I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










And then…


Turning the corner and finding the entrance to the Pergamon museum, my hero will go and sort our tickets out whilst I take care of coats and bags.  Security is especially tight here today and we are allowed nothing but a camera in our hands.  Admission includes an audio guide and there are plenty of lockers and an efficient cloakroom so actually, it feels good to leave everything there.

We can go right inside through a small, unassuming door and turn right…




Oh yes, it’s exactly as I remembered it, if not better.

The magnificent Ishtar Gate from Babylon stands immediately to the right as we step inside.  It was this that I’d remembered so clearly.  Me!  The non-historian!




But who wouldn’t have remembered such fantastic relief animals?




Such wonderful lions treading softly along a bright yellow pathway decorated with daisies?




Though parts of the 6th Century BC gate are still being restored, it didn’t matter one bit.




Because the mirror image is there to see on the other side.

We spend a while taking it in, marvelling at the scale of the whole assembly and trying to imagine it complete – this is only the smaller of two gates which would have stood there and they’d have been approached by a long walkway.




Only part of that is there, together with a model so we can get a better idea of what would have greeted us upon entering Babylon by the Processional Way.




The Pergamon Museum is rebuilding some areas and so much of it remains closed.  We took the opportunity to see what’s still open, however and did a quick run through the Assyrian Room where these finely carved panels adorn the walls.




I rather liked this piece of Assyrian jewellery too.  It’s dated well considering it’s been around for more than 2000 years, don’t you think?




My hero spotted this similarly aged wall fragment, all neatly constructed with shaped bricks which piece together incredibly accurately.




And I’m keen to see the beautiful Aleppo Room.  According to our audio guide, it still stands in Aleppo, welcoming visitors as it always has done.  Except that it probably doesn’t.  Who knows?

Of course, there’s heaps more to share from the Pergamon Museum but for now, we’ll move on.  It’s lunchtime and we’re feeling peckish!




Back out into the building site of Unter den Linden, the crowds are just making their way to the museums – we timed it well!




We are heading for Gendarmenmarkt, where we stayed on our very first visit to Berlin, some twenty five or so years ago, in that red roofed hotel.  There’s a Christmas carket here which we might look around later, but for now, we’ll find something to eat.




Blue and white signage is often a good sign, suggesting that Bavarian food might be served here.  Sure enough, Augustiner offers a great selection of favourites and refreshed by a couple of Weissbiers, we are happy.




It’s almost 4 pm when we leave…




Though it’s not quite dark yet, the Weinachtsmarkt is bustling.  Unusually, there’s an entrance fee, so we pay up and in we go.




We understand it’s a security precaution, for this year the Christmas Markets are seen as being rather vulnerable to…well….all kinds of things we’d rather not ponder too long on.




So, we join the happy crowd amongst the clove scented stalls between the two cathedrals.  This is a beautiful setting and the air is cold enough to feel seasonal.




As dusk falls, we hear music coming from the steps of the Konzerthaus so we make our way through the crowds to see what’s going on.




A troupe of young ballet dancers are performing on a small stage and doing a grand job in spite of low temperatures.  It’s altogether quite magical to stand there beneath the cathedrals, amongst a jolly crowd watching the dancers under the twinkly lights.




A stern Madame watches from the side as her dancers put on a wonderful show.



Meanwhile, back in the market, two angels make their way through the crowds.




They are wearing stilts and tower above the heads of everyone around them.  They’re glamorous and rather lovely, dressed in fur and twinkles.




But we giggle at their “feet”, fixed to the bottom of their stilts.  Even angels have a sense of humour it seems.




It’s getting dark now, so we head for a small bar for a drink before leaving.  Isn’t it lovely?




Thankfully, cosy inside too.  It’s almost time we were heading to the Komische Oper, just over the street, for the performance of La Belle Helene which starts at 6pm today.




I note the sign and follow it.  Nice one, don’t you think?




No photos from the show, of course, but suffice to say, it’s the most hilarious opera we’ve seen.  Very gay – it’s attracted a large number of gentlemen in the audience! – those lederhosen worn by the extraordinarily camp dancers are not quite what they seem and are “cheeky” in the literal sense of the word!!

What fun!




The theatre, though modern outside is traditional in style and very comfortable indeed.




The seats are electronically enabled for reminders and subtitles in the language of your choice, too.

For us, we are simply too swept along with the events on stage – roller skates and the most amazing costumes plus, needless to say, outstanding performances by the cast.

Afterwards, we collect our little chocolate truffle (“Eine fur alle”) on the way out and decide we’ll walk back to the hotel.  Though our feet are aching, we are pleased of the night air and hum our way back.

It’s been quite a day, don’t you think?


Walk with us in Berlin




It’s Sunday morning and Berlin’s quiet as we set out.  No shops open – not now, nor later, for these sensible people maintain Sunday closing and so we’ve planned our day carefully.




We’ve walked along this street a few times now but always on the market side, so have missed this small section of the wall which stands here, near to the line where it stood originally.




Across the street, several sections still stand on the line.  It’s not a pretty sight for not only is it shocking to think that this city was divided for so many years within our lifetime, but these pieces are an attraction for anyone with a felt tip pen, or a piece of chewing gum.




So, they’re covered with the stuff.  Yuk.




The streets are pretty empty at this time the day, but it’s an easy walk up to the Brandenburgertor, up there in the distance.




In the grounds of a museum, there stands a green “Ampelmann”.




When we want to cross though, we have to wait forever.  Patience needed!




We were crossing the street to take a closer look at this, the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe.




Walking amongst the stones provokes our curiosity and we want to learn more about the concept behind the design but it’s cold and we are ready to move on. 




We don’t intend to linger here either, because we’ll be back here tomorrow.




I’m glad I didn’t choose to wear shoes like this today, though.  On cobbles, too!




We stand and watch a bunch of people squeeze an inflatable world into a frame, whilst my hero worries they won’t get it at the right angle.




Not bad, eh?




Come on then…on through the Brandenburg Gate where both sides have “stuff” in front of it.  A shame, that.




We’re now in Unter den Linden which is also a bit of a mess thanks to the major works involved in building a new U bahn line.




Outside the Russian Embassy there’s a line of neatly arranged roses, we assume to commemorate those killed in the Egyptian air crash.  The line goes on for quite some way and there’s maybe some significance with the colours?  More sobering thoughts.




On the next corner however, is a jolly trailer outside the Komische Oper.  We’re coming here tonight to see La Belle Helene and watching this makes us think we’re in for a giggle.  Roller skating men wearing skirts?  (Bottomless lederhosen?  errrmmm…)




The building site which is Unter den Linden right now goes on as far as Alexanderplatz, where the TV tower still stands.  We intend to peel off to the left some point along here though and perhaps won’t make it as far as there.




The building site stretches to both sides of the street now, with the Staatsoper under renovation too. 




Mind you, when there are decorative touches to the hording, it’s not too bad, is it?

Last time I came to Berlin, the whole of Potsdamerplatz was a sea of cranes like this – the city is still a work in progress it seems.




A good place to cross the road here, then, in front of the German History museum.  Quite tempting to go in there actually, but for today, we have a different destination in mind so we’ll keep going a bit further.




The Berlin cathedral stands on the other side of the river and looks a bit forbidding in this wintry light.  Rather than cross the River Spree here, we turn left and head up through a small artists market and over the next bridge.




At this point I’m going to growl.  You know why, don’t you?




Here we are on Museen Insel – Museum Island – and there, sitting high above the park beneath it is the art museum.  For once, we’re going to give that a miss in favour of the next museum along.  We’re heading for somewhere I visited on my last jaunt to Berlin and which left a deep and lasting impression on me.  I knew my hero would feel similarly and we decided to make it the focus of our morning here.

Keep going then.  There’s good news ahead.




There’s no queue whatsoever for the Pergamon Museum and we can go straight in.

Join us in the next post and see what it was that I so wanted to share.


A night at the Oper


I don’t know about you, but since I’ve been reading most fiction on my Kindle, I’ve noticed that publishers have upped their game a bit. They’ve made an effort to create more attractive and interesting books with features that can’t be replicated on a small handheld device and from time to time, I’ve felt that ebooks have been A Good Thing in providing an incentive to be more creative with the printed page and to produce something a little more extraordinary as a result.




Something similar happened last night.  We have got used to going along to the cinema, to watch opera live from the Met and to enjoy a relaxed evening with friends in a comfortable, spacious setting.  We take along wine, snacks, chocolates and from time to time have commented how much more civilised (and cheaper!) it is to see world-class performances in this way rather than pay a fortune to travel to London and buy tickets for the real thing.

It was almost as if someone was listening, though, because last night’s performance was so utterly magical and definitely couldn’t be replicated on any screen, however big, however superb the sound system might be.




It started with our realisation that this Aida performance was not going to be one which might have been performed in Verona.  There were to be no elephants, no lavish settings, no cast of thousands.  In fact, the stage was rather spare and having read that it was to be performed in modern dress, we were curious.  When we took our seats in the dress circle, we could see only a few boxes around the stage and a desk with some papers on it.  The backdrop was plain black with a screen.  We had no idea…

There might have been a little clue in the foyer as we waited for the auditorium to open, because from time to time a trumpeter would appear amongst us and play the first line of the Grand March – just a few notes to begin with, but then, a little more.  A small teaser for what was to come, then.




There was no curtain to go up, but as the stage came to life, we noted there was no orchestra pit – they were behind the black gauze screen on stage and the white screen, which was showing what appeared to be a montage of Egyptian themed images turned out to be a live screencast from a docucam over the desk – as the story moved on, characters were able to highlight particular images there and it was a most effective means of revealing their thoughts.




The big surprise, however, was yet to come.  The first act began with the principals on stage and gently, we heard a chorus somewhere.  Offstage?  Hmmm….not sure.  But then, a couple of rows in front of us, a gentleman stood up and began to sing in a rich, bass voice.

What!?  Wow!!

As the story moved on, the chap next to him stood up – he too was part of the cast; playing the King.  He had one of those rich, Russian-style basso profundo voices and I can tell you, everyone around us sat up in their seats.  This was magical.

Nothing could have been more magical than when the chorus began to sing, however.  By that, I mean to really sing.  We’d now worked out that they too were sitting amongst the audience; we could see a group of men in the boxes either side of the balcony as they stood to sing but we could hear women’s voices from downstairs in the stalls and elsewhere.  At times, it was rather like being part of a flashmob.  We just didn’t know who might stand and sing next, or where the glorious sound would come from.

Of course, it all came to a climax in the Grand March, which was one of the most fantastic, completely immersive experiences I’ve enjoyed.  The sound was extraordinary – the more so because it was all around us, we were part of it.  Everyone in the audience around us was captivated too – we sat open mouthed.  Wow.

The story doesn’t end well, sadly, and the second half doesn’t contain any such triumphs, but nevertheless, we all left the opera house buzzing from the experience and I’m sure we’ll not be alone in counting that particular performance as one of the greatest opera experiences ever.  Sure, a night at the cinema is fun and we’ll still enjoy watching Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann (oh….Jonas Kaufmann…..!) now and then. But one thing is certain.

There really is nothing like live music.

(a review and better description can be found here, in German but Google does a pretty neat translation into English if you need it!)


Einkaufen gehen




Our plans for today, Saturday, were to go shopping.  We didn’t have specific things on our list but as always when we are in Germany, there are some favourites to look out for.  So, after breakfast we set out to the U-bahn, past the windmill we’d seen last night – doesn’t look anything like as enticing in the daylight, does it?




We waited for the characteristic Berliner green “Ampelmann” before crossing, wary of the strict fines imposed here for carefree jaywalking.




Tickets bought, we are set for the duration of our stay (and longer!)




The bright yellow train with the Brandenburgertor design on the windows is soon with us.




We’re heading for Wittenbergplatz and when we make our way to street level, we’re delighted to find the station is maintained in the old style.




The advertising is all in keeping, including this one: a hint as to our first destination this morning.




The Kaufhaus des Westens – or KaDeWe – is a landmark shopping destination and having been there some twenty or so years ago, I had only sketchy memories of it.  The calico bag I acquired on that visit remains in regular use in my collection, however!




Christmas was in full swing just beyond the doors and this beautiful tree was attracting quite a bit of attention.




It’s an unusual colour scheme and lavishly decorated - I’m not sure if I love it or loathe it!




We both loved the traditional glass tree decorations on sale beside it, though we decided they were way too fragile for our careless fingers and stone floors.




And though the KaDeWe bear of the year, Rudi, was very cute and very soft, he too stayed put.  We decided to head for the homewares to take a look at the seasonal table decorations and suchlike, but as we did, I spotted a familiar name and jumped off the escalator.




My hero had spotted a familiar name too – so I took the Steiff route and he headed for Marklin.




Whilst he browsed the trains, I took a closer look at the bears, including some eminent characters.




Much too sweet to end up at the bottom of the lake I hope!!




In another corner of that same floor were the Christmas decorations, including the traditional figures from the Erzgebirge.  We could have stayed amongst them all day, but having wrapped up warm against the cold weather, we were beginning to overheat and were both in need of fresh air.




Out on the street, the first flakes of snow were falling.




We continued to mooch in and out of shops: I looked for a coat in Peek u. Cloppenburg but nothing took my fancy.




So we continued along the Kurfurstendamm to the Breitscheidplatz dropping in and out of shops here and there.




In Karstadt we found ourselves amongst Christmas things again and enjoyed gleaning a few ideas to recreate at home, maybe.




By now, we were both flagging a bit.  Time to return to the U Bahn and make our way back to Potsdamer Platz to put our feet up for a while.




We changed trains at Wittenbergplatz and were soon back where we’d started.




The temptation to walk back through the lavishly decorated Arkaden was too great, though and we took a look around before going across the street into the hotel.




Here we found more Christmas decorating ideas and still more temptation to buy!




Simple things, pretty things, beautifully displayed.




But right now, my feet are complaining and I’m ready for a rest.  We’ve booked an early supper at the restaurant across the street because we have tickets for the opera tonight.

Enough for now, then.  We’ve got to leave some things for tomorrow Winking smile


Black Friday




I soon tired of deleting what seemed like hundreds of “Black Friday” offers in my email box and didn’t buy a thing.  Instead, we jumped in the car and headed east.  To Heathrow.  To Berlin!




A couple of hours later, we’d arrived at Tegel airport, hopped in a cab and by 5.30 ish, we were comfortably settled into our hotel on Marlene Dietrich Platz.




I’m not sure if they expected a pair of erudite readers this weekend or what, but my hero has a choice of classics to read – a good cure for insomnia, I think.




I have a couple of business texts and thisauf Deutsch, of course.  That might be anything but a cure for insomnia…no sleepless nights wanted here, thank you!  (A good job I brought my kindle and my current read, Let the Great World Spin)




Anyway, a quick unpack, a few thoughts of Ellis and Mary in Thousand Oaks Mall (on Black Friday!!  aaaagh!) and we were out in search of dinner.




It’s Advent weekend here and yes, Christmas has begun.




No problem in finding the perfect start to the weekend!!




The Lindenbrau bierstube was buzzing, the beer was great and the food terrific.  Our weekend was off to a fine start.




Comfortably stuffed (or, in my hero’s case, uncomfortably stuffed!) we took the longer route back to the hotel, groaning at the mere thought of more food.




We stood and admired the “windmill” coffee and gluehwein kiosk outside the shopping mall.




Resisting the temptation to go and look inside – shopping can wait until tomorrow.




Instead, we strolled along the little market stalls selling gingerbread hearts




and chocolate tools (yes, don’t they look real?!)




Taking a peek at the ice rink and the brightly coloured Christmas tree before retreating from the cold night air to the comfort of our hotel.




Goodnight from room 703.  See you in the morning for more adventures!