Monday, May 28, 2012


I leave for Vienna very early tomorrow morning and return on Sonntag. I will have to travel extremely light, so I will not be bringing my computer with me. Thus my post will be suspended until I return. :D

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ich habe Genug

Today went in a completely different direction than I had imagined. I planned on prepping for my trip to Vienna (Kim Kozel, a good friend in Chicago has a friend who has offered to house me and give me tours of Vienna!) When I arrived at the breakfast table I found my hosts and some of their family, visiting from Westphalia. I decided to tag along with their day trip so I could discover a new part of town and soak up more language. I'm a little frustrated at all the English I am speaking, but communication is necessary and I don't have enough basics to really stand on my own in German yet, so little by little I am piecing things together. I have the language skills of, approximately a 3 year I can give commands and greet people and express my feelings like....a cave woman would.

So! We visited the "Reconciliation church", rebuilt from the rubble of the original church which was demolished during the building of the Berlin wall. The church was imploded because it was "in the way"...Ugh, Humans. I hate them all. Anyway, the new church is astounding. I forgot to take pictures of the interior because it was such a holy atmosphere that I was immediately thrown into a very still, reverent trance, but you can find more info here:

An installation/memorial for people who were murdered trying to cross this section of the wall

close up of the memorial
The church's outer layer doubles as a gallery which my hostess, Birgit, will be showing her work in next year. we decided that I will return to sing at her gallery opening :) We are already planning the set list to match the pieces she is installing.
The Wall

the Reconciliation Chapel

the old church and its demolition story
one of the photos in the exhibit. children playing by the wall.

An American Bomb in the Church's cellar

We walked around the neighborhood, in and out of smaller galleries and had an "ice cafe" nothing close to an ice coffee...more of a rootbeer float with whipped cream and coffee....pleasant 4274594872 calorie surprise... I have been having people order for me (my favorite tactic) so I can get a real German culinary experience. The results have been excellent so far.

we walked home through a carnival. I might have enjoyed it if I didn't innately despise large groups of people who bang on shit and amateurishly swing unattractive flags in your face. This carnival is a big deal to Berliners because it showcases how international the city is. Almost every country is represented in the parade.... I mean, I don't like carnivals anywhere...The more people in one place, the more like brain dead/psychotic monkeys they become.

My hosts' visiting relatives took us out to a restaurant close by for dinner, where I again (after having the entire menu translated, which involves a lot of heads in hands and dictionary referencing) had my hosts order for me. I had a salad of ancient herbs and flowers (that the chefs apparently grow themselves because many are not cultivated anymore) and a "french pizza" (as the Germans described it) with bacon, cheese and onion. So delicious. The pacing of meals is soooo much slower here. I really enjoy it.

Tomorrow I plan for my Vienna trip and continue to try and organize my life here. I am glad I came here with the intention of hollowing myself out so I could be filled with brand new experience. But old habits die hard and I constantly have to fight structuring my time the way I use to (overdosing on planned activities) , and leave time open for the unknown to happen....and most importantly, for relationships to cultivate naturally.

some kind of flower, couldn't figure it out. I also ate a daisy....somewhere in here

I find my time here has been most effective when I have invested it in getting to know people. Everything is relationship. There is nothing else.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Heilig Schweinefleisch

UUUGHH. I just wrote this elaborate description of my last two days and accidentally deleted it? 

Anyhow.... The last two days I have been working for a famous chef here in Berlin who is a best friend of my hosts. He needed a sidekick to help peel kartoffel etc and I'm soooooo glad I'm got the gig. He is a freelance food artist (who studied cooking at an art school in Frankfurt), an art dealer and an all around incredibly knowledgeable, well traveled, well read person. Our latest mission was to cook a traditional German meal for a birthday party of 45 people. I got to watch him build the feast, ask a lot of questions and taste every dish at every stage of its progression :)

The bike ride to Chef's house is pretty long and i stopped at this cafe for a drink before continuing. "Do the Pop" hahahaha...ahhhhh.....
Ze kitchen. he built it himself...

He makes is own sundried tomatoes.....

forgot the name of the sauces and spreads we made...ill have to ask again and update the photos:)

old fashioned coffee grinder! this thing costs about 150 euros!!! dannggg
He brought me his homemade german version of fruitcake (again i forgot the name) with my coffee. The has been aging since September...

!!!!!!! so good

When he found out I was from Chicago he showed me his prized Mafia cookbook...complete with a bullet hole through every page
A cold salad made with raw herring, pickles, potatoes, dill, corriander, pepper etc etc etc. amazing

beginning to make the potato salad...

chef stepped out so i got to take silly pictures
he corrected my knife technique from the other room...he could hear my knife

making REAL german potato salad. You think you have had potato salad, but you have not. you have no idea. just shhhhhh.

very rare, very special Apfelvien! I had a little taste of just about everything in his kitchen. I am told by my hosts that this means he likes me.
you think you have had Schweinefleisch, but you have not....... Until you have had Schweinefleisch with a German chef.

traditionally smoked Schweinefleisch. Hung in a chimney and smoked for three days in cool smoke.

Chef made us dinner after an 8 hour shift. Chicken broth from a 13 pound chicken (!), chicken heart and stomach, frankfurters and vegetables. Soooooo delicious.

Brandenburg of the many sights I ride through on my way home :) :) :) Berlin is such a romantic city
cafe's put out blankets in the summer in case you get cold sitting on the patio.
my morning coffee halfway up the hill to Chef's house.

I visited Istanbul fest on my way home from work today :)

Istanbul fest at Potsdamer Platz

So! Chef is driving to his vineyard near Vienna on Donnerstag and offered to drop me off in Vienna and drive me back on Sonntag! YES!!!!!! Now I just have to find a hostel/couch for 4/5 nights :D :D :D Vienna here I come!!!!!!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012


this photograph should be a mandatory above all doorways
I woke up early to go to museumsinsel today, the area of Berlin where a significant amount of museums are located. My body is really tired today from the sharp influx of activity, but my will has kept me going :) I chose the Pergamon Museum, specializing in Helenistic art of the near east. I tried not to take pictures of things that were heavily photographed and easily accessible on the internet ( but I did indulge in photographing most of the ancient pornographic art of Mesopotamia.

courtesan, I'm sure.

mesopotanian madame

my favorite collection

there is soooo much to see here it makes my head spin. For the first time I am thinking that three months is not nearly enough time to discover this city...Even at the pace I am going.

I came home around 5pm to take a nap as I had been riding my bike in midday heat for a couple of hours around Museumsinsel.... like a city rat... in and out of alleyways and under old train tracks etc.

Post nap I went to pick up a guitar I found on craiglist. I bought a sweet guitar for what it would have cost me to take mine on the plane. I also used the U-Ban (one of the subway lines here) for the first time and found a relatively obscure house address on my own in the dark. Nice. The guy who sold me the guitar was a Californian going to Beer Academy here in Berlin. He didn't speak much German. I think most American students who come here dont learn much German as they are really busy with English language courses. Im glad I didnt take that road.

sorry if my grammar is shitty. Im exhausted. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Berlin on a beggar's budget

street art. one in the head, one in the gut. Life in the big city.
I woke up around 11am this afternoon, sore from yesterday's biking and in a funk. I wasted about 3 hours in bizarre angst and self hatred, mad that I wasn't fluent in German yet, that I didn't know the city  as well as I wanted to and that I wasn't friends with every person who has ever lived here. dead or alive. When I came to my senses (I will assume this is a normal feeling for travelers in similar situations to my own) I pawed through my stack of pamphlets collected the day before, was frustrated with the amount of money I could not spend on cultural activities and searched for choirs in Berlin that I could join. tomorrow. and start singing in Deutsch with Deutschen S√§ngerin. Take that bad mood! (It is worth noting that nearly all of the 15 people I contacted wrote back within a matter of hours. Ich liebe Musikerin p√ľnktlich.) Then with only a small ember of self hatred remaining and a heavy sense of cabin fever, I jumped on my bike and rode in the direction of the Berlin Philharmonic. After failing to convince them to take me in as a volunteer so I can see free shows (this is not San Francisco after all...) I rode around Potsdamer Platz. Finding Potsdamer Platz rather commercial and devoid of juicy morsels of culture/discoverables... I   got lost in the surrounding neighborhood and found myself at the Berlin Wall, across the street from Hitler's old headquarters. I spent about an hour and a half reading historical tidbits surrounding the history of the wall. Once my heart was buried 5438759487589347 feet underground I decided to retrace my steps and buy an espresso and eat the croissant I had packed in my bag. I have discovered that I can sit at a cafe forEVER, without dirty looks from the waitress, if I buy coffee and eat whatever I have thrown in my backpack from breakfast. Genau. I had dinner with my hosts, Birgit always sets such an elegant/romantisch table, and spoke mostly German until meine Gehirn was kaputt. After copious complaints on my part that live music is too expensive I was encouraged by a source to just enter with the smokers at intermission for all the live shows I want to see but cannot afford. This is brilliant. I will do this.
Wall with outdoor museum of historical tidbits

The Wall

The Wall

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

mein hintern schmerzt

I will live here one day. After my bizarre morning map ritual (blank stare, drool, highlight desirable course, write hints on my hand in black pen, write out more hints on a small sticky note that I shove in my bra for easy access...) I rode to Universitat Der Kunst's Music School to check out my future grad school (I have just decided). Birgit put me in contact with a Berlin opera singer who studied there and is now working and teaching around Europe... I feel this is enough of a connection to base the decision of my ultimate destiny...

The campus is spread all over Berlin, so I spent today at one campus. There is no "information center" (universities here are not all for profit. its amazing. and affordable. and perfect...just, perfect) so I walked around the building, popping my head in practice rooms and rehearsal halls and grabbing every free pamphlet with something music related on it. I figured I could go back home, decode them all and become musically enlightened. Which I will do, in a bit. My stack of decodables is now 7 inches high...

Anyhow, the ride to the campus took a significant amount of time as I am still figuring out the street system here. It doesn't help that every few blocks streets change names... If the street veers slightly to the left in some places, it might become a different street not related to the name change, or lead you in a circle.. or continue on some out-of-sight cobblestone side road that looks like a dead end but isn't. Its fine. I memorize bizarre things all the time; I will just add the streets of Berlin to my list.

Whenever I get too confused I stop for an espresso. it's a brilliant system. I lock my bike and walk into all the nooks and crannies of bizarre side roads until I find a cafe whose vibe I like. Today I met an Angel of a Turkish woman named Deniz (meaning "sea" in Turkish. She tells me she was named after the Baltic sea-where she was born) who, when I accidentally asked for "thong water" instead of "tap water" (leistungwasser vs. leitungswasser) immediately befriended me, told me she also had a hard time with that word when she moved here 10 years ago and spent the next 2.5 hours showing me places to visit in Berlin on google maps on her laptop. She also put me in contact with a group of musicians that meet at her cafe for open mikes etc and invited me to a concert of the songwriter who heads the group. I will be at his concert this Saturday and I am pretty stoked to hear him live (he sounds sweet on is website and to get acquainted with my very first group of friends made entirely on my own. I mean, without the help of my host family.

Long after my brain had been resisting information for fear of spillage I left to continue my journey. I found an epic music store and pawed through copious amounts of artful sheet music from the early 1900s, bought 2 books that I thought my hostess and I could use for our end of summer concert and stopped next door in a "bio" (organic food store- they are everywhere here) bought two bars of chocolate with words like "Himbeersaft+ztrone" and "zartebitter"on them and rode to meet Jane in her neighborhood...Where all the hip kids live in Berlin.

She made me dinner and ate on the most romantic balcony scene you could imagine. Straight out of...not even movies are that romantic.... After dinner she showed me a walk along the canal where everyone sits and drinks and plays weird ball games that I have never seen or heard of. I am blown away by how friendly and open people are with each other. Not as clique oriented as the US. Everyone is in a huge community circle hanging out. I don't get it. Its too good. There is racism here FOR SURE (people were surprised when I told them I befriended a Turkish woman....? wtf) but theres also an incredible brotherhood. The finale was a chill session on the stairs of a beautiful castle/tower that sits on what they call a hill here (20-30ft?) and overlooks Berlin. By this point my butt and feet hurt so much from biking and walking all day (about 7 hours of biking and the rest walking) that I couldn't stay as long as I would have liked to.

I got back home around 12:30 and Birgit, God bless her, made me a second dinner and played through the German songbooks I bought earlier that day while I sightread.


I am blown away by the magic in my life right now. Straight out of "The Alchemist" or some equally evoking reference...

selection of German beverages from a quickie mart downstairs. I recommend "bionade" an organic sparkling juice/soda thingy coming in "ginger-orange" flavors etc.

Jane's room in hipsterville. So beautiful.
Jane's bathroom art. "Fuck Forever".

view from Jane's terrace.

I have lost my ability to make "photo face".nonetheless.

chillage and drinkage along the canal in hipsterville.

Jane with the dog.
street art in hipsterville.

sunset along the canal

strange ball game...along the canal..

more views of sunset at the park on the canal near Jane's house

jane. I like this photo :)
Angst auf Yuppies in hipsterville.
oh... I am eating one of my unknown "bio" chocolate bars. it is out of this world...i just looked up the website and found a English translation for the product. Please go do yourself a favor and buy everything they have in stock. ( They have taken the chocolate bar to a whole other level. Good God.

PS. I might be getting a job (through Birgit) being a prep cook for a chef here in Berlin. 8 euros an hour to peel potatoes and watch a genius cook? I'll take it.