Saturday, May 31, 2008

Surviving Heat Waves

For some reason, I hat forgotten just how intense the sun can be here when it is sunny. Maybe it is just my imagination, but 80 degrees tends to feel a lot hotter than 80 degrees when you are in the sun.  At least I managed to escape dealing with today's 86 degree high by sleeping for most of the afternoon, but that was an accident (more on that later).

So what have I been doing these days other than surviving the heat? I have discovered that Thursday is probably my favorite day here. First, I found a Bauermarkt (farmer's market) pretty close to my school when I was exploring for something else. Plus, there is another one even closer to me on Kollowitz Platz both on Thursday and Saturday. Pretty cool. On Thursday evening, all the big museums in the city center at Museuminsel (Museum island) are free
 for the last four hours, from 6-10. Not bad. I loved the Pergamon last time that I was here, and I was pleased so discover that I still enjoyed it. I guess Greek mythology obsessions from middle school just never really fade away.  

I went to the art museum, and the museum with other greek stuff. I really need to go back so that I can get pictures of the statues in the rotunda.  There wasn't even light coming through the skylight when I finally got there, so I couldn't take any good pictures of all the Greek god/goddess statues.

Friday, I joined a bunch of people who live on the school campus for a picnic in Mauer Park, which is a place that has a few pieces left over from the Berlin wall that has been made into a park. A very interesting place. Not the prettiest, but interesting nonetheless. There were tons of people there enjoying their Friday evening. I couldn't believe that we stayed until almost midnight.  It was sort of funny because there are not that many lights in the grassy area, and you could almost only see the outlines of people and not sure who it was unless you distinctly remembered their clothes or got really close to them.

After this, a group of people wanted to go to a club together. I had previously gone out on Wednesday for my roommate's birthday, and that proved to be a fun experience. We ended up going to the same area close to the school but went to a different club. I wasn't as impressed by this one, plus it was more expensive. The cover was 8 euros to get in, and I almost cringed when I did the conversion in my head. Ah well. If the students ever go back there, now I know to pass on it. It was a rather large club with two floors and three different rooms, which played totally different music. The musical taste of this room can only be described as totally ecclectic. We heard everything from the German Fußball song from the world cup two years ago (oh the Heidelberg memories) to swing music to a song or two from Grease and the Ghostbusters theme song. The latter was the highlight of the night; I must say. We stayed out until 4:30 or so in the morning. Or was it 5? I don't remember It was definately lightish outside like before the sun rises. I was so tired tired that I couldn't even make it back to my place and crashed at another student's apartment.

When I came back this afternoon, I only meant to take a nap for one hour, but it ended up being a five hour nap! Whoops. So much for exploring the market by my house. Tomorrow I am going on a bike tour just outside Berlin. We have to meet at the school at 10:30, so no late night for me. 

I missed the meet-up for a birthday celebration tonight, so I just picked up some fruit and came back home.  Had a nice little chat with my host mum as she was cleaning the apartment.  We talked about going out to clubs and how the other student who lives here is almost never home. The funniest part is how she talked about how it is so expensive to buy alcohol in clubs, and she even showed me where she has two flasks in the cupboard if I ever want to take my own. Haha. She is so funny and/or crazy sometimes. I think this summer is going to be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Berlin: First Impressions

I have officially begun my 11 week stay in Berlin.  Discovering the area where I am living, Prenzlauer Berg, is fun, and every day brings something new.  For example, after I finished class today, I noticed that there is a cafe of sorts right next to the language school. This in itself is nothing special except that the board on the sidewalk mentioned vegan cake and options (!). Can't you tell that it doesn't take much for me to be excited? I am used to having to explain to everyone what veganism is, so seeing random things such as that sign make me smile. I will probably eat there later this week since I had other plans for today's lunch.

I was lucky to read about Hans Wurst Vegan Cafe on The Urban Houswife.  Lucky for me, it is on my way back home from the language school.  It was rather quiet when I went, but it is a cute little place. I loved the atmosphere despite the lack of people.  Since it was a rather dreary day and I wasn't terribly hungry, I just got the creamy pumpkin soup and a chocolate milkshake.  The soup was very tasty (as well as orangey), and I didn't feel as if I was getting a serving or two of veggies, not to mention beta-carotene, even though I obviously was. As for the milkshake, it ended up being a little different than I expected. It was basically soy milk that had been put through a blender with chocolate pieces and not the aforementioned along with ice cream, like I expected. Needless to say, it was still tasty, but I could probably just as easily make it on my own but cheaper. Given the location and free wireless, I am probably going to frequent this cafe rather often and even try to visit later this week when there will be live entertainment. Plus, I'll remember to bring my camera.

I had another interesting foray today, that of cooking in my host mother's apartment.  I provide my own meals, so naturally I've been given spots in the fridge and cupboard to store groceries. Being the cheapskate that I am, I will be trying to buy the bare minimum for both taste and nutrition.  Obviously, I'll be commenting on my subsequent successes and failures. So far, I haven't even bought any sort of oil with which to cook.  This did not seem to matter when I made a severely simplified version of Isa's amazing dahl as posted on the ppk.  I cute down the original so much that I only used garlic, cumin, coriander, tomato paste, a bullion cube, red lentils, tomatoes, and, of course, water.  All in all, the pared down version was rather tasty in its own right.  But the actual recipe was not today's second adventure.

I had to use a gas stove.  Okay, no big deal, right? Wrong.  I have been lucky enough that I have never had to work on a stove with an open flame, or, if I ever did, I do not recall doing so.  Since my host mum was not at home and my stomach was growling something fierce, I had to figure it out all on my own.  It took me four tries.  The first time, I was just figuring out how to actually light the darn thing by pressing the knob in. The second, trying to press in and then turn the knob. Becoming frustrated, I tried to ask a friend for advice. Press in and turn to medium, I was told. Failure yet again. I guess there is a trick to it, as I realized on the fourth try. You have to press in, light the match, turn the knob gently, and release it slowly. Success! The only other interesting aspect of dinner was that I pretty much free-handed the amounts of the ingredients. (Excluding using a drinking glass to measure the lentil and rice amounts so that I could get the correct water ratios.)

Coming Soon: A visit to Maja's Deli, which is supposedly in this area as well. I'll also be going to the Kreuzberg area to check out the vegan grocery store, Veni Vidi Vegi and a restaurant or two. (Yes, the grocery gets extra awesome points for being a play on a Latin phrase. Why, you ask? Because I was a former Latin nerd in High School before I discovered my love of German.)

Thanks for (hopefully) sticking with me as I jump back into this blog thing.