Wednesday, December 28, 2011



... and then

In the past 15 years, we've grown up a bit (and put on pants), but not much else has changed between the four of us. We may have nixed presents in my family a few years back, but the biggest gift of all is to be able to spend Christmas every year with these three. Thank you J, C, and M, for being my closest friends, my most trusted allies, and for always knowing what's most important.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Scenes from a Stroll

Sunday afternoon, I decided to turn off the trashy German TV, peel myself off the couch, and take a walk. I bundled up, practically flew down the 4 flights of stairs through the door in my building, and upon reaching the outdoors, froze in my tracks. It was raining. To go back inside, flop back on the couch, and forget the whole thing? No, this was going to happen regardless of the weather. Emphatically, I marched onward.

Right after racing back upstairs to grab an umbrella.

Instead of doing a loop, I decided to take the subway over to the center of the city (Mitte) and walk back home from there. I head to the Brandenburger Tor, where two major Berlin avenues meet. Unter den Linden, that heads east, and Strasse des 17. Juni, on the west. I've been on the first multiple times but had never walked along the second, which translates to "Street of the 17th of June." I'm currently reading a book on the history of the Berlin Wall (appropriately titled "The Berlin Wall") which makes mention of this street that commemorates a famous uprising by East German workers all across the GDR in 1953 (pre-Wall era).

This street also runs through the Tiergarten, Berlin's biggest and most famous city park. From there I took a couple smaller streets to connect back to the touristy Ku'damm that looks like Christmas exploded all over it. I'm not complaining, it's quite lovely. The whole thing took just about 2 hours with a necessary and well-deserved stop for a Heisse Schokolade mit Sahne (hot chocolate with whipped cream).

This last shot is of a memorial for the 80,000 or so Soviet soldiers that died during the Battle of Berlin at the end of the war. Priscilla, Micha, and I visited a similar memorial in Treptower Park a few weeks ago and there are a couple pictures of it at the end of that post. This Tiergarten memorial happens to be on the same street that less than ten years later was the site of a major uprising by East Germans against the Soviet regime which it is now named after. Just another example of Berlin's complicated and fascinating history!

The Soviet memorial:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

NRW Adventure, Teil II

Not only was poor Pris under the weather during most of my visit to Düsseldorf, the city was also suffering from persistently rainy weather. Needless to say major sightseeing did not take place. My last day there, however, I did have a few hours to walk around and managed to snap a few pictures. It being a rainy morning on a Wednesday, even the Altstadt (old town) was more or less deserted, leaving me the streets of Christmassy-D-dorf all to myself:

Right before I was off to the station to catch my train back to Berlin, I watched the following scene unfold. Want to guess what was going on?

Answer: Man on the left being pulled over by a policeman on a horse for jay-walking. I've heard (and joked) about the fact that people actually get fined in Germany for jay-walking but had never seen it happen with my own eyes.

Monday, December 19, 2011

NRW Adventure, Teil I

Remember when I told you guys about NRW? I'll write it out once more just in case you don't, but then that's it, because no matter how hard I try I always manage to leave out a letter or misplace the hyphen. Just like some words don't roll off your tongue, this one doesn't roll off my fingers when I'm typing. And that makes me nervous.


NRW (sigh of relief), is the largest Bundesland (state) in Germany containing 4 of the largest 10 cities in the country. Cities such as Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf, etc. are in NRW. It happens to also be home to Soest, a small town of 50,000 where my Oma (grandmother) and her family moved during WWII. As far as I remember the story as Oma told it, her mother, my great-grandmother Oma Frieda, acted on instinct by moving the kids from the big city to Soest and a mere day or two later their apartment building in Frankfurt was bombed. Soest and the neighboring village they lived in, Borgeln, were in the countryside, giving them easier access to food.

Here's a picture of my Oma with her brother, Dieter. Irene, their sister, is missing from the picture:

Some of my Oma's family still lives in Soest, namely her sister Irene's two sons, Frank and Jens and their families. They are my mom's cousins but to me, they and their kids are also my cousins because otherwise it gets entirely too complicated. I could never kept track of the difference between "second cousin" and "cousin once removed," anyway.

A couple weeks ago I headed out to Soest to see said cousins and stayed with Jens and his wife Claudia and their kids Lucas, Lea, and Fynn. The last time I was there was back in Spring of 2006 when I stopped by while studying in southwestern Germany during college. A couple blog posts ago I put up two photos of the group and there you can see how much time really passed!

This year it was Christmas time and we made the most of it by going to the Soester Weihnachtsmarkt (Soest Christmasmarket) three times. Lots of Glühwein, Quarkbällchen (mini donuts), and Christmas cheer was had by all. The third day, another cousin Thorsten (one of Dieter's three sons) came with his family and we all brunched and Christmas-marketed together.

Claudia's Christmas cookies:

Thorsten and I with Quarkbällchen:

Mama's favorite Schokoküsse, which she calls a much less PC-term from her childhood. I'll let you be creative on that one:

Serious concentration bei Rummikub:

Lea and I at the Markt:

Fynn and I, the calmest I saw him all weekend:

All the kids at the Weihnachtsmarkt:

The kids also discovered my iPad and all its photo apps and took the following gems:

After three days in Soest it was off to Düsseldorf to see Priscilla for a few days. Priscilla was unfortunately under the weather most of the time but at least that meant she got to stay home from work and we spent time chatting, cooking, and resting. Photos from D-dorf to come!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Siamese Flip Book

I'm currently visiting Priscilla in Düsseldorf and getting to spend lots of quality time with her two Siamese kitties, Che and Buho, which she acquired while living in Argentina. What international cats they are, having already lived on two continents at age 3! This morning, I caught an endearing moment of love, mischief, and eventual reconciliation between the two brothers:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Die Zeit Läuft Uns Davon

Translation: Time (freakin') flies

April 2006:

December 2011:
From left: Lea, Jan, Lucas, Sophia, Fynn (Schwaderer cousins in Soest)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Kreuzberg Day

I've started a new Tuesday tradition where I spend the majority of the day in Kreuzberg. Kreuzberg is a neighborhood in Berlin that's known for its large Turkish population. It's a really dynamic area filled with bars, restaurants, cafes, and obviously, great Turkish food.

My Kreuzberg day begins with a yoga class taught in English by a lovely instructor from New York who has had the pleasure of correcting my downward dog on many an occasion now. "It's not about having the straightest legs possible, Sophia, it's about elongating the spine..."

After class, I make my way over to the biweekly Turkish market. You know, since I'm in the neighborhood.

After a few minutes taking in the sights and aromas I always end up right at the same stand that sells my favorite Spinat & Käse Gözleme. Sorry to kick you when you're down, Greece, but your Spanikopita is really a poor man's version of Turkey's Gözleme. Even though it contains the same three ingredients (flaky dough, spinach, and cheese), the Gözleme's thinness and extra flakiness makes it undeniably superior. It has a lightness to it which coupled with the flecks of green from the spinach almost give the impression that it's not horribly fattening. Almost. Because then your eyes wander down to the paper which is drenched in grease.

Oh well! I eat a Gözleme once a week for lunch and I think I'm better for it.

After the market, I cross the street to my favorite cafe in the neighborhood. It's usually pretty quiet on a Tuesday afternoon, so perfect for working on job applications or blogging.

Yesterday, I surprised myself by bypassing my usual cappuccino and ordering a fresh mint tea. That yoga must be having a good influence on me. That, or it's the post-Gözleme grease guilt.