Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Where to eat Hong Kong Waffles in Berlin

The famous tasty Hong Kong Egg Waffles can be also tasted in Berlin too. Although the beginning are modest, it was about time that the hip and trend-setter city open the doors to a delicous street food treat. The honeycomb-shaped waffles with egg shaped bubbles, filled with icecream and covered by whipped cream and other toppings of choice are already a popular treat all over Europe, from Camden in London to the town of Poznan, in Poland. 
Let's see what I had in Berlin for now.

Chicken Buzz - Rosenthaler Platz

The first and the best impression of those fantastic waffles was overwhelming because of so many topping choices and so little space in my belly to have them all. Practically, you can fast the whole day and break it with the carb-loaded bubble waffles - mine was a bit burned up on the edges - plus the icecream, plus some fruits - lychee was a perfect fresh choice - plus more toppings - that you carefully write on a piece of paper and handle with your order. Delivered with some Mikado sticks and an Oreo cake. 
They do have a special menu only for those waffles, and the preparation lasts around 5-7 minutes. One treat costs 4.90 Euro and it is worth every single cent of it.

ZUKA Dessertkultur - Emser straße

Zuka is my favorite sweet corner in Wilmersdorf, both during the summer - where you can sit on the benches - or the winter. I am trying to go there at least once the month, for their perfect looking and tasting Macha latte and their exquisite desserts. The last time I've been there I noticed that they introduced the Hong Kong waffles on the menu - at the price of 5 Euro -, at least for the summer time, and hurried up to try them. 
After the previous experience, I was a bit disappointed, because it is completely experimental and limited in topping choices. The dough is tastier, and they do have some interesting icecream choices - my black one isn't sesame as expected, but black vanilla which honestly doesn't sound different of a normal vanilla, except the colour - but otherwise there is not too much to juggle in terms of creative tastes. 
With only two limited choices as for now, I hope that the winters are long enough to allow the waffle experts in Berlin to consider introducing those beauties on their menu. The stronger the competition the better. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Photographic Walk through Hamburg

I've lost count how many times I visited Hamburg, but every time I've been there it rained, at least for a couple of minutes. This time, helped by the IRE Berlin-Hamburg Spezial Ticket, I am together with my friend who is here for the first time and luckily, for the duration of our stay, I can't see and feel any drop of rain. Perfect for a long and fast walk with my camera ready to catch the best visual attractions of this city.
From the train station, we walk fast until St. George area, which I extensively explored during my last visit, more than six months ago. With the hip restaurants and street art, this part of Hamburg can be easily compared - without being the same - with Berlin's Kreuzberg. 
The neat geometry of the red-bricked houses bordering streets that seem to never end is one of my favorite visual hobbies when in this city. 
Someone not too much in love with Hamburg, might consider the above-mentioned style as a lack of sophistication, but for such tastes, there are enough samples of classical architecture to soak your curious eyes in.
City of sailors and adventurers, Hamburg benefited of the curiosity of its older and newer residents who once back home or settled here, wanted to help this city to shine at least as much as the places they visited during their travels. Like this beautiful building on Georgsplatz, a sample of fine Venetian architecture.
Another favorite of mine is this heavily decorated building on Mönchebergstraße. It seems that the architects creativelly used any single part of the fassade to create volumes and new angles. Did you spot the little stone boat on the top already? If yes, your observation skills are really good. Although I've seen it a couple of times and even photographed it, I haven't been able to see it at first...
The 19th century building of the city hall is an institutional and architectural staple of the city. The eclectic Neo-Renaissance style is a visual challenge. Besides its local administrative function, the city hall is also the set of the local government, and tours of the main halls are possible.
As I visited this place also many times, I am looking for some specific angles and corners. The interior yard takes me instantly in an Italian piazza, preferably from one of the places famous for their classical architecture. For a while, I just forget that I am in Hamburg, and in a city hall, nevertheless...
My eyes are browsing the space, admiring every single secret corner which reveals more space and style, completing admirably the rest of the construction. 
There is more to see, and the Venetian charm is throwing its spell on me, either when I am looking at the delicate swans resting under the sun near the small channels, or I am spying with my little camera eye the elegant shopping avenues guarded by stone-laced decorations.
HanseViertel is the beating heart of the luxury shopping in the city, but today, I am off checking rather the architectural details instead of the elegant outfits prices. The old buildings received some modern touch creating different, more open and transparent visual impressions.
Original details and inserts are sometimes surprising, especially when it comes to the esmerald blue tiles decorating some of the fassades.
Or the little blue guardians on the columns separating the window walls. The style in this area goes far beyond the complicated Venetian influences.
As the city was ready for Christopher Street Day, most buildings were decorated for the occassion with the rainbow flag, a symbol of tolerance and openness which Hamburg breeth deep, even long time before Berlin.
Our next stop is to see the famous Elbphilharmonie which was finally inaugurated the last year. From far away, it looks like a snow-capped mountain crowning the warehouses neatly lined on the borders of the river.
Taking as many pictures as possible of those buildings, which at the first sight look abandoned for centuries, but where sometimes you can find hidden treasures such as colourful oriental carpets from the finest worshops in the Middle East, is one of my usual habits when here.
But even looking into the far away depths is useful for your photographic impressions, when you bring your eyes closer to home, you can catch interesting details, such as this money collecting pole putting on trial the money throwing skills of the visitors staying on the small bridge nearby.
It is lunch time in the last day of the week, and at least for a while, the buildings are becoming more animated, with colourful silhouettes visible on the outdoor balconies, taking some fresh breath of air before the last sprint into the weekend.

More than any other previous trips, my journey this time is like a travel round the most interesting European cities. While looking at this orderly disposition of houses of different sizes and colours I instantly think - and dream - about Amsterdam, a city I definitely need to revisit soon.
While - as usual - daydreaming about trips and travels we arrived in the front of the futuristic boat shape of the Philarmonie. You can visit it for free, but the entrance is limited to a specific number of visitors, therefore, you need to be there as early as possible to avoid the usual busy hours.
Honestly, I had completely different expectations when insisted to go to the top of the Elbphilharmonie. First and foremost, I wanted to have a look at one of the concert hall and the specific match between high-end acustics and architectural design. But it is not possible, unless I want to book a ticket to one of the concerts. Maybe one day, if I finally decide to spend more than a couple of hours in this city, as I usually do.
Second, once on the top of the building, you have a perspective over the city, but unfortunatelly, there is no map or short written description of what do you view and what part of the city you can see in one of the four main directions.
Despite those shortcomings, the view is impressive and offers a completely different perspective on the city.
When I've seen the city from the top, there is a completely different appreciation I do have now for the many spectacular buildings encountered on my wanderings. It seems that the vision of a strict, yet rebelious architectural soul, is a main feature of this city that never cease to amaze me.
Talking about surprises, for the first time I am visiting the famous KomponistenQuarter, a small Dutch-looking hidden street dedicated to the very active musical life of the city, which started centuries before was any discussion about building an ElbPhilharmonie.
The narrow Peterstraße bordered by typical red-bricked houses ending in curvaceous roofs, hosts six museums dedicated to famous German and international musicians who were born or associated at certain extents their life with the city of Hamburg: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach - from the famous Bach family, Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, Georg Telemann, Johann Adolf Hasse and Gustav Mahler. 
Besides beautiful architecture, Hamburg also has natural parks like the Planten un Blomen the perfect natural retreat you need to put together your thoughts after such an intensive visit in this surprising German city.
As in many other occassions, this trip was also an opportunity to spot places I would love to visit the next time. With a couple of museums and some children attractions added on my list, I am glad to announce that there will be a new visit to Hamburg. Hopefully soon!

For more inspiration for a short-trip to Hamburg, check the dedicated Pinterest board covering also photos from previous visits.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Exploring Alt Reinickendorf

Since I've documented my article about the Most Beautiful Metro Stations of Berlin I wanted to return to a part of Berlin I did not have any idea about but which charmed me with the most colourful and elaborated decorations. One of the last weekends, I took my best walking shoes and my camera and started a long walking expedition into the (almost) unknown.
My adventure started at Lindauer Allee metro station, on the U8 line, direction Wittenau. As usual, I couldn't resist to have a look from the above and admire the colourful trees and geometrical shapes bringing colour and good mood to the otherwise boring waiting time for your next train. 
A couple of steps away from the metro station, the colourful garden colony of Pflanzerheim was getting back to life, with windows being slowly opened and gardens started of being cleaned and watered. 
Charmed by the manicured gardens of the colony we not even realized that we are far into a wild wood, such a quiet walk although the green-bordered avenues are often crossed by dogs and bikes on their quiet morning walks.
Half an hour of walk later, we landed on the Roedernallee and a different and completely unknown page in the history of Reinickendorf is being opened. Here are the headquarters of Berliner Seilfabrik, a local brand producing equipments for playgrounds. 
A couple of meters away, a red-bricked building hosts a company producing since 1981 fasteners for the automotive industry.
The alley has plenty of average foodie options, the usual variants of Turkish and Asian fast-foods, but also a couple of beer open air locals. As in many other quarters of Berlin, the intensive renovation works of the building announce some coming suprises for the local real estate market.  
The more we walk the more we are getting closer to the historical chore of Alt Reinickendorf. Part of the city of Berlin since the end of the 14th century, it was named for the peasant Reinhardt (Reineke in a German dialect), who first settled here in the first half of the 13rd century. Situated in the Nortwestern part of the city, it went through dramatic transformations starting with the 19th century, once the industrialization process began. The train station - nowadays S-Bahn - built at the end of the 19th century, created important connection from this part of the city to other Eastern areas of Germany.
Near the train station, one can walk to the local War Cemetery, dedicated to victims of the WWII, among which known and unknown soldiers from Italy, Netherlands, France, Russia, USA or Spain.
On a more positive note, history is present again at Industriehof, outlining another center where the engine of industrialization moved the city forward.
The small streets around Freiheitsweg offer a pleasure to the eyes, with the colourful, multi-storey houses surrounded by gardens and secret mews. For a moment, I completely forget where I am and the constrast with the grey constructions I noticed on the main street is noticeable. 
Back on the Roedernallee, we have a look at the famous Paracelsus Bad, the first built in Berlin after WWII, inaugurated in 1960. Since then, it permanently diversified the offer, being considered nowadays an attractive destination for swimming lovers in the Northern part of Germany. The complex also includes a sauna and beauty and hair parlours. 
As often happens during my travels, my hunger for learning means that I might stumble upon unknown bites of information that keep surprising me. As for instance, the encounter with the Weiße Stadt (White City). Of course I know and love the White City in Tel Aviv, but finding another one in Reinickendorf was more than a pleasant surprise. The outstanding examples of a massive construction including 1,268 residential units are to be found on Aroser Allee (former Schillerpromenade), Emmentaller and Genferstraße
Built at the end of the 1920s according to the principles of the 'New Objectivity' architectural style, the 3-5 storey buildings were aimed to offer a complete housing experience to the residents, which similarly with the housing complex in Frohnau, were also served by 2 Kindergarten, a heating central, an apothecary and more than 20 shops, spread on an area with significant areas covered by gardens. 
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage, alongside with Gropiusstadt, it offers the German architectural answer to the increasing housing needs of the 20th century. Everything looks very neat and well organised the inspiration for an equally clearly settled life. The charming blue doors were my favorite part of the area, bringing a joyous human feature into the strict white labyrinth of buildings.
The ambiance on Residenzstraße is less organised and white clear, with cheap colourful stores and the Babbel of languages. At the foodie stop at Tamra Chicken I recharged my batteries put on trial for the long walking hours with a halloumi cheese plate, accompanied by delicious mezze and a fresh lemonade prepared in Middle Eastern style. 
As the rain decided to pour shortly after my lunch was over, against my will, I have to make another stop - this time soaked in sugar, at La Femme, a family friendly restaurant part of a chain serving delicious breakfast and Oriental dishes spread all over Berlin. My kanafe was outrageously sweet, but pretty for the camera. 
 We reached the final leg of the journey, Franz Neumann metro station, but the trip is not over yet.
The next 45 minutes are well spent in the after-rain quietness walking around the Schäfersee, my thoughts interrupted only by the repeated noises of the huge airplanes overlooking the area coming and going from Tegel Airport. Around the lake there are many summer coffee places, as well as a mini-golf yard, but the most soothing view is of the quiet lake, with its lonely boats waiting to be driven. 
My walking adventure ended as scheduled at Franz Neumann, another colourful station on this metro line. True is that it took me a lot of time to come back to explore this area, but it just opened my appetite for more Berlin histories. 
Right now, I should think about what's next on my Berlin mapping agenda.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Weekend Walk around Mariendorf

As I spend most of my outdoors time in the popular areas of Berlin, there is little time left for discovering more about the rest of the city. In Mitte, Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg or Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf I have the best restaurants, museums and shopping destinations, therefore why should I adventure further more, outside my comfort zone? But living in the comfort zone is relatively unknown to me, therefore, I often enjoy taking a break from my usual walking routes and offering myself an adventure on the road less traveled.
This time, it happened in the area around Mariendorf, a former village with a history which starts in the 14 century, which went through a dramatic demographic development only in the second half of the 19th century. During the Cold War, it used to be part of the American sector, and was usually out of the touristic radar of the big city until now. This detail even was enough for spending one full Sunday afternoon there. 
I started my walk at Ullsteinstraße U-Bahn station, on the U6 metro line. The red-bricked Ullstein building was from its construction, in the 1920s, in a special German Expressionism architecture style, until 1957, Germany's highest building. The headquarters of the famous edition house Ullstein, it hosts an array of institutions and leisure destinations, among which the German Press Museum and the Amber Suite club.  
The architecture around tries to suit the massive red-bricked building, with an array of constructions which look like futuristic blocks. Before, the entire area around Tempelhofer Damm was just a small port used for trade and storing goods brought to Germany. Layers of the former buildings were integrated into the modern constructions erected lately, such as the Tempelhofer Hafen Shopping Center. For instance, the small pieces of pavements and rails used for carrying tons of goods, mostly by horse-drawn carriages.
Or the hand crane in the front of the fashion stores, a remnant of hard work facing the world of leisure.
But it is one of the few summer days and I want to soak myself as much as possible into the warm rays of light. The small port used nowadays mostly for agreement boats looks lovely under the sun and the many coffee places open only for the summer are an invitation to 'dolce far niente'.
There are even some interesting options for children, such as a 3D Minigolf and a Kinderland playground. 
Right now, I am more curious to discover more from this area, which is so close from the former popular Tempelhof airport, but without any tourist or traveler in sight. The trip continues with some walking alongside Tempelhoferdamm, populated with many cheap stores, but with some patches of colour in the front of small boutiques too.
The foodie offer is overwhelming, as it seems that every ground level is hosting a restaurant or fast-food. The affordable Turkish restaurants alternate with some colourful Indian and Asian ones.
The impression over architecture is not so good, as the majority of buildings are in the grey unattractive style of the end of the 1960s-1970s. However, some funny discoveries like this children drawings can make a significant visual difference. 
I give up to the temptation of taking a street completely unknown, just because I am curious and I know that sometimes there is a reward. At the end of the Friedrich-Karl Straße, a relatively uneventful street with many building renovations under way, an empty big playground is an invitation to move and play a little bit around.
The side streets usually look covered in green, with wild green trees making a green bridge from the both sides.
After so much green and even much gray buildings, the colours on Attilaplatz wakes me up. The architectural volumes are probably aimed to shake your visual habits too.
 Taking about visual habits, maybe you want to have a stop and a selfie at the Selfie bar. Why not?
However, despite some small discoveries, I am a bit disappointed as it seems there is nothing too interesting happening around. Even the store at the Manufaktur Fassbender&Rausch, the one who produces the amazing work of chocolate art in Gendarmenmarkt is closed since April. When almost all the hopes were lost, I see a colourful arrow recommending a children farm. Which is closed for the time being, but once step further and I am at the ufa fabrik, a former film studio aimed to be demolished in the 1970s, creatively turned into an international cultural center. 
Covering an impressivev 18,566 square meters of land, it offers a variety of activities, from ecological pilot projects, to social networking for people of all ages and backgrounds, mostly organised in the many coffee places around the area.
Concerts are also part of the daily activities, especially in the summer, taking place in a futuristically covered outdoors hall.
There is also a modest street art corner, the only creative area I've seen during my all walk around Mariendorf this time.
The green view is soothing for the eyes and an encouragement to explore more. For a couple of seconds, the view from Stubenrauch Bridge make me feel I am somewhere outside the city life, hiking in the wilderness. 
My eyes are on the hunt of unusual and special corners on Mariendorferdamm, and once in a while my searches are rewarded as in the case of this wall statue of a Prussian warrior.
I can even see some curious architecture games, along the same Mariendorferdamm street, where the display of cheap stores, slot machines and fast foods continues.
There is another park, with some curious playground machines, where children can waste their energies as much as they want.
The rest of the park looks 'normal', with lanes for jogging, benches and even some courageous swans daring to go out of the lake to break bread with the locals.
Up in the skies, on Friedenstraße, some stylish roof edges of a school institution that I couldn't resist to not photograph, are the diversion to the agerage gray building around.
When it is time to leave from the 1960s style of metro station at Alt-Mariendorf, on my way to my usual fancy travel places, I can count few of my blessings of visiting such an under the radar but otherwise normal to live in neighbourhood. Until the end of the summer, I promise myself to be on a mission to keep discovering more than that.