Sunday, 13 April 2008

Making Berlin Greener

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It was really great to be a part of a tree-planting event on Thursday, April 10th. The language school where I work, International House Berlin PROLOG, has committed to planting 20 trees around Berlin, and last week saw the seventh in that series finding its home on Akazienstrasse, just round the corner from the school's main entrance on Hauptrasse in Schöneberg.

Berlin is an incredibly green city, with large parks (Volksparks) in each district, and tree-lined streets all over the city. Unfortunately, due to disease and environmental factors, trees often need to be cut down and replaced. The school has to wait until sites are available before trees can be planted, so it will take a while for the full contingent of 20 trees to be planted. If you want to check out pictures and video of the planting, have a look at the school's website!

Saturday, 29 March 2008

African Eating in Berlin

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I finally got to do something I've wanted to do ever since arriving in Berlin six years ago - visit the Eritrean and Sudanese restaurant, Massai, here in Prenzlauer Berg.

The timing couldn't have been more appropriate as I've just finished reading What is the What? the autobiographical novel of the life of Valentino Achak Deng by Dave Eggers. I guess, like most people, I had a vague awreness of events in southern Sudan and the plight of the refugees who fled the violence there and ended up in Ethiopia and Kenya, but reading such a personal story really challenged me and angered me, as well as inspiring and encouraging me.

Anyway, the restaurant has a great website which you can check out here.

The atmosphere is very relaxed and friendly, and the menu covers everything from lentil dishes, Eritrean bean and curry dishes (great for a veggie like me) to crocodile and springbock. Fortunately no-one I saw was ordering anything like that!

I had no expectations before arriving and have to say that it's been a long time since a restaurant impressed me so much. The drinks selection includes fruity and palm beers imported from Sudan, the desserts include coconut ice cream served in halved coconut shells (shaved to avoid any furry coconut mishaps) and the staff are (for Berlin) extremely welcoming and friendly.

You can easily eat for 15-20 Euro per person and it's worth every cent.

If you want to check out Valentino Achak Deng's foundation website, click here.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

For more info, follow the links

For the official website of C/O Berlin click here

Their site is in both German and English.

The homepage for the Neue Nationalgalerie is here

Again, there are different language options.

Art and About

I had visitors last week and thought that was the perfect opportunity and excuse to indulge in a bit of gallery and museum hopping.

I hit enough exhibitions to make my head spin. Amongst the highlights were the Neue Nationalgalerie with it's collection of controversial 20th Century art. The controversy here is not so controversial from a 21st century perspective, but refers to the fact that each work created a huge stir upon its initial production - breaking in some way from all that had gone before and boldly striking off in new directions.

Controversial in another way is the Bettina Rheims exhibition at the Postfuhramt on Oranienburger Straße in Berlin-Mitte. For the first time in Berlin, 95 of Rheims' photographs from eight different series are on display - and they are stunning. From Chirac's first official portrait, to Kate Moss, Madonna, Salma Hayek and the recent Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, each of Rheims' portraits is meticulously posed with deeply symbolic props, colour schemes and positioning. There is some nudity on display here, but open-minded adults will be blown away.

Rheims portrays strong women, damaged women, sexually aggressive women, tender women, playful women, objectified women and aroused women. She plays with classical symbolism and religious iconography and the shallow sexualised images seen across the media, but she never becomes lewd or pornographic - her statements are too strong for that.