Another Berlin restaurant recommendation

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Caroline and I managed to tear ourselves away from Dolores Burrito just long enough to try out some other restaurants.  Our favorite was Little Green Rabbit; a salad restaurant on Jägerstraße.

It's a create-your-own-salad kind of place with approximately one million fresh vegetables to choose from.  We couldn't resist a fresh fruit smoothie either.  Pretty much everything on the menu was under 10 euro, so it was our kind of place.

So, when in Berlin go to Dolores Burrito first, and Little Green Rabbit second, and then you can thank me later.

The best restaurant in Berlin:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dolores Burrito was, by far, our favorite restaurant in Berlin.  We tried to limit ourselves to just one meal there, but we had to go back the next day for more.  Best burritos, best ingredients, best prices.   It's supposedly 'Cali-Mex' (as opposed to Tex-Mex), and if this is what Cali-Mex tastes like, then I've been missing out my whole life.  I've definitely been missing out on Mexican food in general these past few months since there are no acceptable options in Salzburg.  Moral of the story: when in Berlin, you must go there. 

P.S. I got the lime-tofu burrito (fresh tofu, not fried! amaaaaazing) and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it sense.

The Berlin Wall + The Berlin Beach

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our main goal in Berlin was to see the wall, specifically the East side Gallery.  I had no idea we would be able to spend so much time there.  We stopped and looked at every part of it; it really is like a free, open-air art museum.   While walking along the Gallery, though, we came across a beach.  Or rather, a "beach."  Open between the very distinct times of "sunrise" and "sunset", this manmade beach runs right along the river, playing beachy music and serving beachy drinks.  We spent 3 hours relaxing in the sand there one day, just basking in the sun and feeling the cool breeze.  It was one of the highlights of our time there, for sure.  The end of our semester is approaching and we're both in a bit of denial about it (to put it mildly), so to be able to lie there with our toes in the sand and escape reality for  just a few hours was heaven.

Easter Break in Berlin

Monday, April 27, 2009

Both my parents and Caroline's came for our 3-week Easter Break.  As they flew in and out of Munich on the same days, Caroline and I decided to meet at the Hauptbahnhof on the day of their departure and take a train to Berlin, where we would spend the rest of our break.  At the time, we didn't realize we would also spend a couple hundred euro in train tickets to get there and back.  So, in the interest of mitigating our losses, we decided not to buy U-bahn tickets the entire time we were in Berlin.  Schwarzfahr?  Never.  No, instead, we got ourselves a map of Berlin and walked everywhere. I mean, everywhere.  We walked miles and miles and miles every day.  And Berlin is by no means a small city.  

Berlin also has so many great parks.  We found quite a few and spent the majority of our time just resting (in between the marathon-walking).  Each morning, we went to a grocery to buy Studentenfutter and flaxseed cookies (my two main addictions) and water, and then we'd sit on a park bench and have ourselves a quiet little picnic, something I highly recommend doing in any European city.

It is worth mentioning that during one of these morning grocery trips, we saw someone get stabbed.  Yes, you read that correctly.  We were just standing at the counter, watching the cashier ring up our items, when we heard footsteps pounding.  Mouths agape and frozen in shock, we watched Man No. 1 run from the back of the store towards the store's entrance where Man No. 2 was standing.  Man No. 1 then chased Man No. 2 out of the store and onto the sidewalk, where he proceeded to pull a baton knife from his boot and began stabbing Man No. 2 in the back.  Perhaps the most remarkable part of this story is that when Caroline and I turned back around to face the cashier, she was methodically continuing to ring up our items as if nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred.  Man No. 1 had chased Man No. 2 down the street by the time we exited the store, and we began to wonder if we had just imagined the whole scene.  Had Caroline not been with me, I almost certainly would have thought I'd entered the Twilight Zone.

Another memorable (although far less remarkable) moment was spending the afternoon at a strand bar - essentially just chairs lined up on the waterfront - to order a drink and just bask in the sun.  I almost fell asleep right there and am getting sleepy right now just thinking about how relaxing it was....

Berlin in the springtime, I love you.


Confession: we eat pizza for dinner every night.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We finally have an oven.  This is huge.

In order to save money, Caroline and I cook virtually every meal in our kitchen at I.K.  The only problem is that none of the kitchens at I.K. have an oven -- just a stovetop and a sink and cabinets.  That is, until now.  The Spanish boys pooled their resources last month to buy their own oven, which is, of course "free for us."  I don't think they realized at the time, though, that we would actually use it more than them.  

We've gotten in the (daily) routine of making our own pizzas.  We walk to the store and buy the crust, cheese, sauce (either marinara or pesto) and any kind of vegetable we feel like using.  They vegetables here are so fresh, and we've put up to 8 different kinds on our pizza at one time.  The boys laugh at us because we are constantly using their oven (and their kitchen in general).  I feel like every time they walk out of their room, there we are, using their oven to make pizza.  But we don't care.  It's inexpensive, and so delicious too.

Now I'm hungry.  Better go make a pizza...

How to throw the best 21st birthday in Salzburg

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

1.  Fly the guest of honor in from out of the country (in this case, arriving from Valencia, Spain).
2.  Invite everyone you know to his birthday party at O'Malley's, and promise them a birthday cake.
3.  Forget the buy the birthday cake.
4.  By the time everyone realizes you've forgotten to buy the birthday cake, they'll be having too much fun at O'Malley's to care!
5.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show (because as long as JC is there, there will be a show).

A passport emergency in....Traunstein.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

As JC and Hunt stayed for a day or two after the Halloween party, we knew we needed to give them a full tour of Bavaria.  JC, in particular, wanted to see all of the Sound of Music sights so he could (1) take photos to send to his mom and (2) talk about what a "babe" Julie Andrew was with that haircut....?  To each his own.

Anyhow, as we crossed each Sound of Music sight off our to-see list, JC gratuitously provided us the Sound of Music soundtrack in the form of his own voice; remarkably, each song ended up veering off into a rendition of "Oklahoma."  We're still not sure how.

It was pretty chilly during their visit, but that didn't deter us.  After seeing as many Sound of Music sights as we could handle, we decided to take the Bayern ticket to Munich for the day.  As soon as we crossed the border from Austria to Germany, the border control stepped aboard and began checking passports, which has never happened to us before.  I don't know how many times I've taken this Bayern ticket and have never been asked to show my passport.  So Caroline and I were pretty frightened when they began randomly selecting passengers on the train and ordering, "Reisepass, bitte."  Despite the fact that they skipped past us on the train without giving us a second look, we panicked and jumped off the train at Traunstein, just in case they decided to circle back around and check our group.

Standing on the platform in Traunstein, Hunt decided to use the bathroom while Caroline and I came up with a plan; we would send JC & Hunt (who did have their passports) on to Munich.  She and I would then buy our own Bayern ticket, take it back across the border to Salzburg, grab our passports (just in case they would be checking on the way home), and then meet up with JC & Hunt later that day at the Hofbräuhaus (an easy meeting point and a place they'd love).  There are so many Munich-bound trains passing through Traunstein, that JC & Hunt would be on their way in no time at all, assuming that they agreed to the plan.  There was only one catch: they didn't have cell phones, so it would be up to them to get to the Hofbräuhaus by noon (it was around 10:00 at the time) to meet us, and they would need to find their own way there (with no map).

Sensing that this plan would not be well-received by JC, I cautiously approached him on the platform and pitched the idea in the most unassuming, nonchalant manner.  My soothing tone of voice did not help; JC erupted into a fit of expletive-ridden anxiety, screaming, "How am I supposed to find this place [Hofbräuhaus]?!  Do you think this place is just going to magically appear out of thin air?!  Are you aware that we don't speak German?! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO SURVIVE IN GERMANY?! I've never even been there before!  WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO US?!  We would NEVER do something like this you!  Are you seriously leaving us Traunstein?? TRAUNSTEIN!?  What the hell kinda place is TRAUNSTEIN?!"

He was right, too. When I visited them in Valenica, they were the most gracious hosts and would never have sent me anywhere by myself, let alone abandoned me on a train platform in a place called Traunstein.

At that moment, Hunt emerged from the bathroom, looking partly concerned and partly entertained, "JC, what's going on? Why are you yelling?"  I explained the plan in the exact same terms to Hunt, who calmly replied, "Yeah, no problem, we'll see you there at noon!"

And so, they went onto Munich, and we went back to Salzburg.  We jumped on the bus to I.K., grabbed our passports (and picked up Lindsay in the process!), turned right back around, boarded a Munich-bound train with no border control issues at all. We met up with them at the Hofbräuhaus, exactly as planned, and by that point (2 beers in), JC was full of apologies and exuding nothing but friendliness.

All the same, I will never be able to pass through Traunstein again without glancing out at that platform, and seeing the ghost of JC having a full-blown meltdown, in his navy-blue puff vest.

Halloween in Salzburg (on March 31)

Monday, April 6, 2009

At the very beginning of our semester, we somehow came up with the idea of celebrating Halloween on March 31.  We kept the idea at the back of our minds these past several weeks and decided to go ahead and host our very own party, the best part being that none of us have many resources for costumes so everyone had to be really creative.

Caroline and I were the primary hostesses but it was sort of a group effort on the part of all the Americans; everyone was into it.  Since we live in I.K., where there are virtually no rules and an endless amount of international students, it made the most sense to host it here.  We invited our friends on Facebook, told some students on our way to class, and my friends JC & Hunt flew in from Valencia for it.  The turnout ended up being huge and the playlist was great (the most important part, of course).  I named the playlist "Tim, don't touch this" because I knew he'd take over, which he did, but he has great taste so even that didn't matter.

Costume details are as follows:

Sandy as Lauren Conrad, Me as a bumble bee, Tim as Waldo, Robert as Cupid, the Spanish boys + our Austrian friend Stefan as various futbol players, Kayla as an Alpen maiden, JC as a zombie, Hunt as a cowboy, Piotr has a Polish bank robber.

Sandy's Lauren Conrad costume was the easiest, but still pretty creative; a blank tank under a high-waisted Luna Lynn skirt, accessorized with a scarf, RayBans, and, of course, the signature LC side braid.  My bumblebee costume was fairly easy as well; I had brought that sweater from home, so I threw it on over a black dress and bought pipe cleaners to wind around a headband.  Then I found 2 styrofoam balls at a nearby craft store and used black nail polish to paint them black before sticking them on top of the pipe cleaners as my antennae.  Although, it was so hot at the party that the sweater didn't last long (that's when the yellow AA circle scarf came in handy).  To get into character as Waldo, Tim borrowed both my shirt and jeans, but used his own (signature) red beanie and Waldo-esque glasses.  When he walked in, every person - regardless of nationality - recognized his costume and cheered.  Robert, aka Cupid, twisted a blue bed sheet around his waist to make a cloud, and then bought a bow and arrow at the discount store, which I thought was pretty creative as well.  The team of futbol players already had their own jerseys, so that was easy, but then they carried around a bag of balled up trash all night to serve as their futbol, which was particularly amusing.  Kayla's costume was, by far, the most expensive -- dirndls are not cheap!  JC's zombie costume was definitely the grossest; he ripped up a white-tshirt and then poured strawberry dessert sauce all over it to make 'blood'.  I think the most memorable part about his costume, though, was the fact that he bought a pair of boy's (as in, children's) jeans to rip up and wear on bottom (also covered in strawberry dessert sauce).  He used my black eye makeup to 'decorate' his face.  Hunt as as a cowboy was particularly fitting -- he's from Enid, Oklahoma so at least he had the accent down.  He borrowed my flannel shirt and added a toy gun and cowboy hat to complete the look.  And then there's Piotr as a Polish bank robber... a very minimalist approach, if you will.

These are just a few of my favorite costumes,  as there were many, many more.  Such an unforgettable night!

A Traditional Spanish Birthday

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sergio, one of our "Spanish brothers", turned 24 last Thursday, so of course we threw him a surprise party.  He leaves for class on Thursday nights at 7:30 and returns at 9:30, so we had 2 hours to transform the common room upstairs.  We hung signs (both homemade and store-bought) all over the windows and walls, and strung streamers from the ceilings.  

Alberto and Roman had organized the party planning committee like this: Alberto was responsible for  providing the cake, Roman was responsible for getting Sergi to and from class without ruining the surprise (Roman is in the same Thursday night class), and Caroline and I were responsible for the decorations.  I was pretty happy with those assignments, mostly because, while all 3 boys are excellent in the kitchen, Alberto is by far the best chef.  I'm talking semi-professional; I have watched him spend up to 4 hours preparing one meal.  And, since his kitchen neighbors ours, Caroline and I have partaken in more than our fair share of complimentary meals -- he's the best.  

Since Roman and Alberto wanted a traditional Spanish vibe, Alberto decided to prepare a traditional Spanish cake: a giant, double-layered Spanish omelet, which he made using 36 eggs and 5 kilos of potatoes, placing ham and cheese in between both layers.  And in true Spanish style, when the omelet (cake) ran out, paella was served.

To say the least, Sergi loved his surprise and quickly declared it his "best. birthday. ever."

All credit to Alberto!  And I suppose to me and Caroline, for providing the plates, napkins, banners, signs, cups, etc., which we either made out of scrap paper or found in the euro aisle of Merkur (which is why the signs are homemade, the napkins are Edelweiss, the banners are fairy princesses, and the paper plates are kittens).

Best birthday ever, if I do say so myself.