Archive for the ‘Berlin’ Category

Overall, this week was pretty exciting and eventful; here are some pictures of the things I saw:

These are pictures of: The Brandenburger Gate (as a whole, the top piece known as the Quadriga, and from the side next to the US embassy); front and rear of the Bundestag, German Parliament; a shot down the Street of the 17th of June/Tiergarten; and a picture of the Memorial of the Jewish Victims of WWII.

 A (bear) statue of the Statue of Liberty right inside of the US embassy – looks an awful lot like a pig, which seems rather fitting…

Pictures from Prenzlauerberg – I should have taken more, but, meh.  The left picture is funny: someone painted over and reworded the sign to say, instead of “designer closing sale” to “designer shit failed/fucked up”

These are three photos of the former Anhalter Bahnhof (Anhalter train station), where over 9,000 Jews were deported out of Berlin during WWII.  It was kind of a chilling sight, of course nothing like any of the concentration camps.

This is the Jewish Museum, my first stop of today’s adventures.  I spent about three hours in here, didn’t even see everything, and could easily have spent another three…

Pictures from Oranienstraße in Kreuzberg! What a happenin’ place.  I went to my first imbiss since coming back to Germany (mostly to avoid the temptation of eating döner), and had this amazing vegan dish. The imbiss was called Habibi, and the food was urughi – basically fried veggie-patties with salad, hummus, a pita. Simply delicious. The guy who served was super awesome, too, as he made sure to not use the sauce made with yogurt, what a guy.

 Some pictures of some pretty sweet graffiti in Kreuzberg.The mosque my friend Janet frequented during her stay in Berlin

 Some other pictures of Kreuzberg – this was such a cool place! Full of people and liveliness, loved it there!

Well, that’s most of the interesting pictures, hope you enjoyed them!

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Perfection. That’s the word of the day.  I couldn’t feel more fulfilled or accomplished.  Today I spent about six hours at Alexanderplatz – the location of this years Vegan Summer Festival, a day of information, promotion, music, interviews and more. The weather was beschissen, a.k.a. straight-up crappy (ok, that’s not the translation of this German word, but I think you get the gist).  Rain, the entire day, although it wasn’t freezing, nor was it really storming, so it could have been worse.  That didn’t ruin my day at all though!  I love rain and clouds as is.

Bordering most of Alexanderplatz were booths and stands giving away TONS of free information, selling LOADS of vegan goods and merchandise (most of which were supporting local vegan operations, non-profits, and grass-roots initiatives like Sea Shepherds and PETA – and PETA2?), and the best part was being able to try (and discover) the different vegan options in Berlin.  This festival comes at a big time in Berlin (and Germany in general), as the country opened it’s first fully-stocked, strictly-vegan, super market (that’s right, an entire supermarket for vegans), which sells over 6000 different vegan products, featuring also a cafe with baked goods by vegan feminist celebrity Melisser Elliot (yes she was there, yes I watched the interview, yes she kicks some serious ass. But, chances are you may not know who she is – I didn’t, sadly, but I’m thrilled I do now – learn more about her here: Melisser Elliot and click on “About Me”).  What an intriguing and inspiring person, really!  Her advice for vegans everywhere included: mistakes happen, especially in the beginning; stay informed and connected with the vegan community! Read others’s blogs, share recipes, give (constructive) feedback; remember that being vegan is easy, and fun!  She also pushed the issue of a non-vegan diet being closely linked with anti-feminism and female exploitation.  I don’t want to give away all the good details, so consider buying her book one day!

So I spent a few more hours at the festival, watched vegan chef Björn Moschinski give some pointers in the kitchen and showcased some easy recipes (wasn’t really in the mood to stand there with my umbrella while I tried jotting down all the steps and ingredients…there are thousands of recipes out there, not worried about it).  Moschinski is opening an all-vegan restaurant here in Berlin during September. I may go if I am still in the city, as he said the kitchen will include all of the typical German meals (uuuh, vegan sauerbraten or schnitzel? Yes, yes please.), we shall see.

I also made a friend, w00t!  Such an interesting person (speaks Swedish, studied Germanistik, works for a radio station here in Berlin, and also for a crazy cool cosmetics shop called LUSH), and we’ll probably be hanging out this week sometime.  More to come I’m sure.

While waiting in line at the vegan döner stand (vegan döner!!), I randomly started talking to this lady behind me (long line, people tend to make jokes about waiting so long, etc. etc.); not an exciting story, but is was part of my experience, so a few highlights: she has been vegetarian for over 30 years (and can attest to the challenges a vegetarian faced many years ago, in Germany, makes me thankful that there are so many options everywhere today, for vegans); grew up in West Berlin and experienced the Wende (fall of the wall and switch to democracy and capitalism); complimented me on my nearly accent-free German, but told me I should at least try to keep a bit of an accent, because it was, in her opinion, charming.  What a sweet lady.  I love befriending people older than me, especially those who are even older than my parents, (almost) always a pleasure and an honor.

After spending a few hours at Alexanderplatz, mingling amongst like-minded vegan folk, I decided to walk around a bit and take some pictures – posted below.  Nothing spectacular, but at least a few shots of what I saw, which include: shots from the vegan festival, Der Fernsehturm (observation tower), Rotes Rathaus (red city hall), Neptunbrunnen (Neptune/Poseidon fountain), an evangelical church (not evangelical like in the US, much different…churches are just generally pretty in Europe), segways (grrr…see below), and a shot inside one of the subways I was on. Oh, and there is a picture of the delicious soup you’re about to find out about, keep reading!

After leaving the vegan fest I went home to find a completely clean apartment – go roomies!  We sat down and chowed down on the delicious soup I made the other day (what I thought was going to be an epic failed turned into an epic success! I do not, however, recommend making a pot of soup with less than 2 centimeters to spare at the top, dangerous business, but I managed to do it without making a mess…somehow). This soup was so good, I’m going to share it with you all right now (oh, well you’ll have to recreate it, it’s easy though!).  Before you start, make sure you have a really big pot, this makes a lot of soup (freeze it for late!)

Ingredients:

Veggies: 1 cup red lentils (or other lentils are ok I suppose); 1 can giant white beans; 2 zucchinis (you can always throw in an eggplant too, but make sure you don’t go overboard like I almost did); 3 big tomatoes (or 1 can of tomatoes, diced and whatnot); 3-4 good sized potatoes; 1/4 a head of cauliflower (or broccoli); 2 bell peppers (I used 1 green, 1 yellow, you can use whatever you’d like though!); 2 stalks celery; about 6 carrots (if they’re really big, maybe a few less, if small, maybe a few more) OR a sweet potato (or both? how big is your pot?); a big handful of greens (I used kale, although spinach would be wonderful, too); one big onion (your favorite variety will do); a shallot; 6-8 cloves of garlic – if you want to substitute some things or add others, I recommend peas, kidney beans or chic peas, ya know, keep it fresh and creative (and share if you try this at home!)

You will also need:

1 liter (maybe more) of veggie stock (I used the powder kind, seems to go further and is easier if you have a hot water machine)

handful of pasta

a cup of your favorite texturized vegetable protein (or, if you aren’t vegan…I suppose you could add meat, but I don’t recommend it – try something new! I promise you wont be disappointed with this 😀 )

2-3 teaspoons of provincial herbs/herbs de Provence – not sure what name they have back home

1-2 WHOLE dried chili peppers, depending on how much of a kick you want (1 is not that much of a kick in this big pot of soup, 2 is a little bit)

6 bay leaves

Sea salt and pepper (you be the judge here, ask yourself: how do I like my soup?  Just don’t add too much of either, it’s kind hard to get salt and pepper out once you’ve put it in…ok it’s practically impossible)

So what you do is start with the cup of lentils in the pot, add two cups of water and bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, bring to simmer.  Cut veggies how you prefer to have them in your soup fast, or get a head start before you boil lentils (don’t want to lose any digits in the process!). Once most of the water has been absorbed by the lentils, throw all your veggies in together, with the veggie stock, herbs, salt and pepper.  The pot should be pretty full.  Turn the heat back up to medium/medium-high and bring to light boil, don’t forget to stir frequently! Turn the heat down to a medium/medium-low.  Add more water (or stalk) if necessary. Now you take the chili pepper(s) and carefully make a few slits in the skin, with your nail preferably, so that the soup absorbs the spiciness but you don’t have seeds and pepper flesh floating around ready to attack an unsuspecting victim.  Let the pepper soak for 5-10 minutes (it should stay afloat and not sink, I let them sit for the remainder of the cooking time), then add the bay leaves (don’t lose track of them, please, I don’t want anyone to get sick making this).  In the last 10 minutes, add the pasta and texturized veggie protein.  Let cook until pasta is tender, remove chilies and bay leaves – enjoy alone or with your favorite bread (baguette is perfect).

So my roomies and I were eating this delicious soup, when I learned that one of my roomies now wants to try eating vegan (let me just say, having only been a vegan for a little less than a month now, this feels like a huge accomplishment, score for vegans!).  So my goal is to help her make the switch before I leave in September.  So many goals for such a short trip.

Before finishing off the night, I ate some of the vegan strawberry ice cream I made the day before and watched some Kathy Griffin videos. That woman is just…amazing, to say the least; what an American.  So after that I got ready to go out to a few bars.  Firstly, I can’t believe I forgot that no one goes out before 11 or 12 – lame – and secondly, no one goes out when it has been raining during the day.  Epic fail.  I did manage to find two bars with some life in it . The first was a sliver in a building, packed with at least 100 people in it – uncomfortable.  I spoke with a man here about being gay in East Germany, an interesting situation for him, although it was so loud I only heard part of everything he had to say.  Not feeling the vibe there, I went to another place down the street. Had the man talking to me in the previous bar not shown up after a few minutes of arriving, I would have left, slightly horrified.  It wasn’t until after I bought a beer that I noticed the adult-oriented nature of this bar, and I wish so badly I didn’t have to use the restroom during my brief stay.  My advice: don’t make wrong turns going to the bathroom, and definitely have a flashlight handy if you find yourself in the dark.  *shutters*

So I don’t think I am much of a bar person, at least not in this part of town.  Next time I will be exploring the techno/dance clubs that Berlin is so famous for, hopefully with more success and less fear.  After leaving bar 2 for the evening I walked home, although being slightly tipsy, I ended taking a rather long and not-so-direct way home due to not really knowing where the hell I was.  I did, magically, managed to navigate my way home without a map, and was safe and sound upon arrival.

Yeah, it’s late as I post this (seems to be the trend up to this point! It’s still early where most people are reading this though, soooo, whatevs).  Honoring a short break from my research, I just finished one of my essays for my Fulbright application (after a day of convincing myself I wouldn’t be able to apply because I missed one of Ohio State’s numerous deadlines); I do not enjoy writing personal statements. They are supposed to be about you, and about your plans, goals, aspirations, and intended steps to achieve all of it. Boo. I don’t know most of that stuff, yet. Yeah, I’m one year away from graduating from college (with two completely separate degrees in two completely separate directions), what’s your point? Get over it, I know I have. 🙂

Seriously though, it is good for me to be forced to sit down and consider these things, even though it doesn’t mean anything as far as the next 5, 10, or 20 years of my life to sit down now and contemplate (yet at least, once these things happen, different story).  ‘Nuff of the heavy stuff, I sat down to tell something interesting! If you have questions (what’s a Fulbright, what kind of Fulbright am I applying for? etc, etc, please leave a comment or contact me some other way, you know I’ll love talking to you!).

So, aside from occupying myself with application requirements, reading chapters for my research project, which means sitting in a chair for hours upon hours upon HOURS of my days here, I have also been (briefly) through the city, walked around my neighborhood, ate some deeeeeeelicious meals (mostly cooked by yours truly), went shopping (did I explain how stupid I was when I was packing? Yeah, pretty sure I did. Great job, David…you idiot. In my own defense to my self-accusation though, I didn’t know that this summer would be unseasonably cool in Berlin – but I sure am glad I’m missing out on the unseasonably hot summer back home, sorry folks, it’s been about 60 and cloudy for a week now, with occasional rain. And I love every minute of it, hope you aren’t heat-stroking though!! Seriously, please don’t do that.), and some other things. Here is an overlook of some interesting events.

  • Went on an adventure to locate libraries and begin looking stuff up.  EPIC fail, as I am not registering with the city, I can not get a library card (an academics and nerds-alike worst nightmare!). I can at least stay in the library and work with anything I may need; however I haven’t been back to a library since, also because the one library (one of the most important for my project, actually), didn’t exist at the address listed on GoogleMAPS, and I since then I have not been able to locate an updated one (I did go to the place google told me to, heavily under construction, the building had an A, B, and C version of the same address…long story short, I spent 45 minutes walking around 1 half-block only to realize the internet probably got the better of me, damn you interwebs).
  • My failed library trip encouraged me to see part of the city, so I went to Alexanderplatz – google it for some history, it’s quite interesting and I’d love to tell you, but I’m tired and don’t feel like raking my brain at the moment.  I’ll attach a picture of what (one) part of it looks like.  Note to anyone traveling to Europe (that means you’ll probably want to do some shopping), don’t buy shoes here, ever.  I walked into a “discount” shoe outlet, only to laugh at every shoe I flipped over (you know, that’s where the price is).  It was fun though, I probably looked insane, literally (lone kid walks into store and laughs (almost hysterically) to himself every few seconds while he scours size 41/42 shoe racks…I love me 😛 ). I did find a nice, new-looking, perfectly fitting cardigan to supplement my under-prepared wardrobe for the chill weather, for only 9 euros! That thing was definitely overpriced new, but not at the second hand store 😀 I also got to watch two Dutch boys seek out and fashion themselves some second hand stuff, I was honestly more interested in them speaking Dutch to each other though (it sounds SO cool, and silly, especially as a German/English speaker).
  • Got yelled at by a train driver (because I stupidly forgot to shut off my flash as I was taking a picture of the approaching train…gah, I deserved it, and I sure did feel bad, although the guy was a pretty big jerk about it…I made sure to apologize before and after getting on the train, and the dick still gave me a pretty dirty look. Some people just don’t like being in good moods, ever. The *not so epic* shot is posted below. If you look closely, I’m pretty sure you can see him scathing.
  • Saw a dirty, out of shape, (maybe homeless?) man flash his junk (the between-your-legs kind, not the in your shopping-cart/mobile wardrobe variety), ON THE STREET (the busy kind) in broad daylight, to a woman inside of a store.  Don’t know the details here, don’t know if she knew him, liked it, or asked for it. I know she saw it though. Just…gah…odd, to say the very very very least.  Why did this make the “interesting events” list?  Well, think about it, firstly; secondly, it’s one of those things that just makes one want to say “WHAT?!” loudly. At least it makes me want to say that, because I did. Right there, on the street.  Plus, I’ve never seen this (personally) in the US, only heard of stories – it doesn’t happen if you don’t see it, right?? hahaha, yeaahh, riiiight (you did insert sarcasm there, yes?).
  • Discovered an open-air market/farmers market around the corner! This is a huuuuge discovery for me, because it means super cheap produce (among other things as well, apparently). Farmers markets in Germany always include mass amounts of people crowded inbetween vendors who are all shouting their best offers, rushing to the many customers trying to score a good deal (which isn’t hard, I’ll get there in a second), it’s chaos, pandemonium, hustle-bustle, and usually one 0f the first things any foreign exchange student or non-native experiences. They are very, very memorable, and in my own experience, quite different from any I’ve seen in the States. Anyone from Bonn knows the Spargel lady all too well (Deutsche Spaaargel, frische Deutsche Spaaargel…I’ll never forget that raspy voice, I break out into laughter every time just thinking about it, Skype me and I’ll do my best impression possible – it’s worth the Skype call, trust me – although she is probably somewhere online), but this market is of a different variety.  Almost all of the vendors are non-native, so you have to listen extra hard to understand most of them, but they are way more lively and interesting with their cries of produce deals and steals.  A case (12) of avocados for 2 euros?! Whhaaaaat??? If they weren’t all so ripe, I definitely would have indulged. So what did I purchase, and how much did I spend?
    -a bundle of carrots, fresh from the ground (at least a dozen)
    -one decently-sized eggplant
    -one large head of cauliflower
    -six big tomatoes
    Well, I’d prefer you all guess, and then I can surprise you all by posting the price later, but let’s be real, most of you haven’t read this far and don’t care to put the energy into checking back for something so trivial. I get it 🙂 I spent just under 3 euros for all of that, which is just over 4 dollars.
  • Ok, so food. I still have yet to go out and eat at a restaurant (being vegan and all, not a vegan restaurant around the corner like there are Döner Imbisses – Döner is a delicious, gyro-like snack, soooo much better than a gyro, but definitely more questionable. They make a variety with french fries to, definitely try this if you come to Germany/Europe, or go to Turkey. Pommdöner, or any döner.  Again, that was “döner,” did you write it down? 😛 ).  Most of the food I have been eating, like I mentioned, I am making myself…I’ve made some delicious tomato sauces with kidney beans and chickpeas; wonderful veggie stir-fry (with peas, cauliflower, carrots, artichoke hearts, kale, shallots); olive oil-balsalmico penne with herbs de Provence and steamed veggies; a delicious vegan casserole made by my roommates (no, they aren’t vegan, they just made a separate one for me, I’ll have to write an entirely separate post about how awesome my living situation really is); amazingly healthful smoothies (before and after pics below); sugar-free whole wheat corn meal blueberry muffins (featured with penne and veggies picture); müsli with nuts, grains, seeds, fruits, soy yogurt, and soy milk, and a variety of things on bread. The best breads here are Kartoffelbrot (potato bread), Kurbiskernbrot (pumpkin seed bread), Vollkornbrot (whole grain wheat bread), all kinds really, but also any Brötchen (individual, roll-size) varieties of aforementioned breads…I’ll post some pictures incase you’re curious on what these dishes are and how they turned out.  More to come in the future!
Ok, it’s entirely too late, I’m tired, have to pee, and still want to do my measly ab-exercises.  The final song of the evening is “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash.  Before I go, here is something from the home base that should get your synapses firing…
and now for pictures! I think you  can figure out what’s what, there are 2 of Alexanderplatz, one of the train before I got yelled at, the rest are food.