Saturday, 31 March 2012


I've just got back from my trip to Berlin. It was an amazing week that I can't wait to do again when I get the chance. Berlin is an incredible, diverse city that I fell in love with almost instantly.

First up, the area where we stayed - Theodor-Heuss-Platz.

Our hotel was only a two minute walk from the U-Bahn stop, which made reaching the centre of Berlin really easy. The public transport in Berlin is really good, and tickets are valid on most of the underground and bus services, so finding somewhere to stay shouldn't be difficult as the city is very well interconnected. The underground is also a lot less crowded than London, so if you're used to that, travelling through Berlin is a doddle.

We stayed in the Ivbergs Hotel Berlin Messe, not much to look at from the outside but lovely inside, with a buffet breakfast that had a variety of hot and cold options - definitely got our money's worth here, we barely needed to eat for the rest of the day!
When we did get hungry though, there is a 'Wurst & Doner Ecke' nearby which does pretty damn good kebabs (probably still just as unhealthy as over here in England but a lot tastier!) and Berlin's famous currywurst - definitely worth a try! Don't worry, there are healthy options in Berlin too, such as loads of sushi places.

Theodor-Heuss-Platz is just outside the Charlottenburg neighbourhood, where the Schloss Charlottenburg can be found.

This palace is stunning, with a huge garden behind it. We were lucky to get to walk around it on a sunny morning when there were only a few people around.

Towards the centre of Berlin is Potsdamer Platz, a chance to see both the old and new of this area. Wandering around Berlin it's hard to believe how different and divided this city was just over 20 years ago - there's still plenty of construction going on as proof it's a work in progress but the atmosphere is one of openness, fun and modernity.
After you've left the U-Bahn station, you are just a short distance from the Sony centre, along with a collection of cinemas and restaurants.

We treated ourselves to a meal at Josty's, a restaurant inside the Sony Centre complex serving delicious German food. I had the goulash followed by apple strudel, both beautifully presented and tasting as good as they look.

Even though the Sony Centre is very modern, you don't have to go far to discover Berlin's history: a few remnants of the Berlin Wall are around this area. We took a short walk to Topographie des Terrors, which also has a stretch of the wall and a very interesting free exhibition on top of what used to be the Gestapo headquarters. The Kulturforum, containing five art museums, is also around Potsdamer Platz. 

After exploring Potsdamer Platz we wandered through the Tiergarten towards the Brandenburger Tor. For most of the week we had lovely sunny days so could really appreciate the green parts of Berlin. The Tiergarten is huge so we only saw the east part of it (just another excuse to revisit Berlin!).

After walking through the Tiergarten we came to Pariser Platz, the square where the Brandenburg Gate is. Being quite a tourist hotspot, there's usually people dressed up in military gear for photographs and other street entertainment such as dancers. There is also souvenir and coffee shops so you can sit outside and enjoy the view. This is possibly my favourite part of Berlin; the gate is truly stunning and the square is usually bustling but not crowded. 

The Reichstag is just behind the gate along with other government buildings and is again a very impressive sight. We popped back to these at night as well which I recommend if you can. They're lit up and the River Spree runs past the Reichstag; very peaceful at night. 

Following Unter den Linden brings you to sights such as the Berliner Dom, the Humboldt Box exhibit and eventually to Alexanderplatz. The Fernsehturm (TV tower) is located here, where Berlin can be observed from the highest point in the city. We tried to visit on a Saturday afternoon initially; bad idea as the queues were massive so we waited until the Monday morning and pretty much walked straight in. Planning your visit here is essential unless you don't mind waiting around for a while. 

Alexanderplatz has a pretty big shopping centre, and is usually one of the busiest parts of Berlin; however from a tourist point of view I didn't find much that interesting round here, in comparison to the rest of the city. 

Friedrichstrasse runs perpendicular to Unter den Linden, and seems to be the 'Oxford Street of Berlin' i.e. designer shops such as Louis Vuitton. Following the road south brings you to Checkpoint Charlie and associated exhibits. There's also paving slabs that mark the path of Berlin Wall which are quite obvious around here. 

If you fancy a change from the not so pretty side of Berlin's history, I recommend a visit to the Currywurst museum, which is around here too. Yep, a museum dedicated to Berliner's favourite food, including a wurst-shaped couch, a chance to make currywurst electronically, and a sample of the sausage in lightly spiced tomato sauce at the end of the visit. A fun way to spend some time which kids will probably love (I'm just a big kid at heart!).

Sunday was spent mainly in Prenzlauer Berg, where they have a decent flea market on during the day full of handmade jewellery, food and general nik naks. After exploring the market we wandered to a nearby cafe for 'Kaffee und Kuchen' - any tradition that involves cake should definitely be acted upon in my opinion. 

Towards the end of the holiday, we checked out the East Side Gallery, which is the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall remaining, and covered in different artists' work. It was repainted recently in 2009 so the artwork can still be enjoyed at it's best.

My fiancé is also a fan of ice hockey, and there happened to be a play-off game on at the 02 World arena between the Eisbären Berlin and the Kölner Haie. Not that into ice hockey myself but the atmosphere was brilliant, and they go all out with introducing the Berlin team, complete with fireworks!

Potsdam is just outside of Berlin, roughly 40 minutes from the centre by train or tube. We spent the best part of a day here, seeing the many different palaces here, including the extravagant Schloss Sanssouci and the Neus Palais. 

The whole area is absolutely beautiful, surrounded by forest and rivers. There's also a small town centre with cafes and shops, perfect for a day trip to contrast with the bustle of Berlin.

Ich Liebe Berlin!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Seaweed, Spaghetti & Sharks

Just a summary of some of the little things in my life this week...

I bought one of the fresh face masks from Lush last weekend, BB Seaweed, which is apparently good for most skin types. Great for me as my skin is the whole mix of oily, dry and occasionally sensitive.
As it only lasts 'til the end of the month and you get quite a lot in the tub I've already used it three times, which is more probably more than I should to be honest as it has little exfoliating bits in, but I don't want it to go to waste (not for how much it cost!). I haven't used face masks in a while so it's made a nice change to try this one out.
The ingredients are all natural and include honey, aloe vera and rose. It also includes little strips of seaweed, so even if it's doing nothing to my skin, at least I can be safe in the knowledge that I look attractive while it's on! I recommend these as a treat to get occasionally, as they cost £5.75 per tub and you have to use it up within about 3 weeks or so. This has been leaving my skin smooth and soft after use though, so if your skin needs a bit of extra attention to get it back on track I'd recommend getting one of these and using it for the month. Do be aware that this one is exfoliating though as I said - overdoing tends to lead to breakouts with me sometimes.

Last night I made spaghetti carbonara, though as we didn't have any bacon in (shocking I know) I used chicken instead, and added an onion. So not exactly the traditional recipe but yum nonetheless. I don't have any photos, I was too hungry for that I'm afraid! But the recipe I followed is the Good Food one from their pasta and noodle book (it's possibly on their website as well). I love these books, the recipes are straight forward and perfect for everyday cooking. I pretty much taught myself to cook with these when I moved to uni!
I've heard people can struggle to make carbonara at home, but I've always used this recipe and never had problems. Adding a splash of the pasta water to the sauce seems to be the tip to getting it right.

I'm also still in my post-gig obsessive phase and haven't stopped listening to Rammstein since seeing them last week, so I'll sign off with a live video of one of my favourite songs by them, 'Haifisch' (German for Shark).

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Rammstein - 02.03.12 Nottingham Arena

Wow, where the hell do I start with this post?! I knew before I saw them that going to a Rammstein show was definitely going to be a memorable experience, but I'm still in awe of everything from this gig. The thought process and hard work that must go into making their shows such a spectacle is incredible. I had seating tickets so I'd be able to see the pyrotechnics and get a good view of the stage too. I've even more glad I did as they also had a mini stage set up in the centre up in the middle of the standing section.

Firstly, the intro was brilliant - a walkway lowered above the crowd connecting the main stage to the smaller stage. The band entered from a door on the side, walking through the audience carrying a flaming torch, an England flag and a Rammstein flag.

They started off with Sonne and carried on with a set list spanning their discography. There was so much going off, so many different effects and props were used, I need to go and see them again just to be able to take more of it in!

The first part of the gig consisted of some of their classic songs on the main stage. The keyboardist, Flake, spent most of the time either on a treadmill while playing, in a rubber dingy surfing the crowd, or in a huge pot trying to dodge a flame thrower aimed at him by Till Lindemann as part of Mein Teil. All while wearing a sparkly bodysuit. Amazing.

The focus of the show then switched to the second stage, with guitarist Richard Kruspe on the small stage playing keyboard while the rest of the band travelled across the walkway (reminiscent of the Mein Teil video) to join him for a three song set. As they're normally on a large stage with a bunch of pyrotechnics going off, they can feel a little bit distance from the audience, so it was a nice change for them to be playing right next to each other and the crowd. 

The band left the stage before returning for the first of their two encores. Assuming they were only going to do one, I was a tad disappointed when they left the stage after Ich Will, as I'd been looking forward to seeing Engel performed live, so was very happy when Till returned to the stage wearing the huge metal wings that make up the song's effects. 

The last song was Pussy, and I must admit they've won me over with this song now. Not that I thought it was a bad song, just not one of their best so I couldn't see it working as a finale. However, their performance was incredible, and the sense of humour in the song writing really shows through in the live version, making it a fun way to end a mind blowing show.

If there is one criticism of this gig, it's only that Rammstein put on such a fantastic, elaborate show that sometimes you forget that at the end of the day they're a bloody good rock band playing awesome music. You're almost torn between getting into the music completely and just staring in awe at everything else that's going off. 

Even if your not much of a fan I would definitely recommend going to see these guys if you get the chance, just for the theatrics and pyrotechnics. Not only are Rammstein brilliant musicians, they're amazing performers that definitely know how to put on an entertaining two hour show. 
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