buddy Monet for this tip. Previously, we only knew Marks & Spencer as a department store and purveyor of fine barnyard animal shaped gummy candies.

Marks & Spencer Simply Food is a great thing if you’re in the mood to snag a bench and eat outside. It’s ostensibly “just” a grocery store, but the things they have in there appear to be very good quality, whether ready-to-eat or requiring a little oven work to make them edible. If you’re renting an apartment with an oven included, M&S Simply Food can be your best bet for not-eating-out meals. For the ready-to-eat, single-serving stuff, I recommend Hoisin Duck and greens wrapped up in a tortilla, a bottle of freshly squeezed orange/mango juice, and a little pudding cup. But that wasn’t our exclusive choice for lunch in England.

We also tried Dish Dash, at our B&B hostess’ recommendation, just up the road a short walk. It’s a Persian (is that politically correct outside the realm of cats and rugs?) restaurant with lots of items to mix and match, differing portion sizes, and plenty of vegetarian options. I had the Khoresh Ghomesabzi, a generous bowl of thin lamb stew with fresh parsely, coriander and chives, a side of rice (works great IN the stew) and a side of tabbouleh. Sarah had Joojeh Kebab, a skewer of lemon, garlic, and yogurt-marinated chicken with a side of crispy spicy potatoes. Very tasty food in a comfortable atmosphere. They looked well-equipped for large parties, too.

For sheer variety of offering, try the Borough Market at lunch. Individual hawkers of meats, cheeses, sandwiches, pies, burgers, sausages, breads, falafel, curries, Greek stuff…the list goes on and on. It’s popular at lunch, and with good reason. Plan lots of extra minutes to tour the whole area and make (mental) notes about the stalls warranting a second look. We ordered some lovely pies from pieminister and followed up with a falafel from Arabica Food & Spice.

Berlin

Cabin 2We took a night train from Munich to Berlin on Wednesday night. We’d done this once before, years to the week ago with friends visiting from California. Back then, we’d chosen sleeper berths for the four of us, but they weren’t in a compartment. Rather, they more more like individual pods built into the sides of the train car, with an aisle running down the middle, and I recall zipping up a side wall to isolate myself from passers-by or ambient light. This time was a completely different configuration, however: one side of the train car had the aisle along the edge and the the other was marked with two staircases — one down, one up — each leading to two tiny twin bunk berths. You can see there that I’m standing in the only spot in the “room” where one person could conceivably stand. If you don’t happen to have a close, personal relationship with your bunkmate, you will pretty quickly.

Dolores Burrito FairyAfter we got settled in Berlin, Sarah met up with Yelli the next day for coffee while I was working a little. Eventually I joined them and she gave us a choice of Dolores or …something else. It doesn’t matter. Dolores was the right choice. Big, flavorful burritos with plenty of variety and not skimpy on the extras essentials like sour cream and shredded Monterrey Jack (!!!) cheese. Be prepared for a wait at lunch time; every hipster in Berlin knows about Dolores, too.

Sunday brunch at Café do Brasil was the final stop on our three-continent culinary tour through London and Berlin. This was another suggestion from Yelli & Co. and I am thankful for it. It certainly was eclectic: standard German buffet things like salami and cheese and yogurt, sure, but also fresh pineapple, shrimp on skewers, deep-fried crab legs, eggs scrambled with tomatoes and onions, breakfast sausage, beef stew over rice and barbecued chicken wings — oh, the chicken wings. All this, plus a bottomless cup of coffee (pretty unheard of in German buffet settings, since the coffee is almost never included). We paid just over €40 for a feast for 4 adults plus one kiddo (pretty sure the youngest didn’t even make it onto the bill, but really, I’m not sure the kiddo did either). Take the U7 to Mehringdamm and walk about 2 blocks. Just make sure you’ve got a reservation well in advance or are there on Sunday morning before they open at eleven o’clock to snag a table; otherwise you’re probably out of luck.

Vielen Dank Berlin / Happy Birthday Germany

We spent four days in Berlin over the most recent long weekend (don’t worry, there’s another one coming up in June and we’ll be spending it…traveling! To Budapest this time…) and had a great time celebrating Germany’s 60th birthday as a federal republic, despite somewhat iffy weather at first. Here’s how it broke down:

Thursday:
We woke up really early, caught a train to Nürnberg, caught a plane to Berlin, caught a bus to a platz near our hotel. Dropped off the non-essentials and reveled in Dunkin Donutty goodness with pals Snooker and TQE. Why aren’t there any DD shops in Regensburg? Or even Nürnberg? Oh well. After a while, Yelli showed up and the whole gang proceeded to enjoy the latest Star Trek movie. Especially the plot devices. Afterward, TQE led us to a really great Weinerei in Prenzlauerberg for dinner, laughs and geeky camera talk (I bow down to Snooker’s bokeh).

Friday:
Yelli took us to the Reichstag and quite shamelessly exploited her own offspring in the process. We line-jumped due to their stroller, and settled our hungry bellies with world-famous currywurst from Curry 36. TQE and Sarah and I set out for a really nifty bohemian street after a stop at Einstein with Snooker for coffee. That evening Yelli & Family entertained the crew at their house for a great North African-influenced dinner. I am still fuming that they have access to merguez in bulk proportion and I wouldn’t even know where to look for it around here.

Saturday:
Most of the party made it to Winterfelder Markt for perusing and sampling. Highlights for me were the raclette stand and the freshly-squeezed OJ. After that, Snooker gave us an expert tour of the Gedächtniskirche — a fascinating war monument in that it, unlike just about everything else in Berlin (that I could see) was never restored or removed. It’s still there will all its fallingapartedness and big gaping holes. A trip to KaDeWe — Kaufhaus des Westens — secured me some long-sought-after aftershave and a chance glimpse at one of Germany’s Next Top Model contestants from this season. We didn’t see a name tag on her, but we’re pretty sure that was Dana Franke we saw there. Saturday evening Snooker took us to the Hackescher Markt area to seek out an Indian restaurant and were joined by the whole crew. After that, Nora showed up to the rescue with some tripods and Snooker and I geeked out with the night photography.

Sunday:
One final meal together at a restaurant for brunch, and then Sarah and I decided to go for a bus ride to the Siegesäule and walk from it to the Brandenburg Tor. It was a nice stroll through the park (partway) and a thoroughly fitting end to a great long weekend exploring a pretty-much new place.

It was great to experience Berlin outdoors; the last time we were there was Thanksgiving 2005 and it was freezing and we spent a lot of time trying to find ways to get warm. This time the weather was much more forgiving, but even better were all the suggestions from Yelli & Co., Snooker & Nora, and TQE as an experienced Berlin traveler and the great conversations. I loved bouncing from topic to topic across the table. Big, big thanks to everyone.

Here’s the slideshow: