Category Archives: Europe

* Berlin’s Besonderheit: There’s Something in the Air *

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What has struck me lately about living in Berlin is that I really feel like I’m part of something special; that there is something wonderful in the air and we’re all here experiencing it together. This place is filled with so many colourful characters following their hearts and doing what they love, with other like-minded souls, in a liberal, creative and hugely historic place. It creates this exhilarating environment like nowhere else I’ve been.

Whilst hanging out at Mauerpark (a giant flea market which happens every Sunday in Prenzlauer Berg) on a stinking hot day, the blinding sun high in the sky, fresh on this side of the summer solstice, we were drawn to a band playing under the shade of the trees. Initially drawn in by the large crowd which had gathered, and the rendition of a stonking techie track they were playing, it was like nothing else that I’d seen nor heard – the band were making beautiful music with the aid of everyday kitchen pots. Noisy Pots, a fitting name for the band, hail from Prague and come up to Berlin to play gigs in the city and usually play at Mauerpark. Until they get shut down, yet again, by the Polizei for not having the correct busking permit. Tut tut.

To be a part of this crowd who were totally entranced by these exceptionally ingenious, talented guys playing beautiful music on pots; with an additional layer of awesome from a guy dancing beside the band who was quite possibly once of the best dancers I’ve yet seen; to witness the disbelieving smiles on peoples faces. It was a truly Berlin moment, a time where I felt so happy to be here sharing this delight with others.

Mauerpark

Mauerpark

Last weekend I was also stoked to see Beirut, an old school fave of mine, at the Zitadelle. Spandau. After biking through massive Volksparks, along the river path through hundreds of Gartenhäuser, we rocked up to the gig and in a moment of true serendipity, the first people we laid eyes on sold us tickets for a fraction of the door price. We wandered into the citadel and were stunned. An ancient fortress which was built on top of a medieval fort on an island where the Havel and Spree rivers meet, it was completed in 1594. It is now used for music festivals, events and exhibitions, and houses creative spaces, museums, galleries and a restaurant.

The massive dance area was lined with stalls offering an array of street food and refreshments. We ate our vegan hamburgers, washed down with Berlin’s finest, with hundreds of other chilled out peeps soaking up the venerable surrounds. Once the synth pop band started, I was amazed at how relaxed, peaceful and enchanted the crowd were, which was naturally heightened once Beirut started to play. It was almost meditative, the crowd not really dancing like we would back home, but barely swaying, mellow, heads nodding in time with the music, totally entranced by Beirut’s captivating music. Again, everyone had smiles on their diles, open and sympatico to one another. It was pure grace.

Beirut

Beirut, Zitadelle Spandau

And then there are times when I just have to laugh at the eccentricity of this place: the poet who wrote my Beau and I deeply spiritual poems whilst hanging out in a park in Mitte in the very early hours of the morning; the lifeguards at the (indoor) swimming pool smoking at the waters edge whilst watching swimmers lapping the pool and retirees aquaerobicising; the young boy shouting at me as I crossed the road whilst the traffic light was still red (“the red man is still there, you MUST wait for the green man!”); the bus driver who couldn’t pull up to the bus stop without crashing into the curb; walking through Savignyplatz and a man unbeknownst to me standing up, waving and giving me a wink.

There is a besonderheit, a uniqueness or distinctiveness about Berlin that lures you in, get’s you every time. Berlin, don’t go changing – you’re totally glowing right now.

 

 

 

* Staying Bright-eyed and Bushy-tailed on Holiday *

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The Streets of Avignon

Living in Berlin gives you access to many amazing countries, all just a short flight or train ride away. I’ve been super lucky to have spent the last week in L’Isle sur la Sorgue, a delightful village close to Avignon, and Barcelona. We attended an amazing wedding in France and carried on to meet some more dear friends in Spain.

Naturally, it was all laid on for us. Enough rosé and sangria for a village fiesta, the best cheeses I’ve ever tasted and croquetas, my new favourite deep-fried morsel of goodness. And don’t even get me started on the patisseries and boulangeries.

Place du Palais

When you’re on holiday in another country, it’s all about new experiences and grasping those opportunities that come your way, which for many of us means devouring a whole lot more of the good stuff and not keeping up with the usual exercise routines. It got me thinking about ways to not feel too sluggish, überunheathy and heavy whilst you are exploring the world. Here are a few top tips that I’ve learned from my own travels:

Move: Exercise everyday, preferably first thing in the morning. Just get up and go for a run, walk, bike ride, swim, or do a few sun salutations on the beach. I also pack a Pilates resistance band and some yoga socks for variety, which are both light and won’t take up to much space in your luggage. This makes you feel instantly better after what was probably rather a joyous evening with the odd refreshment or three. It also means that the evenings are kept free for much of the same carry on. And repeat.

There are also lots of opportunities for incidental exercise on holidays. There is no better way to see the city than on foot or on a bike, so ditch the sweaty public transport options and do your body and bank balance some good.

Delightful French Buildings

Vegetables: Try to eat as many as possible so that you don’t go overboard on rich, heavy foods. I’ll often have lunch or dinner consisting of a big plate of salad and vegies, as well as some protein like chickpeas or chicken. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I believe that beetroot is in fact the key to life, so I’ll buy it in any form from the grocery store or village market. It means that I feel a whole lot healthier, as consuming beetroot ensures that my vitals are functioning optimally.

Snacks: You never know how much you are going to absolutely love somewhere and want to stay for longer. You could easily spend the best part of an afternoon wandering around La Sagrada Familia being utterly captivated. Having some fruit, nuts, seeds or wholegrain crackers on hand will ensure your blood sugar doesn’t get too low and you start freaking out. Depriving your body of the fuel that it needs to function means that you’ll get hangry (hungry angry) and crave instant energy, often in the form of saccharine sweet, stodgy food. After you’ve had your second slice of tarte tartin and you’re making eyes at the macaron shop, your body moves in to overdrive mode, which creates a vicious cycle of eating anything and everything you can get your hot little hands on.

Gaudy at his Finest

Indulge, but don’t go overboard: If I know the evening will probably consist of having a few glasses of vin de pays, I won’t have a gelato in the afternoon. Heck yes, I’ll have the petit gâteaux and have yet another ohemgee Super Foodie moment, but I won’t have it every day that I’m in France. This ensures these little indulgences remain special and will long be remembered after the holiday.

To me, travelling to other beautiful countries is what summer in Europe is all about. Now is the perfect time to make your own swift exit to a place where you can’t understand the local news and be blissfully ignorant – you’ll probably find it rather liberating.