Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Film of the Year

When a loved one dies, a little bit of yourself dies with them. This is just one theme explored in Michael Haneke's latest film, AmourAmour is an unsentimental story about love and loss, and how the bounds of love and selfless devotion are tested when an elderly couple find themselves dealing with death. At times, Amour is painful to watch, but Haneke's skillful and minimal approach to film making elevate this film beyond the schmaltzy stuff that American audiences tend to get. Amour is my choice for film of the year. 




Sunday, December 30, 2012

The ABBA Museum in 2013

At long last, the pop music group that put Sweden on the map will have its own museum on Stockholm's Djurgarden Island. ABBA The Museum is scheduled to open on May 7, 2013. The new museum is expected to lure thousands of tourist a year and will feature holographic images of the group, their music, and interactive exhibits. ABBA's hits include Dancing Queen, Waterloo, and my favorite, Fernando. (BTW: I did hear the drums.)

For those of you too young to remember, ABBA defined 1970's music. At the time, ABBA was considered uncool and dismissed as frivolity. But over time, ABBA's music has gained respect and it continues to be played.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Berlin's Lucky Pigs for 2013

These two Schwäbisch Hällischen piglets are
Berlin's Lucky Pigs for 2013
Each year, Berlin's Animal Park (Tierpark Berlin) selects Berlin's lucky pigs for the coming year. (Does that mean they will be spared from the dinner plate?) Traditionally, pigs were viewed as good luck, especially at the New Year.

Pig charms are very popular in Germany and Austria, including gold and silver bracelets, Christmas ornaments, candies, toys, and post-cards. This notion of the lucky pig arose from the realities of the 18th century: pigs were a source of food and income. A farming family that kept pigs would never go hungry. There's something perverse in this logic since the pig was not lucky and would eventually be consumed. 
New Year's Postcard
from the Early 20th Century

Friday, December 28, 2012

Silvester (New Year's Eve) Celebrations in Berlin 2013

The year is almost over, and I'm going to miss yet another New Year's Eve (Silvester) celebration in Berlin. However, for those of you lucky enough to be in Berlin for Silvester, here are a few suggestions to while away the last hours of 2012. 

With over a million people, the Silvester celebration on the Straße des 17. Juni (17th of June Street) near the Siegessäule claims to be the biggest New Year's Eve party in the worldLive bands, light and laser shows, visual media, countless places to enjoy food and drink, and of course, a huge firework display, make this venue the place to be on New Year's Eve. Known as the Partymeile (Party mile), this mile long outdoor event has bars galore, international food stalls, music performances, and plenty of dance floors.


For those of you that want to celebrate New Year's in a unique fashion, there's Bohème Sauvage at the Wintergarten. This 1920s style theme party features period music and food. Get dressed in vintage 1920s clothing, dance the Charleston, drink a little Absinthe, play poker, and enjoy a stage show. Life is a Cabaret at the Wintergarten. 

For dance enthusiasts, the Kulturbrauerei has a Silvester Party featuring 15 dance floors. Whatever your musical taste, you'll find something at the largest indoor party in Berlin: Rock, pop, dance classics, R & B, House, and Electro.


Finally, celebrate Silvester with a concert at Charlottenburg Palace. The Beliner Residenzorcheser will perform Mozart, Strauss, and others. This baroque palace serves as a backdrop for the orchestra who will be dressed in traditional costumes. 

Life Begins Before Conception?

The Great Plains is certainly different. Politically it's deeply conservative. More conservative than I imagined. The other day, I had a discussion with a seemingly bright person that is active in local Republican politics. (He attended the 2008 and 2012 Republican Conventions, and even ran for political office.) He's not dumb nor is he atypical; but, he illustrates one of the many problems facing the Republican Party: a blatant disregard and ignorance of science.

While discussing the abortion issue, I asked him when he thought life began. His response was interesting. He said, life begins "before conception." (Did he mean to say that individual sperm and ovum constituted life and should be afforded legal protection?) I tried to inquire further, but he soon became flustered, and it was apparent that his knowledge of reproduction and science was extremely limited. Ignorance can be excused in most people, but it shouldn't be disregarded or unaddressed, especially when spoken by a person in an "influential" position. (This person happens to be an Evangelical minister.)

Was I surprised by his response? Not really, since he had earlier stated that "Christianity should be the national religion." (Whatever happened to "Separation of Church and State?")

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Visiting the Heartland of America

Plains Kansas Library
Visiting the US Great Plains is like traveling to a foreign country: the food is hearty, the people friendly, and the folksy American accent is prominent (and to me, I must confess, a bit irritating). The flat and almost desolate landscape gives way to a farm here and there. The long stretches of highway crossing the prairie can be monotonous; yet, I find them soothing, almost calming.


End Table Made With Encyclopedia Books
at the Plains, Kansas Library
I'm in Plains, Kansas for the holidays, and it's a world away from the excitement of Berlin. WiFi is difficult to find, but fortunately, the modern and stylish Plains Public Library has an excellent WiFi connection. For a town with only 1,100 inhabitants, the Plains Library is excellent. Take a look at the end table, made of encyclopedias, in the library foyer. Wow!

BTW: Mama Fina's, the Mexican restaurant in town, has the best pancakes I have ever had. Who would have thought!
Lake Meade

Friday, December 21, 2012

The "Best of Berlin" App

Where are the best Cafes in Berlin? Where is the best nightlife? Or where can you find the best museums and theaters? For those of you with an iPhone, the Tagesspiegel has just come out with the "Best of Berlin" App. It's available in both English and German. It's a great way to acquaint yourself in Berlin. I found it particularly useful for finding special events. It's a free download and includes thousands of places to discover. Just click: Best of Berlin

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

There's Been a Run on Ammunition

I've tried to avoid news about the recent Connecticut school shootings. I've heard it all before and nothing ever changes. It's a tragic commentary on the state of our country. Today, as I was waiting for a haircut, I overheard an unsettling conversation between two men discussing the fine points of ammunition. (They sounded to be hunters.)

According to them, the school shootings have resulted in ammo becoming hard to get. There's been a run on the stuff as people stockpile it in fear of future government restrictions! One fellow boasted that he had 50,000 rounds stored in his house in case of an emergency, and the other guy offered to buy 10,000 rounds right then and there. His offer was politely refused.

They both spoke in hushed tones, and lamented that the government would likely impose stricter limits on the sale of ammunition and perhaps impose higher taxes on it! One mentioned a friend in New Hampshire who had over 500 guns and rifles, and the problems he was facing. Perhaps, this kind of paranoia and veneration for weapons is the reason political action is so difficult, and why I expect nothing to change. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pony Takes Subway Ride



One can only guess how this pony got on Berlin's S-Bahn (subway) last Thursday. Most passengers are unimpressed by the unusual traveler, but the situation is bizarre enough for a few people to whip out their cell phones and take pictures. The pony appears to be well-behaved; nevertheless, large animals are prohibited on Berlin's transit system. Transit authorities issued the pony's companion a warning but no fine. It's unclear whether the pony had a valid transit ticket. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Two Movies Worth Seeing This Holiday Season


I remember my mother mentioning to me that one of her favorite Christmas movies was It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947); yet, I somehow never managed to see it until last night. It's hard to believe that there are still movies out there as brilliant as this one that have been overlooked. It's an unpretentious movie about kindness, generosity, and social responsibility (a common theme in many 1930s-40s movies). This small masterpiece turns out to be unforgettable in its depiction of the positive side of human nature. Sure, it's Hollywood cliche and pure treacle, but it tugs at your heart strings in a touching and soft way.


Bianca and Lars
Lars and the Real Girl (2007) is a quirky and genuinely original movie about a man who falls in love with a sex doll. (It's not what you think.) And although it's not a Christmas movie in the traditional sense, Lars and the Real Girl is imbued with all the values associated with Christmas: compassion, understanding, and sense of community. Ryan Gosling is perfection as Lars, and Bianca is completely convincing as the Real Girl. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Berlin vs. Portland Sidewalks

In Berlin, sidewalks are lively places with vendors, musicians, artists, and an ever changing cast of characters and attractions. I love walking in Berlin, even though the ever present cigarette smoke can sometimes make walking an unpleasant experience. By contrast, walking in Portland is relatively smoke free; but like many American cities, Portland has its own problems: the scores of homeless and mentally ill people populating the sidewalks. 


With 3.5 million inhabitants, Berlin certainly has its share of homeless and mentally ill people, but for some reason they're not obvious. (I can barely remember seeing more than a handful.) In Portland, a city of only 64,000, they are plainly visible all around us. This morning as I was walking to the gym, I saw beggars asking for money on almost every street corner, sometimes two per corner. What a contrast. It's a shame that our cities have become the dumping ground for our most vulnerable and neglected citizens. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Berlin's Classic Coffee House / Ein Traditionelles Kaffeehaus in Berlin

Bis jetzt gab es kein Kaffeehaus - wie Erich Kästner oder Kurt Tucholsky gefallen hätte. Jetzt Berlin hat Kaffeehaus Grosz!

Experience a coffeehouse/restaurant from the roaring twenties (Die Goldenen Zwanziger) at Kaffeehaus Grosz, Kurfürstendamm 192/194. Named after George Grosz, the artist known for his caricature drawings of Berlin life in the 1920's, Kaffeehaus Grosz has just opened after extensive renovations. (A drunken Grosz died nearby after falling down a flight of stairs in 1959.)


Sonnenfinsternis (1926)
(The Eclipse of the Sun),
George Grosz
Heckscher Museum, New York
This place has atmosphere: marble floors, art-nouveau columns, high ceilings, dark wood bar, and waiters and waitresses dressed in traditional black and white attire. Fresh croissant are baked by French bakers twice a day, and if you're in a drinking mood, order the "Earl of Cumberland" (gin with Earl Grey tea). Kaffeehaus Grosz is a place to experience the ambiance rather than the coffee or food.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

World's Largest Weihnachtsmarkt

The largest Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) in the world is not in Germany but in Birmingham, England. It attracts over 5 million visitors during the Christmas season and is run by Kurt Stroscher, a native of Heidelberg. The German Weihnachtsmarkt has become such an export success that there are now 20 similar Weihnachtsmärkte throughout the U.K. 



Birmingham tries to keep its Weihnachtsmarkt as authentic as possible and avoid "Disney-Kitsch." However, there's one major difference with the exported Weihnachtsmärkte: the almost complete absence of vendors selling alcohol. Luckily, Mr. Stroscher was able to convince the Birmingham city elders to have a Glühwein stall set-up. I mean, what would a Weihnachtsmarkt be without Glühwein. 

Circumcision in Germany Amounts to Bodily Harm

An intense debate over circumcision has been raging in Germany since early June when a Cologne court ruled that circumcision of a young boy on religious grounds amounted to grievous bodily harm and therefore illegal. The court found that children have a fundamental right to physical integrity. 

The decision outraged many German Jews and Muslims who questioned their lives and acceptance in Germany. The German Medical Association subsequently told doctors across the country to stop performing the procedure. The Berlin Senate subsequently introduced legislation that would allow boys to be circumcised once both parents have given written permission and shown proof of the "religious motivation and religious necessity of circumcision." The Central Council of Jews in Germany rejected the proposal, which does not allow traditional Jewish mohels to perform the procedure.


Circumcision is a delicate issue due the religious passions involved, and it could take years before the issue is finally resolved. How does one balance the rights children and of parents. Balancing these two contrasting fundamental rights is complicated. Moreover, male circumcision isn't the only religious practice based on religion. Polygamy is another practice, as is the prohibition of blood transfusions among Jehovah's Witnesses, or the compulsory veiling and female circumcision of women in parts of the Islamic world. Why is one practice banned while another allowed.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Sunday Shopping Ban in Germany is Plain Crazy

Ring Center Friedrichshain
It's three weeks before Christmas and you would expect Berlin stores to be crowded with holiday shoppers, but in fact, they're empty. What's going on? It's Sunday, and German retailers, including grocery stores and pharmacies, are not permitted to open.

In 2006, Berlin attempted to chip away at the Sunday shopping ban by permitting retailers to open on ten Sundays a year, including the four Advent Sundays preceding Christmas. However, Germany's Constitutional Court overturned the Berlin law, and upheld a complaint made by the country's Catholic and Protestant churches based on a clause in the German Constitution that Sunday should be a day of rest and "spiritual elevation." 

The Court declared that the ban allowed people to "synchronize with society" (to be with one's family) on a least one day a week and had the positive effect of protecting workers from harsh working conditions. (The Court did permit some limited Sunday shopping. Currently, shops can open 4-5 Sundays a year from 1:30 pm-6:00 pm.) Most commentators welcomed the Court's decision as giving relaxation, rest, and "spiritual elevation" precedence over consumerism and profit. 

As a child, I remember when most stores were closed on Sunday. There wasn't a law, it was just tradition. But as women entered the workforce and single parent households became more common, retailers had to adjust their schedules to reflect the realities of modern life. Sure, it increased profits, but it also increased flexibility and lessened hectic Saturday shopping. 

The German shopping ban is just crazy. The law not only interferes with a person's individual and economic freedom, but it's also pretty patronizing. It tells people when they are allowed to shop, and when they are not. Why not let the customers decide if they would rather spend Sunday in a crowded shopping mall, at a church, or at home watching TV. 

For single people and for families where both partners work, the Sunday shopping ban makes life more difficult, and if anything, it adds stress. My Saturdays are crammed with grocery and retail shopping. It would be nice to have some rest on Saturday after working Monday-Friday.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Aunt Benny: Canadian Cafe in Berlin

For Canadians seeking comfort away from home, there's Aunt Benny, a small cafe in Friedrichshain featuring Canadian food. (Canadians have their own cuisine too. Who knew.)

Run by two Canadian siblings, Aunt Benny is a bright and stylish place offering brownies, cheesecake, apple crisp (not apple pie, but close enough), grilled pannis, bagels, and the usual coffees, teas, and juices. There's free Wi-Fi, plenty of reading material, and great music. The friendly atmosphere and good service is right on.

Aunt Benny is located at Oderstraße 7, Enter Jessnerstraße, Berlin 10247 (U/S-Bahn Frankfurter Alle) 
Hours:
Tue.-Fr. 9am - 7pm,
Sat.-Sun. 10am - 7 pm. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent Calendars

Typical Commercial Variety
with Chocolate Treats
Behind Each Window
Advent is a Christian observance that begins this Sunday. It's a period of preparation, extending over the four Sundays before Christmas. Advent comes from the Latin advenio, "to come to," and refers to the coming of Christ.


Homemade and Reusable




Fold Out Type








An Advent calendar is a special calendar usually given to children that is used to count the days in anticipation of Christmas. Many Advent calendars take the form of a large rectangular card with 24 "windows" representing the days of December leading up to Christmas. One window is opened each day to reveal a treat, usually a small toy, piece of candy, chocolate, money, or prize. The last window frequently has the best treat, either money or a special gift. (I remember getting a 1969 commemorative coin of the moon landing. I still have the coin too. )

Advent calendars come in all shapes, sizes, and prices, but I prefer the homemade ones. They're more imaginative and long-lasting. I still have the Advent calendar from childhood. It was made of wood and purchased at a flea market. The paint was peeling and the windows were difficult to open, but it had style
Homemade and Creative

Friday, November 30, 2012

Be on Your Guard at Weihnachtsmärkte



If you're in Berlin during the holiday season, you might consider visiting a Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt). There are scores across the city. These traditional street markets are big tourist magnets where you can buy food and drink, and handmade items such as toys and Christmas decorations. Some of the larger markets even have skating rinks, amusement rides, nativity scenes, and the Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus). One of the highlights of the markets is Glühwein, a hot mulled wine with a shot of brandy. Yum! (It's very strong:12-15%.)


I would avoid the larger markets where prices tend to be higher, the tourist traffic heavier, and the vendors less hospitable. My favorite Weihnachtsmarkt is held on Sundays at Winterfeldtplatz. It's small and cozy, and just the right place to enjoy a warm mug of Glühwein. 


Don't accept anything
from this guy. He is wanted
in connection with last year's
Weihnachtsmärkte poisonings.
As always, be on your guard for thieves and other unsavory characters. Last year, a number of Christmas market visitors became ill after drinking poisoned schnapps. According to authorities, an unidentified man offered visitors a drink to celebrate the birth of his newborn child. They quickly became ill and many required hospital attention. A composite drawing of the man has been posted at this year's markets, just in case he returns.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Sechzehneichen": Another Remake of "The Stepford Wives"


Remaking a film classic is always a difficult task. Just because a movie was successful is no guarantee that a remake will also be a hit. Take the 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. It was a disaster critically, and it bombed at the box office. Yet, Hollywood continues to recycle old material. There was Poseidon (The Poseidon Adventure) in 2006, The Stepford Wives in 2004, and Madonna's truly abysmal Swept Away in 2002. These were real stinkers. In truth, the bad remakes far outnumber the good ones (True Grit 1969 and 2010, Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956 and 1978).


The Stepford Wives (1975)

Last night, das Erste presented Sechzehneichen (Sixteen Oaks), another remake of The Stepford Wives (1975). The original film, starring Katherine Ross, Paula Prentiss, and Tina Louise, was of its time: the lure of suburbia, the rise of feminism, and the dangers of uncontrolled technologically. It's difficult to see how another version would work in 2012. Yet, it does, and it works quiet well. 

Directed by Hendrik Handloegten, Sechzehneichen, is one of the most visually fascinating movies I have seen. The imagines are both real and dreamlike, and the carefully synchronized musical score by Radio Heads adds to the terror and suspense. This version pars down the narrative and focuses on the couple's relationship. Handloegten delves into the sexual motivations behind this "ideal" community, and challenges the viewer with the questions: How does society deal with the rapidly changing roles of men and women, and does sexual equality threaten the "liberated" man?

If only American TV (or American movies for that matter) could make something half as good as this. Sechzehneichen can be viewed on the Internet for a limited time. Go to das Erste and click on Mediathek. Even if you don't understand German, it's worth a peak. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Guggenheim-Berlin: Visions of Modernity

Unlike its big sisters in New York and Bilbao, the Guggenheim Museum in Berlin is modest in size and nondescript in architecture. The Museum has no permanent collection of its own, and instead hosts four exhibitions a year. In the past, these exhibitions have been unimpressive. The Guggenheim's latest offering, Visions of Modernity, is no exception. 

Lauschende (Listening)
Heinrich Campendonk
One of the few interesting
works
This small collection of modern art from the late 1900's and early 20th century is uninspired despite having the works of Picasso, Brancusi, Kandinsky, Miró, Delaunay, Cézanne, and Modigliani. There has been a lot of buzz about the exhibition, but all that buzz is just hype. In fact, the curators seemed intent on making the exhibition as dry and mundane as possible.

The works are displayed in a hodgepodge fashion with little information about the individual pieces other than the title of the work and name of the artist. It reminded me of the way museums used to exhibit works of art, accessible only to people with advanced degrees in art. The Guggenheim foundation can present impressive and imaginative exhibitions. The Kandinsky show at the New York Guggenheim was remarkable in its accessibility and ability to tell a story. 

Visions of Modernity is on view until February 17, 2013, and admission is free on Mondays.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Berlin's Vegan Brunch and More

One of the best things to do on a Sunday is to go out to brunch. In Berlin, brunch is an institution, and it runs from about 10 a.m. until early evening. These all-you-can eat banquets are reasonably priced (8-13€) with some great food. There are bunches specializing in Asian, Russian, Turkish, African, South American, and even German cuisine.

I recently discovered Veganz, a restaurant offering a vegan brunch with dishes from around the world. (It's not just Tofu!) Located in Prenzlauer Berg, Veganz also operates a full-scale vegan supermarket selling fresh fruits and vegetables, ready-to-eat food, cosmetics, household supplies, pet food/supplies, coffee/teas, and bakery items. And what's surprising, the prices are comparable to those you would find at the local supermarket!

Veganz offers cooking classes, workshops, film presentations, yoga instruction, and seminars. In December, they're offering a class on how to prepare classic Christmas dishes. Finally, Veganz has recipes and a newsletter that you can download from their website. Veganz is located at Schiverlbeiner Straße 34, Prenzlauer Berg, not far from U-Bahn Schönhauser Alle.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Great Minds Think Alike

I recently wrote about the dangers of mixing science and politics. Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote a similar article a few days ago. I'm glad to see that great minds think alike.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Learning German in Berlin

Over the years, I've tried a number of German language schools in Berlin. The quality of the instruction varies, and price is no guarantee that a course will be good. Here are a few tips.


The Goethe-Institut is top-notch, but quality comes at high price. A four week course will run about 1000€. Located in Mitte, the Goethe-Institut has an excellent library, classroom visual aids, computers, Wi-Fi, and German DVDs and CDs for loan.

The Goethe-Institut is aimed at short-term visitors and university students. There are plenty of extracurricular activities, including tours of the city, organized excursions to the opera, theater, and other entertainment venues. The quality of the instruction is generally good, and class size is around 18 students. Synopsis: Overpriced. 


A non-threatening place to learn German with an emphasis on verbal communication skills. A four week course will cost about 600€. Located in Wilmersdorf, the quality of the instruction is very good, and the teachers take their job seriously. The instructors are patient, friendly, and know how to teach. Classes have about 14 students. The Neue Schule has extracurricular activities, including tours of Berlin and excursions to nearby cities. Wi-Fi is available but limited to the main building. Synopsis: Friendly atmosphere with good instruction. 


Located in Schöneberg, the Hartnackschule is a bargain at around 200€ for a four week course. The quality of the instruction varies widely. Beware, some instructors are excellent, a few are okay, and some are just terrible. Class size runs around 24 students.

The Hartnackschule tends to attract people residing in Berlin that need to improve their language skills for work or school. Accordingly, there is an emphasis on grammar rather than verbal communication. There are no extracurricular activities and no Wi-Fi. You get what you pay for. However, for the enthusiastic student who wants to learn German, this is the place to go. Synopsis: No frills but okay. 


Located in Mitte, the did Deutsch-Institut is pricey. A standard four week course will cost around 740€. Class size is small at around 10-12 students. The instruction is middle of the road. It's neither good nor bad. There's no course book, just daily handouts. Moreover, the Institut provides no Wi-Fi or extracurricular activities. Synopsis: Small classes with mediocre instruction.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Imaginative Caskets: Coffins To Die For

Berlin is truly a multicultural city. People of 186 nationalities live here, including a large Ghanaian population. Like many immigrants, the Ghanaian people have brought their unique customs and practices to Berlin. 


Lung Cancer Victim?
For the people of Ghana, funerals are a time of mourning and a time of celebration. They believe that when a person dies, they move on into another life. They honor their dead with brightly colored coffins that celebrate the way a person lived. 

Consequently, coffins are designed to represent an aspect of the dead person's life, such as a car, an athletic shoe, or even a cell phone. Coffins might also symbolize a vice, such as a bottle of beer, a cigarette, or syringe. It certainly adds some flavor to the traditional pine wood box theme. 

I've always thought of cremation as the way to go, but after looking at these creative coffins, perhaps I need to reconsider that idea. Here are some clever and amusing coffins.
Coke Cola Enthusiast?


Fisherman?




A Variety of Coffins, including
a Shoe, a Prawn, A Tiger,
A Rabbit, and A Dog




A Businessman or a Shoe Salesman?




Bird Lover?
Mobile Phone Addicted?
Flight Attendant or Pilot?










Photographer?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Es Gibt Kein Thanksgiving

It's almost Thanksgiving, but you wouldn't know it in Berlin. Aside from a banner at the local American Church announcing a Thanksgiving dinner (an experience I'm willing to miss), there's no indication that the USA is about to celebrate one of its most important holiday's.

There are no turkeys at the supermarket, no window displays featuring cute Pilgrims, no pumpkin pies on crowded shelves, and no after Thanksgiving Day sales. It feels odd, but then again, I've never been fond of a holiday dedicated to watching TV and over indulgence.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mr. Minsch: Die erste Klasse Konditorei in Berlin! / First Class Cakes in Berlin!

In direkter Nachbarschaft zum Yorckschlösschen liegt Mr. Minsch Torten. Mr. Minsch ist die beste Kuchenladen, den ich bisher kenne. Die Auswahl und Qualität ist sehr gut! Die einzelnen Stücke sind mit 3€ nicht die günstigsten, doch von der Größe her nebst der Qualität absolut okay. Ganze Kuchen oder Torten mit einem Durchmesser von 28cm kosten dort 27€-30€ für schwäbischen Affelkuchen, Schwarzwälder Kirshtorte, Schoko-Schoko, Käsekuchen, Linzer Torte (Lecker), usw.

Mr. Minsch is an out-of-the-way cake shop in Kreuzberg. You won't find any better cakes in Berlin. The quality is absolutely outstanding. Mr. Minsch uses only natural ingredients and everything is always fresh.


Zimtschnecken
The cakes aren't cheap, but they're worth every penny. A slice of cake will run 3€ ($4) and an entire cake 27-30€ ($40). Order at the door, and either take-away or eat outside under the shade trees. There is plenty of seating, and the coffee is good too! On Sunday, Mr. Minsch offers Zimtschnecken (Cinnamon Snail/Roll). It's out of this world. Come early because there is always a long line. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Visit the Grimm Brothers


When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.
C.S. Lewis

If I'm honest I have to tell you I still read fairy-tales and I like them best of all.
Audrey Hepburn

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.
Albert Einstein


St. Matthäus-Kirchhof


I recently started reading the Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales in the original German, and they're anything but sweet and gentle bedtime stories. Unlike the sanitized Disney versions, the Grimm stories are scary, antisemitic, chauvinistic, and often violent. The tales depict some of our less admirable qualities. Yet, they're part of the western canon that take the reader on a path of mystery and adventure. 

The Grimm Brothers, Wilhelm and Jacob, buried
alongside other family members
Coincidentally  the Grimm Brothers are buried at the Alter St. Matthäus-Kirchhof in Kreuzberg. This landmark cemetery is also one of Berlin's most beautiful outdoor green spaces with many opulent and creative headstones and memorials.

Created in 1856, St. Matthäus is the final resting place for many of Berlin's famous 19th and early 20th century bourgeoisie, including the Grimm Brothers and the physician Ruldolf Virchow. There are also memorials to AIDS victims and Nazi resistance fighters. Unlike many of Berlin's older graveyards, St. Matthäus is still a working cemetery with many new and imaginative headstones. There's a small cafe, and even an area dedicated to bee husbandry. Located near S-Bahn Yockerstraße, St. Matthäus is an outdoor sculpture museum housing some very famous people. 
Certainly A Man of Learning


I Love This Headstone!