A springy sun day

Have I mentioned that we’ve been having rather super (German pronunciation please, not jollyhockeysticks style) weather here in the last week?  Tis so.  Sunday was no exception so I decided to continue with my Berlin explorations by walking from my house to Sonja’s house for Sprachtandem and taking in the Volkspark Friedrichshain on my way.  It was an excellent decision. The first thing I saw when I went in was this bevvy of crocuses. Lovely.  Spring is definitely sproing.

The Volkspark Friedrichshain was the first public park in Berlin and it still retains a community feel with lots of runners, strolling couples and families with little kids running round causing havoc.  In short it felt homely and I enjoyed my meanders along it’s paths.  Then I got to the star attraction, the renowned Märchenbrunnen.  After a little while “reading” the notice I established that this means Fairytale Fountains, and that the complex I was about to enter was one of the biggest and most expensive of it’s time.  Here’s what it used to look like (so Wikipedia tells us)

Sadly it doesn’t have water in yet, so I’ll have to revisit later in the year, but since many of the stone figures have been replaced/restored it’s still really quite impressive.  Here are a few that took my fancy. Firstly, the turkey girl.  No idea what the story is…

Nextly, the turtles that sit on the edge of the water.  I think they’re my favourites.  Look at his face!  I did like the frogs that you can see in the background too, but I didn’t get close enough for portraits of them.

I also have this funny little guy with excellent glasses, seated on a maiden’s knee.  Again, I’m not sure what the story is but I loves it.

I may adopt the park as my running venue I think, there are some hills and some flat so I could mix things up a bit until I get back into the swing of things and can start putting in longer runs.  Watch this space to see if I keep my word!


Riding through the city on a bike one day

That’s another Mr Scruff mix for you, once again via the most excellent soundcloud.  We’re celebrating the fact that I’ve chalked up another Berlin first today and taken my first bike ride in the city.  On actual roads!  Ok, we didn’t go very far, but I was immensely excited by the whole thing once I got over my nerves and initial wobbles.  And once I lowered the seat….which meant I could actually get on the thing.  Sadly I don’t have a picture to show you how big it was, so you’ll just have to imagine me trying to jump on and get going.  If I can get a pic another day, I will.

I was led on this great adventure by the fabulous Claire, who not only saved me by lending me her flat at my time of crisis, but has also supplied books to read and advice about where to find the best cupcakes in Berlin and is a great cake baker herself if I can judge by her banana cake.  Our destination: Treptower Park and the Soviet monument that I’d been told about by two people in such quick succession that even such a  sieve brain as myself could hardly fail to remember it.  It was absolutely worth the journey.  It’s massive and beautiful in a stark kind of way, the vast statues loom over you and it’s meticulously clean and well-kept.  There’s a definite grandeur to it, but it absolutely defies your ability to maintain any sense of scale.

You enter between two gigantic red things (which Claire opined might be stylised anvils) in front of which are gigantic soldiers on bent knee.

Then you wander down one side or other past central grass squares with iron wreathes in the middle and white blocks with bas reliefs to either side.  The oracle Claire informs me that on one side the blocks are inscribed in German, on the other in Russian, but with the same message.  You head towards an inconceivably big statue of another soldier type with a truly large sword who’s up on top of lots of steps and a white pedestal.  So far so good, but once you make it up there you peer in a little door and see a rather gorgeous mosaic which clearly commemorates something important, although we can’t work out what. We also can’t work out why it’s hidden inside the pedestal, but we like it anyway.  For some mysterious reason I don’t have any pictures of the big man, big sword and little room, but I do have the view from the top.  Well sort of, it’s not a great picture to be honest, I’ll do better another day.

We stayed up there for quite some time, soaking up the spring sunshine and chatting away about nothing in particular, and I consider it a Wednesday morning very well spent.   On our way back to hers, I mused quietly whether my legs would chastise me later for the unaccustomed activities but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Following Claire on her convenient spare bike was much easier and more fun than I imagined, it was a beautiful day and great to be doing some exercise and getting somewhere so quickly.  After I had to leave her I must confess to feeling distressingly….well, pedestrian.  That’s an odd feeling for someone who has always revelled in trotting around cities on foot.

So, there’s something to add to the Berlin list: get a bike and get better at riding one.  The list now looks like this

  1. get a job
  2. get a German phone number and some kind of pay-as-you-go set up. And I learnt that the vodafone German for PAYG is Call-Ya.  That’s almost as good as Handy=mobile phone.
  3. find a place to live
  4. get my Anmeldung, or registration of address
  5. open a bank account
  6. get a tax number Well almost. The form is submitted, just waiting for the post now.
  7. organise health insurance – getting pretty urgent now
  8. live an organised life where I keep receipts for tax purpose, learn how to bill in German and be an actual real life teacher. Work in progress!
  9. get a sofa bed for book reading and visitor comfort
  10. get a bike


To illustrate a point

Over the weekend I spent a fair time poking round odd corners of the internet and got onto a bit of an illustration roll.  It all starts with the Byczek blog which showcased this absorbing video of title sequences.

You probably all know by now how much I love watching films, even if they are quite ridiculously squeak inducing in some cases.   Well the style of different pictures is a huge part of the allure for me – including title sequences.  Of course the Bond films are justifiably famous in this arena, but as you can see there’s much more gold out there than just Goldfinger.

Berlin, by the way, is a fairly hipster filled city.  I can’t quite work out if there are more here than in Londontown, some of the identifying features are muddled, but spotting them is a fun game to play.  On a hipster note, check out Japecake’s hipster crayons for a giggle.  Stay inside the lines people.

Wordle: Squeaks

Oooooh, and today I found this totally genius website for making pictures from words. My words. Pictures made of words = Happiness on the internet for nickys-that-squeak.  I can already see that I’ll play with this many times over, but for my first attempt
– in monochrome –
here is a wordle of my squeaks to date. Love…

Also, while we’re on the topic of cool things, I’m a little bit smitten by Moo.  Firstly, they’re called Moo, which is such a genius name for a company that I can’t work out why no-snaffled it before.  Secondly they have a simply brilliant idea – they print cunning business cards and things in that line, with the magic selling point being that you don’t have to have just one design, you can have many. So for creative types of people with short attention spans (me) it’s a godsend.  Plus their products look positively edible in their design gorgeousness.  Honestly I haven’t been this impressed with a company website since I fell head over heels with Getty Images in London. The website is slick and the business idea is perfectly formed in every way.  Currently I’m trying to dream up an excuse, and therefore the pictures to use, to create one of their shiny shiny stickerbooks.

But to finish where I began, I’ll come back to illustration.  While reading freshly pressed I accidentally fell over the rather wonderful Doodlemum and had a fun time wandering round her blog. I was particularly pleased with this post of this gorgeous pic because she references another squeaky little person. So I’ll leave you with a mermaid combing out her hair. Happy Monday folks.

Sorry I’m minimal

I’m in the midst of processing various thoughts and experiences from the last few days, but I haven’t yet got to the stage where I can write about them coherently. Today I’ve been spending time getting to know my flatmates a bit better, having a lovely Sprachtandem meeting and catching up with home on skype (but still not Cee, I miss you!) so I’m ready for bed not for proper blogging.  Luckily, I’ve also been out and about on new streets in the sunshine, and keeping my eyes peeled for street ink as usual so here for your edification is my latest haul.  Hope you enjoy.

p.s soundtrack from chromemusic – Adele, Rolling in the deep yumyum edit for those that like music wiz pics

Woke up late this morning

I’ve been pootling so far today.  There was housemate chat with tea and pajamas, then a wander round the market with Amanda, and I was so sleepy I let the man take 2 euro from me for a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice (twas tasty tho).  Now I’m putting up photos and cards in my room, and letting chromemusic make the soundtrack for me.   This one just came on, and it’s too lovely not to share…

Asa – Why Can’t We via chromemusic.

And this is completely different but the video is great and makes me think of my girls. Miss you all and love you lots.

Akua Nara – The World is Listening, also via chromemusic.


At this very moment, I love Berlin (note I started writing this when I got home last night and didn’t finish, so the time references are a little off, sorry!)  I’ve been sitting in a bar, with a totally fab girl who is just like my girlfriends at home, putting the world to rights.  We planned at the last minute, we met and drank red wine, and had a totally charming bar man looking after us.  So it seems that the secret to feeling that I belong in Berlin is just to go out more.

I got back here at midnight on Tuesday, talked to LTN and finally went to sleep until work. So far, so normal. But last night and tonight I ditched sensibleness (and dinner) and went to bars with congenial folks – and felt at home. Et voila.  In all honesty, maybe it helps that all three of my lessons went well today and I managed banter with some of the other teachers.   This may well be the case.   Still, I recommend dancing down the pavement to the Strokes’ Is this it? album on a Thursday night and feeling that all is right with the world.

Maybe it’s all in the preparation?  As you’ve probably seen, I did have a lovely weekend at home.  Sunday was the best fun I’ve had for ages, with some of my most favourite people.  We had a celebration of my sister’s birthday and chartership, she’s a clever sausage.  After a lovely lunch we went to Cliveden, a nearby National Trust house and gardens, and enjoyed spring.  I don’t seem to have the words today so here are the pictures…

Einstein on a bike!

This is the best sticker I’ve seen for a long time. I almost missed it, I was walking along the Strand with Cosimo when he had to stop to retie his shoelace. I stopped and turned to wait for him, and this beauty was right there in front of me. If ever there’s an expression of pure joy, it’s Einstein on a bike on a red phone box. I defy you not to smile.

I spent most of my time in town meeting up with my best folks, and not managing to take photos of them because I was too busy talking and listening to gossip. I did manage one stroll in the park with LTN, and as we sat for sandwich consumption and fountain admiration we got a fashion show from this wee man.  I think he was strutting his stuff for the less ostentatious but no less gorgeous lady behind him, and he certainly impressed us. A dapper duck indeed.

While admiring flash Harry, I also got treated to  the most beautiful and most delicious chocolate I’ve tasted for yonks and yonks and possibly ever.  It was from Hotel Chocolat and oooh, so good.

And that wraps it up for now, I’ve suddenly realised I need to run to meet a lady for a drink, so I’m sorry to leave you abruptly but at least it’s with chocolate!