Category Archives: Europe

Midsommar in Berlin

Thirty degrees, sunny weather, cold beer and girdles of flowers of the head. At the 24th June Berlin celebrated his Midsommar Festival with a real pole.

 

 

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A Scandinavian tradition

Midsommar or in English “Midsummer” marked the summer solstice, it is the day when the sun reaches its highest position in the sky. Midsummer will especially celebrate by Northern Europe as Scandinavia and – very especially – Sweden. These countries have a short summer time. However, in the North in midsummer, it seemed as the sun doesn’t set. It is the lightest night of the year. In Scandinavia, people celebrate midsummer on a Friday between 19th and 25th June.

 

 

Flowers under the sleeping pillow

This special midsummer festival in Berlin started in 2012. Every year different bands and DJs play music and invite to dance. Furthermore, the organisers offer a flower wreath workshop,  a pole, traditional dances and games. In the beginning of the festival, the visitors can SDC11831create their own girdles of flowers (“midsommmarkrans”). I and a friend also tried our best. However, if you want to create a girdle of flowers, you should be in time. We came two hours after the beginning and had our problems to get flowers and wire. I am afraid, that was the reason why my flowers looked a little bit withered.

Actually, I read about a tradition. It says that you should pick up seven different flowers on your way home. If you put these flowers under your pillow, you will meet your future love in your dreams. Actually, I tried it, however, I can’t remember my dreams of that night. Damn. Perhaps I will give it a second change next year.

 

 

Dance as a frog or play flute

Similar to the maypole the Scandinavians also have a traditional pole, the “midsommarstång”. The people dance around the pole. However, you can also dance without a tree. The midsummer guide of the festival said there are different styles of dances. One is the “Små grodorna”, translated it means something as “The small SDC11871frogs”. The guide says you should imitate frogs (and also pigs, elephants and so on). Another dance is “Vi äro musikanter” translated as “We are the musicians” and the dancing rules for this is imitating violinists, trumpeters and other musicians. Another tradition is some typical games as the egg-and-spoon-race, sack race or the nail driving. Furthermore, in the back of the garden were waiting a small Finnish sauna (and a bathtub full of ice cubes).

The festival also offers a lot of food trucks and small food waggons. They offered traditional food as Köttbullar, however, also -not so typical for the midsummer – fries, waffles and Brazilian pancakes.

 

 

Tickets for free in Berlin

I can strongly recommend the event. I have to confess, I never visit a midsummer festival in Sweden (or anywhere else in Scandinavia), so I’m pretty sure I missed the best midsummer feasts. However, the festival was really nice, the weather was great, it was fun to create girdles of flowers and me and my friends liked the Scandinavian folk music. One little lead in the end: If you want to go to the midsommar festival of Berlin, you should register before because then you will get a ticket for free. If you buy a ticket at the box office, you have to pay ten euros.

Official page of “Midsommar Festival” in Berlin

 

 

 

Carnival of Cultures

Berlin is a really multicultural city. And this is exactly what the citizens celebrate at the “Karneval der Kulturen” (translated in English it would be “Carnival of Cultures”), every May in Kreuzberg. The highlight of the festival is the big parade on Sunday. 

 

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Karneval der Kulturen in Kreuzberg

“Karneval der Kulturen” (Carnival of Cultures) is a big urban festival with an open programme for free on four days in Berlin-Kreuzberg. At the festival are different stalls with all kinds of different food and drinks from all over the world and of course also clothes, toys, music instruments, jewelers and other beautiful treasures. The festival has also a green area and many stages, where several artists and musician present their art.

 

 

Empanada from a Uruguayan stall

I really liked the little stalls with the different food. I was happy to find an Uruguayan stall with Empanadas and Alfajores. Unfortunately, all Alfajores were already sold out, but I was lucky and could catch an Empanada con Carne (with meat). I was in South America one year ago. That was when I first tried Empanadas (and Alfajores) and felt a little bit in love with this dish. Empanadas are baked or fried pastries. They are filled with different meat, vegetables, cheese or others.

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Empanada and Tartes

When I told the stallholders that I travelled to Uruguay on my own a half year ago, they looked really surprised or even a bit sceptical (perhaps because I’m small and blond). Even more, when I told them I took the bus from Colonia del Sacramento (it’s a small city in southwestern Uruguay, only one hour with the ferry from Buenos Aires, when you cross the Río de la Plata) to Montevideo. The man looked at me and asked all the time “For sure?”
By the way, the Empanada from Karneval der Kulturen was tasty, but not as good as in South America. 

 

Many guests visit the Carnival of Cultures
Fruits and vegtables
Relaxing in the park with live music and beer
Alpaca pullovers from Peru
Key chains and dreamcatcher
Colourful pants, bags and scarves
Bohemian cakes
The green area
The end of the festival was at midnight
Different stalls

The stallholders at the Karneval der Kulturen sell much different DSCN7168stuff. They have pretty and exotic clothes but also accessories like necklaces and bracelets. There was also a tent with a fortune-teller. One man tried to sell me a flute, it was really pretty and handmade. But I’m afraid I’m not such a good musician. Once I wanted to learn guitar, so I bought the cheapest guitar on the internet I could find (If I remember right, I paid around 33 Dollars), but my passion went away so I never learned how to play. But I really liked his beautiful rattles.

 

Parade and street fest in Berlin
 
Almost ten hours needed the parade to come from the beginning point at Hermannplatz to Yorkstraße/ Möckernstraße
Different caravans presented dances and showed their beautiful costumes
 
Brazilian dancers in her costumes
 
Blue Avatars
 

Large parade in the streets of Berlin

One of the highlights is the big parade on Sunday. About 1,3 million people come together. Dance groups, musicians and other artists celebrate and dance through the streets of Kreuzberg (from Hermannplatz to Yorckstraße/Möckernstraße) and turn them into the biggest stage of Berlin. This year the parade started at 2.30pm and ends at circa 09.30pm and had over 70 groups. The audience can join the parade and celebrate with them. I did this with my friends. To be honest, it wasn’t my favourite music (a lot DSCN7198of Techno music, it’s really common in Germany to dance to electronic music and Techno), but the atmosphere was great and the people really happy and also kind of crazy (and perhaps some a little bit drunk). But the streets were full of dancing people, and this was a really cool feeling. All streets were closed for traffic. It felt like a really big party and the whole city was part of it.  

Official page from “Karneval der Kulturen”

 

 

 

 

Food Market in Berlin

I love to taste new dishes from foreign countries or eat some meals I already know from my last vacation (it remembers good times there). That’s why I was really happy when I hear about the food market at the “Görlitzer Bahnhof” in Berlin.

 

Arepas

 

From Switzerland to Peru …

In Berlin, you have the opportunity to choose between different food markets. I was with a friend at the “Markthalle Neun” (Eisenbahnstraße 42/43, Berlin-Kreuzberg) nearby the “Görtlitzer Bahnhof” (U1) and wanted to taste some foreign dishes. The market opens every Thursday between 17.00 – 22.00 o’clock (5pm-10pm). You can find all kinds of different food from all over the world. From Switzerland to Peru, from Vietnam to Italy, you can choose between different stalls with dishes from special countries. 

Sommerrolle

Our first dish was something Asian, they called it “Sommerrolle” (translated in English it means something like summer roll). It’s filled rice paper with tofu, pepper, cucumber, rice noodles, Chinese cabbage and fresh herbs with peanut-hoisin sauce. It was really tasty. My friend bought something like Samosa filled with meat from an African stall. 

 

The location of the food market: Markthalle Neun
"Sommerrolle" at one of the Asian Stalls
Kimshi, a typical dish from Korea
A Naanwich with meat from the Indian stall
A place to sit, drink wine and relax
Little delicious cakes
My desert: Mousse au chocolat in a fluffy waffle

 

Naan bread + Sandwich = Naanwich

It was really hard to decide what to eat because there were so many creative dishes which looked so delicious. In the end, we decided to eat a “Naanwich”, the word combines Naan bread (typical Indian bread) and of course the word sandwich. So you will already guess that it’s Indian food. You could choose between meat (12 hours cooked pork) and tikka cheese (paneer) combined with salad, different vegetables, coriander and mint yoghurt sauce rolled in bread. Not easy to eat, but it was really good (actually, I really love Indian food).

 

 

Fluffy waffles filled with Mousse au chocolat

My friend decided to taste some of the wines they offered. I wanted to save my money for a desert. I forgot the name of the dish, but it was kind of a special waffle (very fluffy) rolled until it looked like an ice-cream wafer and filled with Mousse au chocolat. You could, of course, choose between different fillings like Baileys, strawberry, banana, Nutella or just very common with sugar and cinnamon. The evening was very nice, why we will come again and after the closing hours we went into the next bar to drink a beer. 

Official page: Markthalle Neun

 

 

First time in a mosque

When a West European girl visits a mosque for the first time …

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Visit the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

The most immigrants in my home country Germany are from Turkey. Nonetheless, I never knew much about the Islam. A really good friend told me once something about the five pillars of the religion. His mother is from Turkey, so he knows a lot more about the religion than me. Actually, I really had the wish to visit a mosque a long time ago. I got this chance when my unversity in Berlin had an exchange with Istanbul. This should be the first time I would see a mosque from inside. It was really exciting for me.

Actually, my first “connection” with the mosque was already three days before the beginning of the exchange. When we went to the city a Muezzin started to call and pray from the minaret. For me, it felt really strange at first. We started to scream a little bit against the calls from the Muezzin to continue our small talk. But maybe you can compare it with the bells from Christian churches, they also “call” the believers into the church.

Washing rules and blue scarves

DSCN6727I really like the architecture of the big mosques in Istanbul. We visited the Hagia Sophia. First of all, you have to wash themselves before you are allowed to enter the mosque. There are different water taps outside, one side for men, the other for women. They have kind of a fixed process how to wash themselves and when. One of the five pillars is praying, so Muslims should pray five times a day. But the most important prayer is Fridays.

After washing face, head, and feet (actually, most of our group just watched like the others did), we enter a line of people. In front of the mosque, they distribute blue scarves for women. Because when a woman wants to enter the mosque she has to cover her legs, arms, and hair. So we all tried to hide our hair with the blue scarves and wear long blue skirts (actually, I don’t know why we had to wear these skirts because all of us had long pants, but the men at the entry said to us our legs are too skinny). The last stop before entering the mosque is a floor where you have to take off your shoes. Everyone gets a plastic bag for his shoes. 

With selfie sticks in the mosque

Finally, we were allowed to went into the mosque. The Hagia Sophia is really big, beautiful and has – I believe as every mosque- many domes. The whole mosque has carpet. One of our German exchange students meant walking without shoes on this carpet feels a little bit more home. We should perhaps do the same in our churches. 

The mosque seemed very bright and colorful with his beautiful windows, painted domes and pillars. The lamps hung really deep, this was special for me. In the Hagiga Sophia are many tourists. It looks a little bit strange, the women with their scarves on their heads, posing for a photo with their selfie sticks. 

It was really interesting to be in a mosque for the first time and hear something about the second biggest religion in the world. 

Good to know about Germany

You plan to visit Germany? Then you’re on the right page. Here you find some “Insider” news, tips, help and other good-to-know-stuff  about my home country. 

 

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Brandenburger Tor

 

Germany has a size from over 350,000 square kilometers and more than 80 million inhabitants. Our capital is Berlin, and of course, we speak German and pay with the Euro. Our head of government is a woman. Our country has a big historical background (and not everything was good), especially the Second World War is still an important subject in Germany and we were divided into two countries (with a wall between which even divided Berlin into two parts). The German reunification was on the 3rd October 1990, it is our national holiday. We are less than a half percent of the world…

 

Shops are closed on Sundays: It’s cheaper to buy food in the supermarket and cook an own meal than go out to a restaurant. However, if you go to restaurants or clubs it is important to give the waiter tip (around 10%, in bars most time we just round the sum up) for his good service. But when the waiter was impolite or the service bad you do not need to gibe tip. If you want to buy food in the supermarket you should know that all shops and supermarkets are usually closed on Sundays. There are some exceptions on special days or special little shops. But the stuff will be more expensive there. If you need anyway, something you could be lucky at a petrol station or at shops in the train stations. Some bigger cities also have some markets, which are open on Sundays. One special attention for tourists in Bavaria (Munich, Nuremberg, castle Neuschwanstein) and Saarland: Supermarkets close here a little bit earlier, at the latest 8pm.

Extra money for plastic and beer bottles: In Germany, we have a deposit for most bottles. You recognise it through a little sign on the bottle, shows a can and a bottle with a returning arrow. Most plastic bottles, but also cans and beer bottles have deposit. Most big glass bottles with alcohol (wine or spirits) are non-returnable bottles. Plastic bottles and cans have 0.25 Euro deposit, beer bottles (glass) only 0.08 Euro. After you emptied the bottle you can bring it back to the supermarket and get your money back. This deposit system is part of the environmental protection of Germany and should help the recycling system. Furthermore, many homeless people in Germany collect bottles with a deposit from public parks.

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Bundestag

Public transport: Compared to many other countries, Germany has an expensive public transport. Especially the local transport could be very expensive (price reduction for single tickets only for kids under 14 years). When you want to travel across the country you can use planes, trains (for long distance travels, it’s cheaper to buy the tickets at least three days before – Deutsche Bahn or sometimes cheaper here), busses (f.e. FlixbusPostbus or Eurolines) or also take a ride with car (f.e. Blablacar). The last one is a good decision when you want to travel spontaneously. There are different portals you can use and ask foreigners to take them for less money with you.

No speed limit: One cliche about Germans is, that German men love their cars more than their wives. I think this could be discussed. But true is we love to drive really fast. That’s why Germany doesn’t have a speed limit on highways.

Clean tap water: Our tap water in Germany is very clean. So you don’t have to buy water in the supermarket and can just use the tap to refill your bottle. Many people buy their water anyway in the supermarket. One reason will be that sparkling water is really in common here (but you can also buy water without carbonic acid).

Age Limits: Germany produces a lot of wine and beer. The age limit to taste this alcohol is 16 years. For any other alcohol or driving a car, you have to be 18 years old. With 18 you’re at your full age in Germany. But for some clubs and every casino you have to be 21 years old anyway.

 

 

Japanese Christmas Market in Berlin

In Japan live about 2 percent Christians. So for sure it wouldn’t be the first country you would associate with Christmas. But this fact doesn’t keep Berlin from organising a Japanese Christmas market. What you can find there? Please scroll down …

 

 

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At the weekend of the second advent I had visited the Japanese Christmas market together with my flatmates (Sometimes we’re kind of Asia nerds). The market was in a big hall in Alt-Treptow in Berlin. The first look wasn’t really Christmassy (neither the second). There were a lot of different booths with typical Japanese stuff like soft toys, pictures, little action figures and accessories. You found hand-made kimonos and self-made art. The vendors were different people from Germany or Japan, who came to the market to present and sell special things.

Beautiful kimonos
Japanese art
Try sumo wrestling
Thuna-Don and Zenzai
Japanese curry with rice
Made in Japan
Korokke (related to croquette)
Yakitori (chicken)
Gyoza
And of course, there were many different booths with Japanese food. In Germany is a big trend to eat vegan, so there were also a lot of possibilities to have dishes without animal products. Of course they had a lot of meals with rice like Japanese Curry or Thuna Don. The last one is a rice bowl with marinated tuna Sashimi. Other little things were Yakitori (chicken) or different crepes with Salmond-Teriyaki, Kimchi-Cheese or Matcha-Atzuki. They also sell kind of Hot Dogs with specific food like Kimchi, Wasabi and Teriyaki. Okonomiyaki reminded me to a big pancake, I think you could compare it with each other. Of course you could eat typical food like Sushi and Japanese soap. They also sell Zenzai. It’s a sweet red bean soup. 

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My Gyoza

It was really hard to choose only one dish from the big offer. I decided to try Gyoza. It’s thinly rolled pieces of pastry filled with meat (pork) or vegetables (vegetarian). If you know the German “Maulentaschen” you will know, what I mean. You eat it with soya sauce. It was really delicious, but I waited for one hour to get them because the food needs a lot of time and many people wanted to eat them. But I was lucky because the seller gave me one Gyoza more. Thanks to the hospitable Japanese.

 

 

 

Christmas Markets Berlin Pt.II

Christmas markets at the Kurfürstendamm, Alexanderplatz and nearby the Rotem Rathaus in Berlin. I tell you where you find a rink for ice skating and real snow, which doesn’t depend on the weather.

 

 

What is a Christmas Market?
Christmas markets are street markets during the weeks if Advent. These kind of markets are really typical for Germany, but also Austria, South Tyrol (Northern Italy) and some eastern regions in France. The history goes back to Late Middle Ages of German-Speaking parts in Europe. Christmas markets have a lot of different stalls which sell all kinds of things, also typical Christmas dishes as German gingerbread (“Lebkuchen”), candied almonds, a variety of sausages (“Bratwurst”) and hot mulled wine (“Glühwein”).

 

City-Christmas market at the Gedächtniskirche

One of the most famous churches in Berlin is the “Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche” at the Kurfürstendamm in Charlottenburg.

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I really enjoyed the mood of the Christmas market there, because of the thousand beautiful lights in the trees and above. Really typical for the markets in Berlin are the big Christmas pyramids with candles and figures from the nativity scene. Above the pyramid is a wheel, which turns around.

The entry of the "City Weihnachtsmarkt"
The Christmas tree at the entry
"Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche" (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) is in the thick of the market
A carpet of lights
The Christmas Pyramid
 
A big Christmas ball ornament

Christmas Market at the Alexanderplatz

The Christmas Market of the Alexanderplatz has many different food booths with typical German sausages, French Crêpes and sugared almonds.
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Furthermore, the stallholders sell different Christmas stuff like candles, star lamps, soap, clothes or all other kinds of things for decorating or design your home. It has a big carousel for children nearby the ‘World Time Clock’ and a really cool Christmas pyramid. One floor is a little indoor room, where you can drink your hot mulled wine. Around of the pyramid are tiny fireplaces. One of the highlights is the snow which falls down from the pyramid at every full hour. And this snow will fall without matter if it’s cold enough or not (the snow is foam).
The "World Time Clock" in front of the Christmas Pyramid at the Alexanderplatz
Snow and the Television Tower in the background
Snow at the Christmas pyramid
Alexanderplatz

 

Christmas Market at the Rotes Rathaus

Not far away from the Christmas market at the Alexanderplatz you will find the next big market.

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It’s near by the Rothem Rathaus (red town hall). It has a big wheel and a skating rink around the fountain (Neptunbrunnen) for ice skating. One special menu in Berlin is warm green cabbage. Normally it will be served with sausages. Another particular dish is Lángos from Hungary and fried apples.

Different decorations and lights
A big wheel at the Christmas market of Rothes Rathaus
... fried apples
 

 

 

Christmas Markets Berlin Pt.I

Berlin has over 50 Christmas markets, one of them is the Scandinavian Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt with Glögg, Feuerzangenbowle and the “Open-Air-Mantel-Heizung”. Another one is at the castle of Charlottenburg and the Potsdamer Platz.

 

 

What is a Christmas Market?
Christmas markets are street markets during the weeks if Advent. These kind of markets are really typical for Germany, but also Austria, South Tyrol (Northern Italy) and some eastern regions in France. The history goes back to Late Middle Ages of German-Speaking parts in Europe. Christmas markets have a lot of different stalls which sell all kinds of things, also typical Christmas dishes as German gingerbread (“Lebkuchen”), candied almonds, a variety of sausages (“Bratwurst”) and hot mulled wine (“Glühwein”).

 

 

Lucia Christmas Market

I just moved to Berlin a few weeks ago. The capital of Germany has a lot of different Christmas markets and I want to try to discover some of them the next weeks until Christmas.

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The first Christmas market I visited was the “Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt” in Prenzlauer Berg. You can find him at the “Kulturbrauerei” at the Subway Stop “Eberswalder Straße”.

The market gets his name from Lucia from Scandinavia, she brings the lights on the 13th December (in English it’s the Saint Lucy’s Day). Of course, you will also get here some Scandinavian drinks like Glögg. But of course you can also drink the typical hot mulled wine, you can buy at every German Christmas market. Or another choice could be “Feuerzangenbowle”. The drink is named after the pliers above it. It’s hot mulled wine with rum-soaked sugarloaf, which has a blue flame.  

When you easily feel cold you should visit the “Open-Air-Mantel-Heizung”. Visitors can wear one of the coats, which are combined with heaters, which get their warmth from an oven nearby.  

A stall with different candles and decoration
 
 
"Feuerzangenbowle" (hot mulled wine with rum-soaked sugarloaf above)
Open-Air-Mantel-Heizung
Open-Air-Mantel-Heizung

 

Christmas Market at the Castle of Charlottenburg

Charlottenburg is one of the most expensive districts, however, in my opinion also one of the fancier ones. It has different Christmas markets, one of them is at the castle of Charlottenburg near the train station “Westend”.

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The Christmas market is really large and has one little section especially for children with different carousels, a little roller coaster and a special train.

However, the market has also a lot of different stalls where the (international) holders sell Christmas decorations, candles, accessories or also arts and crafts. You will also find an offer of a  variety of food. Germany is really famous for its large selection of sausages, you should give it a try. Though, the market offers even more particular Christmas dishes as German gingerbread (“Lebkuchen”), bread from a wood stove, of course, hot mulled wine and pan-fried mushrooms.

Beside a Christmas pyramid, the market has also a crib and of course the castle, which will be illuminated the whole night in different colours.

 
A Crib which reports the story of Christmas
A train full of candies
 
 
Christmas decorations
Christmas pyramid
The castle of Charlottenburg
The castle of Charlottenburg

“Winterworld” Christmas Market at the Potsdamer Platz

The “Potsdamer Platz” is one of the most famous places for tourists to visit. It also has a Christmas market, or actually two, because it is separated. You can reach the markets really easy with trains and the subway (the station names are also “Potsdamer Platz”).

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The Christmas market has a large toboggan run out of ice (however, it costs money per ride). You can also try ice stock sport and ice-skate a small rink. An Austrian cabin (“Salzburger Schmankerl’ Hüttn”) offers a variety of typical food from our neighbour country. Beside “Obazda” (savoury cheese spread – also typical for Bavaria), “Brettljause” (a wood plate with different meat and sausages), goulash, “Kasnocken” (as the German version of “Käsespätzle” – spaetzles with cheese), also sweet dishes as “Kaiserschmarrn” (sugared and cut-up pancake, typical with raisins), Sacher cake and apple strudel.

One of my favourite candies at the market at Potsdamer Platz was “Schneeballen” (means snowballs, photo above). I didn’t know the dish before. It is like a really large and round cake with chocolate glazing and filled with different topics. I had one with white chocolate and filled with nougat. I don’t want to make too many covered advertising, though it was really tasty.

Besides all the food Potsdamer Platz is also a good opportunity to go shopping. A large shopping mall is full of golden lights and decoration, in my opinion, it’s a little kitschy (but hey, it’s Christmas). Also really kitschy is a big colourful Christmas tree with tonnes of lights in front of the Theatre of Potsdamer Platz. Last but not least, the stallholders also sell different things as clothes, Christmas decorations, lights or handmade woollen hats.

A toboggan run out of ice
The kitschy Christmas tree ...
 
 
 
Shopping mall ...
Inside the shopping mall
The Christmas tree in front of the Theatre at Potsdamer Platz
"Schneeballen" - snowballs, out of chocolate