Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Berlin - A Food Tour, Some Street Art, A Light Show And The Berlin Wall - Part Two

Once we had eaten we decided to stroll over the bridge to the other side of the river and see what this Festival of Lights was all about - Bastien had just said that some of the main buildings were illuminated. The Festival takes place every October and turned out to be a lot more spectacular than we expected! I have to say that my photographs don't begin to do it justice. Above is the Berliner Dom which is the first building we came to, it wasn't just a static affair as we'd been expecting but a constantly changing art show achieved with video and lasers. Many of the world's leading lighting artists take part in the festival.

Here it is again......

.....and again.

This is the front of Humboldt University - you can just see the statue of Hermann von Helmholz who was a famous German physician and physicist who was Professor of Physics at the University in the 19th Century. Humboldt is a very prestigious University, Albert Einstein was a professor here and it has produced twenty nine Nobel Prize winners.

The Altes Bibliotek in Bebelplatz just across the road from the University.

I wish I could have got a better photograph of this,it was fantastic - the dragon appeared through a window then seemed to fly across the front of the building and in through another window. It happened so quickly each time it was impossible to catch the whole dragon in one photo.

At the end of Unter den Linden of course was the Brandenberg Gate. Like all the other buildings and monuments this had constantly changing images. There were literally thousands of people out on the streets but the atmosphere was always friendly and happy.

As we walked back over the bridge we saw this illuminated boat sailing along the river. The whole thing was a really enjoyable experience and if Bastien hadn't mentioned it to us we'd have missed it altogether.

Our final day in Berlin was bright and sunny and as our return flight wasn't until early evening we were able to spend several more hours looking round. We wanted to go back and have a proper look at the site of the Berlin Wall among other things. After an early breakfast we left our luggage at the hotel and once more crossed the river and walked down Unter den Linden.

This is the longest section of the Berlin Wall that is still standing. I'm old enough to remember the Wall both being built and being pulled down. I was a young teenager of 15 when it was built in 1961 and 43 when it was finally demolished in 1989. After the end of WW2 the city of Berlin was divided into four sectors each controlled by one of the four occupying powers. The Wall was built by the government of the German Democratic Republic to separate the British, American and French sectors of Berlin from the Communist controlled Soviet sector.

Directly in front of the Berlin Wall are the cellars that lay below the Gestapo and SS Headquarters between 1933 and 1945. The buildings at street level were destroyed by bombing but the remains of the cellars now house an open air exhibition giving an overview of the historic location and the site’s use during the Nazi period and the postwar era.

These are the remains of the cellars which have been excavated - I dread to think what appalling things happened here in the past. It's rather a chilling experience to walk along here even with the blue skies and sunshine.

The demolished and abandoned piers with remnants of the metal fittings from the main driveway to Gestapo Headquarters were left in place when the site was cleared between 1957 and 1963. All prisoners destined for the Gestapo 'house prison' passed through here.The 'house prison' was where prisoners were brought for 'interrogation'.

One of the information boards from the exhibition, the explanations below the photographs are given in both German and English. The horses are ploughing in Gendarmenmarkt where the Konzerthaus stands and where we had finished our guided walking tour a couple of days earlier.

On a lighter note here we have the Trabi which was the most common car in East Germany during the Cold War and apparently they are now quite collectible. Production began in 1957 and it was produced for the next 30 years with virtually no changes. With its two stroke engine it wasn't exactly a racing model:) It's possible to go on a Trabi-Safari of Berlin which might be rather fun I think.

The 'Berliner Mauer' plaques are set into the ground at intervals and mark where the Berlin Wall once stood.

Finally the infamous Checkpoint Charliewhich is a replica of the original guardhouse which is now in the Allied Museum. I would love to go back to Berlin, there is so much to see and do and we barely scratched the surface during our 4 days there. I want to see the head of Nefertiti for a start!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Berlin - A Food Tour, Some Street Art, A Light Show And The Berlin Wall - Part One

Here I am finally finishing the story of our trip to Berlin last October. It will be a long post but I've decided that it's better to get it done than start splitting it into two. Saturday morning was the day that we'd booked places on the Berlin Food Tour and the photo above shows the group with our guide Bastien who owns the Berlin Food Tour company. We were nicely international with an Israeli couple, three Americans, a Scottish couple and four of us from England. I'm right in the middle in case you're wondering:) All the photographs will enlarge if you click on them.

Our meeting place was Katjes Cafe Grun-Ohr on Rosenthaler Strasse. After introducing ourselves to each other we started our tasting with lovely freshly baked Brownies and also Katjes vegetarian bunny gummies both of which were delicious, in fact I bought packets of the gummies for my grandchildren. A little further down the street was Lindners where among other things we tried Berliner Frikadeller which was really tasty. These are a sort of flat patty made of ground pork and beef seasoned with crispy bread, eggs and onions. There was also a sample of Leberkase which translates as liver cheese, this was the only thing on the whole tour that I really didn't like. However the piece of butter cake that followed was fantastic. Bastien later sent me a recipe for butter cake though I confess I haven't tried it yet. Note to self - must find it and give it a go:)

At this point Bastien took us down a narrow alley to show us some of the street art that Berlin is famous for - this delighted my daughter as street art was something she had particularly wanted to see. More of this later as we returned after the food tour finished. The face on the wall is Anne Frank by the way.

Next on the list was Doner kebab at All in One which apparently does the best Doner kebabs in Berlin and quite possibly the best anywhere. I confess that I had never had this before as it never looks very appetizing when I've seen it in this country. I'm glad I was persuaded to try it though, it was fantastic. What looks like a large orange lamp at the back of the photo is actually a 60 kilo piece of beef which rotates on a spit all day. There was plenty of choice of nice fresh looking salad to go with it as well.
A bakery called Hopfisterei was our next port of call and here we tried German rye bread and some delicious fresh pressed organic apple juice. The bakery dates back to 1331 and once served the Bavarian Royal family

Hackescher Hofe, reached through an arched entrance on Rosenthaler Strasse, is a series of eight interconnecting courtyards dating from 1906. It was,and still is,a mixture of apartments, bars, shops,restaurants and businesses. It's a rare example of art nouveau architecture in Berlin and is both extremely pleasant and very interesting to walk through. Our foodie stop here was Eat Berlin which is a wonderful deli where I bought some pistachio honey for myself and a bottle of Berliner Senfsauce for my husband which was very warmly received indeed:) I could have filled a suitcase with goodies from this shop.

This was my favourite shop! Eisenbergs have the most fabulous pastries including wonderful macarons in all kinds of flavours. Other tastings on the tour were coffee - incredibly strong rather like Turkish coffee - a wine tasting, cheesecake at Barcomis which is famed for its American baked goods, curry wurst - in my case just wurst as I don't like curry at all but it was extremely good just on its own - and finally a refreshing beer at Brauhaus Lemke. This is a small micro brewery but they do food as well and as it happened Juliette and I had eaten there the previous evening and already knew how good the beer is:)  We really enjoyed this tour and we were with a very nice and friendly group of people which made it even better.

Along with food we learnt some history, I had no idea that Martin Luther King visited Berlin in 1964. Not only West Berlin but also East Berlin which is the part of Berlin where we were staying and where the food tour took place. This board outside the Marienkirche commemorates his visit to deliver the evening sermon to a packed church on September 13th 1964. I believe that the American Embassy had confiscated his passport to prevent him from visiting East Berlin but at Checkpoint Charlie the border guards recognised him as the famous Civil Rights leader and let him pass when he showed his American Express card as identification. How true this is I don't know of course but since he certainly was in East Berlin it sounds quite likely. I have a lot of time for Martin Luther King, his death was a sad loss to the world.

Grosse Hamburger Strasse was one of the main streets of Berlin's Jewish quarter and outside the city's oldest cemetery stands this little memorial representing a group of Jews being led to their deaths. The cemetery dates back to 1672 and looked very tranquil and beautiful. It would have been nice to have looked round it but there wasn't time nor are tour groups allowed inside though individuals can wander round quite freely.

We came across many of these small brass plaques set into the pavement. They are called Stolpersteine - stumbling stones. They are set outside the homes of people who were victims of Nazi oppression and although most of them commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust there are also Stolpersteine commemorating Romani people, black people, homosexuals, mentally or physically disabled people all of whom were victimized by the Nazi regime.

Once the Food Tour was over Juliette and I returned to Rosenthaler Strasse so that she could have a proper look at the street art. This isn't really my thing so while she wandered round I went into a tiny museum which is also situated on this little alley. It tells the story of a man called Otto Weidt a visually impaired broom and brushmaker who employed many Jews at his workshop at 39 Rosenthaler during the 1930s. I believe that Otto Weidt is the man in the centre of the front row behind the lady who is sitting on the floor. The museum is in the building where Otto's workshop was and the rooms are preserved pretty much in their original state.

As tensions in the country grew, Weidt endeavoured to protect his mostly blind and deaf employees from persecution and deportation, bribing the Gestapo, falsifying documents, and eventually hiding a family behind a backless cupboard in one room of his shop. Otto survived the war  and established an orphanage for the survivors of the concentration camps but sadly he died of heart failure in 1947 aged 64.

This is a view from the window of 39 Rosenthaler in the 1930s.....

.....and the view from the same window today.

Outside they were preparing for Halloween.

There were three or four flights of stairs inside one of the buildings and every surface all the way up was covered with art. I gave in and was persuaded to go and look at it all, I was informed that I needed to broaden my horizons:) We also paid to go into a sort of show? experience? in a cellar. It was pitch dark and the floors were a soft rubbery material both of which affected my balance which is fine in daylight but rubbish in the dark so Juliette had to hold my hand to make sure I stayed upright:) It was actually great fun as it was filled with automatons that suddenly appeared out of the darkness and did all kinds of things. The artists who built them were undoubtedly very clever and much to my surprise I really enjoyed it .

By this time it was beginning to get dark so we decided to go back to the hotel to have a short rest before going out for the evening. Bastien had told us that was some sort of Festival of Lights on  so we thought we might as well have a look at it. Right, I've decided to give in and make this two posts! I shall go back to the title and add Part One to it:)

Thursday, May 19, 2016


It's a good while since my last post but recently one or two people have left comments on older posts and I've decided to try and get back into things again. I'm starting with this photo of a water vole seen last week when out walking on the moors with my friend P. The banks of this small moorland stream were full of holes which are the entrances to the homes of water voles. I was aware that they live in this area but never expected to actually see one. I was really close to him (or her!) and he certainly knew I was there but he seemed quite unconcerned and I was able to take several photos. If you enlarge this one you will be able to see his little paws holding what I think is a piece of reed that he is eating.

The water vole is of course Ratty from Kenneth Grahame's wonderful story 'The Wind In The Willows'. Here he is with his friends Mole, Badger and Mr Toad of Toad Hall. The illustration is by Inga Moore who is my favourite of all the artists who have illustrated this classic book.

I didn't take many photos on the walk as is often the case when I'm with someone else. This is cotton grass which is actually a sedge, it grows in the boggy hollows of the high open moors and is a very attractive sight in May and June in what is often a rather barren landscape.

Towards the end of our five mile walk we were looking down onto the Wyming Brook which is rather spectacular and beautiful, and there is a lovely three mile walk along its banks which we've done in the past.

I never did get the final post from my trip to Berlin done so I think I'll try and do it over the next few days. This is another of the chocolate sculptures from Fassbender and Rausch's wonderful shop. It will be rather fun to go back through the photographs and try and remember where they all were!