The Marin Civic Center, 20 miles north of San Francisco, was the last project of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Although Wright died in 1959, the project was pursued under the direction of Aaron Green, his apprentice. It was finished in 1962.
I’m not usually one for historical museums (I prefer art galleries) but the DDR Museum in Berlin was pretty fantastic.
Located on the East Side of Museum Island, right near the Radisson Blue, the museum gives an interactive look at life in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik/ German Democratic Republic (East Germany). I’m pretty sure the interactive layout is meant to attract families with young children, but it worked it’s magic on me just the same.
We paid 4 euro to get in (reduced fair since we’re students), and spent about an hour and a half inside. Unlike many larger museums, this one had a set route for visitors to follow. The displays were organized by theme (life, work, fashion/clothing, media, etc.) and consisted of artifacts and models from the era.
The vibe I got from the exhibit is difficult to describe. It’s not that East German life lacked personality or culture, but that the individuality was missing. Of course, I was born after the fall of the wall, so I can’t contrast my experiences in the West against what I saw at the museum- my memory only goes as far back as the early 2000s, and even then it’s kind of shoddy.
On May Day, we decided to have dinner at Weinerei. We’d read about it, a place where you could have all-you-can-drink wine for 2 euro, and decided it was a top priority. You can imagine our disappointment, then, when we arrived at Veteranenstraße 14 and found that it was closed for the holiday.
We were about to turn away when we noticed a sign on the door, directing us to “Perlin,” a sister restaurant of the same concept located just around the corner, at Griebenowstraße 5. We decided to see if it was open, since we’d already come so far.
Good thing we walked the extra couple of blocks, because Perlin was indeed open, and we ended up having quite an experience! The place was small (“intimate” some might say), and practically empty when we arrived at 8 pm. The server gave us each an empty glass for 2 euro, and invited to help ourselves to the wine. There were 5 reds and 5 whites/rosés open on a nearby counter, and she offered to open any bottle on display that we might want to try. We were to drink, eat, and enjoy ourselves, then pay what we felt the experience was worth.
Once we’d poured our first glass, an Austrian white, the server came over and recited a 3-item menu that consisted of salad, soup, and steak. We ended up sharing a steak and salad, which was preceded by a bread and olive appetizer. All were good- not mind blowing, but tasty considering it could be free.
The other wine we drank that night was a bubbly rosé called Ferosa. I remember it being delicious, but of course I can’t remember exactly how it tasted…typical. Sitting and sipping the wine, we took in our surroundings. Perlin was excruciatingly hip. The furniture was mismatched, upholstered (mostly with red velvet) and home style. The lighting was, of course, dim, and the fixtures were colourful.The walls were lined with provocative paintings, and there was a projection screen set up, which was playing a football game on mute at the time. There was a turntable set up in the corner, and the server had put on some French album.
I only took one photo because I didn’t want to be a turd.
About half way through our meal, a guy who knew the server and owner(?) came in. The three of them proceeded to have a conversation that was interesting enough to end our conversation in favour of eavesdropping. The guy who’d entered was young and American. He worked for a not-for-profit organization and was an avid traveller. I automatically judged him for having brought up such interesting topics within five minutes of sitting down, but that probably wasn’t fair of me. The man who I assumed was the owner had apparently escaped the GDR three months before the Berlin Wall came down. He spoke about the night he jumped the wall.
Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was picturing them as characters in a novel. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I had to read the Wall Jumper in a German culture course the year before. Who knows. At one point the American started talking about Toronto. He spoke well the city, which I got him some Brownie points in the end.
Before we knew it, it was 11 o’clock. We decided to pay up and head out. I didn’t record how much we ended up paying but it was probably in the neighbourhood of 15-20 euro each. I’m sure the same food and wine would have been pricier at another restaurant, but we were travelling students. Plus we had no idea where to even begin to figure out the value of the wine. Connoisseurs can’t even tell half the time with bottles they’ve never tried.
Good thing the server was still deep in conversation with the owner and the American. We quietly made our payment in the silver bowl sitting up on the wine counter, and slipped out with a quick thanks.
We spent one day in Berlin hitting up a few thrift stores. First we visited the Humana flagship store in Alexanderplatz- just a block from our hostel (ONE80 Hostel). Humana is a Goodwill-esque chain that uses the slogan “First Class, Second Hand.” The location we visited was BIG, and had a much more diverse selection than anything I’d ever seen at any Value Village, but I guess that’s to be expected when comparing innately hip Berlin to good ol’ Canaderp.
Anyway, from there we trekked around to a couple concept stores. They were named Colours and Garage, and were both owned by a company called Kleidermarkt. Their vibe was similar to that of Black Market at Queen and John in Toronto, but they were much, much larger. The inventory at the Kliedermarkt stores was more targeted than at Humana, so it was easier to browse. Of course this meant it was a bit more costly (the clothes were in the 10-20 euro range). One fun thing they offered was a section where the merchandise was priced by weight. It didn’t change the prices much, but was kind of a fun novelty experience.
Okay, last beer garden- I swear! This one is Gröninger, in Hamburg. It’s located just north of HafenCity, the old port warehouse district. Their signature brew is the Gröninger Pils (which you can probably tell from the ceramic stein). I was not at all surprised to find that it was right up there with the best beers I’ve tasted. Unfortunately that is all I can say, because I have a very poor memory for detail. which is the same trouble I have when trying to remember movie and book plots.
I do however have a less-than-useful ability to recall the feelings I experience in certain instances, and sitting in the Gröninger brewery just happens to be one of them. I’m not sure if it was the weight of the steins, the comfort of resting after a long day of exploring, or the warm copper tones reflected onto us from the giant polished kettles just a few feet away, but sitting there in the beer garden, sipping that pilsner felt just how I would have imagined drinking a refreshing Butterbeer in Hogsmeade.
Dmitri Vrubel’s painting of the “fraternal kiss” between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker is probably the most famous piece in the East Side Gallery. I liked it so much i bought a souvenir mug with a print of it that I proceeded to lose at work.
Bastei is a small town about a 40 minute train ride East of Dresden. You step off the train at a tiny station (basically just a room and an overhang), and take a 3 minute, 1.50 euro ferry ride across the Elbe river.
The main attraction here is the Sandstone Mountains and the Bastei Bridge. The bridge was probably one of the things I was most looking forward to seeing on this trip. I’d seen photos around the internet that made it look like a set straight out of Game of Thrones or something, so I was pretty stoked when we finally got out there.
The hike up to the bridge took about 30 minutes, and there were plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos of the mountains and the countryside. Even though it was an overcast day, the view of the bridge was incredible. This sight is definitely something I’d recommend, especially since it’s cheap and quick.
Many Bavarians say the Augustiner beer garden in Munich brews the best beer in the world. It was wholly delicious, but again, my absolute fav was the Hoffbrau.
It was our first indoor beer garden, and the atmosphere was slightly different (in my opinion). I’d say it was more communal: the setup was reminiscent of the dining hall at sleep-away camp, and the voices and laughter of the patrons were contained within the big open-concept room. The place was quite large. There are main front rooms on either side of the entrance, plus a room further back through which you can access a staircase that leads up to an impressive patio. Despite the scale of the place, we were almost unable to find a table. We ended up at in a small secluded spot just outside the washrooms.
I think we could have been a lot more aggressive trying to find seating, but we were in awe/pretty intimidated. Luckily we bucked up later in the trip, and didn’t let this happen again.
Viktualienmarkt is a mostly-food market just off of Marienpaltz in Munich. Here you can find produce, cheeses, pickled goods, spices, liquor, crafts, prepared foods, and more.
It was super busy and colourful when we went, and it was a nice place to sit and relax after pushing through the throngs of people in front of the Marienplatz town hall.