28 Oct 2010
Christina Lund Sørensen
I'm a keen collector of refrigerator magnets and I have a newfound passion for 'usu nigori' - sparkling sake

The currywurst (curried sausage) is just as much a part of Berlin as Brandenburger Tor. Or at least that’s what they’ll tell you at ‘Deutsches Currywurst Museum’. No, it’s NOT a joke. Berlin actually  has a museum for the currywurst and in fact it’s not all that bad.

Before going I thought to myself, that it was impossible to make an interesting museum for a fastfood dish, and I expected my visit to the museum to be a quick one, but it turned out that the interactive museum had a lot more to offer than I expected. It was informative, creative and definitely worth a visit.

Currywurst mitt pommes - my favorite

Currywurst everywhere

The story of the curry wurst is the story of Berlin. Of how hausfraus had to be inventive during the war, when food was rationed, which led to the culinary creation of the currywurst. And on the story of the currywurst stands that are social institutions in Berlin. This is here you gossip, small talk or discuss big topic with the person eating a wurst next to you.  In Berlin alone there are hundreds and hundreds of curry wurst restaurants.

One of the many currywurst temples

Deutsches Currywurst Museum opened last year and is open everyday between 10:00 – 22:00. And when you’re done with your tour in the museum your ticket include a sample of the famous wurst. And if that doesn’t fill our belly you wont have to walk far before you stumble across the first place, where you can buy a currywurst.

Deutsches Currywurst Museum

Schützenstrasse 70

Berlin Mitte

www.currywurstmuseum.de

27 Oct 2010
Christina Lund Sørensen
I'm a keen collector of refrigerator magnets and I have a newfound passion for 'usu nigori' - sparkling sake

I love Berlin’s U-bahn (FYI: I’m extremely biased here, because I love virtually everything in Berlin). It is fast, efficient and takes you everywhere you want to go at a reasonable price. I can’t believe that taxis can exist in Berlin.

The construction of the U-bahn (Subway, Tube, Metro take your pick) started in the late 19th century. During World War II some of the U-bahn stations were used as air-raid shelters and a part of the U-bahn system was destroyed by the Allies’ bomb attacks. When Berlin was divided in 1961 the U-bahn lines changed as well. One line was cut in half and another line lost a few stations and in East Berlin armed border guards were patrolling the stops. In West Berlin the U-bahn kept expanding until 1989, whereas no extensions took place in the eastern part of the city until a few months before the fall of the Wall.

Märkisches Museum St.

Whatever the Berliners have been through for the past 100 years the U-bahn has been there and is part of the history of the city. If only the walls and pillars of the stations could talk…

Eine Genaues Gewicht - an accurate scale

Today the U-bahn is not only a transportation system. For some people it’s where they make a living. There are enough gypsies, musicians, beggars and just downright crazy people on the U-bahn to keep you entertained for hours (in case you are bored in Berlin, which is quite hard). Some people find it annoying, but in my opinion this is what makes the U-bahn great – it’s for everyone.

PS: Remember to stamp your ticket before you hop on the train. The ticket controllers don’t wear uniforms and they’ve heard all the excuses imaginable so they wont believe that you just arrived and that you didn’t know that you had to stamp your ticket.

26 Oct 2010
Christina Lund Sørensen
I'm a keen collector of refrigerator magnets and I have a newfound passion for 'usu nigori' - sparkling sake

Flea Market this way

A favourite activity for Berliners on Sundays is going to flea markets and the city has numerous. The most famous one being the one in Mauer Park in Prenzlauer Berg, but I’ve been told that you rarely find any good bargains there anymore and that it’s wise to check out the smaller and less famous ‘floh markts’ for good bargains on … yea, well almost everything you can imagine: clothes, toys, jewellery, furniture and a million other things.

My friend Anna took me to a flea market in Friedrichshain on Boxhagener Platz, just a short walk from Warschauer Strasse U-bahn station. The locals call the market ‘Boxie’ and it’s there every Sunday. Close by is another market called ‘Raw’ on Revaler Strasse. Unfortunately all most all of the stands were gone, when we arrived. It was rainy and windy and I guess most of them couldn’t be bothered being there in such weather, which I can blame them it was horribly cold.

Deciding if it's quality or not

Weather is an important factor, when you engage in flea market activity, but if you’re in Berlin for only one Sunday and the weather is horrible you might ask yourself if you really want to walk around looking at old stuff in the rain and the wind? The answer should definitely be yes. It is a lot of fun to walk around and just browse even though you’re not planning on doing any shopping.

Boxie Flohmarkt

Boxhagener Plaz

Friedrichshein, Berlin

25 Oct 2010
Christina Lund Sørensen
I'm a keen collector of refrigerator magnets and I have a newfound passion for 'usu nigori' - sparkling sake

Well, maybe not exactly after two days in the city, but this very accommodating place has welcomed me from day one. Friendly locals has taken me under their wings and into their house and the other night I had my first home-cooked meal in almost a month. As much as I enjoy being a Quality Hunter there are certain things about homeliness that I miss. Home cooked meals and not eating alone are a few of them.

Arriving in Berlin I did something very unusual for me as a traveller. The first place I went was the place with probably the largest concentration of tourists in the German capital – Brandenburger Tor.

Around the famous gate there is a lot of craziness going on. The unemployment rate in Berlin is high so a lot of (especially young) people find alternative ways of making a few bucks. Dressing up as Darth Vader and convince tourist to have their picture taken with you is one way of trying to make a living.

Brandenburger Tor is one of Europe’s most famous landmarks and is the symbol of Berlin and Germany. Even on the windows of the U-bahn train there are graphics of Brandenburger Tor. The gate was build in 1791, it survived World War II. From 1961 until 1989 it was on the eastern side of the Berlin Wall.

13 Oct 2010
Warren Singh-Bartlett
I was born in Pakistan. My father is English and my mother is Indian. I was brought up between India, Taiwan, Brazil and almost every industrialised city you can think of in England.

The Chinese Pavillion queue was the longest I encountered all day. For obvious reasons, the national pavilion is the top draw at Shanghai’s Expo. That said, the queues outside the other pavilions nearby were also monstrous. Most were 15 to 20 minute affairs, some required closer to an hour.  I passed on Hong Kong, Macao and also on Oman.

I decided to head to the Lebanon Pavillion. If I was going to queue for one pavilion that day, my adopted home country’s pavillion was to be the one.

The queue outside the Lebanese Pavillion was small. The building, a simple cube covered in printed fabric, was mostly red for some reason.

When I think of colours to associate with Lebanon, blue, green, sandstone yellow and snow white come to mind, but never red. And it was stuck next to the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Peoples’ Republic of North Korea. In fact, as I queued to get in, the view was dominated by images of President Ahmadinajad kissing a small, veiled child and Iran’s Supreme Leader kissing the President.

The Lebanese Pavillion was an enormous disappointment. The touch-screens were frozen on ugly vistas of some of the country’s principal cities and the rest of the exhibit seemed to consist of peeling photos of beautiful objects from the Beirut National Museum and a tatty polystyrene copy of King Ahiram’s Sarcophagus , one of the museum’s treasures. There was no music, no photos of the beautiful mountains, the coast, no sense of the joy with which the Lebanese live life. There was nothing to buy (and the Lebanese have a 5,000 year history of trading with the world, mind), nothing to eat (sacrilege!), no pictures of its people and no mention of the country’s beauty, rich cultural heritage or diversity.

It looked like it had been put together in five minutes with a budget based on a lunch hour office whip-round. I left in under a minute. So did most of the other visitors, most of whom were only there to get their Expo ‘passports’ stamped.

I can honestly say that if that pavillion had been my first impression of Lebanon, I’d never have given the country a second thought.

Eschewing Iran (I couldn’t get past the photos of Ahmadinajad), I headed for North Korea. Surprisingly, there were no images of the Dear Leader, which was a bit saddening. There was some classical music, some charming filmed footage of ‘average’ North Koreans at work and play, a huge backdrop photo of Pyongyang, which looked so magnificent, I wished there and then I could visit.

(I (heart) Pyongyang But This As Close As I’m Likely to Get….)

And then just before the exit, a rather odd white plaster fountain composed of naked babies.

(What’s with the coloured lights?)

North Korea 1, Lebanon 0.

In quick succession, I visited Timor Leste (great film of the country), Kazakhstan (nice rugs), Turkmenistan (nice model city) and Bangladesh (great spicy potato chops).

Then I hit the first of the other architecturally-impressive pavilion. Korea.

Covered in Korean characters, and constructed in the form of two characters ‘symbol’ and ‘space’, it’s the work of Seoul-based studio, Mass Studies.

From here, I could catch tantalising glimpses of the vast UFO-like Expo Culture Centre over the miniature bamboo forest along the river and made that my next destination.

Here, I discovered outrage #2. The ‘culture’ on offer was consumer;  souvenir shops and fast-food outlets and a cinema on the top floor but that was after I’d queued for 20 minute to find out. Most mystifying of all, the vast, echoing interior was essentially empty. Most of the many entrances (and exits!) were closed or locked and visitors were required, through the placing of barriers policed by smiling but implacable guards, to follow the same single route through the building.

(And Don’t Think Of Going Any Other Way, Mind)

Up, up and then out along the rooftop ‘promenade, where from behind a metal grill, we could see the Expo, the river and the city beneath.

Then it was down, down, down and out…..onto Celebration Square. The celebration apparently being over no longer being forced to file sheep-like in a line behind thousands of fellow visitors.

Expo 1, Warren 0

The wind picked up and it began to drizzle, so I headed past the gigantic queues outside the Nepalese and Taiwanese pavilions towards the huge building housing the Pavillion of City Being – Shanghai 2010 being a meditation on the future of the city.

This turned out to be the highlight of the day.  The luridly-lit interior – all deep purples and bright oranges – was an explosion of colour and ideas about city life, city problems and what we can all do to make life in the urban world –now that most of us are urbanites – better in the future. There were a couple of great film shows, some interactive displays and lots of opportunities to revel in global diversity – exactly what Expo is all about.

Expo 2, Warren 1

Now flagging – the fairgrounds are gigantic – I made my way towards Europe and discovered in quick succession the lovely pavilions of Australia (ok, so ‘Europe’ is broadly defined), Spain (an essay in sustainability by Benedetta Tagliabue, partner to Enric Miralles, Finland’s ‘Giant’s Kettle’ by architecture studio JKMM,  Denmark’s cycle-track-cum-building designed by Bjarke Ingels Group

and home, for a while to this lovely lady before ending up in front of Germany’s massive pavilion (Vorsprung Durch Teknik writ large)

and England’s spiky meditation, Thomas Heatherwick’s Seed Cathedral, which I like to call House of the Exploding Chopsticks.

In the end, I realised that like a fun fair, the joy of Expo is really in being there. It’s a giant melting pot of people and ideas, a place where some nations take themselves too seriously (Iran and the ‘city of benevolence’) and others, not quite seriously enough (New Zealand and the world’s largest artificial tree). The exhibits themselves were mostly afterthoughts or too simplistically developed to do more than titillate. But they did stimulate, provoke and otherwise give great pause to consider.

Since we passed the 50% mark on May 23rd, 2007, we have become an urban species in our majority. More people live in cities than in the countryside for the first time in history.

The city, though artificial, is now our ‘natural’ habitat. The fact that our natural habitat is artificial gives us an advantage no other species on earth has ever had – we get to build it the way want it. That’s a profound thought. What kind of habitat do we want? What we want our lives to become?  How do we want to live in the future? Will our cities, as they exist today, allow us to become all we can become? Food, indeed, for thought.

Expo 1, World 1, Warren 1.

Happy Day.

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