This will be the last blog entry before I leave for Austria on Thursday. Already the excitement at the idea of visiting the Thomas Bernhard house in Ohlsdorf, seeing the spring flowers bursting into bloom in the Alps and sampling the delicious cakes is almost too much to bear but there are still 2 and a half days to go. Still, there's something so wonderful about having your train ticket all ready with the promise of the happy hours spent in trains, the landscapes flashing by and the pleasure of smiles and warm embraces awaiting you on the platform.
Cookingwise, I haven't been as busy as I might have been amd often, things I tried out weren't great sucesses, with the exception of the fantastic poppyseed cake I made from the Carnets de Ju. It's funny because I've been crazy about poppyseeds ever since the time I travelled to London St. Pancras station when I stopped off for a tall tea with milk and a giant lemon and poppyseed muffin before catching the train home, yet I have never baked with
I did however, take advantage of a long lunchbreak last Friday to check out a sweet little French café in Zinnowitzer Straße. It was raining and the U-Bahn had broken down but I was able to leave all that behind the minute I walked in there. Behind the counter there's a huge blackboard sprawled with spidery handwriting of all the things you can choose from - actually, it's rather confusing. The panini with ruccola and goat's cheese seemed most tempting followed by coffee and raspberry tart. The café has a rustic, homely feel with walls covered in a rough blue wash, broken up with patches of red paint and yellow motifs . Vintage adverts and paintings of fruit and vegetables are dotted around as decoration. I took a spot at the window to savour my lunch which was also a great viewing point to observe the busy street outside. Most distinctive was a Japanese girl wearing a red coat, black shoes with pink toes and carrying a white umbrella which looked like the damp petals of a white peony. Often I wish I could have another glimpse into the lives of passers-by - what are they thinking? Where are they going? What happened to them? Generally the staff in the café are nice, although the mangeress forbade me from taking pictures which I found a bit mean (luckily I managed to sneak these few).
I've just started learning Swedish which is really something I've been dying to do for ages. Often people ask me why I don't rather learn Spanish or Italian because they're more practical but somehow, I feel a bit closer to the Scandinavian mentality and besides, the culture is so rich. As I speak English and German, I'm hoping the grammar will be OK to master but probably it'll be quite some time before I can try to watch my favourite Bergman film without subtitles and I'm hoping I can find some Swedes who are keen to practise one of my languages in exchange for some help.
All that remains for me now to do is to pack and most importantly, to choose the books that I'm going to take with me. I have a hard time doing that and am hopelessly indecisive. Even though I'm a slow reader, I'm somehow terrified I'll be stuck somewhere without enough to read and also don't like to feel restricted to just one book. The result is that I take too many away with me which is even more ridiculous as I desperately want to bring some big books back with me from my parents' place where I'll be going after Easter.
Currently the list is as follows:
Capote by Gerald Clarke
The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
Herzzeit Briefwechsal by Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann
Korrektur by Thomas Bernhard
Before I sign off, I just wanted to mention something that a student of mine asked me the other day. She was curious whether I missed England. Actually, apart from my family and the cats, I don't long for so much and will soon have been living abroad for 5 years. Funnily, whenever I'm in a different country, I feel terribly British but when I go back to the UK feel a bit like a foreigner. Anyway, here's a little list of food related things that I miss about England and France (not an exhaustive list!) :
-Chips (or French Fries for non UK citizens ;-) with vinegar - I know, this is the bit where all non-Brits say "ugh!"
-Marks and Spencer - not really justifiable in times of the credit crunch because the food is generally pricey but I love the mousses, cheese scones and fresh mango amoung other things.
-Cadbury's cream eggs and mini eggs at Easter. The former consists of a layer of chocolate with a sweet, gooey yellow and white filling; the latter are small and covered with a crunchy shell and have solid chocolate on the inside. Bliss!
-Double cream - sorry but Schlagsahne and crème fleurette can't compete with the thick, luxurious liquid which whips up like a dream.
Innocent smoothies - yum!
-Monoprix - same as for Marks as Spencer's, not the cheapest but I could never resist the range of biccies or the gorgeus chilled fruit juices and somehow, it's always fun shopping at Monop.
-The cheese - OK, I can get some here but it's expensive. I most love Cantal, Reblochon, Gruyère and Roquefort.
-Free water with a meal.
-The bakeries - Ah, the times in Lyon when I could just stop off almost anywhere for a mouthwatering croissant.
But if I ever had to leave Berlin, I'd miss:
-Kartoffelpuffer with Apfelmuss
-Quark - in Germany you can get some with 40% fat which works fantastically for cheesecakes and tastes rather like mascarpone.
-The many Turkish shops and snack bars
-Those hazelnut biccies sandwiched with cream from Kaisers
For those of you who love chocolate, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the Easter bunny will be extra generous this year.