Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Ich bin ein Berliner

So for Tom's birthday in January, we went to Berlin. Have you ever been to Berlin in January? Yes, it may not have been my most sensible idea in terms of weather, but we had a blast anyway.

Over four days we did most of the touristy bits, ate a lot, drank a lot, slept a lot (much needed) and walked – A LOT. It's a pretty big city – bigger than I anticipated – so the blisters were somethin' else, but they were worth it.

If you haven't been, Berlin's such an interesting city. You get the sense that it's haunted by it's past and is apologetic for it. The most harrowing place we went to was an exhibition about Nazi terror, and it was unflinchingly detailed and completely condemned everything about the regime. Other previously war-torn places I've visited have been more murky and conflicted in their retelling of the horrors of war, but Berlin seems cut and dried about it and it makes you somehow feel sorry for the whole city, like the new generation who never committed these atrocities are forced to grovel over and over again for the sins of their (grand)fathers.

The history of the wall is just as interesting, especially as it's so recent and such a mad idea – just build a wall and divide a whole city overnight?! I just can't imagine it happening, and yet it did. And then there's the hipster Berlin that's sprung up since the wall came down – graffiti everywhere, which gives the city's culture a punky feel, and the vibrant nightlife and coffee scene in a place that, from the outside (and when you live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world) seems so down and out.

At the East Side Gallery, the remaining part of the Berlin wall has been covered by murals and graffiti – on one side, city-sanctioned and on the other, homegrown. These were my favourite of the murals commemorating the years the wall stood and the deaths that resulted when citizens tried to cross it. 

Some edgy city shots (impossible to get anything else). 

(The sun did come out at one point, so I had to take photographic evidence!)

Below is a road of caravans in Kreuzberg. Literally, people live in different caravans all down this road. 

Tom enjoyed some manly currywurst in traditional tourist style...

While I insisted on macaroons and espresso at KaDeWe

A hell of a lot of coffee was drunk actually – Berliners know how to caffeinate. One of our favourite pitstops was Five Elephant – lovely coffee, lovely service, very cool. One of those places you'd happily spend all day working/reading/drawing in. 

But sometimes you just need a little heiße schokolade to warm you up. 

The Reichstag building is definitely one to put on your must-visit list. You have to sign up for a time in advance, but it's free. When you get there you have to go through all sorts of security checks due to it being a government building but the view – even in the rain – is amazing and the Norman Foster-designed dome got my little wish-I-was-an-architect heart well excited. 

And Tom's little wish-I-was-a-pilot heart was very much into Tempelhof Airport. Only closed to commercial flights in 2008, it was built by the Nazis and is a ridiculously huge building and airfield, now used as a public park. Of course, no one except us was stupid enough to visit with the freezing winds when we were there, but it's probably amazing in summer when people gather to barbecue and, apparently, ride segways. 

We ate at some lovely places and found some lovely bars. Highly recommended are Der Golden Hahn (posh checked-tablecloth Italian bistro, pricey but excellent and romantic) below, Lerchen und Eulen across the street (super cosy and cheap cocktail bar) and Santa Maria (Mexican with wicked margaritas and a full gluten-free menu - godsend). 

(Still getting used to the camera...)

We stayed in this Air B'n'B and I can't recommend it enough. Johanna was fab, it was sooooo warm and toasty when we came in sodden and shivering, it was low-lit and romantic and in a great location for walking around Neuköln and Kreuzberg. 

I enjoyed it so much that I went back two weeks later for a hen do, which was a completely different but also excellent experience. I'll be back, Berlin! 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A long absence

Hi there – it's been a while!

Due to a number of things – a busy new job, a house move and the DIY that comes with it, a diamond ring (!) and the death of a beloved grandparent – I've been away from this space for six months.

During that time I've had trips away (Berlin twice and, um, Ramsgate), attended two weddings and a funeral, seen our sheep get pregnant (due at Easter) and half planned a wedding. It's been a bit of a whirlwind!

I have a few retrospective photo-dump posts coming up but for now, I'm glad spring is here. I'm usually a major autumn girl, and the period from 1 Sept until Christmas is pretty much my fave. But after a traumatic start to the year it feels nice to have sunshine on my face, lighter evenings, the scent of cut grass and blossom in the air and snowdrops and crocuses in the ground.

(P.s. I also got a new camera, a Sony Cybershot - it gives almost the same quality as my Eos but is so much more portable so I'm hoping to be able to take it more places and photograph more (like these snaps from Waterloo bridge the other night at the WOW Festival). Sorry about that…)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Pottering (and puttering) in the countryside

The end of summer is not a sad time for me. Don't get me wrong, I love the light days and sunshine, but I'm not a fan of OTT heat and, especially living in London, much prefer it when the days are less muggy. That said, in the country, the hazy end of summer can be an absolute dream.

I headed home to take advantage of a couple of days of fresh air and wholesomeness. Where my parents live, on the Worcestershire/Herefordshire border, everything changes so quickly with the seasons, there's always something new to see (and photograph) every time I'm home. This time, however, my camera died spectacularly so you'll have to excuse the slightly dodgy iPhone pics.

It always amazes me that this supposed backwater is such a hive of hipster-style industry. There's a tiny town called Bromyard which is made up of only independent shops, including the glorious Legges, and there are co-ops and pop ups galore. Put this farmers' market with its honesty box system in East London and it'd be on every 'must-do' listing on the net and tweeted about constantly. As it is, it's in a barn, up a hidden lane, and there was not a soul there except an ancient labrador. We filled our basket with piles of veg and some flowers for just £13.50. Take that, Columbia Road. 

While we were in the land of sensible prices, I wanted to do a little homewares shopping for our new flat, so we took a trip to Bringsty Vintage Living. It's a great little antiques treasure trove where they have both upcycled furniture and items you can do up yourself. 

I probably could have bought most of the shop but I restrained myself to a couple of little items – a mirror and an enamelware colander that everyone in my life seems to think was a crazy purchase.

Continuing on the vintage theme, we also went to watch the Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb. An annual celebration of vintage, new and strange cars, people take it in turns to rag their pride and joy up a hill in the middle of the countryside. It's the oldest motorsport venue (that's still used) in the world – you can keep Le Mans or Monza, we've got the Worcestershire grand prix right here. Eccentric, but pretty entertaining!

People also drive their 'babies' to the event so other people (like me and my dad) can walk around and admire them. 

We got to have a little sneak peek around the garages to see the cars all lined up after the race too. 

There were even some women drivers! Alice and I got VERY excited #feminism. 

I did a spot of dream car shopping. Hello, Jaguar E-Type, come to mama. 

And then it was home to snuggle with the dogs and pet the sheep. They come running as soon as they see you now, expecting food – I'm sure this is not a very typical way to farm sheep. My parents are never going to be able to let any of them go and will probably turn vegetarian. One of the lambs, Violetta, is so tame she'll come up to you for a cuddle. She looks gross because she has burrs all over her wool, but she's so sweet.

Not forgetting the main wolf in my life of course, who is also very sweet. Butter wouldn't melt, eh? 

(This is his favourite toy. They see him rollin', all day, err'day). 

The apples were out, too, so I got all Milly Molly Mandy and went out with a bowl to pick a few and make a pud. 

Summer, you've been great, but roll on autumn…