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12 posts from March 2013

And the scent of damp earth (At the Botanic Garden)



I had always dreamt of visiting the great tropical greenhouses of the Botanic Garden in winter. Lush, humid air within; icy fields without: the contrast equal to a work of art. 



The first thing we did on entering was  to strip off overcoats, cardigans and scarves. The close, fragrant heat left our cheeks flushed. Gold carp and red carp wove through the water as we followed the stepping stones. From above, the two tree trunks measuring some twenty feet in diameter made me gasp.

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Amidst the sun-shot reeds


A heron espied on the walk to work. 


 Duck pond, Rudolph Wilde Park, Berlin-Schöneberg (map)


Revelling in snow (Café am Neuen See)


Fickle days, gold-skied then white-skied. Best to have a cache of havens for cold days. 

S had a day off Kita, so we headed to the Tiergarten. Snow stung our cheeks; she stopped every few meters to stamp hearts into the snow.


We live in a little flat, and that's where we feel cozy. We rely on the city to grant us all the rooms our home won't contain. The Ringbahn is our library; we read children's books on the train to friends as Westhafen and Messe Nord flash past. The parks are our gardens. The cafes are our living rooms—or our verandas. 



In another world my grandmother would have a glass box set by a lake where we would sit  and drink tea by the fireplace. Instead, S and I weave our way to the Cafe am Neuen See, and share a portion of bacon and eggs (€5.30) while the snow falls. 

The service is attentive. The white-painted chairs and the wooden floorboards are harmonious, not over-fussy. The wood-burning stoves are irresistible.

I imagine it's heaving on a weekend; on a sleepy, snowy Monday morning, it was almost empty, just right.

PS Many thanks to Finding Berlin and Sarah's evocative photos of this spot for inspiring our morning in the park.

Cafe am Neuen See, Lichtensteinallee 2, Berlin-Tiergarten (map)
Biergarten and rowing boats in the summer, veranda and fireplaces in the winter

Blood oranges, spring



Blood oranges have been piled high in Berlin's plastic crates this winter, most often Moros from Italy. Once split, the insides are ruddy or pale pink (the surprise being part of their charm).

I love the juice neat. Jellied, it becomes a treat my daughter clamors for.  Leaf gelatin, or Blatt Gelatine (weiß), used to intimidate me but it proved mind-bogglingly simple to use.

These jellies were intended as  a bright antidote to  slate-skied winter afternoons; after this week's radiant skies, I'll call them a celebration of the nearing spring.

Blood orange jellies

Enough blood oranges to make 500 ml of juice (about a dozen)

5 gelatin leaves

1. Fill a bowl with cold water and immerse the leaves of gelatin. Isn't the delicate pattern scoring the surface pretty?

2. Squeeze the oranges, fishing out pips. I leave the pulp, liking like the robust consistency it lends the jellies.

3. Heat the juice gently until warm to touch, then remove from heat.

4. Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatin leaves and stir into the warmed juice until dissolved.

5. Pour into glasses (six tumblers or so) and refrigerate for a few hours. 


At Grunewaldsee


Berlin from the air is made up of lakes, forests, and Plattenbauten. Spring fever is easily indulged: a short bus ride, a turn into a lane of little houses, and then a forest bright with birdsong. At the end of the path to the lake, the Grunewaldsee’s frozen surface is blue cut white. A thousand gray fish dart beneath the top layer of ice. On the path, two russet Vizslas cavort. A solitary round leaves my cheeks flushed.

Where are you walking to celebrate the sun?


Grunewaldsee, Berlin-Grunewald (map)
For a longer walk around the lakes, see here.