(This translates as; you're crazy my child, you have to go to Berlin)
Yes dear readers, I'm back online at last, although still catching up with emails and most of all your blogs. I'm hopelessly out of touch I'm afraid and it may take some time to put that right. In the meantime, thanks you all so much for your birthday wishes; I was so touched to read them all and you really gave me the feeling of being someone special on this day. I know how lucky I am to have such wonderful (and patient) followers.
There are times when even the most beloved places seem to have lost their charm. Arriving back from England at the beginning of August, I could only see things through tired eyes; was I truly falling out of love with Berlin or could my mood simply be down to post holiday blues? There were the final boxes to pack, the room in Charlottenburg to clean, followed by the stress and exhaustion of moving all those belongings (mainly 200+ books) which I managed thanks to the kindness of M. who didn't seem to mind carrying them up four flights of stairs, and then the constant unpacking and buying things for the new place where I didn't seem to have anything.
Sometimes though, it takes an outsider to make you see how wonderful everything really is. A couple of weeks ago, Rose and S. visited Berlin. We met on an evening when the rain didn't fall from the sky, so much as collapse in a downpour so heavy, the only light was that of the neon shop signs. Seeing Rose come to meet me with her umbrella in her hand, it was hard to believe 8 months had gone by since our last meeting in Rouen. Waiting for the rain to stop, we sat in the pure whitness of the living room in the charming little apartment they had rented off Schönhauser Allee, drinking red wine, eating peanuts and talking of books, music, films and plans for the next few days. Later on, there was a brave outing to the Vietnamese restaurant on Stargarder Straße which I discovered a while back thanks to Chrissi, where we sat a little wet and shivering but soon revived by the large bowls of fresh noodles and soup and to finish off, drinks in a bar where the exotically coloured bottles of spirits were illuminated by orange lights and Rose sipped a red Berliner Weisse as we continued our conversations, not noticing the rain had stopped altogether. At the weekend, there was a dinner at my new place consisting of a bread and cherry salad (recipe below), David Lebovitz's French tomato tart which I can't stay away from and an unphotogenic Zupfkuchen which luckily didn't put the guests off!
We spent the best of all possible Sundays together, taking the tram to Friedrichshain as the sunmade its welcome reappearence on a lazy morning. Travelling through Weissensee and hearing Rose describe her stays in Berlin just after the fall of the Wall made me nostalgic for a time I never knew, especially for the little cinema behind Hackesche Höfe which no longer exists where you could see classic German films. At the flea market on Boxhagener Platz, Rose headed for the jewellery and lingered over old Polaroid cameras and crystal chandeliers while I couldn't decide whether or not to invest in an old Rolleiflex (I didn't and it was snapped up by a young Asian) but found a lemon squeezer instead. Wandering around together, it's a place where you can find items you couldn't imagine anyone ever wanting to buy jostling alongside buried treasure and surprising discoveries. Pausing at one stand, we found some old postcards; "I'll be leaving at 7am and should be home at 5pm; will there be anything to eat? Something cold perhaps?" I wonder who the author was and where they are today. No visit to Friedrcshain on a Sunday would be complete without brunch at Datscha, a restaurant which brings back such fond memories and always a place I love taking others to. A buffet of blinis, smoked salmon, grilled vegetables, black bread, mini choux pastries, honey cake and more combined with tall glasses of latte macchiato. Later on, the sky became ever more threatening and the rain held off just long enough for us to walk along the East side gallery in front of which tourists crammed to have their picture taken with the (in)famous kiss between Honecker and Brezhnev.
The last evening I regretted not taking my camera on the loveliest of evenings when the C/O building was bathed in the most perfect light against a background of speckled grey clouds (you can find the photo in Rose's lovely post). We wandered down to the Monbijoupark to see a concert in the ampitheatre whose stage was lit by multicoloured paper lanterns in different colours hanging over the stairs. A group of Lithuanian musicians made their appearence to an enthusiatic reception. The singer dazzled us with her athletic dancing in cumbersome wooden clogs, read a poem about horse riding and handed out sparklers for the audience to light as she described her life changing meeting with Freddie Mercury, a distant relative. Afterwards as we sat sipping drinks at the beach bar, I finally understood why people love summer in Berlin so much. I can do without the hot, sticky days but in the evenings, the city truly comes alive, a real Dolce Vita as Rose perfectly described it. We seemed far from the traffic and stress of the city, seeing the light reflected from the disco ball in the dancefloor below flicker onto the Spree and the Museuminsel as couples held each other tightly to tango or foxtrot. There was also sadness though at the thought that it was our last evening together; the next day there would be no reunion which I had become so used to after only a few days. I'm already dreaming of a visit to Normandy with its shingle beaches and dramatic seascapes and rediscovering Rose's house high above Rouen. Come back soon!
At the flea market on Boxhagener Platz
Advice on jazz
Brunch at Datscha
Another flea market in Friedrichshain
Shoes for all weather
The newly restored East side gallery with the Berlin wall
For Rose - Molly Wizenburg's bread and cherry salad, adapted slightly from A Homemade Life
I made this just two weekends before the cherry season finished. Now I can't seem to find them anywhere in Berlin but perhaps you'll be luckier. In any case, it's truly one of my favourite salads. Apologies for the lousy picture but I made it late one Saturday evening when the light was fading. The original recipe calls for goats' cheese but as I was already using this for the tart above, I chose Feta instead which was still delicious and opted for a mix of salads instead of just rocket as in the original recipe.
some leaves of mixed salad, washed and dried
175g crusty day old white bread
225g cherries, halved and pitted
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
Feta or goat's cheese, crumbled
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
1. Cut the crust off the bread using a sharp knife and roughly cut into cubes. Put it onto a baking sheet or into a pyrex dish, drizzle the olive oil over it and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until crisp.
2. Take around a third of the cherries and mash them a little . Add the crushed garlic to the toasted bread and mix it in the salad bowl. Leave to cool slighly. Then add all cherries, both mashed and unmashed, toss with the bread then add 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and toss again, followed by a tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a little pepper. Test the flavour and add more vinegar/salt as needed before throwing in the salad leaves and cheese and tossing again.