Sunday, 25 May 2014

Three things I have learnt about Berlin this week

#1. If you make enough of a tit of yourself in the spaeti, they will give you a free lollipop to compensate you for your expended shame. I'm ashamed to admit that this has happened to me on more than one occasion. In the same spaeti. While being served by the same man. One time I was a little bit tipsy and smashed a crate of Sternburg. He went so far as to me a sympathy high five. I now refuse to set foot in this particular shop for fear of committing yet another giant faux pas, which is a shame because the lads who run it are really lovely and offered to give my mate Diana a chandelier.

#2. A small faction of the population apparently really, really dislike tourists, to the point that they are happy to take time out of their day to adorn the streets with passive-agressive English-language graffiti. Seeing the words 'burn tourists' scrawled on walls and tables is pretty commonplace, especially in the newly-gentrified areas of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. Which, incidentally, is where we live. Gulp.

#3. Berliners seem to regard supermarket vegetables as the work of Lucifer himself. Personally, I think they should be more concerned about their cheese situation. Back in the UK, packaged cheese slices are usually reserved for terminally lazy sandwich-makers and half arsed camping trips. Here, they dominate the refrigerators. Have you ever tried grating pre-sliced cheese? No, you haven't, because it's bloody impossible. Sure, you can buy a block of cheese if you reaaally want to...for 7 Euro a pop. Would it kill them to stock some reasonably priced cheddar?

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Friday, 23 May 2014

Freitag: Hoopurbians on film


Last Friday I started work at Hoopurbia, which boasts the claim of being the world's first urban hula hooping festival. Having come straight out of a ten month stint at the UK's leading contemporary circus (where, incidentally, I spent a few months trying and failing to get to grips with basic hoop dance) this is a very fitting position for me.

We spent today basking in the sunshine and filming the new neon-tastic festival taster vid at Platoon Kunsthalle in Mitte. Armed with a selection of iridescent hoops, beautiful patterned leggings from Front Row Society and some rusty cartwheeling skills, we played up to the camera and almost knocked each other out when demonstrating our high kicks en masse. I even got to deliver my own short piece to camera, although I buggered it a bit and essentially ended up waffling "yeah, I'm Betti...I'm new and shit...come to Hoopurbia...yeah." I have always had a sneaking suspicion that I'm far better off behind the camera than in front of it. Today proved me absolutely right.

The video was shot by Javier Blanco Chiocchio, whose beautiful demo reel just needs to be seen.

Kinokio Demo Reel 2013 from Kinokio on Vimeo.

I'll be sure to post the Hoopurbia taster in all it's glory as soon as it's out!

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Samstag: Schlachtensee

We haven't seen many weekends since we've been here in Berlin.

Or, to be more specific, we haven't seen much weekend daylight. It may sound ridiculous, but the nocturnal beer-soaked lifestyle rather tends to wipe out any kind of activity during the day (any approximately half of the memories from the night before). Seriously. Oli and I were actually proud of ourselves for making it out of the house when the sun was still up last Sunday.

It's very easy to get locked into this sleep all day, party all night cycle, so this weekend we decided to eschew the clubs and embrace the sunshine. It was so nice to roll out of bed before 3pm this Saturday, feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world.

We couldn't have picked a better day to escape the city, as the whole place was awash with football numskulls on their way to the Bayern vs Dortmund match. After battling our way past the hordes of fans clogging up Warschauer Str, we took the long route to Schlachtensee and settled down on the bank with a poor man's picnic, badminton rackets and a couple of beers (it had to be done). The lake waters were icy despite the gorgeous weather, but I just couldn't resist hopping in for a swim and a spot of mallard-bothering.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Friday, 16 May 2014

WTF of the week #2: Bollards

The subject of this week's arms-in-the-air WTF moment may seem rather pedestrian (BAD PUN ALERT). Most rationally-minded people wouldn't even feature bollards on their top ten lists of annoying city features, let alone find themselves riled enough to write an agonised blog rant. But then, these people have probably never visited Berlin.

Yes, we have bollards in the UK and yes, I am aware that they are a very effective method of preventing boy racers from going all GTA on our asses and mowing down innocent folk at pavement cafes. But the thing is, our bollards make sense. They're about four foot high, chunky as hell and often have a handy contrasting colour scheme to make them that bit more eye-catching. You would have to be blind, drunk or deeply engrossed in a text rally to miss them.

Not so in Berlin. They're little here - only about three feet in most cases. More annoyingly, they're also exactly the shade of urban grey as the pavements, which renders them close to invisible when you're paying less than 100% attention to your surroundings (as I often do). From what I can see, the bollards here certainly aren't for halting rogue motorists. They're far too flimsy to be of any use there. Their only function seems to be to severely wind unsuspecting pedestrians.

About three weeks ago I was staggering through Kreuzberg in the throes of a springtime cold. The streets were full of dawdling restaurant-browsers and I was wiping the constant dribble of lurgy-juice away from my nostrils - the day wasn't going particularly well. It took a turn for the hideous when I switched my attention for a millisecond from pavement to Oli and found myself wrapped around one of the well-disguised poles. It took a few moments before I realised what had just happened, and by then the pain had well and truly kicked in. I shuffled away, my pride and kneecaps barely intact, to the soundtrack of 20 or so guffawing passers-by. Schaaaam.

A mere three hours later, we spotted a man bent double over another one of the groin-level bastard sticks, his face creased in agony as his girlfriend tried to stifle her giggles. I wasn't laughing. I felt his pain.

I don't know if the Berlin city council have decided to take a hard-line Christian stance on making each and every member of the population pay for their mortal sins with an indirect and completely random blanket punishment strategy. Maybe they've been placed there to jazz up otherwise dull CCTV footage, or to encourage the more tech-obsessed among us to pay more attention to their surroundings. It matters not. All I do know is that they are a major, and sometimes literal, pain in the ballsack.

How many more people must fall victim to these tricksy death-posts before the madness ends?

Berlin, WTF?

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Monday, 12 May 2014

Sonntag: Is this the worst coffee in Berlin?

...I'm going to go with yes. Now I've had (and made) my fair share of hideous coffee in my time, but this was quite frankly the most atrocious cup'o'joe I have ever, ever had the misfortune of sampling.

Maybe it was because the coffee percolator was hidden behind the kebab rotisserie, and probably contained more meat juice than your average Sunday roast. Perhaps it was the fact that the milk had clearly been left out of the fridge for most of the day. It may also have had something to do with the fact that the lady serving me looked like she wanted to throw the bubbling contents of the deep fat fryer into someones face. Whatever. I guess the moral of today's story is as follows:
Don't buy 1 Euro coffee from greasy kebab shops - especially the ones that primarily make their moolah by serving the stream of pissed up, undiscerning clubbers pouring out of the Revaler Str clubs on a Sunday morning.

I could have bought one third of a pizza with that Euro. So much regret.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Donnerstag: Huftengold - queens of the open sandwich

I've fallen a little bit in love with the pastel-coloured streets of Prenzlauer Berg. All the buildings are painted complementary shades of blossom pink and mint green, and every other shop is either a super-chic boutique or a well-styled cafe with an excess of fairy lights and flowers on the forecourt.

That's pretty much Huftengold in a nutshell, actually. Di, Nana and I discovered this little gem after our fruitless second hand shopping trip, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I succumbed to the ditzy-girly chunk of my brain and plumped for Huftengold solely because of their multicoloured garden furniture and pretty bunting.

It proved to be a good decision though (thanks, ditzy-girly brain!) because Huftengold more than match their style with substance. Their extensive menu provides an ample selection for veggies and vegans to choose from, as well as having a host of meaty choices for carnivores to sink their teeth into. I had the open foccacia sandwich with home-made vegan pesto, cream cheese and tomatoes and it was perfecto - the bread/filling ratio was spot on and the pesto was one of the nicest I've ever tasted. Saying that, I've spent the past four years buying the cheapy stuff from Lidl, so my uncultured palette doesn't have much else to compare it with. Best of all, this cracking lunch set me back a mere 4.50. It's good to know that even though I'm gradually inching my way towards financial destitution, I'll still be able to afford a decent sandwich.

Hufties (as I will henceforth be calling it) has it all - great food, great decor and possibly the friendliest service we've had so far in Berlin, apart from Maerchen man, who was something else altogether. Di and Nana were well impressed too - just look at their happy little faces! Hufties, you are fockin' epic, and we'll be seeing y'all real soon.

Oderbergerstrasse 27, Prenzlauer Berg, 10435 Berlin

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Freitag: Maerchenwaffel

Maerchenwaffel has been calling out to Oli and I for the past two weeks for a few reasons.

a) Proximity. It's at the bottom of Warschauer Str, a mere two minute walk from our apartment.
b) The fairy tale-esque white rocking bench sat outside is always occupied by very satisfied looking customers.
c) The promise of over 80 different toppings for their Belgian waffles. Yeah, 80. We were sceptical too, so we decided to eschew our customary healthy lunch (ahem) and put Maerchen to the test. And by God, I'm glad we did.

That 80 topping promise was no exaggeration. We stood in front of the counter, jaws on the floor, marvelling at the spread of sweets, glazed fruits, sauces, cream, jellies, sprinkles...I could go on, but I'm sure you get my drift. It took us a good five minutes to decide what combination of goodies to load onto our freshly made waffles, and that was with the help of the very patient owner. I chose chocolate pudding, strawberries and sprinkles, whilst Oli plumped for the chocolate Oreo spectacular. It is no exaggeration to say that it was the most decadent lunch I have ever eaten. It's a sweet tooth's wet dream, and the expert balance of light, fluffy waffle combined with just the right amount of topping meant that eaters remorse was non-existent. Even with a gloriously creamy cappuccino, our meal was satisfying, not sickly.

The food is wonderful, but it's the little quirks that make Maerchen unforgettable. Maerchen means fairy tale in German, and the genius owners have taken that theme and embedded it into the very core of the cafe. The influence is everywhere, from the original Brothers Grimm fairytale book perched on the window ledge and the crown and frog prince motifs to the gilt-framed screen that projects 1950's German fairy tale films and the tiny edible heart confetti pieces which are dusted over absolutely everything.

Best of all, the owner (who is clearly very committed to maintaining Maerchen's theme) has an astonishingly large selection of costumes, and he ain't shy about utilising them. When he served the neighbouring table whilst decked out in full wicked witch regalia I LOL'd so much I choked on a strawberry chunk. You can see him up there in his Big Bad Wolf mask -  my personal favourite. Excellent.

At 13,30 for coffee, waffles and water, Maerchenwaffel isn't the cheapest (or healthiest) place to fill your belly on Warschauer Str, but the incredible food, welcoming atmosphere and sheer hilarity of watching a straight faced man serving bewildered customers whilst wearing a prosthetic witches nose never gets old. Gooooo toooo Maerchenwaffel. You won't regret it.

Maerchenwaffel, Warschauer Str 61, Freidrichshain, 10243 Berlin

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Friday, 9 May 2014

Mittwoch: Humana VS Stiefelkombinat Berlin

Two vintage shops in Prenzlauer Berg. Three expat girls with a limited income. Two tonnes of second hand boots. Who will emerge victorious? There's only one way to find out...SHOP!

Stiefelkombinat Berlin

Stiefelkombinat Berlin lured us in with their six foot stack of beat-up suitcases and excellent selection of vintage roller skates. The shop itself is a joy to behold; their phenomenal selection of 1930's - 1990's gear is enough to send any vintage maven worth his or her salt into a delirious joy-frenzy, the walls are lined floor to ceiling with the largest offering of quality vintage boots I've ever set eyes on, and the haphazard, clutter-chic decor makes browsing for hidden gems a time-consuming but exciting pursuit.

However, Stiefelkombinat is a bit on the pricey side. Lower grade vintage pieces tend to start at the 18-25 Euro mark, whereas the higher grade pre-60's dresses and jumpsuits average out at around 65 Euro. Shoes are much the same; a pair of scuffed court heels will set you back around 35, and boots generally weigh in at around 75. Many of the items are deserving of their steep price tag, but I have a hunch that Steifelkombinat know the current value of the 'it's vintage, darling' brag and have chosen to exploit it. If you're prepared to invest in a quality piece, Stiefelkombinat should be one of your first choices. However, shelling out on a beaded 1960's mini would decimate our meagre internship allowance, so reluctantly we left empty-handed.

Eberswalder Strasse 22, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin


Our next port of call was Humana, which has a couple of other, larger second hand outlets across the city. It seems to be the Berlin version of Oxfam, and having seen precious few charity shops during my time here I was immediately sucked through it's doors by the familiar sight of jam packed rails and bargain bins full of headscarves.

The shop floor may not be as aesthetically pleasing as Stiefelkombinat, but Humana makes up for it's lack of eye candy with it's ridiculously low prices. A good quality second hand skirt or blouse will set you back between 6-14 Euro, whereas a 70's maxi dress clocks in at around 28. The shoe selection is pitiful compared with Stiefelkombinat's wall-to-wall boot fiesta, but the hefty selection of cheap as chips mohair cardigans and jumpers more than makes up for the lacking footwear department.

Humana also have a five-storey second hand emporium on Frankfurter Allee in Friedrichshain, which is as insanely wonderful as it sounds. However, much of their stock is made up of the general charity shop fast fashion fodder - yes, it's cheap and yes, you will no doubt find yourself a killer bargain, but you'll need to set aside enough time to sort the quality wheat from the fast-fashion chaff. If you're looking to shop vintage without the fuss, make the trip to Prenzlauer Berg.

Eberswalder Strasse 27, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Thursday, 8 May 2014

WTF of the week #1: Ordering in bars

This whole adapting to a new life in Germany is a tricky business. As if the language and the extensive public transport system isn't enough of a headfuck, there are a whole host of bizarre cultural nuances that us expats have to wrap our little brainboxes around to avoid being ostracised and reviled by the Berlin population.

Our first Berlin WTF moment came when we went to the bar to order a drink in a small Kneipe (a pub, basically) in Charottenburg. Shouldn't have been much of a hassle, right? In the UK it's a very simple process. You go to the bar, order, pay up straight away and receive your drink. It's a bastard if there's a queue, but it's a surefire way for the bartender to ensure that you ain't gonna leg it out of the building without paying off your tab. Not so here.

In a couple of bars (mostly clubs, TBH) we've visited, that whole shebang is fine and dandy. But the smaller bars are more trusting - they don't seem to have that in-built British suspicion that everyone is out to rip them off. The barkeeps are more than happy to collect your order from the table, ferry your drinks over all night and ask you how many you had when you settle up. Bizarrely, the one thing that does prompt them to raise an eyebrow is if you go to them.

"What are they dooooiiiinggg??" cried our German buddy Max, as Oli and I sauntered to the bar and proceeded to have a terrifically awkward, unintelligible conversation with the small blonde lady who was serving. She looked distinctly unimpressed by the two bumbling Brit jokers stood in front of her (which was only exacerbated when I accidentally asked her if she could speak German), and the rest of the clientele shot us the kind of 'this is a local pub, for local people glare' that I've only ever previously seen on the League of Gentlemen, or at the Clifton in Splott. Humbling.

We returned, red-faced and beerless, and Max dashed over to apologise profusely to the lady for the faux pas we didn't even know we'd committed.

"Don't worry about it," whispered fellow expat Ursi. "It's just a bit different here."

W. T. F.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Freitag: Golden Gate

Image sources:,,,

"You have to come out, guys. We go to the most famous club in Berlin!"

I'm not sure if it was the promise of sampling my first Berlin techno-house club, or the fact that the above sentence was delivered by a hyper-enthusiastic Italian Legolas doppelganger that made the prospect of jetting across the city at 3am so appealing. I suspect it was a smidgen of both. The fabled Golden Gate club is hidden away under the U-Bahn track in Jannowitzbrucke, and is as far away from the grand dance floors and sugary alcopops of mainstream 'famous' UK clubs as you can imagine. It's frequently called the grittiest club in Berlin, and music purists (or as I like to call them, 'wankers') claim it's one of the only true techno joints left in the city.

I'm no stranger to an edgy club, but have to admit that my first experience of Berlin's notoriously selective bouncers threw me a little. The best clubs usually turn approximately half of the queueing masses away, often for the most bizarre reasons. Not enough girls, not enough fashion sense, too much fashion sense, not wearing a scarf, too old, too young, talking too much, talking too little and simply not being 'Berlin' enough are just a few of the rejection stories I've heard from various disappointed clubbers. The group in front of us didn't make it past the bouncers, and we exchanged frantic stares.

"Right, no English, no Italian. Speak only in German from now" hissed Legolas. Considering my German skillz currently extend to introducing myself, my family and describing what I plan to eat for dinner, I was a little apprehensive. Fortunately the rest of our group speak near-fluent German and the bouncers obviously approved of the boy:girl ratio, so we were ushered inside

The club itself is everything you'd expect from an under-the-subway techno hall - shabby, tiny, full of sweaty clubbers ignoring the 'no smoking' signs while draped in pastel tie dye - and it's bloody wonderful. There's barely room to move in the packed out main room, so dancing on any available surface whilst avoiding the people staggering upstairs is not only OK, it's a necessity. Techno fiends, you will rejoice in the tinnitus-inducing glory of GG's resident DJ's. Hell, you don't even need to be a connoisseur - I've spent the majority of the past four years dancing to endless replays of 'This Charming Man' and I thought it was ace.

A smashing night was had by all, although I'm not sure how many other people have wandered into the turbo-raves at Golden Gate and wound up having an in depth, hour-long debate about Murdoch's influence and effect on British and Australian media. Maybe I'm getting too old for this particular kind of shindig...anyone know of any traditional gentlemen's clubs in the area?

BTW: I know I've been using a lot of sourced pictures recently, but that's only because a) Golden Gate don't allow photography and b) I've been a lazy shit with my camera. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Sonntag: May Day in Kreuzberg

Image source: Fabrizio Bensch at Reuters

You may already know this (I didn't, for shame) but May 1st in Berlin is sort of infamous.

Nowadays people across the city gear up for all-night street parties at the annual MyFest celebration in Keuzberg. However, the now-legendary Berlin May Day started out in the late 80's as a day of demonstration and protest by Antifa and Autonome groups, which were met by colossal police resistance and inevitably resulted in rioting, looting and the setting of all kinds of shit on fire. The first May Day riots in 1987 apparently came as quite a surprise to the population, and were notable in that the police force had to withdraw from an entire district and wait for the carnage to run it's course. Intense. Since then, May Day has become a traditional day for anti-capitalist and workers action, with varying degrees of violence being perpetuated by both sides over the past 27 years. This great article by Ramor Ryan is a wonderfully vivid anarchists account of the Xberg riots, and well worth reading.

I assume the Berlin authorities were thinking less of the party-hungry masses and more about the legions of policemen and women who were heartily sick of dodging rocks when they agreed to legitimise the massive district-wide party that now completely takes over the streets of Kreuzberg. These days MyFest is attended by hundreds of thousands of revellers, who hit the closed-off streets en masse to dance, drink and hopefully catch a glimpse of a rogue airborne molotov cocktail (the day is renowned for attracting so-called 'Riot Tourists'). The heavy police presence is still going strong - as we left Schlesiches Tor station we witnessed a convoy of 14 riot vans being deployed - and demonstrations by unions, workers rights groups and anarchists are still very much a part of the proceedings, but the emphasis now lies firmly on block parties, a variety of music stages and excessive beer consumption in a leafy green park. It's a modern twist on the ol' panem & cirences strategy, I suppose. Give the people bread and circuses - or in Myfest's case, beer and a free licence to party on - and they'll effectively distract themselves from any kind of extreme political action. Not sure how much I agree with that particular game plan, but you've at least got to give them some credit for having the balls to try. I wonder how the Tottenham riots would have played out if B.Jo had told the police to hand out cans of Tennents and bribed Dizzee Rascal to play the streets of Lewisham instead.

There was no rioting on the cards for us this May Day, mind. We were out to quench our thirst for beer and sunshine, not tear gas. In fact, despite our well-laid plans we barely touched the bulk of the May Day fiesta, and certainly didn't make it to the centre of the action. Instead we interned ourselves at a street bar for about six hours and watched a jazz band cover film scores, whilst Diana painted faces and Max played chess. I don't think we'll be winning the Nikki Sixx Award for outlandish rock and roll behaviour any time soon...

Bis bald,

Betti Baudelaire xxx