Monday, July 30, 2012

Little Vietnam: The Dong Xuan Center

We decided to go and visit the Dong Xuan Center after reading this BBC article about it through Twitter. Being big fans of Asian food, we just had to take a look. We went there on a sunny Saturday Berlin morning with no real agenda in mind, only to see what it had in store for our senses. The center is the heart of the 20,000-strong Vietnamese community in Berlin and hosts many services for that community including lawyers, driving schools and travel agencies. It is also the place to buy all kinds of  Asian foods, merchandise and imported products in the city.  

It's pretty easy to get to on the tram. Line 8 drops you right outside at 'Herzbergstr/Industriegebiet' in Lichtenberg. After walking under the plastic yellow arch of welcoming letters, we were faced with a series of huge warehouses. We chose the closest one, number 8, and stepped inside. The first place we went in sold all kinds of food products and was similar to the 'chino' supermarkets and bazaars we were used to in Madrid, Spain.  There were many kinds of fresh weird-looking vegetables, lots of thai spice pastes and some random trinkets and household products. 

As we continued our tour of the warehouses we encountered, amongst lots of other products, some well priced ping pong bats, novelty toilet seats and sunglasses for 5 euros! The stretching corridors went on and on and presented us with streams of clothing retailers, shoe shops, hairdressers, manicure stands and food stores. 

Although the majority of the supermarkets sold Asian food, we discovered a small Indian shop which sold imported spices, curry pastes, chapatis and incense. I assume most of the stuff was imported from the UK as we have many Indian food brands there and most labels were in English. We started to get a bit peckish so we tried out a fresh samosa which the friendly shop assistant warmed up for us. It was very tasty.

After whetting our appetite we headed outside again to one of the Vietnamese restaurants, Linh Chi Quán, and found a place to sit outside. Our first problem was that the menu was in Vietnamese and German, two languages we have very little experience of. Exasperated after trying to communicate what we fancied eating to the waitress we decided to choose one dish with a pretty name which included chicken (the first German 'food'-word that I could think of!). I did try out some sign language with the waitress, but she didn't seemed to talk any language at all, unfortunately for me, that included body language. The second dish was decided upon by pointing at another customer's food and then a nice big thumbs up! A lot of friendly smiles and head nodding later, we sat back to wait for our food. 

I have to say that it was a very good meal. The chicken dish (I believe it was called 'Bún Ga Măng Mọc') was a noodle soup with bambu and red chillies and the other dish (I think that one was called 'Đậu Phụ Sốt Cay') was sweet chilli style tofu. The portions were huge and the price was pretty reasonable too. It only set us back about 15 euros for both dishes.   

All in all, it is well worth a visit, especially if you fancy buying a novelty toilet seat, getting your nails done or if you want to eat some good quality, cheap Asian food. 

The Dong Xuan Center is open every day of the week apart from Tuesday from 11:00 to 20:00. 

Herzbergstraße 128 – 139 
Lichtenberg, Berlin
 (+49) 30 – 55 15 20 38 



Friday, July 27, 2012

Bike of the Week: Number 09

The "Bike of the Week" belongs to...

Yo've got a lovely bike there Paul.

...Mr Frank, we think :P

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Hauptbahnhof

The central train station of Berlin, The "Hauptbahnhof", is without doubt a great example of modern architecture; self-sustaining and efficient. The Hauptbahnhof is the biggest central train station in Europe with a total of 70,000 square meters spread over 5 floors. It cost a total of 900 million euros and was opened just before the 2006 World Cup which was hosted in Germany. 

It's incredible when you arrive at the station, whether by train, metro or through the front doors, how this modern building overwhelms the senses in a labyrinth of escalators, walkways and open spaces. In fact, it seems more like a colossal greenhouse than a train station. Spread over three of the five floors are shops, pharmacies, bakeries, restaurants and much more so there are many things to do whilst you wait for your connection. You can do a bit of shopping, eat a snack, have a beer, buy a delicious ice cream or even purchase a Berlin souvenir!  

It's location, next to the river Spree and in the heart of Berlin, offers great connections to all parts of the city, Germany, and the rest of Europe. Being the central station, it is a great starting point to visit all the main sights of the city and there are many places within walking distance and, of course, a short train ride away.  

The design complies with the highest self-sustaining architectual standards. Through renewable energy systems including solar panels, around 50% of the total energy consumed in the station is generated. The design of the building also features glass roofs which optimises the use of natural light. All in all it is a great example of how functional public buildings can be designed with ecological issues in mind.      

I recommend the novelty of using the shortest metro line in Berlin and certainly the shortest I've ever used. The line in question is the U55 which connects the Hauptbahnhof to the Brandenburg Tor. It was originally meant to form part of an extension to the U5 line but was delayed because of funding. In total there are only three stations but it is a very pleasant ride. In fact the platforms are mini-museums because there are many photos along the walls which document some historic moments that have taken place there.    

With around 1,800 trains calling at the station per day and the daily number of passengers estimated to be at 350,000, it's easy to get lost in this vast space, especially if you are not a regular visitor. 

Once I got my bearings, I thoroughly enjoyed taking in the scale and sights of the Hauptbahnhof and I recommend that tourists try and plan their Berlin trip so they get at least get a peek at this modern wonder.    

To check schedules visit the Deutsche Bahn website (in German but with an option to view the site in English)

Monday, July 23, 2012

'The Art of The Real": David Lynch Conference

At the end of June we decided to head over to the David Lynch Conference, 'The Art of The Real', which took place at The Roter Salon in the Volksbühne in Rosa-Luxemburg Platz. The conference was special as it was the first ever academic event in Europe to focus on the career and films of David Lynch. Being big David Lynch fans ourselves, we were looking forward to finding out more about him and his work. 

The conference itself took place over three days with the majority of events in English. It featured an international crowd of renowned researchers and academics who focused on psychoanalysis, intermediality, genre composition and InterArt. It also featured a lot of people sporting David Lynch hairdos!

In the beginning we were a little disheartened because we were hoping to hear more about the career of Lynch and not just specialists psycho-analysing his films and career. In fact, for us, it was a little bit too methodical how the meanings of aspects of his work were broken down. Sometimes the talks were a little long too. We forgave the organisers though as they supplied free and glorious pretzels and fruit during the breaks. We don't have any pictures of the fantastic pretzels as we were way too involved in eating them. We can assure you it was well worth the visit.   

In total we saw around a day and a half of the conference and our favourite section was where the shorts about and by Lynch were aired. As seen above, one of the shorts was 'The Alphabet' and there was also a very interesting documentary which focused on his life as a painter, craftsman and musician which gave us a fresh perspective about this often misunderstood artist.    

People watching an interview with Lynch
In fact, during the event, we did discover something. People who are too specialist about his work sometimes destroy the spark by deconstructing too deeply. Although the talks were varied and interesting, people will always see his world through different eyes and, for us, the beauty of Lynch's art is that we don't necessarily understand exactly what he's going on about! Maybe only Lynch himself will ever completely understand his work (and, according to the interview we saw, even he doesn't know why he films some of the things he does!). 
One of the fun things we learnt about him during the conference is that he never likes talking about his motivation or the meanings behind his art because he cannot express himself as well in words as he can through his art. It's a good job he didn't decide to be a writer then!             

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bike of the Week: Number 08

Our "Bike of the Week" is...

"Park"ing. Get it?

...relaxing in the park.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Computer Spiele Museum

Here is our first ever post from a guest writer. James Kelly, a friend of mine, came to visit us in Berlin earlier in the year. James is an extremely talented musician, video producer and designer. You should check out his fantastic acoustic guitar music at James Kelly Music and his music production company at Eskimotion. Also, here is a link to one of my favourite acoustic tracks, Lost   

This is his review of the Computer Spiele Museum (Computer Games Museum) on Karl-Marx-Allee. It definitely sounds like it's worth a visit if you enjoy gaming and have a few hours to spare in Berlin. Thanks James!

During my very brief, 36 hour whirlwind tour of Berlin I managed to head down to the Computer Spiele Museum on Karl-Marx-Allee. I’d heard about this place through a friend who thought it would be right up my street and he wasn’t wrong! 

The museum was extremely easy to get to. I took the walk from Frankfurter Tor which was about 10-15 minutes but if you’re lazy or short of time then you can get off at U-Bahn at Weberwiese and you’re about 1 minute away. 

On arrival, the staff were very pleasant and did speak English but by then I’d become fluent in sheepishly saying “Eins bitte. Dankeschön” so it was all good. 

From the moment I arrived I knew I was going to have a good time. The museum captures the first 60 years of gaming history. From the mythically-claimed first ever computer game The Nimrod to present day 3D gaming and everything interesting in between (including all the obvious ones you would expect to see such as Pong, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders and many more).

Classic Pong

It was brilliantly interactive with many exhibits allowing you to play on very wide variety of historical games and installations. All the videos within the museum were controlled by these retro joysticks, which was a good idea but the system was a bit temperamental at times. The gaming milestones wall was very cleverly put together and navigated through a joystick that controlled a lazer crosshair on the wall. Very cool in a geeky sort of way and another example that this museum hadn’t just been thrown together at the last minute as a lot of creative thought had gone into its presentation. 

The Gaming Milestone Wall

I was genuinely interested in everything there as both a gaming geek and on a professional level as part of my work too. I could have spent another few hours watching all the videos and playing games but time was against me. I unfortunately didn’t get chance to see and play everything there including having a go on the infamous Painstation device which looked very intriguing. 

Overall it was an excellent 2-3 hours spent, which could have easily been 3-4 if time allowed. Satisfyingly interactive, educational on a number of levels and very well presented. It's pretty cheap at 8€ per ticket too (15€ for a family ticket). If you’re into games on any sort of level it’s well worth a visit. 

More information about the museum: 

Location: Karl-Marx Allee, 93a 10243, Berlin

Opening Times: Every day (except Tuesdays) from 10am - 8pm

Ticket Prices:
Regular - 8  
Reduced - 5
Family - 15
Book tickets and tours via their hotline: +49 30 6098 8577

Closest Transport links:
U-Bahn - (U5) Weberwiese
S-Bahn - Ostbahnhof
Bus - 350, 240 (Weberwiese)

For more details about the museum visit their website.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Oberbaumbrücke

The Oberbaumbrücke is one of the prettiest bridges I’ve ever seen. It is a bridge that links Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain across the waters of the River Spree.

These former boroughs were previously divided by the Berlin Wall. During the division crossings were prohibited and later limited to pedestrian crossings by West Berlin residents only. The Wall stretched along both banks of the river so after German reunification the Oberbaumbrücke became an important symbol of the unity of modern Berlin.

The name Oberbaumbrücke translates literally as “Upstream Tree Bridge” and derives from the original wooden drawbridge that was in this location as far back as the 18th century. It was used as a gate to the city and, at night, a fortified tree trunk was placed under the bridge to stop smugglers coming in and out of the city by water.

Today the distinctive red brick bridge, which originally opened in 1896, is multi-functional as it allows traffic, pedestrians and the U-bahn (line 1 of the metro) to cross the river. Pedestrians can meander along undeneath the train line under the series of brick arches as a herd of cyclists wizz past in the cycle lane. Over the last few months I have also seen a number of buskers and musicians performing on the bridge, a great setting to stop and listen to a bit of music!

The U-Bahn metro line runs through Kreuzberg and terminates just on the other side at Warschauerstrasse. It travels on an upper deck where there is a great view of the city, including the TV tower in Alexanderplatz, as you cross. In fact, a journey along the whole of line 1 of the U-bahn is a great way to see the West of the city as it runs on a raised bridge along the side of the main roads.

It’s current appearance is down to the fact that the Siemens and Halske company (who built the U-Bahn system) insisted that the metro crossing was included in the design. I have crossed this bridge many times by foot, train and bus as I live close by and I have to say that each time I never fail to enjoy the view and it’s architecture. It is a spectacular architectual beauty and an icon of the city with it’s distinctive grand towers visable from far down the Spree. I recommend a stoll across and don’t forget to take your camera.

For more information about the history of the bridge, check out the article on wikipedia

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bike of the Week: Number 07

This edition of"Bike of the Week" has been changed to...


..."Prettiest Rubbish Bin of the Week".

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

German Idioms: Sausages

I recently discovered that there are a surprising amount of German idioms involving sausages! Well, it’s not really that surprising considering that there are over 1,000 different types of sausages in Germany!

Author - Peng 13:23, 6 August 2007 (UTC)

I just had to walk into my small local supermarket to appreciate the huge variety on offer. In fact the selection of German sausages is so huge that it’s difficult to choose which one to buy, especially when you don’ know the difference between Kochwurst, Rotwurst, Beutelwurst, Rohwurst, Brühwurst, Würstchen, Bochwurst and Frankfurter (now that one I do know!).

Anyway, maybe I’ll do a post about actual sausages once I do my research and try some of them out. In the meantime, here are a few fun sausagey idioms for you.

"In der Not schmeckt die Wurst auch ohne Brot"
In hardship, the sausage is just as delicious without bread

"Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei"
Everything has an end, only sausages have two

"Es geht um die Wurst/Wurscht"
It’s a matter of sausage (do or die)

"Das ist mir wurst"
That's sausage to me (I couldn't care less) 

So, I hope that wasn't all "sausage" to you. This is the end of the post. After all, everything has an end...except sausages, of course!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Kreuzberg in Pictures: Episode Three

In this section of Explorer Berlin we share photos we took from our travels around Kreuzberg. Here are a few more photos of the sights of Kreuzberg.

Do you live in or have you visited Kreuzberg? 
What do you think of this part of Berlin? 
Comments are welcome.

Some camouflaged cars!
A barge with a lot of graffiti.

The "Weingarten" restaurant and beer garden.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bike of the Week: Number 06

The "Bike of the Week" today is...

This one is potty!

...posing next to a pretty flower pot. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Open Air Gallery 2012

On Sunday we accidentally wandered into the Open Air Gallery which was taking place on Oberbaümbruke (the bridge between the districts of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain).

The bridge had been closed to traffic and the road lined with stands displaying artist's paintings, sculptures and photographs for sale.

Along with a variety of different types of art stands there was a paper strip running down in the middle of the road. There were pots of paint and brushes dotted along so that members of the public could add their own artistic touch to the communal painting. And, of course, there was a bar to buy a refreshing beer, wine or snack (I don't think I've seen any event in Germany that doesn't involve beer). 

Our attention, however, was drawn away from the center of activity to an artist displaying his art just off the bridge. His paintings captured our attention and we approached to find out more. Maxamillion arrived in Berlin a few weeks ago from Austria and is currently living in the squat village on the banks of the Spree. 

Artist "Maxamillion"

Some themes he talked about in his art-work include perception, our connection to the universe, consciousness and the universal spiral. After a chat with Maxamillion, we decided to buy some prints. You can find out more about him on his website:

Maxamillion's art work

Here are some more photos of the Open Air Gallery 2012.

If you missed out on the event, don't worry as you will have another chance this year

The Open Air Gallery returns to Oberbaümbruke on Sunday 5th August from 10am - 10pm. 

For more information visit their website (in German).