A Travellerspoint blog

Notable Meal

Or, how to confuse yourself as to where in the world you are...

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My second last dinner in Berlin:

Tonight I ate at an Italian restaurant in Berlin. The best pasta I've eaten this side of well, Lygon St. The cheap pastas I was having in Italia didn't really cut it, at least not where I was. I am sure if you wanted to fork out 25€ for a bit of spag bol in a fancy place you might get something quite good, but I have only ever spent that much on a meal whilst travelling was by accident.

But this food was great. Lots of it. Fresh. Good flavours.

Proper wild Jamie Oliver-esque mushrooms, just the right amount of garlic, small amount of wine and cream, fresh chili and so on...
But I was confused about the language here.. on this corner restaurant of Berlin.

I was met with several pregos, some bennes, then had dankes and sehr guts.

I was so confused by the end, I didn't know whether to say ariverderci or tchuss!

It seems that whatever little language I pick up in a city is slowly pushed out by the current language. So after by day 3 I know how to mutter: hello and thankyou and please. But day one is a mixture of, well sounds that don't even resemble words, and my gestures get screwed up, too. I am bowing, hands presented in prayer and nodding in one city and then kissing both cheeks in the next. This results in lots of mistimed lips meeting necks or hands poking into someone's chin.

I embellish, of course.

It was more like their sternum. And then most people say Ciao in Europe, regardless. The only things that weren't confused by this Beromanlin dining experience were my taste buds.
Mmm (one of the) best pasta(s) ever...
...in Berlin, at least.

Jelly xx

Posted by PennyJelly 14:07 Archived in Germany Tagged food Comments (2)

My last two nights in Berlin.

Or rather - how a 4 bed dorm room *sounds* like an upgrade from an 8-10 bed room - but really it is an exercise in tolerance, realising your age and learning how to keep your stuff separate from the litter heap that has become your room.

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What do you do when you're the only girl in a 4 sleeper room and the rest of the bunks have only just been filled by 3 young Scandinavian guys in their boxer shorts?! I don't think they were expecting me to show up when I did, but that's the beauty of having your own key and mind... You can come and go in a shared dorm room as, and, when you please.
I had tried to help out my yet to arrive dorm buddies by signifying my current and feminine existence: I had laid out my copy of Memoirs of a Geisha on the nicely made bed to signify the bottom bunk was taken, AND it was being occupied by a girl (80/20% chance in their imagined calculation).
So I wandered into the now very cramped 4 bed room and tried to make my way to my once clean corner without looking at their skinny but ripped torsos, or lack of clothes and modesty.
So, the question: How do you come across as cool and hip?! Surely telling them that you are cool and hip and down with the latest electronic vibe music oughta do it? Telling them you "love this song" over the bleeps and bloops emanating all too loudly from their music making machine ought to quell their thoughts that I must be some kind of square. Take the considered time to remark on their pleasant smelling aftershave when there's nothing left in air bar a dense fog of Tommy or Fiddy or Diddy. Perhaps indulge them in the history of the city with important and notable facts as they are heading out to 'The Matrix', the coolest discotheque in town?

Yeah, you be cool, Jelly. You the shiz ma griz. You be the hippest (real hips, mind you) 36 year old in the room. You be the only 36 year old! If you think about it, if you'd started having a family when you were 19, these guys could be your sons! Oh, the pride. The joy.

Of course, comic embellishment was utilised in the telling of this event... but only partly.

Jelly. xx

Posted by PennyJelly 13:58 Archived in Germany Tagged women Comments (0)

BERLIN, Ich bin ein Berliner.

Berlin - thoughts, ideas, strong views. And my difficulty with the one language I 'studied' at school...

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That's german for hello.
Easy language, nein?!
My sum total of the German language revolves around Bar und Ruh. Misspelled, probably. There should be some use of omelettes on some of the vowels, I am sure.
But Bar und Ruh were two characters - from my year 7 German school books - which followed the crazy adventures, in Deutsch and in Deutchland, of a Koala (the misnomer of the Koala being a bear was perpetuated in this supposed learned text) and a Kangaroo, respectively. (The likelihood of a Koala and a Kangaroo being friends, let alone the reality of Koala only being awake for the sum total of one hour per day - OR come to think of it, the fact that neither a Koala nor a Kangaroo could actually communicate verbally with words based on Latin or Germanic roots, is very very slim.) So, for the first few days, I felt a little like partaking in Eddie Izzard moments (with less highheels and make up: me, not him) where I find myself wandering around the streets of Germany looking for amazing things to be happening (which of course there are many) so I am able to exclaim: "Ach himmel! Was ist das?!" which of course means "Oh heavens, what is that?!" a little formal and 19th century, sure, but it'll come in handy when I feel like the sky is falling. Thanks Bahr und Ru und thousands of dollars in secondary school education. (Sorry Mum and Dad. I have other skills... Right?!)

And I remember how to ask 'how are you?', 'my name is___' and basic directions and questions, but I can't remember which is which, so I find myself walking into hostels saying "Excuse me please, oh heavens, what's the attention toilet time window little white dog, naturally you are a highway, thank you very much! And then wonder when they reply in English with a smirk.
Berlin is truly amazing, in and of itself. (Except, I am confused by the traffic lights that offer a sound like signal for the blind, but don't change their sound for when it is safe to cross! That's just cruel! Also, the traffic light characters, 'walk and stop', have a name - a left over from before the wall crumbled: Ampelman!)

Berlin! It's a big city, but feels really empty in a way. The streets are wide and long, but they're neither packed with cars or pedestrians. Sure, there's the tourist hot spots, catering for your tourist needs: flags, banners, bags - all adorned with The Word or pictures of: Berlin!. There's pieces of the wall, pieces of WW relics, flags that say peace. People dressed up as German Soldiers, Checkpoint Charlie officials and a native American Indian (I don't know why either) so that you can have your photo taken with them. Tourist buses, tourist walks and tourist traps... But mostly it feels like a city living and breathing it's own unique culture. Heck, I even visited an Aldi in Berlin!

There's so much to do and visit without actually stepping foot inside anywhere. The museums and galleries are monumental and beautiful in themselves. Often i cruised past them and thought : not yet, maybe tomorrow if there's nothing to do. Ha! There's free temporary exhibitions and art installations, backyard junkyard sculpture galleries that back onto bohemian bars, buskers and great people watching. The massive stretch of wall that makes up the East Side Open Air Gallery was one of the most amazing sights. I saved it until quite late in my trip, ironically as I easily crossed from East to West and back again, coming across bits of the wall here and there, or double brick lined markers embedded in the streets to signify where it stood. But the day I hired a bicycle and cycled up and down that stretch of wall was amazing. Beautiful contemporary art, full of meaning and feeling, love and angst. Quite the sight. And free!
Then there was Bebelplatz, the site of the first Nazi Book burning, which you could easily overlook as it is an open square near the Opera house and the University. But if you look closely, there's a monument to the terrible crimes against writers and their tomes of knowledge or truth, or fantastic stories of fact or fiction - a see-through 2 metre square gallery beneath the surface of the plaza, and in it, a series of white, empty bookcases. The people of Berlin are right into symbolism.
Like the monument to the victims of the Holocaust.
A series of 2,711 grey concrete blocks of varying heights, but all of the same length and width that adorn a square of Berlin city near the Brandenburg gate. People pass this every day, tourists, Berliners, dogs and cats. And there's nothing screaming at you about what or is, or what it means. You make up your own mind as to what it is and what it stands for. It is an idea(l) jumping off point - but don't jump off these slabs, you're only allowed to sit on and walk through this memorial - or else you get shouted at by the friendly German Officials patrolling the area.
Really, they're not that bad - but the thing about Berlin is it is so steeped in history, a lot of it very recent, that it's hard not to draw parallels or parody the place. For example: the first thing that jumped into my head as i arrived in Berlin: "don't mention the war, I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it". Or in fact, on my first night, I found myself asking the question: "Is it Kosher to sit in a bar looking up Berlin on google on my iPhone, and then halting on information about Hitler replete with photos? Is it in fact kosher to say kosher in Berlin?!" But, this is a city almost apologizing for itself by offering great art, sights, sites and culture - with friendly people and a great world view of itself by restoring disassembled monuments and providing such offerings as the Topographie of Terrors - an exhibition of the atrocities of Hitler and the German people against, well, everybody! Anyhoo, I digress - beneath this understated and eerily beautiful and urban holocaust monument, lies another tasteful museum, complete with the same oblong shapes appearing through the ceiling and reappearing as replicated pathways on the floor, amidst letters of poets, children, fathers and aunts - basically all sort is people as they were taken away by the Nazis and maliciously and with great calculation, murdered in the terrible act (understated adjective) of genocide.

I learnt more about this and other horrors of war at the most deliberately and super designed Sachsenhausen, one of the first concentration camps set up by Himmler and his henchmen. Even when there, listening to the stories, reading articles and documents and standing amongst the grounds and the bunkers and the killing houses, the pathology labs and areas of cremation after trialling new methods of killing tested on the Soviet allies (for Sachsenhausen wasn't a death camp like Auschwitz II-Birkenau, rest assured, it was a *work camp* or prison, not designed to be a place of mass murder, apart from those brought in to be killed, or indeed those that dropped dead from the work, cruel torture or medical experimentations... if you went to this camp you had a 5% chance of getting out alive at least - good odds, eh?!)... I still can't actually contemplate the horror. And I'm glad. I think there's some kind of plumbing in your brain that self clogs when there's too much bad stuff going in, and you can't actually absorb any more. You hear it, but it gets trapped at the surface, maybe by nicer things or just an overload of bad - so rather than it ALL seeping in - you can go back to your ice-creams and nice ideals, the latest facebook game and ignorant but fun movies and fully charged iPhones (the irony that I am writing this on an iPhone is not lost on me)... But it is important to see this stuff, be aware of history and modern day atrocities, and yet learn from it and still happily function in the world...

I find it interesting that some people think that this stuff didn't actually happen, or isn't still happening. Phnom Penh with Pol Pot, S21 and the Killing Fields was in my life time... (showing my age) and still nothing was done. The wars (or search for weapons of Mass Destruction) in Iran, Iraq, Palestine and so on... You name it, there's horror. But I have to say, none so organized as the Nazis. I mean, they had stuff set up in place years before it was needed, so that when some small man with a stupid haircut and silly mustache (both Hitler and Himmler) gave the orders, the well oiled machine was ready to be greased with the blood of the Jews and the Gypsies, communists, homosexuals, the elderly and disabled - anyone deemed not worthy of living as part of the glorious and pure Germany. And they documented EVERYTHING! Not only through some form of necessity, but probably due to twisted pride as well - as when the world was rid of these scum, and they were being congratulated, they would also be able to show off how they did it!!!

And to think, there were two (known) very narrowly botched assassination attempts on Hitler's life. One is in popular knowledge due to the Tom Cruise film, but the other was a little guy, a nobody carpenter who thought "Hang on. This Hitler guy has some weird ideas. I think he might be up to something... best kill one of him before he kills millions of people". And he almost succeeded... Check out the story of Georg Elser: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Elser, and I'm gonna track down the film 'Seven Minutes' based on this event when I get back home. Of course, anyone who wants to join me in this, let's get that popcorn a'popping and pull up a chair. I'll be home at some stage...

Back to some nicer things: the Bauhaus http://www.bauhaus.de/index+M52087573ab0.html - the collected and documented works of the Bauhaus design school in Berlin. Very interesting and cool place. No photos!! I found out the hard way... I understood that German phrasing due to the look on the woman's face. Sneaky; they are there to catch sneaky photographers by sneakily blending in with the crowds by wearing sneaky plain clothes and sneaking up on you mid snap...
It was nice to be absent from the constant, but required, reminder of the war and the wall. The Bauhaus is better than Ikea! (for other thoughts on ikea see below*) Except, you can't sit on any of the furniture. Sad face. But you can definitely see where rip off designs have come from. Oddly, it also seems that the chairs that were used as dining chairs when I was growing up, (the ones I thought weren't that cool) are actually an almost antique design. 1923 was a big year for the canter levered, steel tubed wicker chair! You know the ones, I am sure we all had them!
So there's lots of design here, but nothing sinister (as in Sachsenhausen- some bits get past the plug, remember?!) for once, my audio guided, placarded adventure has no killing or bloodshed at the end. Or none that I was made aware of. (I also try and use humour to counteract the horror, I am not being disrespectful... and often I am not that funny! So it all evens out.) Teapots won't transform themselves to gas chambers or art builings aren't going to become bunkers... etc. Here, it's just form and function with style as the imperative. Nice. Really nice. And neat! All of Berlin is cool and neat, but the happy stuff is easier to take with you, but just as important as the sad stuff.

The phrase (or one of the phrases) that kept going through my head over my 11 night stay was: "Ich bin ein Berliner." said by Kennedy in his address to Berlin. But, as I have learnt through Eddie Izzard's insightful comedy, (where I seem to learn ALL of my historical facts) Kennedy referred to himself not as a "citizen of Berlin", but as a "jam doughnut", which is known in parts of Germany as a "Berliner". Hilarious? Ja. And not helped by the amount of Dunkin' Donut outlets throughout Berlin. C'mon people!!! Where's your advertising campaign?!

* okay, so in my experience of hostel travelling, the Metropol Hostel has been one of the better ones. Not only was it a great breakfast experience (surely you've read that blog by now), the staff were nice and helpful - and assisted in my accommodation happiness by keeping me in the same room or at least for the same price for as much as possible over my final count of 11 nights as opposed to my initial reservation of 3. But the other thing I loved about Metropol, or indeed any modern hostel with kit furniture, is it's reminiscence of visiting Ikea showrooms: kitchens, bathrooms, lounge areas, bedroom furniture. It's like I am going from area to zig zagged area in Ikea, but actually entering and living in the display set ups! My very own Narnia! And the cutlery was also the very same as my own! So that is always a nice touch. I trust ikea cutlery. I hope they got a discount...! (I told you about the brain clog, right?! - this type of inane happiness is an example of the filter trap in place)



My love of Cartoon Food is realised in the 3rd Dimension.

That's just SOME of the stuff from Berlin.
Watch out for more updates, photos and overstressed links to other material that you may or may not read...!
Achtung Jelly baby! xx

P.S. I have peppered this blog with links, images and information from sources other than my own (for the moment), so I thank those third parties. No infringement of copyright was intended and all are supposedly within the public domain.

P.P.S. The Duff photo is my own... naturalich.

Posted by PennyJelly 13:05 Archived in Germany Tagged educational Comments (0)

Getting all riled up about the rail.

Or, how to make sure you reach your destination by bugging the heck out of the customer service person that strangely looks like a friend of yours, so you're even more shocked when she starts with the attitude...

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Booking a train ticket to Atrani.
Now, I'm not stoopid, and I am pretty sure I am fairly quick to figure things out, even going so far as to try and figure something out as well as I csn before asking for help so as a. not to rely on other people if something goes rooster up, and b. so that when I do hear the correct information it will make more sense and solidify the information. Just like when I used to learn piano. I would sit there, struggling with the notes, both on the stave in front of me, and the octaves below my hesitant and poised fingers. My teacher would try and tap out the time as if to will me to play and forcefully humming the tune, of course to little avail. Until, out of frustration or humaneness, she would ask me to stand up so that she could sit down and play the tune for me. I would observe and listen, taking in as much as I could. Then, with a gesture, she would ask me to sit back down and try again. And with some trepidation, I would once again sit, facing my foe. Then suddenly, the notes, both on the sheet and on the keyboard would make more sense. Not perfect sense, I would still fumble and falter, but at least it was progress. I would never say that I learn by ear, but I can certainly take in informtion if it is presented well.
Now, this whole booking thing in Rome was bugging me, as I knew some of the information, but what she was saying to me was striking the wrong chord. When I asked for a ticket to Atrani, and started to spell it for her and she hushed me, saying that she knew how to spell it even though she slurred her words and I think she said another town's name...  I was also in the middle of saying that I think I have to make a change and also transfer to a bus... Nothing. Just intense tapping and staring at the screen. She then announced that I could catch a direct train all the way there for €52. 
Now, this seemed strange to me. But, she certainly knew her job better than me, right?! So when I told her that I wanted the cheapest ticket possible, she started cursing not so much under her breath, but directly in front of me, but in a foreign enough language, except for the hand gestures and eye rolling which I feel trancends any language barrier. So she started another search. It was here that I noticed the name Trani coming up on screen... and once again, I don't speak Italian, but I think this was the search being performed. And surely Atrani ( underline the A) is different to Trani, (notice the lack of A) hence the direct route versus the change and the bus.... But she once again shushed me out of annoyance. And I totally understand; I've worked in customer service, and the last thing you want from the customer is an overload of information and idle chatter when you are trying to best serve them. But she wasn't! She was going to send me to the wrong place, far away, and for far too much money. Now in my books, that isn't good customer service. But still she hushed me... Until I butted in... Asking politely was definitely Atrani that she was searching for, emphasis on the A. She looked at me, and said 'Atrani'??? With a questioning disbelief...  As if I had given her the wrong information from the outset and wasted her time... I nodded. 'Si. Atrani'. She once again threw her hands up in the air and talked to herself, about me, I'm sure. And then hit like, two keys, and came up with the answer that sounded right to me: "Atrani. You av to tage a drain to Napoli, then anudder drain, then a boos to there. (note: I can't do accents at the best of times, and writing it is also hard. Just put on a Pakistani/Scottish twang and you're about there)10 euro leaving at aid thirdee." Fine!! That sound fine. And correct! I'll take it!!
If I could have booked all this on line, I would have. Instead I waited in line in the heat for an hour to get this story...
Strangely, it was just after this that Rome had a bitter aftertaste to it... Good thing I was off to the beautiful Amalfi Coast at 8:30am taking two trains and a bus to get there...

Posted by PennyJelly 07:41 Archived in Italy Tagged train_travel Comments (2)

The most important thing...

Breakfast in Berlin. More of Berlin, later.

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So, Berlin. It's raining, but that will force me to use the metro. More stories of the city and it's people, later. Stay tuned. But first, a story about one of the most important things. and by things, I meN meals of the day. And by story, I mean rambling string of words typed into my iPhone. And by typed, I mean a good thing to help you look busy when you're travelling solo... And by solo, I mean making informed decisions about who you want to spend your time with...
So, I was heading off to the breakfast room when I was once again greeted by the overy friendly (but not that interesting and kind of immature) guy that keeps inviting himself to things I say I'm gonna do. I snuck into the shower to avoid a shared breakfast. He was on his way back when I was heading down, so I asked my new best friend (sarcasm) room mate what the breakfast was like. He shrugged and intimated that it was ok. I was totally prepared for 3 day old bread, flies buzzing, a knawed hambone with 23 people struggling for a measly piece of sustenance. Maybe, if I'm lucky, an overheated pot of coffee and some breadcrumbed butter and jam containers. Can anyone spell communicable disease?!
Instead I found what his version of an ok breakfast; hot bread rolls, crispy on the outside, warm and fluffy on the inside. A fine spread of sliced fresh cheeses, 3 different varieties. And might I add, all of the food described here is in more than ample portions, and continually topped up by an efficient looking guy in a chef type outfit. Ham, several other pressed meats, sliced fresh tomatoes, boiled eggs; still in their shell and warm. Rye/pumpernickel bread. Muesli. Corn flakes. Fresh yoghurt. Juices; 3 varieties in a no hands touch dispenser. Water. Coffee from an urn, hot water available for 5 different types of tea, fresh milk, packet milk, jams in their own single serve containers; apricot and strawberry at least. Salad with additional oil and vinegar if you want it. Salt and pepper shakers you can take to the table. Nutella-esque chocolate spread. Honey. Butter & olive oil spread also in their own pats, and in a refrigerated dispenser. Constantly cleaned and returned Ikea cutlery and crockery. Latte glasses. No lack of hygiene here, folks! So, the verdict was Ok?! Okay?! I'd like to see what this guy thinks is a really good breakfast. Banana lounges and peeled grapes delivered by nubile virgins accompanied by strapping lads with palm fronds for air conditioning?! Gilded truffles?! Sure, there were no kippers, smoked salmon, pancakes or bacon, but thank god, those things at a buffet are always terrible! And all of this, mind you, is INCLUDED in the price of the centrally located, clean and new, large room with ensuite dorm, for the exhorbatent price of €9!! I ate that much value in the first sitting!! Me-thinks it is a marketing ploy. New hostel gets RAVE reviews and then they hike up the prices, maybe drop the level of service, but even so, I've stayed in dodgier places for three times that amount AND feared for my life, health and sanity!! And all I got was a lousy night's sleep from a possibly lousy dorm room bunk - no t-shirt, either.
Berlin breakfasts, eh?! Brilliant.

More to come... (stories AND breakfasts)

Pen xx  

Posted by PennyJelly 04:43 Archived in Germany Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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