Dateline Berlin: It’s More a Than Just Feeling Bad About – Well, You Know

We went to a slew of museums today, and saw fabulous things that were really, really old, and it was dazzling in size, scope and depth. We went to a museum that dealt with the rather unfortunate, but hardly original (in historical terms) way the Germans decided to deal with the Jews, Gypsies, and multitudes of other who failed to live up to the Arian ideal. It was moving, depressing, and left you shaking your head at how one group of people could treat another like that, and then you remembered the Germans had their thing, and we had slavery.

BUT, that’s not what this is about (although I will post some pics of the first museum). This is about a meal. You can learn about museums in lots of places. You can learn about history by going to school (albeit, some states have decided to rewrite more than usual, yes I am speaking of my home state where elementary and high school education has become something of a burden to the taxpayers, so they just opted to cut out the fat of facts and science), or just by living a long time. But learning where to eat good vegetarians chow is what today’s column is about. We ate at a vegetarian place called Cookies Cream. It is located down, way down, an alley (past the dumpsters). There is no sign. The door is locked. There is a chandelier. You have to know to push a very inconspicuous button.

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You had to have reservations. It was like an SNL skit. The maître de could have, at any moment said, “ve vil now dance”. You had to spend a non-trivial amount of Euros for a no-meat 3 course meal.

The menu:

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Oh
My
God

It was unbelievable. I had the quail’s egg in brioche, the pumpkin and the ice cream. My bride had the Swiss cheese truffle, the beetroot, and the poppyseed cake. This was high concept cuisine that happened to be vegetarian and was sublime by design and production.

Perhaps if I were wealthy enough to eat there on a regular basis I would tire of it. Perhaps. Fortunately I am spared that conundrum. Too bad I had to travel to where I could literally look through the iron curtain to check it out.

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Dateline: Berlin

We are staying at a small hotel that was once a very, very large home. Pension Peters is in a fabulous location, has a great price, and a very friendly and helpful small staff. The rates include breakfast, which includes great breads, eggs, juices, coffee, tea, and jams. First rate for my bride and me. We are not five-star hotel folks, since we prefer to spend our money elsewhere. If I could make 1 improvement to our room, which is probably 350 sf with 15′ ceilings, it would be a tv greater than the 13″ job that’s about 20′ from the bed. Not that it really matters. I don’t speak German. In fact, I obviously don’t even understand the alphabet. The use what is a Greek beta, but it doesn’t mean that, so, when they do math, what happens when betas show up?

Anyway, Beth is better than Google maps. She loves finding her way around places, and takes great pride is conquering the terrain. We avoids taxis, using our feet and public transportation, because that’s always more difficult, cheaper, better exercise, you see the actual people of where you are instead of just tourists, and it’s part of the game. Our high point in that regard today was when we were stopped by a Finnish couple who asked us for directions in German. When you are mistaken for locals, you win. The truth is we both could easily pass for the local stock. With my short cropped hair which is just beginning to show hints of grey and my “doesn’t he need to shave?” full beard of 5 weeks. I look pretty much like 60% of the guys over 40 (60) here.

So we probably walked 5-6 miles today, took a bus tour of the city that took 2 hours, and now have a pretty good grasp of the city’s layout. We also went to the Checkpoint Charlie museum, which is about 4x the size you think it is, and at least that many times as interesting. A definite go see.

We determined we will not be able to walk through the Brandenburg gates, as the New Years blowout is there and the television trucks and stages and security are well underway with the set up. We plan to head that way for the fete on New Year’s Eve, and I’ll fill you in on that later.

Welcome to Heathrow

THere we were at Heathrow, what must be the largest English first language airport on the orb. Our flight from Dulles was the type one wants, one with an landing from which you can walk away, and use the plane again. It was truly uneventful, although the US All American Cheerleading Squad that is performing in the London New Year’s Day Parade. They were dressed in matching red gore-tex jackets, seemed like a very nice group of kids, and were lectured more than once that roll call would be a frequent and regular part of their lives for the next week.

After having invested time and some money in securing a sort of pre-screened good citizen cards that allow us quick return to the States and theoretical quick passage through security, we were a bit sad to learn British Airways was not yet playing the game in the US. We we’re assured they would be, as we trudged along with the littles, but all went quickly, my tube of toothpaste and cortisone made it through the magic detectors, EVEN THOUGH I did not remove them from my suitcase and have them in a separate clear plastic bag. That’s just the kind of criminal I am.

The duty-free acreage in our little terminal is a wonder. If it’s liquor, they sell it. If it’s something to keep you from smelling like you were on an eight-hour flight with 400 of your closest friends – they sell it; if it’s chocolate, they sell it, if it’s jewelry that you need to buy to apologize for again not being there – well, you get the picture. All duty free, and the tag line to the entrance is “More than you imagined …” I assume they meant the options, but I think it also refers to the costs.

There are near movie house sized screens running that Dior ad of Charlieze Theron on a loop. Over and over, 12 feet tall, absurdly perfect; distracting.

We thought about catching an earlier flight to Berlin, as we have several hours of layover to enjoy, but that privilege would have cost us n additional £300 – each, which is considerably more than our tickets cost. So we will enjoy the scenery. After all, Charlieze is not unattractive.

Hot yogi

I have dabbled with yoga in various forms off and on for the past 20+ years, often taking scores of months off between bouts of interest. My skill level is just beyond beginner, and there are many poses I cannot do due to a variety of physical maladies (1 bad knee (about 25 years), 1 really, really bad knee (43 years), a bothersome shoulder (only about 25 years), and, of course, and just having turned 62 in September

However, I return to yoga because I enjoy the discipline (never a real strong suite), I enjoy become limber again (in high school, I could not only kick an 8′ ceiling, but put both feet behind my head. Of course I did weigh 140 pounds versus this morning’s 187 (which is 33 less than my all-time high of about 6 years ago), I enjoy the discrete time periods, and there are elements of yoga that fit well with my Buddhist sensibilities.

Bikhram yoga is a severely restrictive form. It consists of 26 postures, each of which is done twice. About half are standing poses and half are on prone. The first time the pose is held for some period of time, maybe 45 seconds to a minute, the second somewhat less. The repetition are consecutive, that is, you do it, rest a bit, do it again. That “rest a bit” part? That’s important. Perhaps I failed to mention the room is heated and humidified. Usually 104-105 degrees, probably 40-50% humidity. The session lasts 90 minutes. The first water break is 20 minutes in. Bring your own, there’s no running out in the hall for a drink. There’s also almost no talking beyond the near constant stream of instruction, encouragement and motivation be the instructor. There are usually 15-30 others in the class which is held in a room on might mistake for a dance studio, wooden (probably bamboo) floor, mirrors floor to ceiling on front and one side wall, and heating duct that runs the length of the room. Everyone uses yoga mats with some type of towel on top. As you guess, there are many vendors selling stuff for the various types of hot yoga.

Not for the faint (or weak) of heart, those who are modest about there bodies (most of those yogis who wear the fancy duds need not bother with them here, nothing is really that sexy when the sweat is splashing about. My mat is oversized, since I’m about 6’3″ it’s nice to have a long mat, but even the nifty, environmentally appropriate towel that’s made of some recycled plastic stuff lacks something when the sweat drips and literally splashes up.

The first few classes are brutal, but it does get easier, or at least your body becomes acclimated. And it’s great to be able to touch my toes.

Taking it off

Every 10 years or so I contemplate shaving off my beard. I’ve been with some form of facial hair for about 40 years. I had a full beard in grad school and various time since. A goatee for at least the past 15-20 years, save a one week break when went to Paris, I believe. I have been truly clean-shaven probably less than a cumulative month since the early-mid 1970s. I think that since I’m approaching my 62nd birthday I’m old enough to try something different, so I thought I’d shave it all off, at least for a few days – let the long-shaded dermis experience some sunlight and fresh air, learn to fear the razor, all that stuff.

I know my bride prefers my having a beard since I don’t exactly have a strong chin, and the beard covers more of my ugly mug. However, I’m about 20 pounds lighter than I was the last time I was beardless, so we’ll have to see if she swoons.

The most memorable response to having shaved was when my daughter, Emily, was about 4 I think, I shaved and her response was “shave it back on, daddy!”

We leave for our place in Michigan in 3 days, and i can grow it back in about 3 weeks, so, we’ll see how this goes.

Here are some step by step pics:

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Godzilla (1998)

With Matthew Broderick. Really awful. One can only surmise Broderick watched this and decided Broadway was a better option. We saw him with Nathan Lane in The Producers and he was great. Maybe he just doesn’t do well with heavy FX action comedies, which is what this hoped to be. There was a lot of FX, of course, and it was all better than any of the dialogue.