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Berlin Day 3

November 23, 2017 Leave a comment
We got a late start on our third day in Berlin. My body is still adjusting to a new time zone and I didn’t get to sleep until late and consequently we didn’t leave the hotel until about noon.

Our first stop was lunch at W Der Imbiss. My friend, Chef George, had referred me to his friend’s, Chef Gordon’s, Restaurant. W Der Imbiss is a vegan/vegetarian place serving an eclectic menu with a great many dishes prepared in an Indian tandoor oven. The naan is acclaimed. The theme of the decor is Tiki as you can see from the photos below. There are two locations.

W der imbiss

My friend’s friend’s restaurant in Berlin – W der Imbiss

W der Imbiss menus

W der imbiss menus

W der Imbiss Tiki Bar (inside)

W der Imbiss Tiki Bar (inside)

Our feature destination yesterday was the hipster neighborhood of Kreuzberg and our itinerary was outlined by a Luxe travel guide. The walk was a delightful mix of large 19th century squares and parks, some ornate baroque buildings, some plain old retail store fronts, and some hip retail interiors.
Our first stop was Modular an art supply store with a great inventory of pens, paints, 3-D printing and all other things art and design.
Attached to Modular is Werkhaus which has awesome board cut outs to self assemble for storage, organisation, and decoration.
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Van Life at Werkhaus (Kreuzberg, Berlin)

We checked out the stylish Voo clothing store which had an exhibit on the Top 10 iconic sneakers (9 of which were Nike and 1 of which was Converse Chuck Taylor’s).
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Four of the top 10 iconic sports shoes as designed by Virgil Abloh

We walked from the last stop on the shopping tour over to Friedrichshain to see the East Side Gallery which is a section of the Berlin Wall that is covered in murals/street art and has been left standing to preserve the art and history.
We then took our first train ride to head to the other side of Kreuzberg from which we started in order to enjoy a currywurst from Curry 36 which was called out in my Fodor’s travel guide. I’d been waiting to try currywurst in Berlin since I first tried it when a Berliner opened up a currywurst stand in Silverlake some years ago. It would not be overstating it to say I flew to Berlin simply to have a 2€ snack.  The currywurst at Curry 36 did not exceed the currywurst in LA. The Silverlake location of Currywurst is now closed but you can try it at LA’s Grand Central Market and save yourself the trip to Berlin.
While in this neighborhood we checked out Bio Market which appears to be the German version of Whole Foods. There are so many fewer packaged items in Germany than in U.S.  It pointed out to me how industrialized our food supply is and how much a focus there is on convenience in our country.
We also checked my Yelp bookmarks and saw that we were near two Jazz clubs the Dodo and the Yorkschlossen. We walked past both, but as the Dodo was not quite opened we entered Yorkschlossen.
It is a cozy wooden two rooms with a variety of art and Jazz paraphernalia on the walls. It was the perfect place for a post touring beer.  In addition, to my great surprise, they had an Addam’s Family pinball machine which I’d played 100 times in 1998 as a college undergrad at The Looking Glass a Bar in East Village Manhattan near my school that had this pinball machine with $2 pints of Guiness and free popcorn. I plugged in a few euros and astounded myself with how familiar the paddles were – all the reflexes were still there and I scored 40 Million points. I am now considering buying my own machine.
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Addam’s Family Pinball Machine

For dinner, we chose to go to the place Bernhard had recommended to us on Monday – Tiergarten Quelle. The address is S-Bahnbogen 482 10555 Berlin Germany Tiergarten. Bernhard has promised we could get a proper Berlin meal for an affordable price. It was the second perfect place after walking around in the rain. (It had started raining while we were at the East Side Gallery).
I ordered the Eisbein (pork knuckle) with  sauerkraut and roasted potatoes. We drank beer out of ceramic mugs. Bernhard has recommended these “stone” mugs and I had expected them to be sculpted from granite. Most of the others in the bar were drinking beer from glasses.
I didn’t know what a pork knuckle was when I placed my order. I assumed I was ordering pigs feet. I ordered it because my Fodor’s guidebook had said this was a quintessential Berliner dish.  I wa delighted to learn upon receipt of my plate that pork knuckle is a joint (ostensibly from a leg) and was slow roasted meat with no toes at all.
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Tiergartenquelle – Restaurant

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Categories: Berlin, Uncategorized

Berlin Day 2

November 19, 2017 Leave a comment

I woke up and had breakfast in my hotel Das Stue in preparation for a three hour tour ranging from Brandenburg Tor, down Unter Din linden, to Museum Island, and then back to the Reichstag.  I had hired an excellent guide and long time Berlin resident, Bernard.  Bernard has a Masters in History with a focus in German History and an excellent bedside manner.  He graciously and thoughtfully answered all of my questions about the first three Prussian rulers that I had armed myself with from reading The Iron Kingdom – The Rise and Downfall of Prussia

I highly encourage you to hire Bernard if you are visiting Berlin.  His contact information is available at Wien Guide (he is a recommended guide for Berlin)

I am too pleased with this photo of myself as a hybrid crocodile man in the lobby of my hotel.

Crocodile Man Hybrid

Crocodile Man Hybrid

 

Our guide was delighted to see the recent installation of three upended buses entitled “Monument” by the artist Manaf Halbouni. He had not yet seen this art. It is outside the Brandenberg Tour.  I took a photo later in the evening as we returned home.

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I will come back later to write about the stories about Ferderick I “The Mercenary King”, William Frederick I “The Soldier King”, and Frederick II “The Great”.  I’m making this blog post a little more exciting with photos and don’t want to bore the reader with copy.  I also don’t want to spend a lot of time in this hotel room typing this blog post.

We ended our tour by ascending to The Cupola in the parliamentary building the Reichstag.  I highly encourage you to book tickets in advance to ascend to the top of this modern structure, learn about the goings on of the parliamentary building and get a birds eye view of Berlin.   Reserve tickets here.  Here’s a photo of us from The Cupola.

On top of Berlin

On top of Berlin with Museum Island and The Dom in the background.

We returned home after that ascent and went for a late lunch in the Mitte at Schnitzelei for the best Wiener Schnitzel I’ve ever had.

Schnitzel

 

We retired to our room for a bit to prepare for an evening excursion to the neighborhood Friedrichshain to see Little Dragon perform at Astra KulturHaus

Little Dragon Berlin

Little Dragon Berlin

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Day 8 – Trip to India – Mangoes of India – My experience with Alphonsos and Langras

I have been anticipating my first taste of a real mango for ten years. I was thus tempted by Madhur Jaffrey’s journalistic ode to the variety and flavor of mangoes native to India and unavailable in the U.S – “King of Fruits”.
I brought a Langra mango from Varanasi to Mumbai. I intended to have the Langra prepared for breakfast in the hotel dining room. However, The waiter suggested I take the mango back to my room to eat it as the Alfonso mango he would prepare for me would far surpass the variety in my hand. I challenged him to give me a taste test and he complied. He had the kitchen prepare each mango and asked me to sample each. I preferred the Alfonso he had prepared but suspect that the Northern Langra was not completely ripe. I later spoke with my two friends living in Mumbai that grew up in Delhi and Kolkata respectively. They each said that Mumbaikars are too proud of their Alfonsod to recognize and appreciate the complexity of their favored Langra. My friend, who is encyclopedic when it comes to food, described the Alfonso as “one note”. Oh, but what a sweet note! The Om of mangoes resonates with your taste buds and distills the spiritual essence of mango flavor and delivering it directly from tongue to mind. The mango is extremely sweet but not cloying. The Costa Rican mangoes we get in the U.S. are not remotely close in experience and flavor. The texture and color for the Alphonso’s fleash is as rich as its flavor.

I held on to a second Langra a few more days. It ripened and revealed why my friends and its other proponents are fond of it. Unfortunately I’m a poor food writer and unable to translate and recorder my experiences. All I remember is that both mangoes were much better than the ones available to me in the U.S. I’ll have to return to India in order to consumer more mangoes and properly capture the flavors for posterity.

Categories: Uncategorized

Day 8 – Trip to India – Produce shopping at Crawford Market

We went from breakfast to a guided tour of Crawford Market. This is a covered market that had been operating for more than 200 years. Here we saw how the Alfonso mangoes are displayed and shopped. Each vendor takes great care to sort and display only the finest produce to please and retain customers in this competitive market. While in the market we experienced our first monsoon downpour. The monsoons had arrived with us the day we landed I the city, but this was the first time we had been outside when the water fell from the sky. It was quite heavy, but our space-age, breathable, synthetic fibers can’t is dry. Mumbaikers get by with or without umbrellas, but nary a raincoat. Very different look to outdoor attire between Seattle and Mumbai. However, we did see some billboard advertising western rain jackets like ours so perhaps they’ll be more common the next time I’m in Mumbai.

Categories: Uncategorized

India – Day 3 – Taj Mahal

Day 3 - Agra - Basking in glory of Taj Mahal

We departed Jaipur for Agra at 8am. We had a six hour journey ahead of us. There were houses and business being run out of open stalls (similar to public storage units) for some way outside of Jaipur. The road was only two lanes and our driver frequently had to navigate around and alert with his horn scooters, bicycles, and larger lorries/trucks.
We only had one afternoon to see the Taj Mahal. I had envisioned sitting down on the large garden leading up to the Taj Mahal for 20 minute clips from different vantages. However due to the heat and my weakened state we only spent about  2 hours at the Taj Mahal. That was still a reasonable amount of time for Erin and I to experience it together. We explored the masuoleum, marveled at the inlaid semi precious stones, did a full circuit around the perimeter and gazed over the Yamuna river. We also posed with several Indians who requested a picture with us. I do look pretty giant compared to most Indian men and Erim has fair hair. As the Taj Mahal brings Indians from all over India to the site there were some people for which we were a sight. Furthermore, because in the heat it’s mostly Indians at the Taj Mahal in June. The request comes once form of “May we/I have a snap”.  One man handed me his one year old and took a picture of us and the boy’s mother.
Categories: India, Uncategorized

India – Day 1 – Morning in Delhi

I arrived in Delhi late Friday night and did not expect an extensive tour of the city.

Day 1 - Delhi - Bryan Arrives

I knew I only had the morning for touring Delhi as I was due in Jaipur Saturday night.  I only had one must do on my list and that was visiting the Jama Masjid in Delhi, India’s largest mosque.  We met our tour guide at 9am and I inquired about how to balance our day between our morning excursion in Delhi and our evening arrival in Jaipur.  I shared my single minded interested in seeing the Jama Masjid.  Erin introduced a new destination that had been recommended to her by her Hyderabadi friends.  Our tour guide, Himesh, explained though are two destinations were in different directions we could fit it all in and still be on the road in time to reach Jaipur before nightfall.

We first stopped at Jama Masjid.  I had been to the mosque 10 years earlier on my first visit to Delhi.  Those 10 years melted away and I had the sense of having always stood in the large, vacuous red square, feeling the warmth of the sandstone on the soles of my bare feet.  Himesh and I continued a conversation which had begun in the drive to the mosque about India’s ancient and modern history, about Hinduism, and about Buddhism.  He surprised me by ordering a rickshaw to take us through the market adjacent to the mosque.  I suppose “markets” adjacent to the mosque would be a more accurate description.  I am referring to the Chandi Chowk, the moonlit square.  This street serves as the spice market.  That street serves as the diamond market.  That street is for weddings and features saris from $100 USD to $10,000 USD.  That street is chock full of wholesale shoe vendors.  We whisked through the myriad markets on our hired bicycle rickshaw.

Day 1 - Delhi - Jamad Masjid

Our only stop was at A. Kapur’s Trading Co., a non-descript spice shop among many lining the row of  spice vendors.  Walking in I was clueless as to the international acclaim of this particular spice vendor.  Inside I was told it had been featured in Saveur magazine and there was photo of the C.E.O. of McCormick spices visiting the store to speak with the chef owner of the spice shop.  In addition to trays of green and black cardamom, four different peppers, and  small pouches of saffron, the store sales dozens of spice blends for all sorts of Indian cuisine as well as a smaller selection of Ayurvedic spice blends to manage headaches, joint pain, and to enhance results of studying.  We had the most delicious chai served in the store.  I suppose it was my first true chai, or at least the richest chai I’ve tried, as it was essentially tea steeped in milk (no water) with cardamom and ginger.  It was delicious.  I purchased a fancy tea from Assam, but stopped short of buying the finest tea in the store which was twice as expensive as the tea leaves I chose.  The most well-traveled delicacy in the shop were ironically Californian almonds in bulk.

Day 1 - Delhi - A. Kapur Spices

I encourage you to schedule time for a walk through these market streets.  One could easily spend a few hours checking out the shops and walking about the many markets, the majority of which I believe are business-to-business wholesalers as opposed to retail vendors.

We returned to our car and headed to the place Erin had mentioned to our guide back at the hotel.  It’s purpose was revealed to me in stages like wisdom from a lotus.  We were headed to a Hindu temple, a Hindu Temple great in size, a Hindu Temple great in size with exquisite carvings in sandstone (exterior) and marble (interior). Finally, I was told that this temple was completed in 2005.  I am referring to Akshardham. http://www.akshardham.com/  I’d recommend that any traveler passing through Delhi on their way to Agra to see the Taj Mahal should make a stop at Akshardham to see the Taj’s modern Hindu complement.

I had recalled visiting the Cottage Industries market when I was in India in 2005.  I asked my guide if we could stop by there.  He recommended focusing on Kashmiri carpets.  I knew nothing about carpets Kashmiri, Persian, or otherwise.  The craftsmanship and beauty of the end product is remarkable, but I was more intrigued by the process of making the carpets.  Families work together with one member of the family reciting the pattern.  The others in the family twist wool or silk thread in line with the sung pattern.  Each twist of thread creates a pixel.  These carpets essentially are pointillist/HDTV years before these European inventions.

Day 1 - Dehli - Us and Himesh our guide

After this long morning, instead of returning to the hotel we returned to the car for the six hour drive to Jaipur.

Categories: Delhi, India, Uncategorized

Los Angeles to Palomar Mountain with stops in between

We had a great weekend trip away from Los Angeles this weekend.

The focal point was Doane Valley campground in Palomar Mountain state park. This provided easy access to visit scientific history making Palomar Observatory. We extended the return home by checking out Pechanga Casino and downtown Temecula.

Doane Valley campground has distinctive campsites embedded within old oaks and cedars. Built on a slope, stone work from California’s Conservation Corps in then 1930s provides a stairway up or down to your campsite.

The park offers many hiking trails with varying terrain and flora. Some trailheads are adjacent to the campsite. The campground is primarily populated by tent campers but there are a few spots to accommodate RVs without hookups.

Probably the biggest excitement of the camping trip was having a bobcat lurk past our campsite along a dry creek bed.

That bit of feline wildlife sighting wasn’t the only wonder Whether it was fauna of a woodpecker, scrappy jay birds, or a deer distracting us from her foal or the flora of 600+ year old cedars and oaks, forests of different make ups or the stars, this campground emphasize we were connecting with nature.

Speaking of stars, nearby is one of the most important spots to gaze at the heavens. The Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory and its brethren smaller scopes have been responsible for major breakthroughs in physics including proving general relativity and characterising the first quasar.

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