Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Berlin Gift Guide

After such a long wait to Thanksgiving and a bit of a stressful last few months I CANNOT believe it is almost Christmas. Less than a week to the big day, I am daydreaming about some of my best Berlin-related gifts as well as new things to covet.

Here are my Top 6 Berlin gift ideas.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Why You Should Stay in Berlin This Winter

Berliners get extra ungemütlichkeit in winter as the days grow short and ice freezes in your/Ian's beard. Many try to flee the city, but I am making the case for celebrating the darkest season in the capitol. This is partly because we are poorer than ever and condemned to have no escape from the brutal Berlin winter. And since we gotta stay, we are trying to make the most of it and you should too.

Friday, November 29, 2013

DBall Baklava - Baking with Dad

Remember 6th grade when all you needed to get an "A" on a project was to bring food? I had one such project on Greece and being the "A" student I was, I took baklava (or rather my wonderful mom bought some for me from the local Greek restaurant). No surprise - I got an A.

family makes baklava in the USA
Lets make these cookies!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Berlin's Tropical Island & Getting Naked with Germans

German indoor waterpark resort

We first heard about the Tropical Island south of Berlin driving down to the Spreewald. Like an enormous metallic pimple, it stood out against northern Germany's flat terrain.
What is that?!

Some kind of indoor water resort. I think it may have been where they made zeppelins or something.
Intrigued by this bizarre structure and explanation, I snooped it out online. It is indeed an indoor water park - one of the largest of its kind - and it didn't actually house zeppelins (though that is a persistent rumor).

And it is large at 360 metres long, 210 metres wide and a 107 metres high. That means that it is big enough to fit the Statue of Liberty standing up, the Eiffel Tower lying down, or all of Potsdamer Platz including skyscrapers. Damn Tropical Island - you big!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Less Than 48 Hours in Manchester

When we made plans to visit Manchester, our friends told us we didn't need much time to for the city.

Good thing as we only had 48 hours and most of our time was going to be absorbed by the wedding and meeting with friends. Despite their naysaying, we had plenty to do in our limited time and fell a bit in love with this workmanlike Northern metropolis.

Whether you have 24 hours, 48 hours or even want to spend a little longer in this industrial city (gasp!) - here are a few of our favorite things to do in Manchester, the "Original Modern City".

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Visiting a Berlin Gartenhaus

Public Transportation in GermanyI've always admired the small garden houses that line rail lines, dot the countryside and can be found all over Germany but never imagined I would actually get a peek inside. Generally, our friends in Berlin don't own more than a bicycle let alone a second home.

So when Ian's kita partner (aka his work wife), a life-long Berliner, invited us to visit her and her family's Garden Home we jumped on the U-Bahn.

Located deep to the SE of Berlin in Königs Wusterhausen (fun name, eh?). It was a bit of a trek but completely reachable by Berlin public transport with the purchase of a C ticket.

We were joined by Ian's boss, a transplant from Bavaria. In addition, Ian's kita partner's German partner and daughter would be there. This was one of the first times I would be intensely surrounded by only German speakers. I prepared for German language battle.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Offbeat Northwest: Camping in Montana

Woman stalks husband with ax
Happy Memories Camping
I love camping, but I've never been in Germany. This is partly because we moved to Berlin with 2 suitcases and have literally no equipment. It is partly because our travels outside of the city are in their infancy and I still have relatively no idea of the campgrounds in these here parts. And it is partly because of the Germans.

The one time we tried to go camping was in the Spreewald, just south of Berlin in Lübbenau. It went like this.

Ian: "Are there any camping spots available this weekend?"
Campsite: (laugh) "No."
Ian: "Are there any camping spots available in the coming weeks?"
Campsite: "No, there are no spots for the rest of the year!" 

Germans. Always prepared, unlike us.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A weekend in the Swiss Alps Outside of Zurich

With Ian off at a "stag party" in Manchester, I was left with the question of what to do with myself for a weekend alone. In the end, the solution was simple and beautiful. Why not spend it with my family who recently moved to Zurich? (Tough life - I know.)

yellow shoes dress woman flying
Ready for my flight out of Tegel

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Berlin Street Food Markets: Bite Club & Markthalle IX

Ian is in the habit of familiarity. If he's cooking dinner I can guess the meal is going to be Mexican and if we are going to eat out in Berlin he has his stable of favorites. I am different.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

An Accidental Visit to the 9/11 Memorial in NYC

tunnel park

I always feel hesitant to share deep thoughts about politics as it usually turns into an ugly circle of cynicism, doom and depression. While I am informed enough to know the basics of what's happening, whenever I delve further I am inevitably frustrated with the state of the world. Can't we just talk about bizarre Americana and drinking on the Berlin UBahn?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Great Signs of America

We never reveled in the "America - fuck yeah!" attitude of some of our gun-wielding, flag waving, big truck driving brethren in the States. But something about being away and becoming an expat has us energetically pointing out everything that screams America to us when we are back in the ole' US of A.

On this trip, it was signs. After our friend Ian's thoughtful post on being a Fontophile, I've been paying more attention to the road posts, businesses, and signs that point the way. America, particularly Ian's area of Eastern Washington, is truly rich in signage.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Take me out to the Mariners + Berlin Softball

Seattle Safeco field

I could give a f%*# about baseball, but Ian does. A lot. Somehow I have found myself at multiple Seattle Mariners games and am now spending my Saturdays in Berlin at softball games. Ah, marriage. At least baseball often comes with friends and beer. That I can deal with.

Seattle Mariners Baseball

Back when we were visiting the States in June and the Mariners had a prayer of living up to their potential, we went to a game. My mom, my dad, my visiting nephew from Texas (younger brother of our Berlin visitor), Ian & I went to a baseball game and it pure Americana. Ian has always enjoyed talking about sports with my dad (in cliche fashion, his dad just isn't into it) and my dad has dealt with his ladies general apathy for most things sports throughout the years and it was  a treat to have two enthusiastic guys to talk about the game with.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Offbeat Northwest: Silverwood Theme Park

 Idaho Attraction
Silverwood entrance
As much as visiting home is about seeing family and friends (and eating Mexican food), we also want to use our vacation time to see things we've never seen before. So off we went from Seattle & Washington to the great yonder of Montana, stopping at Spokane, Coeur d'Alene, and Silverwood theme park on the way.

Our 4th amusement park in 4 years doesn't sound like much - but theme parks are becoming an addiction. Following our visit to Disneyland in California during Halloween., we've visited Disneyland Paris at Christmas, Europapark (2nd biggest park in Europe), and now Silverwood.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Berlin Beer Festivals: Internationales Berliner Bierfestival

Though I've posted about  festivals in Berlin and drinking quite frequently (some would say too much - sorry parents), somehow I have managed to avoid writing about Berlin's Mile of Beer at the Internationales Berliner Bierfestival. We've managed to drink there each year, just not take pics or impressions of note...which seems like a pretty ringing endorsement.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Offbeat Northwest: Coeur d'Alene & Wallace, Idaho

I'll admit it. Us Western Washingtonians can be a little snooty. The Cascade mountain range that
separates our state is the marker of a different climate, both meteorological and socially.

Western Washington is largely liberal, techie, rainy, and green.
Eastern Washington is more conservative, desert climate, and traditional values.

It's a common perception that it just gets worse the further east you go. Thus our trip to Spokane resulted in comments like

"Spokane? Shit that town is sad. What the hell are you doing there?"

Friday, July 26, 2013

Riding Berlin's UBlau

The UBlau. Where we ride a line of the U-Bahn from start to finish, getting off on every stop to discuss, rate, take a pic, and drink. Don't worry, this has been tested on humans. We're not barbarians.

Why would we do this to ourselves again? Haven't I said we're crazy? (Exhibit 1, exhibit 2, exhibit 3...or just read the whole blog). We've done this before, so how bad can it be?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

DBall Peanut Butter Cookies - Baking with Dad

Did your dad make you a
 scale model of the Tower Bride for your wedding?
You may think your dad is pretty great*, but you just have to keep that to yourself because this post is all about how awesome my dad is. A newly retired Boeing wingman and all-around Mr. Fix-It,  he has now taken on - and conquered- baking.

I've written about his awesomeness before, but I thought I might highlight his accomplishments in a medium we could all appreciate - FOOD. Baklava, raspberry lemon bars, killer omelets... the man is simply a marvel.

On our recent visit back to the States, Dad wow'd us once again with his new talent in an all American ingredient - Peanut Butter. And what is more deliciously American than peanut butter? Apple pie? Hamburgers? FREEDOM! Ok, maybe freedom. But peanut butter is pretty great.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Berlin's Hafenfest Tegel

We arrived in the sleepy NW corner of Berlin to things looking just a bit different. Some people were dressed in viking-esque garb. Multiple stages with cover bands and other miscellaneous acts had been set-up. There was much German singing.

Hafenfest, had Arrived. 


People gathered around little tables as the music varied from oldies, to German polka to death metal.

Our friends live right around here so we had already been exposed to the wonders of Tegel - outside of the lake and the airport. When they told us about this traditional harbor festival which included a viking village and performances we were open to it. When they told us there were fireworks we were in. We're obviously a sucker for fireworks, but we should never handle them so this sounded perfect.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Offbeat Washington: San Juan Islands

scared at a haunted mazeMe: "What do you mean you've never been?"
Ian: "I've never been to the San Juans!"
Jaw, meet floor.
I expected that the San Juans, like Leavenworth, were just a place every native Washingtonian went to (that's right folks, we're Wash-a-tone-ians). So when we were making plans for our triumphant visit home, (ok, maybe not triumphant but a definite visit to the NW), the San Juan Islands was one place I couldn't let my native East Washingtonian husband avoid any longer.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Offbeat Washington: Leavenworth - A German Village in America

Growing up in Washington State, trips to Leavenworth are practically mandated. Christmas, summer, or for one of the largest Oktoberfests in America (not quite like the real Oktoberfest). It's cute. It's kitsch. It's a tourist attraction.  
We love it.

German village in the USA

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Feeling the Gay Lovin'

I've covered the Christopher Street Day Parade on this blog before (A Gay Affair 2011), wrote a post on the work blog about this year's event in Berlin (Gay Pride: An Expat Celebrates Berlin's Christopher Street Day) and waxed on endlessly about equality in person. But this month, LGBT Pride Month, my cup has truly runneth over in gay lovin'. Let me count the ways...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Offbeat Washington: Spokane

Even though Ian & I are native Washingtonians, we have never been tempted to actually visit Spokane (pronounced Spo-Can or SpoCompton for those in the know). It is 92 miles (148 km) south of the Canadian border, 20 miles (32 km) east of the Washington–Idaho border, 196 (315km) miles east of Yakima, and 232 miles (373 km) east of Seattle. Located past a long and desolate stretch of road, whether you are coming from western or central Washington, Spokane is simply out there for most of us.
Waterfall Spokan Falls

However- as the second largest city in Washington, it is home to a lot of Washingtonians. For the over 200,000 people that live here, the city is home to attractions like "Spokan Falls", a growing microbrewery scene, and the prestigious college, Gonzaga University.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Offbeat Seattle Attraction: Salumi Artisan Cured Meats

I spent many hours dreaming of Salumi's before I ever stepped foot in the place. At this point, I've only been there twice but it is still somewhere I feel confident recommending.

Salumi was founded by Armandino Batali (Principal Salumist), the father of New York chef Mario Batali. Armandino actually retired from Boeing to focus on meat and it is still family-run. Like Rogacki in Berlin, this place is Anthony Bourdain reviewed & approved.

Seattle lunch

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Offbeat Seattle Attraction: Archie McPhee

Do you like the tacky, the bizarre, the tasteless, the incredible? No?! Suck it up because when you are in Seattle, a trip isn't complete until you've visited Archie McPhee.

Seattle joke shop

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I'm Going to Miss this Place...

...the time is finally nigh - we're home in the States! No, not permanently. Don't be crazy Berlin, you haven't gotten rid of us yet. But we have returned to Seattle for a visit. We love Berlin, but we also really MISSED HOME (you like that parents?).

airport sunrise
Tegel Airport

Monday, May 13, 2013

Männertag & Mother's Day

Vatertag or Männertag is celebrated on Ascension Day, or the much more fun to say "Christi Himmelfahrt". The holiday has been at least partially absorbed by young, not-father guys in an excuse for groups of males to get together and be manly over beers.

stag party Berlin Wikipedia reports on the possible historic path this holiday has taken:

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Eating Blutwurst in Berlin

Overall, I embrace German food. Sure I miss my Mexican food, but expat life has a way of making you a mad scientist in the kitchen. I am far from an expert cook, but I have learned to whip together a bunch of things I always used mixes for in the States, or only bought when I ate out. A random list of some of my proudest cooking moments:
The start of PB
  • Biscuits & Gravy
  • Enchilada Sauce
  • Mexican Rice
  • Poached Egg
  • Pico de Gallo& Salsas
  • Peanut Butter
  • Refried Beans
  • Salad Dressings galore (Honey Mustard, Ranch, Raspberry Balsamic,Caesar)
  • Croque Monsieur

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Europa-Park: EuroTrash Disneyland

I love roller coasters. I always liked them as a kid, but kinda let them fall to the background as I became an adult (kinda. I'm getting old so I better start thinking of myself as a REAL PERSON). But a fortuitous trip to Disneyland when we were back living in the States re-ignited my roller coaster fire. I wanted to feel the wind on my cheeks, hear children scream, and have Ian clutch my hand like a little girl on the biggest, baddest roller coasters we could find.

On the way to the park

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Skiing for the 1st time in Europe

Now that it has finally gotten warm in Berlin, I am waxing poetic about our time in the snow. Go figure....

80s winter ski clothes

It sounds so bourgeois to say "the first time we went skiing in Europe", but it takes it down to about the right level when you hear it was actually in a discount resort town of Liberec, Czech Republic and it was our first time skiing ever so we fell...a lot.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Visiting Dead People in Berlin

Cemetary Berlin

Before I called Europe home, I had only visited cemeteries for funerals. Impersonal, manicured parks... they didn't necessarily inspire return visits, even if thoughts of its residents did. Once we arrived in Berlin, I saw the ancient and modern beauty of family plots, trails of ivy and the essential peacefulness a cemetery offers. Our apartment in Neukölln picturesquely overlooked a nice one.

Monday, March 18, 2013

David Hasselhoff Visits the Berlin Wall

I had never really given much thought to David Hasselhoff. I certainly never expected to see him perform.

ESG Fernsehturm Graffiti

But that was before I moved to Germany and my American friends eagerly insisted that Germans love David Haselhoff. It doesn't appear that many actually do, but Americans seem pretty sure.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Testing Out the U-Blau

What to do on a Saturday night? 

What to do?
What to do?
What to do?

What about a drinking tour of the U-Bahn? OK! Let's call this an art project so it doesn't sound so...alcoholic.

I am skeptical about how this day will go

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Base in Basel

One of the few downsides of living in Berlin is that it is located waaay up in the corner of the country and it takes a little more time, money and effort to travel than our friends in the south. Luckily, we are adapting as we discover more discount airfares and alternate ways to travel. We still love train travel, but when I can fly to Naples, Italy for less time and money than I can get to Munich by train - my love for trains wains.

For my birthday this year, I wanted what I always want - travel. And I had an especially silly idea - roller coasters. Much to my surprise, I found the second largest park in Europe was in Southwestern Germany (after Disneyland Paris). How does this get us to Basel? After some dedicated internet searching, we found that flying into Basel was not only affordable from Berlin, it made more sense for the time & money than any of the other options. To the dreiländereck (three countries' corner) we go!

Rhine River Swiss

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bern, Switzerland - City of Fountains

A Swiss friend just told me that Bern is not actually the capital of Switzerland. What!? It is actually the Bundesstadt - a federal city or de facto capital. This was apparently the diplomatic answer to Swiss cities asking what city is the fairest of them all.

No matter - Bern is fair. Beautiful, fairytale, romantic, charming, and ridiculously good-looking. We spent a day trip here while staying in Basel, an easy flight away from Berlin, and were enthralled.

Swiss mountains river

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Falling in Love with the NFL in Europe

In the fall, a  notice briefly flashed across the UBahn monitor: “German Bowl XXXIV”. I knew immediately that we were going.

American football in Berlin

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Berlin Pyronale = FIREWORKS!

If it is not already apparent from our blog or just life, Berliners love their fireworks (and Ian & I should never be allowed near them as our NYE almost disaster demonstrated). They love them so much, they have a whole event focused on a world championship,

We went for the first time* last fall and while I hardly captured the grandeur of the fireworks, I hopefully I captured a bit of the scene...a little bit of why we love Berlin.

Berlin berg Sonnenuntergang

Friday, January 4, 2013

NYE (Almost) Disaster

This year, we found out why they call it a bottle rocket.

Remember the first time you lit a firework? I don't. We've never really bought them and while there are a few notable holidays where we did light up the street (hi Yakma & Santa Barabara 4th of Julys), I have extremely limited experience. And it showed.

This year we bought fireworks. Even though this is our 4th New Years Eve in Berlin, this was our first time hosting a small party and I guess we wanted a piece of the madness. We were excited. In Ian's case, very excited.

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008