mardi 16 février 2010

Fall leaves fall die flowers away

For once I was unable to read in the tram as I made my way across part of East Berlin, too fascinated by unfamiliar buildings and occasional glimpses of some forgotten, monumental communist statues. After getting off, I walked through empty streets, whose names were shared with great composers, past high street chains, florists and graffiti covered walls, finding it hard to imagine that I would arrive soon at the Jewish cemetary, a place I had wanted to go ever since a friend told me about it.

Changing trams at Alex with the Rote Rathaus in the snow

A school playground on the way to the Jewish cemetary

I have always loved cemetaries. For me, they are not cold and morbid but places which offer us a chance to reflect and as they are so quiet, I often find it relaxing to take few hours to wander round, yet never before had I been to one that overwhelmed me with its silence and vastness. As the deserted, tree lined alleys led me further and further, the snow seemed to become deeper and deeper. The only sound was that of my boots sinking into the soft, white powdery surface and the squawking of the crows above. I felt far away from Berlin and lost in this landscape of eternal sleep.

There were the graves of those who disappeared tragically into the dark night of history in the 30s and 40s, the rows of tiny headstones whose names were hidden by the snow but who gave their lives in the First World War so we might live in peace, those who left for a better life in America but who were brought back to rest here. I thought of all these people, some of whom must surely have felt the same things as me, who thought that life would never come to an end. I thought back too to my first visit to Prague in November 2007 when I visited the Jewish monuments. On the whole, it seemed a little too commercial and touristy but the old Jewish cemetary made the biggest impression on me with its old, sometimes illegible gravestones piled upon one another in all directions. An icy wind was blowing and small, delicate snowflakes had started to fall.

Close to the deepest point of the cemetary, a solitary figure wandered back and forth with papers in his hand, searching endlessly for what? A name, a memory, a sign perhaps. I do not know how many hours I was in this magical place but found it difficult to tear myself away from it. Of course, I can always return there but somehow I knew such an experience would be unique with the silence and the melancholy romanticism of the snow.

Afterwards, returning to civilisation seemed a little unreal but I decided not to return home immediately and gather my thoughts during another long tram ride to the November café which Julia recommended to me a while back. It's in the heart of Prenzlauer Berg, one of the coolest parts of Berlin and on Sunday afternoon, it was bustling with locals enjoying étagère brunch and reading newspapers. I was lucky enough to get a place right by the radiator from which I could observe the passers by brave enough to face the cold. Locals sat on stools near the bar and greeted each other and as I sipped the most perfect frothy and creamy Latte Macchiato and enjoyed a bauern Frühstück (roughly translated as farmers' breakfast) which consisted of a thick omelette with fried potatoes and onions, my eye wandered over the range of colourful drinks and spirits behind the bar, especially to the Galliano which made me think of Venice at dusk when the light is fading and the illuminated buildings are reflected in the water. The service was a little slow as you can expect at busy times but for once, I wasn't in a hurry. Just as I was about to ask about cake, they brought out the most amazing looking ones: cheesecake, strawberry cake, walnut cake and a lone slice of poppyseed cake which I ordered. Although Julia particularly recommended the carrot cake to me which I hoping to try for myself, I wasn't disappointed with my choice; the delicate crunch of the poppyseeds in the moist cake with the lemon icing on top. If only all days could be so perfect...

Mohnkuchen (poppyseed cake) at the november café

The icon of the GDR, the Trabi, also stranded in the snow

Last but not least, some of you may know that today is Shrove Tuesday in the UK, or mardi gras, more commonly known as pancake day so naturally, I have to give you a recipe for them.

Shrove Tuesday pancakes

Makes 6-8 large pancakes

325ml milk
250g plain flour
50g melted butter, plus some extra for frying
1 large egg

To serve, lemon juice and sugar or the topping of your choice

1. Begin by melting the butter in the microwave or a saucepan and leave to cool a little.
2. Put the milk, flour and egg in a bowl and whisk until smooth and frothy then add in the melted butter. Cover the bowl in foil and leave in the fridge for at least 20 minutes so the batter can thicken.
3. Take a small frying pan and melt some butter in it over a high heat.
4. Pour enough batter into the pan to cover the bottom and leave to fry until the edge are golden brown and with a texture like lace then gently turn over or flip if you're brave. Cook the other side until golden then serve with lemon juice and sugar as we normally do in the UK or anything else you prefer. I love the sharpness of the lemon followed by the crunch of the sugar.

Tulips and pancakes to brighten up the winter!

19 commentaires:

  1. My boyfriend brought me exactly the same flowers two days ago! I love your pictures of the trees. Very romantic. Makes me think of "Le grand Meaulnes".
    Your Berlin is very quiet and full with muffled sounds of snow falling and latte macchiato being sipped and mine is totally excited and crazy, people running from one film to another, trying to get through the door of THE Berlinale party, fighting over who's gonna win and who should have been selected anyway and so on.
    In a week from now, I'll be locked up in Konstanz so I'd better enjoy this momentarily craziness, right?
    I totally forgot about the pancakes and cooked a soup tonight. How stupid from me. Thanks for the recipe, I'll try it in Konstanz perhaps!

  2. just lovely photo's! I love the first one especially!

  3. Je passe commande : je voudrais une belle recette de poppyseed cake, celui-ci a l'air trop bon !
    Sinon après la chandeleur j'ai complètement oublié mardi gras (et je ne savais pas qu'en Angleterre on mangeait des pancakes à cette occasion). La neige a encore l'air terriblement haute dans ce cimetière...

  4. Bonjour Vanessa, que de doux moment passé en ta compagnie et comme toi les cimetières me calme et parfois me font rêver à la vie de ses gens qui sont aujourd'hui disparus. Tes photos sont toujours aussi belles, moi aussi j'ai un petit faible pour la première et celle avec le monument juif, j'aime le contraste des deux rangées de monuments.

    Passe une belle journée.

  5. Really, is there anything more beautiful than a tulip? Especially when there is snow on the ground. It seems incongruous somehow.
    I should think the Jewish cemeteries in Germany would make me cry.
    But my daughter and I always visit cemeteries when wherever we travel. I love the Paris cemeteries and New Orleans cemeteries are extraordinary.

  6. Comme toujours que de belles images...
    Merci pour cet instant qui nous fait voyager loin de tout..

  7. @Magda - Oh, I just love Le Grand Meaulnes! It enchanted me when I read it about 10 years ago and I remember crying in the bus when I got to the end because it was so sad and so beautiful. You made me want to read it again. At the moment, life is a bit hectice and I feel like I'm in a whirlwind of work, reading, baking, writing etc so it's wonderful to go out for peace and quiet at weekends. The tulips were a Valentine's Day present to myself :-) On the other hand, I'd love to experience more of the rush and excitement of the Berlinale. Have a wonderful time in Konstanz (with pancakes!) and let's meet for a coffee when you get back. Je t'embrasse!
    @Ash - Thanks so much! The first one is my favourite too.
    @Rose - c'est noté! J'ai seulement peur que le mien ne soit pas aussi bon que celui du November Café et en plus, c'était un morceau énorme. Je me réjouis toujours de faire des crêpes pour mardi gras mais j'aurai peut-être envie de fêter la chandeleur l'année prochaine. La quantité de neige dans le cimetière m'a étonnée aussi mais elle n'a pas fondu depuis des semaines et reste belle et fraîche ce qui est beaucoup plus agréable que dans la rue.
    @Josée - Je suis contente que tu aimes mes photos. C'est bien aussi de trouver pas mal de gens qui partage mon amour pour les cimetières comme toi. Ça me donne l'impression de voyager un peu dans un autre temps. Je regrette cruellement ne pas avoir pu visiter ceux à Paris qui étaient fermés avec la neige. Ils auraient été si beaux!
    @Barbara - I find it funny that so many people say that spring is just around the corner when we apparently have 5 more weeks of snow forecast. Still, the colours of the tulips are a joy to see. Yes, the Jewish cemetrary was incredibly moving and I found it so hard to write this post because the words I chose just didn't seem to do it justice. One day I hope to visit the New Orleans cemetaries for myself.
    @Le citron - Ce que tu m'écris me fait super plaisir. Merci beaucoup!

  8. Coucou Vanessa ! C'est chouette que tu sois allée au November Café et que tu aies passé un bon moment. J'ai beaucoup aimé moi aussi cette partie de Berlin Est et tes photos me donnent vraiment envie d'y retourner. Malheureusement mes projets de voyages, à Berlin comme au Mali, tombent à l'eau... la faute au boulot ! J'ai tellement de travail en ce moment que j'en ai même oublié de manger des crêpes pour Mardi Gras :-( Ma seule distraction en ce moment est de lire des romans traduits du japonais. Je viens de finir "La ballade de l'impossible" d'Haruki Murakami et je commence "La formule préférée du professeur" de Yoko Ogawa... Après ça, je reviendrai aux auteurs français. Tu sais que n'ai jamais lu "Le Grand Meaulnes" ? Ni aucun livre de Proust ? Grâce à toi, je vais enfin m'y mettre ! Merci pour tout ce que tu nous fais partager :-)

  9. Merci Julia d'avoir trouvé du temps pour me lire et me laisser un commentaire car je sais que tu as beaucoup de travail en ce moment. C'est vraiment dommage avec tes projets de vacances mais je croise les doigts que tout va mieux bientôt et que l'on se reverra à Berlin un jour. Merci aussi de m'avoir conseillé le November café; je n'en avais jamais entendu parler avant mais l'ambiance y est vraiment super et la nourriture aussi. Ça va sûrement devenir un de mes endroits préférés.
    De Murakami, j'ai seulement lu Kafka sur le rivage qui m'a beaucoup plu et je vais en essayer les autres si tu les aimes bien. Il n'y a pas de pression avec la lecture! Il y a 5 ans, je disais à tout le monde qu'il fallait lire Proust mais je mets si longtemps pour finir le 6e tome, j'ai presque tout oublié! Avec le Grand Meaulnes, c'est un petit livre et donc, plus abordable. Je me souviens du grand impression que cette histoire a laissée sur moi mais je ne l'ai lu qu'en traduction anglaise (à l'époque je n'avais pas encore commencé à apprendre le français) et maintenant j'ai super envie de le relire en langue originale. Bises!

  10. Those are very lovely photos! I love how you intesely capture the moment with your photos. Those trees almost seem magical. Also, thank you for sharing with us your pancake recipe. I have tried cooking it up this breakfast and my wife and kids loved it! It was definitely a hit. I also went well with a hot cup of espresso coffee Great post!

  11. grhhh j'ai froid quand je vois de la neige, je fuie plus vite que mon ombre mais je n'oublie pas au passage de piquer qq pancakes hihihi !!!!


  12. Gorgeous photos. And those pancakes and pie--yum!

    I can't wait to see your spring adventures! I bet they're gorgeous!

  13. @Miike - Thanks so much for the visit and the compliments! I'm so pleased you like my photos and that my pancakes were a hit with your family.
    @Virginie - Mais ce jour- là il n'a pas fait si froid comme à Wannsee et puis le cimetière avait l'air si beau et romantique. Mais faire des pancakes, c'est toujours une bonne idée :-)
    @The blonde duck - Thanks for stopping by Duckie. I'm lookig forward to spring already. After the long winter we now have rain but the snow is melting and the birds are singing in the morning so hopefully it's not too far away...

  14. A similar sight of snow and beauty in my part of the world.I love the first picture the most :D

  15. les photos sont superbes et tes pancakes aussi... au moins autant que les photos!!
    Biz Vaness :-)

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  17. @Yasmeen - So glad you can enjoy the beauty of the winter landscapes while it lasts. Thanks so much.
    @Sarah - J'aurais bien aimé les partager avec toi! Merci pour ce commentaire adorable :-) Grosses bises.

  18. Oh, I love November!!! I have only been there in summer, lovely to see a photo of it in the snow.

  19. It's such a great place and worth calling in for coffee and cake any time of the year to my mind. Can't wait to return there.