Monday, 28 May 2012

Craft Fairs and Berlin!

Hello again!

I must apologise for the absence, I was busy getting ready for a craft fair on Sat 19th, and then I jetted off to Berlin for a mid week break with Chris.

The Craft Fair was... disappointing to say the least. I only sold 1 item, a bunny keyring to a little girl. There was plenty of very talented designers, making a variety of metal jewellery, to crocheted shawls and handmade cards, along with a vast array of vintage sellers, which consisted of clothes, jewellery and accessories, furniture, and china! Every stall had some beautiful, quirky, or funky items all loving made or discovered. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, there was a lack of the general public. The organiser had sent me, (and several other stall holders) fliers to put up to advertise the event, it was on several websites, and I saw fliers around that others had displayed, but there was very little custom. Anyway, I was pleased with how my stall looked despite the lack of sales, and I did get several encouraging compliments, which anyone who designs and makes crafts will appreciate. While it was a disheartening day, it has encouraged me to redirect my energy at selling my jewellery through shops. It wasn't too bad though, I had Berlin to distract me from the disappointment.

Berlin was HOT. But lovely. We didn't arrive until Monday afternoon, which gave us enough time to negotiate the S bahn from the airport to Alexanderplatz, and then up to the Ferienapartments Lackner, (we stayed at 'Bravo'). I negotiated a simple number coded box for the key, and then we were in! The apartment was small, clean and tidy, and perfect for us. After a quick wash change and unpacking session, we headed out for our first German beer of the stay. I had weissbier mit schloss (rot) which is wheat beer with syrup, (you can get either red or green, we both preferred it with red), while Chris had a dunkel (dark) beer. it was the perfect way to relax into our city break.

We had dinner by the river, and I sampled my favourite beer then, at the Jungbrau pub. it was refreshing, hoppy but not bitter, a little sweet and fruity and basically, exactly what I like drinking! We finished off our night with, yep, you guessed it, a couple more beers - I generally stuck to Pils or Weis while Chris favoured Dunkel, before wondering our way back to the apartment and sleep.

Tuesday dawned bright and sunny and hot. We decided to go for a wander around Berlin, to take in the sights. We began by strolling along one of the wide, tree lined streets that took towards Alexanderplatz with it's TV tower complete with revolving restaurant. (we tried to go up at sunset on the last day, but were a bit late getting there, then discovered we had to pay to go up, and there was a queue, so we headed to a pub instead!). From Alexanderplatz we headed to the river Spree, and then west towards the Brandenburg Gate, constructed between 1778 and 1791. Suitable impressed with the restored architecture, we continued our walking tour past the Reichstag and to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station). A huge glass building loomed above the lowest platform, with more on the second level. Lined with a variety of shops and cafes, the spiderweb of glass created a light bright and airy contemporary setting for Berlin's main station.

After some much needed water we continued towards the Siegessaule, the column that overlooks the Tiergarten. A golden figure, Goldeslse, depicting victory topped the column. We took the opportunity to climb the column for the magnificent views from the top, allowing us a moment to catch our breath. A low first level had beautiful mosaics which must have taken a talented artist a fair while to complete. Having see it from above, we then decided to explore the Tiergarten on foot. It was once used as a hunting reserve. It has since been landscaped, much of it remains shaded under a welcome canopy of trees, although little copses and small grassy clearing were plentiful for sunbathers seeking solice. The Tiergarten was very pretty, especially as we wound our way slowly along the lazy river, bordered by flowering Rhododendrons. It was a very peaceful and relaxing way to spend a couple of hours.

The tour finished at Potsdamer Platz for refreshment in the form of beer, where we absorbed the contemporary square with it's busy yet relaxing atmosphere. After the refreshment, we decided to head back to the apartment to freshen up before going out for dinner (heat and lots of walking makes for two hot and sweaty people! Our route back took us via the holocaust memorial, a vast area containing 2711 concrete slabs. It is a good place to play hide and seek, and many people were doing so, but that doesn't detract
from the significance of the memorial.

Our wanderings took us alongside the river, and as we felt hungry, we stopped for food and refreshment on the way back. And then a little more refreshment. Once showered it was starting to get dark, so we decided to explore the streets locally, and were surprised to discover a vast array of restaurants. It wasn't long before we found the 'Resturation' on a street corner, overlooking the small park near our apartment.

It was a perfect opportunity to sample some more weissbier mit schloss and a plate of delicious French cheeses. (Note the size of my glass! - don't worry tho mum and dad, it's only 30cl, and 3%.) Following food and in anticipation of cheese dreams later, we found ourselves in the 'Wine celler' which, was essentially what it says. It was very interesting, and completely different to canopied restaurants and cafes that line the seats. There was no seating outside unfortunately, so we found ourselves heading downstairs to find a seat. It was small, and cosy, and seemed pretty funky. I highly recommend it. The German wine I had was delicious, Chris missed out by being boring and sticking to beer. However it was the surroundings that grabbed our attention, with the wooden bar, large windows and wall paintings. I would have liked to stay longer, but as we had a big day planned we left after our only drink.

On Wednesday we decided to take a day trip to Potsdam to visit Park Sanssouci, at 70km the biggest in Brandenburg, and a trip I definitely recommend taking. Schloss Sancoussi was the Royal Palace, last inhabited by the widow of Frederick Wilhelm IV, and has been open to the public since 1927. An audio tour guides you through each room, explaining not only the use of the room, but about many of the features of the room, such as the inlaid wood panels in one of the bed chambers. However, that was not all park Sanssouci had to offer. The extensive grounds (and our ticket) also included a windmill, an orangerie converted into guest apartments, and actual orangery, Lustgarten, Chinese tea house and Roman baths, amongst others. There was also the New Palace, which we didn't look round as we were hot and bothered and had looked round quite a bit already. Instead we sat in the shade of some of the many trees and admired the impressive baroque structure.

Following some further wandering we headed into Potsdam, Chris had hoped to look around it more, but we were tired and ready to head back. He is often over-ambitious about seeing things, and as we'd seen plenty in the last couple of days I don't think he was too disappointed.

After scrubbing up at the apartment we headed out down the local streets and soon were chopping our way through some delicious pizza, served by a waiter who had chose exactly the right career. He was polite, friendly, a bit jokey, and even took a couple of photo's of us - unfortunately we proved to be not very good models. My only excuse is that we were more focused on the food.

Before long we headed to Alexanderplatz, and went to a Brew pub under the S bahn arches. From the beer garden we could see the trains go past while slurping pils contentedly. Another worthwhile visit.

Thursday was our last day in Berlin, as our flight back was Friday morning. However, after the busy couple of days we were ready for a more relaxed pace. besides, it was still hot.

We decided to head to Checkpoint Charlie,  the symbol of the Cold War. It was one of the checkpoints along the Berlin Wall where visitors from the West could cross to the East. However, those in the soviet West were not allowed through. When in use, the east side of Checkpoint Charlie was developed to include several permanent buildings, such as the wall, tower, and even a shed where cars could be checked. The West side however, consisted solely of a wooden shed, which was then replaced by a larger metal structure in the 1980s.  and part of the Berlin Wall that was still standing.

Having seen the Checkpoint Charlie, we headed a little way further to one of the best examples of the Berlin Wall still standing.  The wall was built to prevent the mass migration from the soviet East side to the West side of Germany. It was built pretty much overnight in August 1961. The wall since underwent several reconstructions, until it eventually consisted of 2 walls with approx 300ft of dead mans land between, which was overseen by soldiers in towers. During its history, over 100 people were shot while trying to escape to West Berlin. It is estimated that about 5000 made it. It is in a semi pretty setting, with the river meandering along on one side, and construction sites underway on the other. The section was fairly long, and we wandered along slowly, taking in all the various artwork along the wall, some of which were copies from original artwork on the wall, others which were commemorative pieces to celebrate 20 years since the wall was torn down last year.

 A hot stroll along the wall and back encouraged us to go in search of Hops and Barley, a brew pub strongly recommended to Chris. Once we got there (and had a drink in a cafe while we waited for it to open) we both declared it worth the wait. Delicious beer was served in a tiled room, completely different again to previous places. It had a bit of on 'old man' feel about it, but there was a much younger crowd outside as Chris pointed out. I think it's  the good sort of 'old man' pub, that welcomes and encourages younger people who appreciate good beer. The service was excellent, and Chris tried all 4 of their brews.

In search of food we headed back towards Alexanderplatz, but there was slim pickings unfortunately. we eventually settled for a fairly busy Greek restaurant, the beer was fine and the food tasty, there just wasn't enough of it. A little disappointed we headed off to try and go up the TV tower, but were put off by having to pay and queue. It was twilight and we would have liked to have seen the sunset. Thwarted, we instead headed to Hofbrau Munchen, a big German beer hall complete with live band, and some tankard swinging and singing. There was a good buzz and lively atmosphere. We both enjoyed the last beer of the trip.

With hearts wishing to continue our adventures, but the reality of returning back to Sheffield and work, we left Berlin, tired, poorer, and happier for the experience. Now we just got to save for more adventures...