Life in Germany – March 2024 (Month 220)

After the colossally long blog post last month, this one will be much shorter as not much has happened at all! Which is a bit of a blessing as we all needed time to get back to normal life, to recover a little from all the emotional stress and of course to start looking forward to spring.

Pancake day happened without pancakes for me (as I was in Germany) but it gave my niece Gwen the chance to share my late Mum’s recipe for welsh pancakes. Not sure why they were named “useful” rather than tasty! For those of a metric disposition, look away now.

This month was the start of spring and the weather definitely began to change although I was still wearing turtleneck tops for most of the month (I feel the cold). But it was warm enough for Poppy to do some paddling.

Klaus took this picture of the little stream that we cross on one of our walks. It is rarely that high.

We also saw this lovely slow worm whilst out on a walk.

Gudula and Frank went away one weekend as they were attending their son Nils’s defence of his PhD thesis. Needless to say he got summa cum laude (top marks) and is now Dr Nils. Whilst he was away Poppy had to have walks with me (which she usually refuses) – this time she did come along with me at least, as she seemed to realise that Gudula was not there.

She dropped behind at one point on a walk and I had to go back to her to see what she was doing. It turned out she had decided to eat some of the oilseed rape plants (see video below). There was a whole field of this stuff!

It seems Poppy had ideas about going veggie as the next day when I put down my shopping bags she fished out an aubergine and ran off with it!

But most of the time Poppy just chills out now – she’s an old lady and despite being very fit she is also sleepy a lot of the time. The video below shows her doing her ladylike snoring!

Anna’s trip of a lifetime

I think I might have previously mentioned that my sister, her husband, her youngest child Val and their cousin Grey had planned a cruise from Singapore to Tokyo, visiting Vietnam and Hong Kong on the way. This was for the first three weeks of March and we were all looking forward to following their progress as they experienced all these different countries.

The first thing I noticed is that Anna arrived in Singapore but seemed to have left Val behind in Hounslow (Heathrow Airport) according to Find My People!

Fortunately Val did fly with them to Singapore where they spent two days before getting on the cruise ship and heading off to the South China Sea.

Anna posted various photos from the places they stopped at and she also had wifi (fairly low data rate) on the ship so we all kept in touch and it was fun to see what they were up to. You can read Anna’s blog report about the holiday here: Anna’s Amazing Travel Adventures and Part 2.

They finished up with two days in Tokyo and then it was the start of the mammoth 30 hour flight home. At which point it appeared Anna had left Val in Tokyo for the first leg of the flight to Singapore!

Fortunately they all got home again OK and they enjoyed their time on the ship and in the different countries. Val is interested in Japanese and has actually been learning it – according to Anna Val was able to read some of the menus and other information for them in Japan.

Klaus and I have also started to think more about our summer holiday which is a cruise from New York to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 in June. We got the information about the Gala Nights which have themes on the QM2. The first night the theme is “Black and White” and the last night the theme is “Roaring 20s”. Fortunately I have an eminently suitable vintage dress I can wear for the Roaring 20s (that Anna bought me from Battlesbridge Antiques Centre about two years ago), although it is only size 10 so very tight, and will probably be tighter after 9 days on the cruise. But my other evening dress was blue, which does not fit the “Black and White” theme, so I had to get another ballgown, this time a black one. I found a very nice one fortunately. I will wear the blue ballgown on some other evening. This was obviously a first world problem.

Klaus also realised he would probably need a tuxedo/evening jacket and a proper shirt, cufflinks etc, so he started to look and see what was available and we will buy something over the next month or two. Klaus is a very good shopper for a chap and will no doubt find something of suitable quality..

Back to the cakes

We went to Lara’s one Saturday to change the tyres on her bike as she had a puncture in one and both tyres were perished anyway but we fell at the first hurdle as we didn’t have the correct spanners to remove either wheel and couldn’t fit the bike in the car with the front wheel on. So we went to Lara’s to fix the bike, gave up after five minutes and went for cake instead.

Due to the forthcoming holiday cruise and the tight dress I have been trying to be a bit more careful with food eating – sticking very much to my calorie goals and eating fewer carbs. Which has all been fine, but now and again one must have a day off so Klaus and I and Lara went to Auffelder Bauerncafé in Viersen to enjoy a Flockensahne cake after the bicycle disappointment. .

This was very nice but three slices of cake and three hot drinks came to 27€ which is not cheap!

Easter Weekend in Berlin

Last year we had a holiday in Berlin staying in Lars’s flat (Lars is the son of our landlord and landlady). He messaged us a few months ago to say he would be away over Easter if we fancied staying there again – and we did! We would have to take Poppy again as Gudula and Frank were also away on a family get-together – but Poppy likes it in Berlin anyway, Lars’s flat is a home from home.

Klaus had Maundy Thursday off work but I went to work for an hour and a half just to check important emails, then came home and we loaded up the car – and the dog!

We set off on the 600km drive which ended up being about 7 hours in total due to roadworks/accidents. We stopped in Barsinghausen for cake.

These are photos of the cake I ate – Klaus ended up having tomato soup. He had some weird lurgy the weekend before which gave him two days of sleeping, then one day of the runs, and after that he felt mostly OK but his digestive system took a long time to get back into its rhythm. He didn’t feel like eating that much each meal and didn’t want anything very sweet.

We arrived at Lars’s flat in Westend (west of Charlottenburg) at 18:30pm and ate the salads that we had brought with us for our dinner. Poppy settled in immediately of course.

After a really good night’s sleep we decided to take Poppy for a walk to a local lake, the Lietzensee in Witzleben. This was about a 1km walk from the flat, and was a lovely green space surrounded on all sides by the city, There were lots of people there walking their dogs or just generally enjoying the outdoors, although there was quite a cold wind.

For Poppy it is all of course completely fascinating… lots of new dog smells.

After we walked back to the flat we decided to head out to find some breakfast cake. We decided to buy a 24 hour train ticket each which would mean we could do various different trips. We had an evening meal booked at Sticks & Sushi in Charlottenburg and we would need to get a bus or U-Bahn there and back so the 24 hour ticket made sense.

We headed first by bus and then on foot to Frau Behrens Torte. We usually go to the one near Tempelhof but thought we would try this different shop – and I thought it was very nice. My cake was a work of art – and also tasty.

Klaus was still giving his innards a bit more care so he had some cheesecake which he really enjoyed too,

After this as we were round the corner from the Kurfürstendamm we decided to walk there – we went a long way along the road with its really posh shops (everything closed as it was Good Friday) and ended up at the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche which now seemed to be closed to visitors, which was a shame.

Photo by Klaus

I was starting to feel really cold now so wanted to get into somewhere warm and have some lunch of soup. We got a table at L’Osteria and had to wait about 15 minutes for someone to take our order, only to be told that there was no soup left, So we left.

We walked another few hundred metres and found another café which sold tomato soup which warmed us up.

I was now really chilly though as I hadn’t brought my coat with me, thinking it would be warmer, so we hopped on a U-Bahn at Wittenbergplatz and headed back to the flat. Poppy was pleased to see us.

We chilled out for a couple of hours before heading off by bus to Sticks & Sushi.

We have eaten at Sticks & Sushi many times and I always choose the same (“Robust”) which is what you see in the photo below.

Over time they have adjusted what is on the “Robust” menu, which left me slightly disappointed last time (they changed the bowl of rice to a bowl of edamame beans) but as I was aware of the change this time I was happy with it.

However, I am not a mega fan of edamame beans as they are so stringy. It was only after I had finished my meal and noticed the table next door had the same bowls of edamame beans, that they were using the wicker bowl (to the left of my picture) to put the bean casings in. It seems you aren’t supposed to eat the bean husks – which are of course the really stringy bits I don’t like. We live and learn! Klaus and I had been eating the beans whole and having a lot of chewing.

Klaus had chosen a very light salmon starter as his digestion was still not 100% and he had a few of my edamame beans, a couple of chicken pieces, part of one of the meat skewers/sticks and some cauliflower.

We each went for a dessert though – these were completely different to the dessert choices last time. I went for a chocolate Matcha dessert (the white is ice cream) which was really nice,.

We felt the cost of the meal overall was also very fair. Klaus had a Japanese beer with his meal too.

The next day was Saturday which would be the only day on this holiday where the shops were open. So we decided we would go to Mall of Berlin as usual!

However, we started off with a walk around the Grünewaldsee for Poppy. She decided to do some paddling.

The walk around the lake is about 3.5km in total but we had parked in the free car park which is further away so that was another km in total to walk, but it was a nice day and it was fun seeing all the other dogs. Poppy had a great time!

Weirdly she wouldn’t let us pick her up to put her back into the car, she tried to bite Klaus twice and me once when we tried to pick her up, so clearly something was hurting underneath her where we tried to pick her up. We decided to offer her the car boot and she jumped in there OK on her own. When we got back to the flat she couldn’t jump out (a long way down onto cobbles) so we put a blanket on the cobbles for her to land on, but she still wouldn’t jump. I was able to help her down without getting bitten so whatever it was had apparently passed, and the next day she let us lift her in and out of the car with no problems.

We put her back into the flat and headed off straight away to Friedrichstraße station – this was using the very end of our 24 hour train tickets which expired at 11am that morning. We walked from Friedrichstraße to Ama Café on Dorotheenstraße to enjoy their breakfast again.

After this very tasty meal we walked down to Mall of Berlin. I wanted to look at suitcases for our cruise and Klaus also was starting to think about an evening suit.

It turned out there wasn’t a suitable suitcase shop in Mall of Berlin but Klaus saw a couple of decent evening suit options in Peek & Cloppenburg. He wasn’t really in the mood for suit buying but there is a Peek & Cloppenburg in the Rhein Ruhr Centrum which is round the corner from his workplace so he can go and look then sometime. Or in England.

We walked around Mall of Berlin a bit, including the traditional visit to JD Sports for Klaus to look at sneakers.

I had really wanted to get my suitcases on this trip so we decided to go to the Galeria Kaufhof at Alexanderplatz. For this we would need a new train ticket each but we bought singles and there was no real need for a day pass, we thought. We took the U-Bahn to Alexanderplatz.

From here we had a look in Galeria Kaufhof and found lots of decent suitcases that aren’t shockingly heavy (important for me). I found one that I liked which I will order online nearer the time (Kaufhof do delivery) and Klaus realised that his old suitcase that Lara had would probably do fine and she confirmed it was still in working order. He had been about to buy a Samsonite case for 270€ so he saved 270€ that day, bargain!

To reward ourselves for not actually buying anything we walked up to Zeit für Brot for a Schnecke. I had a maple syrup and walnut one which was truly colossal.

Klaus had a chocolate one which was actually quite a bit smaller than mine but was very filling for his slightly delicate digestion.

After this we got the train back and spent the afternoon chilling with Poppy.

For the evening we went back to the restaurant Trattoria Splendido where we had eaten on our last visit here. Once again we had a very nice meal but Klaus ate too much and had digestive difficulties again afterwards. Some people arrived on the next table and Klaus noticed their accent and asked where they were from – it turned out they were also from the Kurpfalz and had worked at the BASF, where Klaus had also worked. Small world! They had a good chat while Klaus was finishing his free grappa.

The next day was Easter Sunday and our last full day in Berlin. I had brought an M&S Easter Egg with me but we decided, after giving Poppy a short walk around the block, to go to the nice-looking cheesecake café Dreikäsehoch that we saw on the way to Lietzensee the other day. Breakfast Cheesecake on Easter Sunday seemed like a good idea – and it would mean we could take Poppy for a more interesting walk in the afternoon.

So Klaus and I walked to the cheesecake café which was very quiet (one other customer there who bought take away) but they had a very large selection of cheesecakes – three and a half shelves of cheesecakes plus half a shelf of petit fours, mini cheesecakes and muffins.

These included salted caramel, poppy seed cheesecake, baileys cheesecake, etc etc. I went for “chocolate and cookies”:

Klaus had a lemon version.

They were very nice – I would go back to that café again. I bought a croissant from a bakery on the way home as I hadn’t had one on this holiday.

We chilled out with Poppy when we returned, making the most of the time to relax – particularly for Klaus who has had a fairly stress-filled few weeks at work.

We had bought salads the evening before so we had salad for lunch, followed by Marks & Spencer Easter Egg. It was then time to take Poppy out for her trip today – we decided to go to Wannsee.

We parked at Wirtshaus Moorlake and went for a walk along the Berliner Mauerweg cycle path (which I cycled years and years ago on my trike!). Poppy had a short paddle too.

There were a lot of people around on the cycle/walking path and also people out sailing and on tourist ships. We saw this boat which we guess might be owned by a Brit,..

We followed the walking/cycling path to the next Biergarten (photo by Klaus) near the Pfaueninsel.

From here rather than turning back we decided to walk over the hill back to the car park so headed off through the woods up the hill. There was lots of evidence of wild boar having dug into the ground over large areas. Fortunately we didn’t see any.

When we got back to the car Poppy had to jump over a giant felled tree. Here she is being master of all she surveys!

As we still had a couple of train tickets left we decided to go into central Berlin for our evening meal as Poppy was definitely tired enough following the walk.

We decided to take the S-Bahn to Stadtmitte. We got on at Theodor Heuss Platz and were the only people on the train!

Photo by Klaus

We got off at Stadtmitte (near Gendarmenmarkt) and then walked up Friedrichstraße to Unter den Linden, where we stopped at Nante-Eck for food.

Klaus started with a green beer.

My main course was meat on a skewer but I hadn’t expected the skewer to be vertical!

After a good, hearty, German meal we went next door to the ice cream place for Tiramisu and Banana Split.

We then got the 100 bus back to Zoologischer Garten (which goes past lots of sites of interest) and then the M45 bus from there back to Königin Elisabeth Straße, from where we walked back to the flat.

Tomorrow we are leaving to drive back home (on Easter Bank Holiday Monday) and then we have work from Tuesday. I have actually now changed my work hours to 15 hours a week (I was previously at 25 hours a week) as it is quieter at work in the summer and also I foresee having to pop to England for paperwork purposes so have agreed with the company I work for that I can have a very flexitime work schedule – I can have one or two days off in a week if necessary, I just need to make up the hours over the month. This is very helpful and we will see if I can get everything done in 15 hours!

Thanks for reading. Next month I will report on a trip to the UK when my sister and I will sign all the final paperwork to apply for probate for my Mum’s death. I expect a cake or two will be involved too.

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